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How much undergrad is too much undergrad.

  1. Mar 30, 2013 #1
    Hey y'all

    I'm looking for some fairly high altitude general life advice. Basically: At what point does it become rational to say "the time for choosing careers (or career entry points) has passed", hunker down, and stick with something for a while / see it through to fruition.

    My char points:
    - 24 years old
    - BA in humanities from top-whatever school
    - works in marketing and property development
    - going back to school for 2 year - B.Sc. in Comp Sci.
    - 25 INT, 26 STR, 30 CHA, 25 AGL
    - rune of mathing +10 to calculating
    - top speed of 35 km/h

    I'm doing comp sci for a few reasons, 1) skills development, 2) career re-orientation, 3) ability to get closer to working with "hard science" materials (considering M.Sc in scientific computing - anyone have experience with that?)

    The option I am "entertaining" is transferring after 1 year of CS (depending on grades and etc) into the Engineering dept, to go for an Engineering Physics combined B.Sc / B.Eng. That's a real "pipe dream" in terms of job opportunities, grad school opportunities, and academic material. BUT, its just more undergrad, another 4 - 5 years!! Doing that entails having spent a total of almost a decade in undergrad !!!

    Am I right to think "spending x number of years in undergrad is crazy!" or should I go for the ultra-top gold model at the cost of basically the rest of my 20s?

    Thanks for the input, be merciless.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 31, 2013 #2
    i plan on spending my 20s in school. i dont expect to finish school till at least 30(ill be 21 on thursday). it all depends on what you want to do with your life. if you think its crazy to spend that time in school then it is! theres not really any right or wrong in ways of thinking about these things. if you want to spend 10 years in school do it. if your not too keen on it, don't or maybe finish ur bs and see how you feel.
  4. Mar 31, 2013 #3
  5. Mar 31, 2013 #4
    I immediately thought of RPG stuff. He has:

    25 Intelligence
    26 Strength
    30 Charisma
    25 Agility

    Rune of mathing is probably some piece of equipment that allows him to calculate faster, hence the +10 bonus. His fastest footspeed is 35 km/h.

    I'm not sure how accurate this is, but it fits...

    EDIT: Seeing as he is listed his points as "char" points. I think what I said may be the case.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2013
  6. Mar 31, 2013 #5
    I'm still with micromass on this lol :confused:
  7. Mar 31, 2013 #6
    haha! Yep those three points were a joke. I feel like a lot of PF posts are "breakdowns" of a persons situation, why not skip to the chase and just give you my stats?

    Interesting perspective jimmyly, are you intending on a PhD in physics / related science field? I look forward to hearing any one else's thoughts as well.
  8. Mar 31, 2013 #7


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    IMO, anything past the four year mark as undergrad, you are behind the curve, unless you want to be a professional student.
  9. Apr 1, 2013 #8
    Which particular curve would that be? Many people decide to re-train.

    Your destiny is not written in stone at any point in your life.
  10. Apr 1, 2013 #9
    Depends on how you weigh things. Can you find a job being happy with just CS? Or how about the degree you already have? No ideas what a humanities degree makes, but lets assume you get your CS degree in 1 year and get an entry level CS job making $50k now compare this to your pipe dream job.

    CS job for 4 years extra you are looking at spending in school (assuming 3% a year raises) = ~ $210,000 (5th year salary ~56,000)

    Cost of 4 years of school (assuming $10 year state school): $40,000

    Salary with a BS engineering physics degree: probably not better than the $56k

    So it is cost benefit analysis: how much happier do you think you would be with a Engineering Physics job versus a CS job. Also realize a CS job is probably easier to find. Then is this happiness worth the additional $250k it is going to cost you?
  11. Apr 1, 2013 #10
    I didn't go to university until I was the age that my peers were leaving i.e. 21, when I was sick of my crappy job. I felt then my life's calling was in my humanities subject in academia, as I've never flourished or enjoyed myself so much. So spent 2 years after undergraduate doing more crappy jobs to save for my MA. By the end of it, I realised that actually, after the 6-year period of studying and doing crappy jobs to save for graduate school, plus the terrible academic job market (moving around the world every year or two for post-doc after post-doc with few permanent positions ever opening up), I no longer wanted to pursue the PhD and academic route *enough* to justify the risk and sacrifices.

    I'm now studying (part-time) mathematics and statistics for both self-improvement and job prospects.

    There are times I think those years of crappy jobs and the MA were a waste because I didn't go the PhD route. But I quickly remember how it felt having the burning desire to go and learn, and to try and get the academic job, and all the rest. For my part, the biggest thing I got out of going was peace of mind and however it reads to the hard-nosed cynics here, I really can't put a price on that.

    If you want to go for reasons that have anything to do with the quality of your life (including but not limited to: finding well-paid and *meaningful* work you *enjoy*) then I say go for it. The rest of your life is too long a time to spend wondering 'what if?'.

    Good luck.
  12. Apr 1, 2013 #11
    I'm fine with being "behind the curve" when it comes to what age you did X by. That's losing sight of the bigger picture, i.e. what I'll be doing with my 30s, 40s, 50s, and even 60s.

    Another thing to consider is, I actually have completed previous degree and will have the future one, and they don't have overlapping content. It's not like I'm re-doing my PDE course for the 5th time, rather learning in depth entirely new fields of content. Kinda depends on the curve your talking about also... thanks for input though.

    I'm glad you brought up this aspect. One thing I've considered is not just the immediate pay differences (CS vs Eng, might not be huge to begin) but also the payscale progression into the future. From what I understand Engineers can enjoy progressively higher pay throughout their careers as they advance through actual "engineering" to more project management or specialized roles, or specific industries like mining or gas and oil.

    On the money side, I know of more programmers who stay programmers for a long time, and if they are skilled can earn up to 100k but not like the 200k some engineers can pull if they are in the right field / specialization. Do you know to what extent that is true?

    Another thing I'm wondering about is the ability to "compete downwards". CS jobs abound, but its likely I can get those without a CS degree and just having some programming skills I can learn on my own. Engineering, however, is much more credentialed / restricted to self-learners.

    In your opinion, is doing something out of interest in the material / content worth it if it means a sacrifice in standard of living? Pursuing the eng phys route would entail less earnings and some more debt, which hurts down the road I figure.
  13. Apr 1, 2013 #12
    In regard to your life choice, you will have to decide for yourself (helpful, eh?). But! Since you asked my opinion...

    Assuming you have a genuine passion for the material/content then - in my opinion - yes, absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt.

    Caveat: I would not want to live in a place so cold there were icicles in the shower, and I had to eat cat food, for the chance to be full-time in something that was interesting, but not a passion (I will happily watch a World War 2 documentary but...). So, for me, something in between.

    [I ate basically, but healthily. No meat. Still got 5 meals a day. Didn't lose any muscle in the gym. Had a room in halls of residence. En suite. Social side was great. No lavish gifts or trips. Don't worry about it.]

    Disclaimer: I had not lived out of home except for my undergraduate, did not have kids or a partner to support etc. So all my money, minus expenses, was on me. My standard of living did not drop, but it was not high - but it was healthy and I was *happy*.

    I'm not trying to mince words and I know full well what you mean. But I think there is a serious point to be made that, when assessing your own standard of living, you should factor in as much as you can of all that stuff people call wishy washy because it resists easy quantification; doing something you have no/little interest in so you can have higher earnings and less debt, well, for me personally, that is a sacrifice in standard of living. (Perhaps 'quality of life' is a better phrase.) Otherwise just take your degree and get into marketing. Easier. Much better paid. "It's a living." ("It's a waste o' life!"). (If you don't care for it)
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2013
  14. Apr 1, 2013 #13


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    Since your background is humanities, going back to school for a couple of years to get a CS degree will not cause potential employers to even blink. It will look like a reasonable re-training to change careers. However, going back and changing course mid-stream and taking for 5 years just for another BS (even dual major) may cause some to question the wisdom of hiring you. Often a new hire engineer with a BS will take a couple of years before they earn their keep - so the training investment is huge. I recently heard (or read? cannot recall) about some engineering firms estimating $250,000 as a typical training cost for new hires! Employers may want to have some confidence that potential hires will stick to it to make their investment worthwhile.

    Just my 3 cents.

  15. Apr 1, 2013 #14


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    If you want to do an engineering degree, do one. But spending a year doing part of a computer science degree course first won't teach you anything much about engineering.

    Also, you might want to consider that if you haven't made any regular use what you learned in math or science courses before you started your detour into humanities, you will probably have forgotten most of it.

    As for employability - well, yes, people sometimes discover they have made some bad decisions and backtrack. But would be a red flag for me (if it showed up when interviewing you) is that you don't seem to have a very realistic idea about what engineers (or computer scientists) working in industry actually do. They don't get hired to "work on hard science problems". They get hired to make money for their employers. That might involve doing a bit of hard science once in a while, or it might not. It might actually involve pretty much the same skill set that you (presumably) are bored with using in your current job...
  16. Apr 1, 2013 #15
    Actually, me and several of my classmates found out what engineering really is in our junior years. Some quickly decided it wasn't for them and changed majors. It was surprising to me to say the least because I envisioned engineering to be physics and math but it's not at all.

    To the OP: If you're considering EE or CS, I would highly recommend getting an Arduino or Raspberry Pi or start messing around with some code now to find out what you'll be doing. Every night that I'm debugging code or a circuit I think of how different engineering school is than what I thought it was going to be. :smile:
  17. Apr 7, 2013 #16
    Thanks for your input, I do appreciate it. The 1st year of CS isn't so much as a voluntary choice as the best route to early completion. It makes available the option of transferring into 2nd year engineering, wheras going straight for engineering requires some more prereqs, so its really a CS -> 2nd year eng by fall 2014 Vs 1st year eng in fall 2014.

    I do intend to interview with some engineers in the near future to learn more about their careers and work life, and same for CS. I have a much better grasp on what CS looks like already, however.

    Here is part of my motivation for the switch: The way I approach problems and material, and the types of problems I find most interesting, has a much much greater similarity with what I've encountered in dealing with people in STEM fields than my own. It's partly a strong interest in the material and content, but more and more I'm convinced by my affinity with their approaches to thinking about things.

    That's good advice. I have been doing some programming on my laptop but hadn't made the jump to working with breadboards or circuitboards like Arduino. I will give it a shot when I can.
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