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Civil Engineering Bachelor's for a 29 year old

  1. Nov 20, 2014 #1
    My background:
    -BA Economics 2007 from a UC school
    -I took a year of Calculus, Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, and a few Stats courses as well to prepare for grad school in Econ.
    -I never took General Chem or Physics
    -Worked in finance. I realized early on that my job was more about sales/admin and not analysis but I needed the money so I stuck around for two years. I actually hated the job and most people in the business but I worked under a former Chem Eng/EE/Wharton MBA who was sincerely a nice person. He was the main reason why I stuck around instead of quitting and going to graduate school in Economics!

    I needed to get that off my chest. Here's the more relevant stuff:
    I'm 29 years old and I'm contemplating getting a 2nd Bachelor's, this time in Civil Engineering. My motivation is that I'm looking for a relatively high paying job (70K+/yr) with better than average job security and less demanding hours. I live across the Hudson River in NJ and I see tons of construction in NYC - it never stops.

    I came across this forum via a few google links.

    1. Anyone here have a similar background? Did you go back to school in your late 20s or later? Did you have difficulty relearning/applying math? Was it awkward to work under someone younger than you? Is this common?
    2. If I didn't have difficulty with the math above, do I have the necessary quantitative ability to complete the degree? How often do you actually use Calculus/DiffEq on the job?
    3. I find computer programming to be difficult/tedious. How often do CEs program?
    4. Are job opportunities in NYC plentiful? How much can an entry level CE expect? Are jobs with the MTA difficult to get? Are students from Columbia, NYU, Cornell preferred over CUNY students for any jobs?
    5. I'm mainly looking at CUNY because I'm out of money and I don't want to be in debt - I hate debt.
    Are there any CUNY CE grads here? Would you recommend the program?

    I'm not JUST interested in CE for job security. I was actually going to be a marine transport engineer but my dad talked me out of it. He worked as an electrician on container ships his entire life and a lot of companies began taking jobs to China and he didn't want my job to be outsourced.

    Any questions you can answer would be greatly appreciated. I feel like I made a big mistake by entering and staying in a profession that I knew wasn't right for me. Rather than just give up and get a 'normal' job, I want to make a 2nd attempt at doing something that I enjoy.

    This is a long post. Sorry...
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 21, 2014 #2
    You don't seem to be generating a lot of response, so I will jump in, even though what I have to say is only marginally useful.

    It sounds like your interest is primarily construction, so you may want to specialize in structures. Most civil programs include a lot of surveying, ground water quality, water resources, etc. that may not be what you want. My daughter is a structural engineer and she got a BS in Arch E.

    Personally, I would suggest you get back into it just as quickly as possible. I was out of school for one year after an MS, and I decided that, if I was ever going to get a PhD, it had to be sooner rather than later. The longer you are out, the more obligations you will acquire that will interfere with going back to school.

    I don't know anything at all about employment in the NYC area (other than to say that no one could pay me enough to work/live in NYC, but to each his own). As you observe, there is a lot of activity, so that suggests, rightly, that there will be opportunities.
  4. Nov 21, 2014 #3
    I'm interested in highways, bridges, and metros. Also, I live with my dad, who is retired, and I want to save money by living at home. With all the commotion, it seems that even during an economic downturn, the essential infrastructure of a mega-city will need to be maintained. I can't imagine NYC without a metro or one of the various bridges out of service. Anyway, that's why NYC but I'm not tied down. I've actually lived in Texas for a year as well and I could see myself working at the Port of Houston. I'm sure they need engineers for all the pipeline expansions.

    What about your area? Are the jobs in structural/transportation engineering in demand? Are they relatively secure? Are they obtained by merit or knowing someone? I've never worked for the State so I don't know what to expect.
  5. Nov 22, 2014 #4
    From what I have seen in the UK, the economic downturn hit the infrastructure and construction sector very hard. Not sure what the story was/is in the US though.
  6. Nov 22, 2014 #5
    I got my MSc Finance at LSE and I found Central London to be quite busy. Isn't there a new tube line being built? And they're thinking about either relocating or adding onto Heathrow because lack of flights from Gatwick? From the news I'm reading, it seems your economy recovered (in London, anyway). House prices are ridiculous. The mood hasn't gotten better? I'd love to hear your thoughts because the mass media rarely shows the true picture.
  7. Nov 22, 2014 #6
    The picture painted by the media varies depending on its political agenda and its readership. Supporters of the current government have to look for evidence to suggest that things have improved since the financial crisis, and supporters of the opposition have to do the opposite. London seems to have faired the financial crisis and recession very well. Property prices are extortionate because financial workers are very well paid (as you will know) and London property is also seen as an excellent investment in the eyes of wealthy overseas buyers. However, I wouldn't like to try to live in London without a banker's wage.

    I was still studying during the worst of the financial crisis and subsequent recession. But I spent a lot of time on an UK equivalent forum to this and the mood amongst civil engineering students was very negative due to the weakness of the construction industry. In terms of salaries, civil & structural graduates were reporting the lowest out of all the engineering disciplines, and employment prospects were dampened.

    So far this sounds very negative. Don't let that put you off, though. In America or NY it might be a different story. I only posted to say that I disagreed with your implied assumption that even during a downturn the civil/structural engineering market must remain strong.

    To answer your second question in your OP, engineering degrees contain lots of maths to help with the understanding of the technical principles, but once out in the world of work you're unlikely to actually have to do that level of maths again as part of your job. For an example of the kind of things you might be doing, see AISC 360-10. It's freely available on Google.
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