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Late Starter looking for advice

  1. Jan 2, 2005 #1
    I'm 26, and depending on how things go I'll be entering college either this year or next, when I'm 27 or 28 respectively.

    I'm thrilled to be going to college as this is something I've wanted to do since I was 18 but have only just now been able to accomplish (due to financial problems, military service, and family obligations in earlier years).

    Ideally, I'd love to study geophysics/oceanography, especially as it relates to evolution and paleontology. I realize however that this will involve considerable schooling. I don't think I'll have any problems learning the material, as I've already been studying it on my own for the last few years, I do, however, wonder if investing this much time into schooling is the "wise" thing to do at this point in my life. Especially since I'm not exactly sure how "employable" I'll be after college.

    Practically, I've been considering something that takes less time (a trade or less involved science) and that builds off my previous skills/experiences gained in the military - electronics, electrician, computer Science, etc.

    Obviously if choosing what I wanted to do were the only issue I'd go with my ideal choice in a heartbeat. And my wife and my family keep telling me to do what I want to do, and don't "settle" for anything less. Yet there is this ever present anxiety (that grows stronger as I near the time when I will have to decide) that puts out things like "Do you realize how old you'd be after you got out of college?", "Do you know that some people your age (now) have already finished graduate school", "What kind of work are you going to find?", "Who's going to hire a man in his mid to late thirties when they could hire a guy 10 years younger with the same education?". Etc., etc., etc.

    I'd just like to hear from people who may have been (or currently are) in a similar position (starting college later in life) and what there experiences have been.

    Thank you much,
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 3, 2005 #2
    I have found that the best place of employment for me was civil service. Temp. agencies know that you'll be a good deal for employers and will sell you and your skills to the nth degree. Put down every course you took and every certificate you ever got and ALL your skills to include using a calculator and small stuff like that. More often than not there are standard working hours and they may even allow you to work around your class schedule. I had a student tech. job for a while and they let me do my homework at my desk as long as I kept up with my workload and answered the phone. You'll get on the short list for hiring because you're a Vet and they'll appreciate your timeliness and work ethic. Just don't forget to look around for better positions once you get your foot in the door.
  4. Jan 8, 2005 #3
    I say do what you want to do because it's something you'll enjoy doing, be good at and can more than likely find a way to make a living doing. I can relate somewhat to your situation. I enlisted right after high school and did 5 years in the Air Force knowing I wanted to go to college but unsure of exactly what I wanted to study.
    When I seperated at age 22 I had a year of core humanities courses under my belt and decided I'd get my bachelors in environmental engineering-it would only take me three more years I'd be finished at age 26 and I'd be "employable". Then I took my first physics class (never took it in high school) and was just fascinated by the subject. After a month or so of agonizing self-debate I decided to switch majors to engineering physics. I heard the same questions-what are you going to do? etc. This added another year of school on to getting my bachelors due to the sequential nature of physics courses-can't take quantum I and quantum II at the same time even if you have room in your schedule.
    Anyway to make a long story short I say go for it. Will you have regrets if you settle for something "easier" just so the paycheck comes sooner? If you were worried about the age gap, go straight to grad school and finish with your master or ....phd. 35 isn't an unusual age for someone to get there masters. Many people finish there undergrad work in industry for a few years and then go back for their master or phd. All you've done is get the life experience first.
    I'm 25 now and still have 2 years before I finish my undergrad; my military service helped get me a job in satellite operations with a university research lab. Remember, if there's a student position you're interested in, you're competing with kids who have virtually no experience. I've decided to go straight to grad school and get my phd in physics, or if I decide in the next year that 5-7 more years is too much I'll get my masters in electrical engineering.
    From reading folks posts on this site I don't think deciding you want to be a scientist later in life is very unusual. The average age of a physicist is something like 48 and the same probably holds for oceanographers and paleantoligists. If it's something you truely love and enjoy doing you won't want to retire, so beginning a career at 35 isn't all that bad.
    Hope this helps, good luck deciding.
  5. Jan 8, 2005 #4
    Thank you for the words of wisdom edtman. This is refreshing to hear. It seemed like all the people asking for career advice in here were still in high school, so it sort of scared me.
    BTW, I was in the Air Force too. As a Satellite Communications Tech.

    Thanks again :smile:
  6. Jan 8, 2005 #5
    Sat Comm tech? We may know each other or at least the same people. I was a 2E151:Satellite Wideband Communications tech. I finished tech school at Ft Gordon in 1999, then I was stationed at Robins AFB 99-01; Camp Humphreys, Korea 01-02 and Schriever AFB 02-03. Any of those places ring a bell? BTW my name is Ed Thiemann.
  7. Jan 9, 2005 #6
    Wow, small world. 2E1x1 here too.
    The first half of tech school was at Lackland (electronics part), second half was at Ft. Gordon (comm part). I finished up tech school around May of 1997 IIRC. I think Maj Bohon was the detachment commander at the time. I'm blanking on most of the MTL's names. I spent a little time at Robins and Keesler AFB's before leaving AD.

    BTW: When I got out they were talking about merging the Telemetry AFSC with SatComm, did that ever happen?

    Last edited: Jan 9, 2005
  8. Jan 9, 2005 #7


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    I worked for a year after high school, then spent 4 more years as a mechanic in the Air Force. I spent those 4 years saving money and taking night courses to start a degree in Mechanical Engineering. When I got out, I felt very much like yourself perhaps, thinking I was "too old" to spend another 4 years of my life in school. I even expected to get out after 2 or 3 and finish by going in the evenings, but I got my BS in 4 anyway. Still, I kinda wanted to get the Master's degree or maybe even a PhD, but thought that could wait, and I'd do it in night school.

    That was 16 years ago. I never did finish a Masters, never even started actually. Life got ahold, and things just went faster and faster, first a wife, then a child, moved about 3000 miles away for my first job. It seemed impossible to break free and start the degree.

    I'd suggest you take the time and get the degree you want, life can wait. You said, "Do you realize how old you'd be after you got out of college?"..... Do you realize how YOUNG you'll be when you get out? It looks older than it seems when you're young, 30 looks "old". It's not.

    Take the time and do it, you won't regret it. Your family is right, " . . . my wife and my family keep telling me to do what I want to do, and don't "settle" for anything less." Don't settle for less!
  9. Jan 9, 2005 #8
    Time does not stop. You are going to end up in one of two situations.
    1. Be in your mid 30's and have a degree
    2. Be in your mid 30's and NOT have a degree.

    That is the reality, the time is going to go by anyways, might as well get the degree. I did not start college till I was 24. I'm 26 now and will probably be in school till I am 30-32 and I don't regret it for a moment.
  10. Jan 10, 2005 #9
    Yeah, they did eventually merge telemetry systems and another afsc (space systems maintenance maybe) into the 2E1X1 career field. It sound like telemetry systems was the job to have. Some guys I worked with in Korea came from telemetry systems backgrounds and they worked with the Aria (or something like that) program where they got to monitor launches from the air and have cool TDY to small islands in the South Pacific, some other telemetry folks I met got to work on missile guidance systems and then fire test missiles at tanks. Needless to say they were in for a culture shock when they got assigned to a combat comm unit. I do think the merger saved me from being stop lossed when I got out in the summer of 03, right after Iraq was declared mission accomplished.
  11. Jan 11, 2005 #10


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    While you are doing the paleontoloy thing, you might stumble upon a really easy mineral geology course and claim it was your major. You will have plenty more time to ponder your hobbies that way. Salable job knowledge has it's advantages.
  12. Jan 11, 2005 #11


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    Are geologists still in high demand? I know there was a while when nobody was going into geology because you couldn't get a job, which suddenly left a huge demand for geologists, so the few around had their pick of jobs and could demand quite nice salaries. I'm not sure where that field currently stands.

    Anyway, you could easily study geology with some side classes on paleontology so you are both employable and get in the stuff you find really interesting. Then, if you're lucky, you might find a job doing what you most enjoy, and if not, you'll find a job at least using what you learned in college. Usually to graduate college you need to take enough credits to graduate that it doesn't have to be an either/or situation; you can do what you've always dreamed of learning and have a back-up plan as well to include something in your studies that's more likely to ensure employment.
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