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I'm getting old. What to do with my life?

  1. Dec 13, 2012 #1
    I am a structural engineering grad student in IOWA. I have used 16 months out of my 36 months of Montgomery GI Bill benefits. It has taken 2 years but I am beginning to fall out of love with structural engineering. It seems like anyone can look in the AISC manual and find the formula and appropriate reduction factor. I say all that to say this: I have used up many resources, feel somewhat committed, and am afraid there will be a ton of competition. Also, I have googled and the entry level jobs are not there. I have 1.5 years to go before I complete my MS. I fear I may have gone down this road deluded. I envisioned myself designing skyscrapers and bridges that span oceans--very few engineers get to do this.

    I am giving serious consideration to switching to statistics. I have my undergrad in Math so this is not that big of a leap. I will get an MS in statistics, work as an actuary or in industry till I'm 70, then go teach at some junior college till I die. I am 33 now--34 in March. What do you think?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 13, 2012 #2


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    You are not old, but it's time to make some choices, IMO. Good luck with your decision. Life intruded and made my decisions for me before I ever got my degree, and I had to just roll with it. Luckily, I married a woman who was willing to live with my frequent job-changes, and we didn't have kids, so it was easier for me to travel.
  4. Dec 13, 2012 #3
    That's kinda what structural engineering is... To be fair, we all envisioned doing something else before finishing our degrees. Me included, but that's how it goes. I'd personally stick with it while getting more experience and looking for something more to your liking. Two years isn't enough to choose the job you want.
  5. Dec 14, 2012 #4
    I imagined in condensed matter physics I'd be engineering the next generation of nanostructured materials like carbon nanotube textiles, graphene electronics, programmable nanomachines, organic magnets, NEMS ...

    The reality is I'm behind a desk 90% of the time trying to figure out a rigid body problem, calculating a very hard Laurent series or being forced to calculate Clebsch-Gordan coefficients by hand which involves extremely tedious algebra.

    If you are sure with your decision, first make sure stats is what you want. Otherwise you might be asking the same question again.
  6. Dec 14, 2012 #5
    There's no reason to get a degree in Statistics if you're in the US and planning on going the actuarial route. Just pass some exams (and finish your current degree while you're at it).

    Obviously there are lots of other stats jobs that a statistics degree may open up.
  7. Dec 15, 2012 #6
    I'm curious as to why you chose Montgomery over the Post-9/11 GI Bill?
  8. Dec 19, 2012 #7
    Golly, to be 33 again with all those choices and **free** education...envious. You REALLY don't know how good you've got it.

    "desiging skyscrapers and bridges"...yeah, I was going to be designing aircraft. My first job in the Structural Design department of an aerospace firm had me redrawing (by hand) little structural support pieces for a wing leading edge slat, taking an existing machined-part drawing and creating a cast-part drawing. And it was mind-numbingly boring to me, left after 8 months. I realized I would never design aircraft...no one does. TEAMS of engineers design aircraft. And so it is with most engineering functions: bridges, factories, chemical compounds, electrical equipment, natural gas extraction, generally everything.

    I wouldn't give up that educational benefit. You need some insight on what it is you want to do when you grow up, though. I suggest you get out, seek out and attend professional society meetings of any type that may interest you, "interview" the members to get a feel for what they do, prowl online discussion groups (e.g., eng-tips.com) and ask, constantly look at the online job search sites to read job descriptions........find out what course of study will get you up early in the morning and keep you up late at night. For me, it was manufacturing automation & robotics. And I'm 30+ years in the game now.
  9. Jan 1, 2013 #8
    Hi OP,

    If you're still checking this, I agree with the person above that you should just be sure you actually like Statistics before switching.

    I just finished my MS in Statistics and am working in statistical programming in the pharma industry now. I worked in pharma in a related capacity for a few years previous to getting my MS degree as well.

    I enjoy what I do FWIW and there is a good amount of demand for skill set in my area which is pretty nice because I don't want to move. If you have any specific questions about what it's like, let me know.
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