Going back to school at age 40 to study engineering

  • #1
oldstudent2019
4
0
Hi everybody. I'm 40 years old and have been working sales and retail jobs for most of my career and have decided that I'm going to back to school part time with eventually going into mechanical or bio medical engineering. I plan on taking linear algebra and calculus 1 in the fall of 2019 to get ahead on the math courses. Then transition to full time in a couple years.

I figure I'll download a precalculus state exam and see how well I do to gauge my level before going into calculus.

Does anyone have any tips on self study? Or how often I should be reading? I picked up the allendoerfer text principles of mathematics after reading several posts on this forum. So I plan on working through that until September.

Thank you.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Answers and Replies

  • #2
jrmichler
Mentor
1,978
2,525
I went back to school at age 37 for grad school in mechanical engineering. Other students about the same age, all with majors in engineering included one with a degree in forestry, a chiropractor with nine kids, and a single mother. We all survived.

I suggest reviewing high school algebra, trigonometry, geometry, chemistry, and physics. You will then be ready for engineering school calculus and physics.

I noticed that undergrads who came to engineering school without high school physics really struggled with college physics, and that those who did not do well in college physics had trouble passing dynamics. IMPORTANT: Make sure that you do well in college physics. Much of mechanical and biomechanical engineering requires a solid physics background.
 
  • #3
mpresic3
377
267
I will give you some tips based on my experience. I went back to school in my late forties and was successful.
I learned calculus at age 18. B.C. i.e. before calculus, all mathematics came easy. I do not think I ever studied more than 30 minutes on an assignment, and days would go by without homework.

When I began learning calculus, I found I had to study and allow about 2 hours a day, and this means every weekday, but not Saturday or Sunday. Calculus requires practice, and you lose it very fast if you don't keep up with it. And this effort was required when I was 18. I cannot imagine it gets any easier when you are 40.
Linear algebra is different but it is just as hard with an equal measure of time and practice necessary. It is really ambitious to take these two together. I shudder to think what you are in for. I think it may be better to take calculus with a physics or engineering course (if you ambitious enough to consider taking two courses) rather than 2 hard mathematics courses together. Linear Algebra and Calculus do not overlap much. Physics and calculus overlap a bit more, so you are not learning two separate subjects, although these are also two very hard courses.

The last post to the forum gave examples of successes by older students. I know that these successes are possible and rewarding. Nevertheless, these successes require large commitments of time, and (regular; daily) effort. Good Luck.
 
  • #4
oldstudent2019
4
0
I will give you some tips based on my experience. I went back to school in my late forties and was successful.
I learned calculus at age 18. B.C. i.e. before calculus, all mathematics came easy. I do not think I ever studied more than 30 minutes on an assignment, and days would go by without homework.

When I began learning calculus, I found I had to study and allow about 2 hours a day, and this means every weekday, but not Saturday or Sunday. Calculus requires practice, and you lose it very fast if you don't keep up with it. And this effort was required when I was 18. I cannot imagine it gets any easier when you are 40.
Linear algebra is different but it is just as hard with an equal measure of time and practice necessary. It is really ambitious to take these two together. I shudder to think what you are in for. I think it may be better to take calculus with a physics or engineering course (if you ambitious enough to consider taking two courses) rather than 2 hard mathematics courses together. Linear Algebra and Calculus do not overlap much. Physics and calculus overlap a bit more, so you are not learning two separate subjects, although these are also two very hard courses.

The last post to the forum gave examples of successes by older students. I know that these successes are possible and rewarding. Nevertheless, these successes require large commitments of time, and (regular; daily) effort. Good Luck.
Thanks for the heads up. Probably better to start with 1 course and see how it goes as opposed to 2.
 
  • #5
berkeman
Mentor
64,195
15,446
Welcome to the PF. :smile:
Hi everybody. I'm 40 years old and have been working sales and retail jobs for most of my career and have decided that I'm going to back to school part time with eventually going into mechanical or bio medical engineering. I plan on taking linear algebra and calculus 1 in the fall of 2019 to get ahead on the math courses. Then transition to full time in a couple years.
What is your educational background so far? Did you do any schooling after high school, or did you go straight into the workforce from high school?

Keep in mind that "Linear Algebra" is not Algebra, it is Matrices and Simultaneous Equations and Eigenfunctions, etc. It is a pretty challenging math course, and AFAIK, it is usually taken at the end of your first year in Engineering or the start of your second year. At least I think that's about when I took it in undergrad...
 
  • #6
oldstudent2019
4
0
Welcome to the PF. [emoji2]

What is your educational background so far? Did you do any schooling after high school, or did you go straight into the workforce from high school?

Keep in mind that "Linear Algebra" is not Algebra, it is Matrices and Simultaneous Equations and Eigenfunctions, etc. It is a pretty challenging math course, and AFAIK, it is usually taken at the end of your first year in Engineering or the start of your second year. At least I think that's about when I took it in undergrad...
Background is a 3 year bsc in biology. Couldn't find a job with it. So just kept working retail and then sales for the last 17 years.

No math in uni except statistics. Avoided it like the plague for fear of failure.
 
  • #7
berkeman
Mentor
64,195
15,446
have decided that I'm going to back to school part time with eventually going into mechanical or bio medical engineering.
Will you be studying part time at a community college? That may be a good way to get your calculus classes under your belt, as well as some other classes that can transfer to a 4-year school. You could take Calc I and an Introduction to Engineering course the first semester at CC to get your feet wet...
 
  • #8
PeroK
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Insights Author
Gold Member
2022 Award
23,790
15,402
Background is a 3 year bsc in biology. Couldn't find a job with it. So just kept working retail and then sales for the last 17 years.

No math in uni except statistics. Avoided it like the plague for fear of failure.

The UK high-school maths syllabus is covered here. It starts with "GCSE" and then "A Level", which is a good preparation for university maths and also includes a "mechanics" module.

You could look at that to see where you are at.

https://www.examsolutions.net/
 
  • #9
PeroK
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Insights Author
Gold Member
2022 Award
23,790
15,402
Does anyone have any tips on self study? Or how often I should be reading? I picked up the allendoerfer text principles of mathematics after reading several posts on this forum. So I plan on working through that until September.

Thank you.

You have to do as much as possible. Ideally something every day. When I started again after retiring 5 years ago I could barely go from one line of algebra to the next without a mistake. With mathematics you have to be prepared to put in the hours.
 
  • #10
Dr. Courtney
Education Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
3,333
2,517
Forget reading. Work math problems. An online system like ALEKS can keep you supplied with problems at the right level of difficulty. Starting with Algebra 2 or precalc might be about right.
 
  • Like
Likes CalcNerd and berkeman
  • #11
oldstudent2019
4
0
Will you be studying part time at a community college? That may be a good way to get your calculus classes under your belt, as well as some other classes that can transfer to a 4-year school. You could take Calc I and an Introduction to Engineering course the first semester at CC to get your feet wet...
I hadn't really considered it. In Canada the college courses don't necessarily transfer up to uni. But I guess I could check it out.
 

Suggested for: Going back to school at age 40 to study engineering

Replies
28
Views
812
  • Last Post
Replies
7
Views
463
Replies
5
Views
120
Replies
8
Views
955
Replies
4
Views
1K
Replies
14
Views
219
Replies
14
Views
365
Replies
3
Views
289
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
490
Top