Career Change: Forestry -> Engineering

In summary, the individual is considering a career change from forestry to engineering, specifically environmental engineering. They have a previous degree in forest resources and have been working for the Forest Service for 10 years, but are now bored and looking for a change. They are 28, debt-free, and considering applying to a local university to complete the necessary coursework for a professional program. The field of environmental engineering aligns with their interests and has a good job market. There are discussions about the pros and cons of getting a second bachelor's degree, and some suggest going for a master's instead. However, the individual's previous coursework may not be enough for a master's program and they would need to take additional classes. This would delay their return to
  • #1
char808
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Career Change: Forestry --> Engineering

I am contemplating returning to school to complete a BS in Engineering (possibly Environmental). I went to school 10 years ago planning to start an engineering program and was distracted by fighting wildland fires and ended up with a Forest Resources BS.

10 years of working for the Forest Service and I'm bored to tears. I find myself doing things like taking Calc II classes in the winter to entertain my self.

I am 28 now, debt free and I'm seriously considering applying to my local University to begin the course work I would need to complete to apply to a professional program. Environmental Engineering seems like it is in line with my first degree in terms of working outside and designing things that help/modify the environment. It also seems to have a decent job market, 31% increase in the next 5/6 years according to BLS.

The cost/benefit in terms of future salary versus current salary+tuition seems a no brainer.

Has anyone done this or something similar?
 
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  • #2


I haven't personally, but there are tons of people who take their experience with certain industries and get the education/certification required to elevate them to higher levels in that field. It is certainly doable, and if you don't mind going back to school and can afford the tuition/are willing to work on the side, then it is a great idea. Engineering is a great field and if you look around you can generally find something that you are genuinely interested in.
 
  • #3


There are often discussions on this forum about the pros and cons of getting a second bachelor's degree. Many argue it's a better use of your time to get a master's.

In your case, your bachelor's may be sufficient to get into a master's program, provided you take classes to make up any deficiencies. Have you considered that path?
 
  • #4


Because of the coursework required for my forestry degree, I will have to go back and retake courses at a higher level of rigor. IE - Chem 142 vs Chem 221

Unfortunately, I am fairly certain this will prevent me from applying to a masters program in engineering. I am looking at 3-3.5 years of school before I am back in the job market.

I could finish a civil or construction engineering management degree in less time, but feel the that job prospects in civil do not warrant the debt I will likely take on.

Is it typical or advantageous to work for an engineering firm in the summer? I could continue fighting wildland fire in the summer and probably cover my costs as a student by working for 3 months.
 
  • #5


I can understand your desire for a career change from forestry to engineering. It sounds like you have a strong interest in both fields and have already taken steps to explore engineering through your Calc II classes. It's great that you are debt-free and have a clear understanding of the job market for environmental engineering.

In terms of your question about anyone else who has made a similar career change, I have not personally encountered someone who has gone from forestry to engineering. However, I have seen many professionals successfully transition from one field to another, especially in STEM fields. With your background and experience in forestry, you bring a unique perspective to the field of engineering, which can be valuable in problem-solving and innovation.

I would encourage you to continue to research and explore the environmental engineering field and speak with professionals in the industry to gain a better understanding of the day-to-day work and potential career opportunities. It's also important to consider the specific courses and requirements for the program you are interested in, as well as any internships or hands-on experiences that may be available.

In terms of the cost-benefit analysis, it's important to also consider your personal fulfillment and satisfaction in your career. If you are passionate about engineering and see it as a better fit for your skills and interests, then the investment in your education and future salary may be worth it. Ultimately, the decision is yours to make, but I wish you the best of luck in your career journey.
 

1. What skills do I need to transition from forestry to engineering?

To transition from forestry to engineering, you will need a strong foundation in mathematics, problem-solving skills, critical thinking abilities, and attention to detail. Additionally, knowledge of computer-aided design (CAD), data analysis, and project management will be beneficial.

2. Will my previous experience in forestry be relevant in engineering?

Yes, your previous experience in forestry can be relevant in engineering. Many skills, such as data collection and analysis, project management, and environmental awareness, are transferable between the two fields. Additionally, your knowledge of natural resources and sustainability can be valuable in certain engineering roles.

3. Can I pursue a career in a specific area of engineering with a background in forestry?

Yes, you can pursue a career in a specific area of engineering with a background in forestry. Some fields, such as environmental engineering or renewable energy, may be a natural fit for your skills and knowledge. However, with additional education and training, you can also explore other areas of engineering.

4. Do I need to go back to school to become an engineer after working in forestry?

It depends on your previous education and experience. If you have a degree in forestry or a related field, you may be able to pursue a graduate degree in engineering or take specific engineering courses to supplement your knowledge. However, if you have a limited background in science and math, you may need to complete a bachelor's degree in engineering to enter the field.

5. How can I make a smooth transition from forestry to engineering?

To make a smooth transition from forestry to engineering, you can start by researching the different engineering fields and identifying your areas of interest. Then, consider taking relevant courses, networking with professionals in the field, and gaining hands-on experience through internships or volunteer work. Additionally, seeking guidance from a career counselor or mentor can help you navigate the transition effectively.

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