1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Finding a soultion (avoiding the depression.)

  1. Sep 26, 2013 #1
    I'm looking for a little truth.

    I'm 30, married, work full-time, 15-32 classes from any Undergrad degree, and cannot see any happy ending. Due to my job, I cannot accept any internship because of hour conflicts with my full-time position, which I cannot lose because it provides a tuition waiver and is our source of our medical, dental, and vision insurance.

    What's worse is that at best I can do 3 classes a semester and 1 summer meaning that I still have a minimum of 3 years after this semester to go. So even when I do get out at probably the age of 35 (at this point), I will completely lack any work experience in any of the fields beyond basic course work.

    Every semester that goes on I become less and less interested in school in general. So much of Engineering or Physics covers things I don't personally have any investment in because it's not what I would be happy working on professionally. Mathematics is pretty much a catch all that in the end yields the same thing. Nearly every website or video I've seen over the last few years seems to show how the primary job source I'd find myself in directly out of college is a Business position. Oh Good! A field I didn't want to be anywhere in in the first place!

    I've looked on every search I can. Every Engineering job I find requires minimum of 2 years experience and a list of specialty training that Engineering Seniors I've talked to have never heard of. So I'm pretty confused. It seems that the basic job growth for Applied Science majors is in the Business side of things which makes me ask... is there really a reason not to just drudge through a Management degree and collect that $50k a year starting?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 26, 2013 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Hey hakujin.

    With regards to management, I don't think that alone is going to be as useful as you think.

    One piece of advice I like to give people in these situations is try and aim for an accumulated advantage. Let me explain what I mean by this.

    An accumulated advantage is basically choosing the right kinds of choices in the right order to give a specific advantage that is accumulated with respect to the choices you made and what the pay-offs will be (and how they accumulate from choice to choice in the order of those choices).

    Lets take a doctor for example: they have quite a lot of accumulated advantage. They have medical school (which has lots of barriers and selectivity and thus advantage), then internship, residency, and specialty training. Each choice provides a significant accumulated advantage to the prior choice and once someone becomes a specialist, they have particular skills that are hard to attain by time, effort, and any other attempt to try gain knowledge in another way.

    The example above relates to doctors, but it can be in any profession. The key is to understand where the accumulated advantage is and to apply that to your job search. Companies want a lot from employees, but if they find the person that they are looking for (that meets the basic requirements) but who has an accumulated advantage that is in their interests, then they will be at an advantage.

    You also have to do a lot of this independently: its a good thing to remember that tonnes of people are doing the exact same things but because of this they don't have many differences in the accumulated advantage that they have (i.e. undergraduate, clubs, maybe postgrad, etc).

    With the above being said, you need to tell us what industry/role you are working in as well as the industry/role that you are seeking to work in. We can't really give any specific advice without knowing the above.

    You've mentioned engineering, but what kind of engineering? Where are you located? Have you gotten any interviews? What did you get out of those interviews?

    Also have you found out what these companies value in terms of skills, personality, accomplishments, attitude, and other attributes?
  4. Sep 26, 2013 #3
    Currently I work for a University in a Civil Service position. It's a position that while my wife and I are both in school helps pay for my schooling at this point as well as our monthly cost of living, not to mention insurance.

    I was interested in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Unfortunately, the school I work for only has Mechanical, Electrical, and Industrial Engineering. During my Physics 2 and Statics classes I realized that I had little interest into much of the current and future education in both Engineering and Physics.

    Initially, working in Aerodynamics was my desire. I was always fascinated by the process of translating conceptual design from a model to real world application in cars, motorcycles, or even airplanes. However, it was brought to my attention that most of this work was done via CAD esq programs which had nothing to really do with Engineering. GREAT! I also had an interest in small arms and projectile development. However, the jobs are extremely rare as there are only a few manufacturers in the United States and would require complete relocation to one of 4-6 areas, none of which seemed to really appeal to my wife and I.

    Then after trying to see what else was out there via job postings or comments on forums, it because pretty clear that the most likely scenario out there is getting an Applied Math or Engineering degree and just ending up in the Business/Finance sector. Logically, this process made little to no sense to me. The education and work loads are extremely demanding and yet you (theoretically) end up at a level that is conceptually lower than someone coming out of a School of Business (which happens to be the primary accredited school at my university.)

    I've tried to find motivation but it all seems really hopeless. On the one hand, even Applied Mathematics at this point would take me as long as an Economics degree, but both would be completely boring while the other is boring and difficult, yet they both seemingly yield the same entry-level positions these days.

    What you said about accumulated advantage makes sense. That's the additional part of my fear. If I finish a Science degree yet have zero additional work experience, internship, or anything else, then it would seem I've even more likely to not get an actual Science based employment.
  5. Sep 26, 2013 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    I guess its a situation of assessing and choosing a trade-off.

    You mentioned your wife and your location: in many high-end areas, you typically have to go where the work is (which can be in a highly metropolitan environment or out in the middle of nowhere).

    Also are you motivated mostly by money (and supporting your family to some minimum standard of living) or by other means?

    The reason I ask is that answering the above is essential: what motivates say a software engineer developing games may not motivate the software engineer working on databases and business apps. The same also applies in engineering and between different disciplines.

    I remember watching a guy talk regarding motivation and he classified motivation of things by social norms against motivation of things by money. The motivation by social norms showed people that could do certain things that those motivated by money often couldn't but there was also the reverse: it showed certain activities that people who were motivated by money could do a lot better and faster at than the people motivated by social norms.

    The people motivated by money could do things were they had a set of instructions to execute and they would execute them much better than the other group. But when it came to other things, the reverse occurred.

    My advice for motivation is to try and look to your family and friends for motivation: one thing that motivates a lot of people to get things done (even when they don't want to) is to have a family (wife/husband) and/or a child. A child is often a very big motivator and the genuinely concerned parent will always find a way to get through crap so they can keep the lights on and their child fed.
  6. Sep 26, 2013 #5
    The truth about it is that at this point, I only care about making a solid pay check. It isn't that money is my only goal but that the experiences in my life has shown/proven to me at least that money is what facilitates happiness. I want to support hobbies and a family, that's it. I'm certainly not after a half a million dollar home and or Ferrari's.

    Currently, I'm very unhappy. I'm unhappy because we live paycheck to paycheck and the means to that end is school. The problem is that in the process of school, I'm also unhappy with school. I not only feel like I'm going down the right or best path but I also fear that I'm going to be inevitably hindered because I'll be in my mid 30's and no supporting work or extra resume additions to set me apart.

    I have the means given my position to slowly pursue schooling up to my doctorate but I'm like millions of other people who just want to move on to the next stage of life/adult hood which is earning a living and having a family.

    Philosophically speaking, I believe that there is a scale where if the price is right (ie it financially affords them the ideal ability outside of work) people would happily do some of the worst and most grueling jobs. I might loath working at McDonalds, but if it amply afforded my hobbies and children, I would be happy.
  7. Sep 26, 2013 #6
    I suggest getting marketable degree - business or software engineering (maybe start with associate degree) and finding better job as soon as possible. Don't bother with engineering - if you don't find CAD appealing now, it won't get any better later. People who prioritize stable income and hobby outside of work should never go for demanding career. Take it easy. Go for the easiest way in order to get stable job and don't be ambitious.
  8. Sep 26, 2013 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Justifying your resume is a topic in itself (with regards to what you said about jumping between fields).

    With regards to being pay-check to pay-check, there are quite a lot of people that earn a lot of money who do the same thing and some of them thought that earning more would allow them to save (but their lifestyle quickly catches up).

    One thing I should add is that your degree doesn't define you when it comes to looking for jobs. If you have an engineering degree you can apply for jobs across a wide range of sectors including government jobs, software development jobs (but you need to know your stuff for those), and other kinds of technical/analyst style jobs.

    When it comes to applying for those, you need to know what the employer wants and what they are looking for.

    I have personal experience with software development, and the key for those jobs is to really know your stuff (language, algorithms, data structures, good coding techniques, domain knowledge, and how to actually code - you'd be surprised how many people can't actually write code). If you get an interview and you pass the technical stage, the rest will be how you fit in to the organization.

    That leads me to mention that point again - how you fit in with the organization. Some times fitting in and having the minimal technical standards is better than having good technical standards but not fitting in.

    Personally I think you are under-estimating the jobs that you are qualified for - the key is understanding how the employer sees the world and what values they have and how you help create those things.

    Also if you are unhappy and it is seen a mile away, then that will affect your chances. If you are going to interviews, you don't want to communicate unhappiness at all. You should get an opinion from a trusted but unbiased acquaintance on how they see you and see if there are any things you can do to change this perception.

    You have one good benefit and that is that you have a job. Use it to your advantage because it is a good attribute to use: you just need to use it wisely.
  9. Sep 26, 2013 #8


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    I think Rika has a point about the CAD. I'm an Electrical Engineer and I spend most of my time sitting in front of a computer manipulating colored boxes. If this isn't appealing, I'd go for something that is more marketable around the country (and world) like computer science. CS is a great bridge into management and business as well.
  10. Sep 27, 2013 #9


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    Hey, at least you have a job as an analog design guy, it seems to be going the way of dodo in the US. That is of course If the dodo were overseas labour markets.

    As for the op, is going on to get your masters an option? Most places will substitute a master's for the two years of relevant work experience. Also, there are entry level positions out there, look into some of the defense contractors and federal employers, most of these places will hire you as entry level engineer were you can gain work experience.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook