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Electrician to Electrical Engineer

  1. Aug 29, 2012 #1
    Hello everyone, I am a 36 year old Master Electrician and i'm thinking about going to to for Electrical Engineering. Is there anyone who may have any information on a transition such as this? I guess i'm looking to do as much of this as I can online, if that's even feasible? What classes should i get started with? By the way I'm in MD what is the best place to get a degree from close to Baltimore? Thanks in advance for any information.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 29, 2012 #2


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    dubgury, Welcome to Physics Forums! Here are scientists, engineers, and highly experienced folks from many areas of science and technology, all ready and willing to assist others on their path towards more scientific knowledge and understanding.

    A Google search using the terms “electrical engineering Maryland” brings many websites. Here are a few that may supply you with some answers to your questions, including online studies:



    http://www.linkedin.com/title/electrical+engineer/in-us-7416-Baltimore,-Maryland-Area/ [Broken]


    In my opinion, if you do get your degree in electrical engineering, with your practical background experience you can become a highly valued addition to most engineering teams, and employers will be pleased to hire you.

    In future if you have technical questions or doubts about your studies, come right back here and post your questions/doubts. Our members are always ready and willing to help. Good luck with your studies.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  4. Aug 29, 2012 #3
    Check out the classes offer in community colleges. Do you want to be an engineer or electronic technician? The reason I asked has a lot to do with the kind of classes you need to put in the effort.

    For engineering, math is very important. You can get all the classes cheap in community colleges. You need all three Calculus and Ordinary Differential Equations which they offer in community colleges. You also need the basic physics. That would give you a very good foundation. This sounds non related but believe me, if your ultimate goal is BSEE, you cannot get away without these.

    Of cause you need electronic classes, check out your closest colleges and see what kind of program they offer. Then try to match it up in the community college again and enroll as much as possible. But the math and physics are more important. Those are actually harder than electronics.

    If you just want to pursue electronic technician AA degree, you don't need all the math. You go straight to electronics. But in the long run, you'll not be getting ahead if you even change your mind to pursue a BSEE. Believe I was a chemistry major and change to EE. I never had formal education in EE. I studied only electronics and tried to avoid the maths that is more tedious. I finally had to stop and studied back all the math that I missed. AND on top I studied more math because it is that important to excel in EE. You'll find yourself hitting the wall when you get to the upper division classes and there is absolutely no way out of it. ALL advanced analog electronic books are written in calculus, it is the language of science. Don't understand calculus, there is no hope of understanding a lot of the advanced classes.

    I yet to find a corresponding school that offer BSEE. Sue you can find the lower division classes in on-line school and UC Extension, not the upper division. You'll end up in college to get the BSEE.

    I would strongly discourage you from taking a short cut by going to technical schools like Heald College if your goal is become an engineer. They teach you electronics alone and whatever you need to become a technician, no more. I know because I got an AA degree from that and it is no substitute. In fact looking back, I feel it hinder me from learning because I actually though I know more than I really do.

    If you think you are too old to do this, don't. I studied all my math when I turn 55!!! I have been an engineer for almost 30 years and I can tell you I see electronics differently after studying the calculus and electromagnetics, insight I would never get otherwise.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2012
  5. Aug 31, 2012 #4
    check out MIT's open courseware. They even give certificates upon completion (not that they're valuable), but it's a great way to learn from one of the best universities for free.
  6. Aug 31, 2012 #5


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    If it's what you want to do, you will be fine if you are willing to put in maximum effort.

    Unfortunately, your skills are not going to transfer into school all that much. In school they never even mention a breaker panel or how to wire it!!!

    You will be getting all theory....totally different from what you are doing now.

    All that being said.....I agree that you will be super desirable with engineering firms once you graduate.

    I took the opposite approach...I went to school then learned how to wire houses very quickly!!!! Either way works tho!

    Looking down the road you will want to get your P.E. as well. So you will want to take the F.E your senior year. Make sure you study hard all the way because you F.E. is basically an overall test of all the engineering courses you just took!!! Chemistry, Math, probability and statistics, statics, dynamics, electrical, engineering economy, ethics....and a few areas you didn't learn but will need to study such as fluid mechanics, trusses and basic steel properties. It's a lovely multiply choice 8 hour test that you only need a 50% to pass. But you wouldn't believe how many students fail it! It's pretty tough actually.

    The P.E will be all electrical (need 4 years experience after graduation to qualify)......and you have your choice between power, electronics, controls and even computers. Also an 8 hour state exam that you will need a 70% to pass....so higher bar than F.E.

    Being a state licensed proffesional engineer and a state licensed master electritian will be awesome. A six figure salary with these type of credentials will be very realistic.

    Good luck and study hard....and study even harder. You will have a great feeling inside yourself each and everytime you master a specific subject matter.

    Also, remember for anything thing you are trying to learn....there is always some type of step by step progression. Just like tying your shoes.......you loop it and you swoop it....
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2012
  7. Dec 4, 2012 #6
    I am on the same road as you. I have been a commercial electrician for about 5 years while working on my pre-requisites to transfer to a 4 year. It is a long road not to be traveled by the faint of heart. I have 2 more years left of all upper division EE courses. I am not the greatest student my gpa is 3.3+. To pass It takes a lot of blood sweat and tears which I think most hard working trades people can appreciate. If you choose to take the leap, congratulations, but finish what you start and under no circumstances should you give up.

    In terms of classes first you need to really do your homework on what school you want to go to. I think starting at a community college and transferring to a 4 year is the best way. Community colleges in my experience provide a better learning environment and are also cheaper. The instructors are paid to teach not do research and usually speak english as their first language.

    I am not sure where your math skills are but if you need to take remedial courses in math. Start taking them NOW. This will hold you back throughout the entire curriculum.

    1. Do your homework on how to get to a 4 year institution. Do not rely on counselors because they are terrible. Really understand the process of getting from community to a 4 year including other GE's you will need. Engineering is very major specific so focus on the math and science courses. I will repeat the last sentence. Engineering is very major specific so focus on the math and science courses.

    2. Make a WRITTEN plan sequencing every class by semester or quarter, from now until you transfer. This will mean making the community college catalog an extension of your arm much like the NEC. One plan from community to 4 year and another plan from 4 year to graduation.

    3. Hit the math and physics hard. get good grades because they are the foundation for everything that you will learn in EE. Focus on completing math courses now.

    My math Sequence: 8 semesters

    intermediate algebra, college algebra, pre - calculus, trigonometry, calculus 1, calculus 2, calculus 3, differential equations,

    4. Do not give up. Under no circumstances once you start should you stop. Ignore the beckoning call of the wire nut to be twisted. FINISH. FINISH WHAT YOU START.

    I currently work for a systems integrator doing a lot of control (PLC) type work as well as large capital projects for utilities. If you want to start getting your feet wet working for an engineer go for it. I took a basic auto cad class and with your experience the two should be more than enough to get your foot in the door.

    Your electrical experience will give you the intuition and mechanical aptitude to see the big picture. Your EE will give you the technical ability to tackle anything and the combination will give you the credibility to run with the big dogs.

    Good luck
  8. Dec 4, 2012 #7
    Go for it. In life taking chances is the only path to success. If you don't get through you will still be better off than had you never tried. But be prepared for little social life or free time. If you are a full time student, you will be studying around the clock. If you are working while taking classes, it will take many years to graduate. You are about to embark upon a major undertaking.

    EE is not about studying & learning only. It is about a rite of passage, whether or not one can make the grade. It is an ordeal, & should you survive it, you have not only gained knowledge, but proven you have the natural talent to do this type of work. The fact that you endured the curriculum is as important as the facts that you learned. E/M field theory may not be applicable in a future job role, but the fact you were able to pass it says something about your natuarl ability, & that you have the right stuff to be an EE.

    Enough of my rambling, if EE is your interest, then go for it. However, please heed this advice. Discard your prior attained knowledge base, & be willing to "start from scratch". Circuit theory, fields, semiconductor physics is not intuitive, rely on theory & math. It will take years to understand it well. For now accept what is taught, & try not to reconcile new info with any pre-existing beliefs. It won't help you. BR.

  9. Dec 4, 2012 #8

    jim hardy

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    you'll be surprised at the amount of math you have to do, especially algebra.

    My advice is take a couple semesters of college algebra
    calculus is easy if your algebra is fluent
    my biggest hurdle was rustiness, i'd drop signs and blow the trivial part of calc problems.

    but it'll be a lot of fun to be an older guy in these classes, and your experience will let you help the kids who've never seen a motor starter. They'll be happy to help you with the trig and calculus concepts in return,,, this could be a great adventure.

    Check out Joseph Conrad's "Youth" to prime that spirit of adventure....

    old jim
  10. Dec 5, 2012 #9
    In the UK I'd contact the Institute of Electrical Engineers (I don't know what the US equivelent is) and ask them.
  11. Dec 8, 2012 #10


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    I totally agree with this. Algebra is basically all you are doing even in diff EQ or calc. It is the foundation for everything.

    Make sure you actually learn something in college as well....and more importantly, retain it.
    There is nothing more disheartning than an EE who essentially knows nothing about EE.
    AT minimum, your basic circuits should be rock solid in your head 20 years out of college. Even 40 years out....and further.
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