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Former therapist going into engineering; seeking advice

  1. Sep 4, 2015 #1
    In a nutshell, my question is, would it be wiser for me to get an Associate's degree in Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technology, or a Bachelor's degree?

    To tell you about my background: I have a BA from Purdue University in Psychology, and a MS from Indiana University in Counseling. I turned 28 years old in June and became a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (in the state of Indiana) in March. As much as I have tried to make it work, that field is just not for me.

    I currently work full time as a project assistant at a small industrial automation company. I am also enrolled in two community college classes (I don't have much money) and am part of the Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technology (EMET) program. At this rate, I should graduate with an Associate's degree in EMET by Summer 2018.

    I am debating between these two options and want everyone's opinions of which would be more beneficial/ make more sense (preferably of people who are electrical or mechanical engineers). I am asking because I feel you all would have more knowledge regarding the pros and cons that I anticipate.

    1.) Stop at an Associate's degree.

    - I'll spend less money on college
    - I can be done by the time I am 31 years old, which will give me more time to excel in the field. Doing well is important to me.
    - I might still be able to become an engineer, because the company I work for hopes to promote me to that level when I get my degree
    - I am unclear about how different the responsibilities of a technician and engineer are, but I generally prefer supportive roles. I don't usually like to be solely responsible for something; I'd rather work with a team or help someone else.
    - It's a bit lower-level of a career than being an engineer, which may help if I decide I want to have a baby (unlikely)

    - If I can't become an engineer where I currently work, I will probably have to be a technician, because most companies won't hire you as an engineer without a BS
    - The salary as a technician will probably be significantly less. And I really need decent income (ideally $60,000+), because although I have no debt currently, I don't have much in assets either. No house, no retirement savings, and my car is dying. I live very simply and rarely spend money, but therapists actually don't make much money, so I never got to save much
    - Due to the lower salary, I'd have to rely on my fiancé more for retirement savings. But I like to make enough money to take care of myself. It makes me feel more confident and secure.
    - I heard it might be hard to find jobs as an EMET?

    2.) Go on to get a Bachelor's degree

    - Salary will be much more; I can probably build up a decent savings account and maybe even retire someday
    - I won't have to rely on my fiancé to build our retirement savings. That gives me a sense of empowerment. And, if he decides to leave me someday, I won't be completely screwed.
    - More job opportunities?

    - Will be more expensive because I'll need to take more college classes
    - I might be solely responsible for some projects, and that could stress me out a lot. Not having too much stress is important to me, because high levels of stress make me depressed.
    - Will take more time- I won't finish until I am 35 or 36 years old. That is getting up there!
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 4, 2015 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    A few comments:
    1. An Associates is nothing in the world of engineering. It makes you "someone who is not an engineer, but maybe understands a little of what they do."
    2. If you are factoring in "maybe my fiancé will leave me" into your planning, you might want to reconsider the whole fiancé thing. Just sayin'.
    3. You will someday be 35 no matter which path you take. Would you rather be 35 with or without engineering credentials?
    4. You can always say "I won't do this" to a job that you feel is too stressful. Yes, it might limit your prospects for advancement, but doesn't it make more sense to do this when the problem arises rather than to accept the limitation at the beginning on the chance that maybe this will happen?
    5. I've worked places where the engineers could use a therapist. Good luck!
  4. Sep 4, 2015 #3
    I appreciate your response! That's what I thought, regarding the value of an Associate's degree; I thought getting one would likely only lead me to be a technician. So I guess this thread isn't just about degrees, but also about whether being a technician or engineer would be better for me.

    I see your point about the fiancé. I am just being realistic- about 50% of marriages end in divorce. Of course, I don't think my relationship will turn out that way. Otherwise, why would I be in it? Very few people get married, thinking it won't work it. I simply like to plan for the worst-case scenario, while hoping it never happens.

    I like your point about ages. Time will pass anyway. Mid-30's doesn't seem too old to enter a new profession.

    Regarding the stress, that's a good point. I should take things as they come. I guess I just wish I knew more about the stress level in my therapist career prior to entering it; then I might have made a different decision. For example, I knew that I would have suicidal patients... but I didn't think my own patients would threaten to hurt me or actually try... and I didn't think I would have to explain to parents why the treatment team recommended they not get their children back... etc. There are so many examples of stress that I didn't foresee; those are just two of them.
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