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Can someone with chronic health issues work as an engineer?

  1. Dec 29, 2015 #1
    Hi, I'm new to these forums so please forgive me if I am posting in the wrong section.

    Do you think it's possible for someone with chronic health problems to work as an engineer? More specifically, someone who is a recent cancer survivor who deals with chronic fatigue, gets sick easily, etc?

    I'm in my mid 20s and have been getting treated on and off for cancer for the past 4 years. I'm currently enrolled in an EE program (online) and I recently finished my first semester. I have an Associate of Arts degree but not very many of my past courses will transfer. Although I would like to finish the degree, I'm wondering now if it makes sense for me to do so.

    Should I finish the degree, even if it's likely I wont be able to work as an engineer?
    Should I switch over to a different STEM degree, like IT or something like that?

    I suppose I could also not bother getting a degree but that doesn't sound like a wise idea.

    Your feedback is very much appreciated, thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 29, 2015 #2
    Hopefully you will be better when you graduate.

    But then there is the issue of how distance degrees in EE are valued on the labor market. It is one of the reasons why our EE department is not offering their courses for distance learning.
  4. Dec 29, 2015 #3


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    The ADA, FMLA, and other such laws help protect employees from health related discrimination. Most engineering companies don't treat employees as though they work in a widget factory, meaning, as long as you meet deadlines you shouldn't have any issues. This isn't true for everyplace, as some employers still treat you as though you reallllly have to be in at x time, and stay to y time. You should try to negotiate more sick leave/paid time off, possibly in lieu of a higher salary when you start out.

    That said, if you show up to interview and say you're going to miss half the year because of medical treatment/issues, you won't get a job.

    I'm more concerned you're taking your EE degree online, this seems like a bad way to go about learning engineering. I don't see how you can be trained on various test equipment used in EE fields, or tools, etc. online.
  5. Dec 29, 2015 #4


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    I think if you can complete an accredited degree in electrical engineering you should be able to work in the field. It may not be as easy for you to find the right job, as someone without chronic health issues, but it won't be impossible. One of the reasons why many employers require a degree in the first place (beyond the specifics of the actual education) is that it serves as a kind of filter. It demonstrates that the person can successfully navigate a beaurocracy, accomplish assigned tasks, work towards a long term goal, and learn independently.
  6. Dec 29, 2015 #5
    Hmm, so you're all suggesting that if I have the option to do an EE program on campus that that would be the best route?
    I'm enrolled in ASU's ABET-accredited online program, but I understand what you guys are saying. Technically I *could* switch over to their on-campus program, it would just make things a little more complicated in some ways. And I'm not much of a fan of Tempe. I suppose though if I want the degree bad enough that I'll put in the sacrifice to get it.

    Thank you all for your posts, they were very helpful.
  7. Dec 29, 2015 #6


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    I agreed with everything Student100 said and to add a little; EE is a good option for someone with health limitations because there are career options involving spending a lot of time in an office setting and not on your feet/outside/doing physical work. Also, if your school has a career counseling office, you should go have a talk with someone about your legal rights/responsibilities. As said, there are laws constraining and protecting you and you should be fully versed in what they are. IE, what questions prospective employers can and can't ask and what you are/are not obligated to answer/disclose.
    Not having done an online degree I guess I can't say for sure, but I would think that the lack of physical labs and interaction with students/professors would make for missing pieces in the education (how do you even do a senior design project?). However, if it is ABET accredited, it won't look any different on your resume, so you can talk your way around that in an interview.

    Good luck with your health.
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