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Career change advice

  1. Aug 4, 2013 #1
    I am 41 years old and I am looking at going back to school to pursue an engineering degree in either Petroleum or Mechanical Engineering. I already have a B.S. in Theology and credits toward a minor in Business Marketing. I don't have much of a science background at all. I am also working full time as a teacher. I would need to go to school and work full time as well. What advice would anyone give to someone like myself who wants to change industries and careers at such a late stage of the game?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 5, 2013 #2
    Not I but it's not as rare as you think. Do some searching here and you'll find some other similar stories. You're never too old to do what you love.
  4. Aug 6, 2013 #3
    The harsh reality

    is that this provides no preparation for a BS degree in Engineering. Maybe some electives can be transferred.

    If you are in the US, you have something like 120 credit hours of work in front of you. That's about four years as a full-time student. Still, it can be done on a part-time basis.

    But that's not the question. The question is "are you cut out for it?" The first two years of ME & PE (and almost every other engineering curriculum) is about the same. Calculus, physics, chemistry, statics, dynamics, fluid mechanics, electrical engineering circuits analysis, and so on. Start taking some of the classes. The general consensus is that these early classes are used to separate the sheep from the goats. You will find out very quickly if this is your path.

    If it all works for you, then absolutely go for it.
  5. Aug 6, 2013 #4
    All I can say is only go down this path is you feel an extreme amount of joy solving mathematics equations. If you go for engineering you will be spending the next 4 to 5 years dealing with linear algebra, calculus, differential equations, and many other things.

    You're not too old to do it if you are willing (and able, honestly) to put the time in to study what needs to be studied for the next 5 years. If you want to do it, go for it. I just finished a motor and controls class that had people in it ranging in age from roughly 19 all the way up to roughly 60-65.

    I'm 28, getting a degree unrelated to engineering right now. With that said, I am taking this time to self study Calculus, Linear Algebra, Computer Forensics, and a couple other things. When I graduate with my current degree I have a few options that I am throwing around, be it Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, or something similar.

    Just, make sure you truly know what being an engineer with the degree you choose is actually like. I would suggest you do what I have done and talk to anyone and everyone you can find either in college for engineering or has been working in the field for the past 5 to 40 years.
  6. Aug 7, 2013 #5
    Working full time and taking a full load of engineering classes is going to be difficult. Very difficult. The courses will take a lot of time and dedication, and having no sort of science or math background is going to be a serious downfall. You should honestly ask yourself if you're up to learning calculus 1-3, differential equations, chemistry 1-2, physics 1-2 and then a whole bunch of engineering classes that are going to take some serious time and dedication. I took 19 hours last semester and worked part time (25 hours), that's two days out the week and Saturday and Sunday it was difficult and I lost lots of sleep and it was hard to keep up with things at times. So I honestly don't see you teaching full time and being a full time engineering student simultaneously.
  7. Aug 8, 2013 #6


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    Staff: Mentor

    A BS in theology, what do you teach?
  8. Aug 13, 2013 #7
    Thats very tough. It seems that you want to work full time as an engineer. If you want to maintain your current job etc. I would suggest that you go to college part time- enroll in courses, have a talk with the professors and try and rapidly get credits by directly appearing for exams without attending the lectures/ they are usually a waste of time, and all the material at the basic level is always available online. you can probably learn the things faster on your own if you put in the time.

    I would start with the basic mathematics: Calculus, Linear Algebra, functional analysis, statistics and the basic engineering/science things to get a feel: thermodynamics, strength of materials, statics and dynamics, material properties, fluid mechanics and intro to programming. It is very doable within 3 years- dont be discouraged by your age. After that take the FE exam(in fact choose your courses to prepare you for this) and you will have enough experience under your belt to find a job.
  9. Aug 13, 2013 #8
    The guy has a theology degree and hardly any background in science and mathematics. It's going to be very difficult to self teach himself engineering and physical sciences
  10. Aug 13, 2013 #9


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    Gold Member

    It is unlikely he would be allowed to take the FE exam without an accredited engineering degree or any experience in the field.
  11. Aug 13, 2013 #10
    He was advocating taking the FE after finishing the engineering program.
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