Is it too late to become an engineer at 34?

  • Thread starter gazzab13
  • Start date
  • #1
I would love some honest advice. I have a masters degree in international politics and economics and an undergraduate in law. Over the last few years however my interest in whats going on around me specifically in how things are made has grown immensly. I like the idea of working on real issues which are either right or wrong and can be measured. I was never that great at math or physics at high school, not due to aptitude but rather due to lack of interest and thus effort. My biggest challenge though is I am 34 years old and cannot take 5 years to go study fulltime. Oh secondly, I am working in China!

Can I study part-time? Do people even want to hire engineers who become qualified at almost 40? Really need some advice on how if at all to go about this.

Answers and Replies

  • #2
It is too late to make a decent career switch, although I would suggest you try to learn what you think is fun!
  • #3
Maybe you should try to take a few engineering courses and see the feel of it. Ask yourself if you really wanna do it for the rest of your life.
  • #4
What courses can you suggest? I am currently working with factories in China trying to assist with their processes.
  • #5
I personally believe that age is just a number. Do whatever you want.
  • #6
I suggest you talk to anyone who is an engineer. The engineering field is actually sort of broad so you might have a specific interest in a specialty of engineering. The best way to see if you like it is to talk to someone who does it.

If you decide you want to pursue engineering, take a few classes (esp. physics). See if you can get the hang of it. The age thing is really not an issue. How much time you can devote to studying the craft is more important. What you do to advance the engineering field or if you're good at engineering will determine your employability. If you can do the job well, then chances are you'll probably get hired as an engineer.
  • #7
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Can I study part-time?

Realistically, it takes about 10 years full time education to make a professional engineer, from the time you start on basic math and physics at school till the time you finish at university. Only you know how far along that path you are already, and how much of the early stages you have done but completely forgotten by now. Realistically, unless you can put in some full-time education and training, it will probably take you too long to be a practical career option.

Do people even want to hire engineers who become qualified at almost 40? Really need some advice on how if at all to go about this.

I've never seem an job application with that sort of CV, but it depends how credible you looked for the job on offer. For some things (e.g. quality assurance, compliance with external regulations, coordinating international projects, etc) your "pre-engineering" career could be an obvious advantage, but for a "technical expert" type of job it wouldn't count for anything.

So possibly taking a year or two out to convert yourself into an engineering project manager might be an option. Good project managers accept the fact that they don't know more technical stuff than the rest of their team's combined expertise.

I once interviewed a 75 year old engineering contractor who lied about his age and said he was 60. If we hadn't discovered the lie we would probably have hired him for a short term (12 or 24 month) contract, but we would never knowingly hire anybody who didn't tell the truth. So age isn't a barrier in itself, in at least one large international engineering company.
  • #8
decent career switch
Please define what this means?
  • #9
38 is not too late but when you interview for an entry level position it will pay less and you will need to explain your career path. People will expect a mid level engineer by your age. Other than that, have at it.

P.s. Forget about part time. It won't work for schedule reasons.
  • #10
Can I study part-time? Do people even want to hire engineers who become qualified at almost 40? Really need some advice on how if at all to go about this.

To be realistic you need to study at high intensity over as short a period as possible. This means that even if you have to work to support yourself, you have to find a way to study at least 4 hours a day and take the courses that will get you a college degree in engineering. I only recommend this if you feel you possess a very strong natural ability (which seems very questionable, since you didn't latch on to math and physics, or show a strong technical bias at a young age), AND if you are highly motivated. Only you can answer these two key questions, but if the answer is yes to both, then go for it.

Another way to look at this is to ask yourself if you are a natural born engineer that just missed the early boat. Some key questions to determine if you are a natural born engineer type of person is as follows.

1. Were you taking all your toys apart by age 5, or at least at later periods in your youth?

2. Growing up, did you ever decide to built something on your own initiative, and did you see it through? (whether it worked or not is irrelevant)

3. Do you enjoy problem solving and do you have a history of finding creative solutions to real problems you've encountered?

4. Do you ever wake from dreams with ideas you just have to try, or solutions to problems you've been thinking about?

Although not all engineers would answer yes to all these questions, I think one starting so late better answer yes to them before determining that the difficult road ahead is the right road. Engineering is more than a profession, it's a way of life. It's not for all people, but for those that it is for, there is no other good way to live.
  • #11
It is too late to make a decent career switch

  • #12
Homework Helper
Never too late, but you should have a realistic expectation of how long it will take and what kind of job/salary you'd have. As a start, I'd recommend taking basic courses in physics, chemistry, and math (whatever level you'd feel comfortable with). If, after this, your desire is still there, then you can move on. If you were in the U.S., I'd recommend enrolling in your local community college and taking as many classes as you can for a year, then re-evaluate. I have no idea what the educational opportunities might be available where you are.
  • #13
Not sure if you want to study in the US, but Boston University has this program: [Broken]

The cost may be prohibitive, but you can try to get a scholarship/grant. I'm 28 and hopefully starting my brand new path towards being an engineer.
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  • #14
Science Advisor
A quote from the movie Primer:

"You know what they do to engineers when they turn 40?"

"They take them out and shoot them"


But seriously ask an engineer for advice (hopefully someone on this forum)
  • #15
I'm a 27 year old senior in college (Math+Comp Sci... kind of Engineering). I spent 2 years away from school but was always quite good in math. I felt mentally behind (not just because I forgot stuff but it seemed harder to visualize things). I felt like I had to spend a lot more time than normal working and I got to a point where I just didn't understand anymore.

I can't say for sure it was because of mental rust or not, but it sure seemed to come a lot easier when I had been in school for a sequential period.

I'm not saying you can't do it, but I would definitely "review" before making any major life decisions.
  • #16
Science Advisor
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2020 Award
My wife started medical school at 33 and is now an MD. So I would guess it is not too late.