Mid-career change into EE post age 30?

1. Mar 9, 2014

liverton11

Hi, I am new to this forum!

I am a 30 years old math instructor at a community college with a M.S. and B.S. in Math that included course works in calculus, advanced calculus, analysis, linear algebra, theoretical statistics, and machine learning, with intermediate knowledge in R and SQL. I also have 3 years of military experience serving as a non-commissioned officer in the US Army and hold a B.A. in History.

My current salary is in the mid-50k range but there are little room for pay-raise (not even cost-of-living raises!) and advancement in my profession. My wife has a M.S. in Industrial Engineering from Purdue and she had been talking me into joining the engineering field.

It will probably take me 4 years to complete a M.S. in Electrical Engineering (prerequisites and grad. course works) so I will be close to the age of 35 by the time I am looking for an entry-level EE job with practically zero engineering experience (other than internships). So my question is, is it likely for me to make good my losses (lack of income for at least 2 years and tuition cost) and climb up in the economic ladder? Is it plausible for me to still make $70k salary with room for advancement? At my current job, my salary won't change so much... But I will be able to retire when I am 51 with state pension. It just hurts me every time I see my paycheck and think about what I can potentially be earning... What do you guys think? Any comments are appreciated! 2. Mar 9, 2014 jim hardy My two cents... Why not? If Smart Grid happens there'll be lots of math intensive control system engineers needed. My son is 31, BSME, and i'm encouraging him to take 2 years off for MS in Nuclear engineering. Nuclear Power industry faces an aging workforce. I think it has a future. Anyone who passed vector calculus can pass reactor physics. You're gonna be 32 in two years anyhow . If you drive old cars and avoid toys, you'll hardly miss the salary. Just avoid debt. old jim ps i'll report my own post so mentors can move to academic or career guidance fora if they like. 3. Mar 9, 2014 analogdesign When I was an EE grad student one of the members of my cohort was 38 years old and burned out after teaching high school physics. Two years later he got a job working on lithography equipment at Applied Materials. We didn't discuss exact salaries but he told me he got a 50% raise over what he was making teach high school. So I say go for it! EE is fascinating and a great way to spend your time at work. 4. Mar 9, 2014 dlgoff I would have to agree with the previous post from the standpoint of "the love of Engineering" but being able to retire at 51 with a state pension would be my first option. Just sayin' 5. Mar 10, 2014 analogdesign I dunno Don... to be 30 years old and already giving up on your dreams so you can get a state pension (assuming there is still a pension in 20 years...) seems a bit sad to me. 6. Mar 10, 2014 dlgoff But the OP seems to be putting$s before science, IMO. So ....

BTW I went the science route and made no "big" money.

7. Mar 10, 2014

analogdesign

Good point... the OP seems to be focused on the paycheck, not the work.

I went the science route too... but I'm comfortable and have fun at work so I'm happy. Only when I talk to some of my grad school buddies (as I did at a dinner last weekend) who now work at Apple do I feel a twinge of jealousy! :-)

8. Mar 10, 2014

liverton11

Wow, great posts, thanks!

I'm focus on three things... Pay, advancement, and intellectual challenges.

I love proving mathematical/statistical theorems, if I can I would much prefer doing that all day... But the truth is I won't be making much.

Teaching in community college has good job security, practically stress-free work (I work less than 30 hours a week), and I can count of reliable pension plan. But pay will be stagnate at mid-50k until the rest of time and it is hard to be challenged teaching the same thing over and over...

EE seems to give me a out... Higher pay, challenges at my work, and opportunities to move up... But just want to know what the realities are.

9. Mar 10, 2014

analogdesign

Just to throw another idea out there. Is there any requirement with your job that you don't consult? If you're working 30 hours a week it seems that you could get a part-time consulting IT or programming job. Have you looked into that? Maybe you can have your cake and eat it too!

10. Mar 10, 2014

psparky

I went back for EE when I was 30.......having almost no classes complete. It sounds like OP has most of his classes done, will just have to take the engineering part.

From graduating salary to now.....It has almost tripled in 10 years!

Also, why do you necessacarliy need a master's degree? A bachelors degree with a PE will pay more more money to the right employer.

For experienced engineers, 80K to 100K is reasonable with just a bachelors and PE. My company for example, doesn't even recognize the masters degree. They do strongly recognize the PE.

Other companies can be the opposite. Don't care about the PE...only the masters. But to me a PE always seems to be the best move. A PE with a masters I suppose is better yet. But not always feasible for the amount of cash and time a masters takes.

And by the way, if u are entry level at engineering.....50K is reasonable starting salary.

Just my usual 3 cents.

11. Mar 10, 2014

jim hardy

Electric utilities are known for stability. Mine employed a few math majors in engineering department for setpoint analysis and probabilistic risk assessment. Its stock has risen tenfold since 1980, the guys whose 401's were in it are set for life. With my usual aplomb, i got out just before the last tripling.

12. Mar 10, 2014

psparky

If you do go for more, it sounds like you could also teach at a University (non community college) with your background. Teach engineering courses perhaps.....so if you are looking at it that way, perhaps Masters would be best route. Plus PE :)

13. Mar 11, 2014

meBigGuy

If you are a practical problem solver and voracious learner you will have no difficulty with just a B.S. degree. Getting the first job will be hard though. But you need to be able to completely own problems and drive them to a creative completion. If that is not your style, stay in teaching.

I'd recommend software though. I really think that is where there are still frontiers that individuals can conquer. Better yet get BS in EE and BS in computer science. (BTW, I'm a hardware designer)

With your math background you can be productive in control, communications, and signal processing.

In my opinion when you get an MS what you are really learning is how to master a discipline and you know that. If you get work and find you need more DSP skills to move on, then take the classes.

14. Mar 11, 2014

stevenjones3.1

This might vary by location, but I have heard that it can be more difficult to get a PEng certification with just a M.S. in Elec. Eng. (as opposed to a B.S. in Elec. Eng.) Might not be the case but it is something worth checking into before jumping into a program since the PEng certification is pretty valuable.

15. Mar 11, 2014

mjhilger

I went to college straight out of high school and received my BSEE. At age 50, I decided that I really wanted to pursue physics also. I went back and started on a completion path for a BS Physics. I was certainly not as attentive a student in my early years as I was at 50, but the amount of material I learned in the physics program was far beyond the engineering path - from a comprehension standpoint. So while I believe an EE path is a great path; you might check into engineering physics with an emphasis on electrical/electronics. Your math background should play well into that field. EE provides the tools to solve very specific problems, while physics provides tools to solve a wide range of both. Don't get me wrong, many classes of EE material are extremely beneficial in real world; control theory for instance. But the two together are provide a broad range of knowledge. I'm currently writing software for medical radiation where the physics and engineering basically collide. Also, medical physicists make upwards of \$250K if you want to follow that type of path.

16. Mar 11, 2014

meBigGuy

Regardless of whether you go BSEE, Computer science, or physics, with your math backgound you will be able to do creative things with software. For example BSEE and control theory make you extremely capable in the world of robotics.

17. Mar 12, 2014

Digitalism

Thanks guys for this thread. Can I ask when you were in school did you have a mentor or someone to discuss interesting projects with to get you excited for the kinds of projects you work on in industry? I find many fellow students doing projects that do not seem practical in terms of preparing to excel at professional challenges.

18. Mar 12, 2014

psparky

In USA, a bachelors degree in EE is all you need to qualify for PE. You need to pass the FE, fundamentals of Engineering exam first. I believe it just got changed to a 6 hour exam.

Whether you have BS, MS or PHD, makes no difference. Once you pass the FE AND have 4 years experience after college, you then can qualify for the PE.....still an 8 hour exam.

You can even qualify for the PE if you have and Electronic Engineering technology degree. I believe you will need 8 years in the field with this degree to qualify.

Being a State Licensed Professional Engineer is always a good thing. However, your company needs to support this because you will need 15 continuing education hours per year to keep the license. If you have to make your own time for these and pay out of your pocket, that may get a bit tiresome. If your company supports this, they will set you up with "lunch and learns" and pay for the whole ball of wax including exam fees and so forth.

19. Mar 12, 2014

psparky

Had a great mentor that helped with me a ton of theory....and absolutely nothing about the work place. You basically learn what you need to learn on the job. However, you can translate all your theory into whatever you are doing. In other words, if you master the theory, there is nothing you can't do electrically speaking.

If employers are being honest, they don't really like college graduates because they don't know anything in regards to making a company money. They can't hit the ground running and they take several years to develop. The "laplace transform" isn't going to do much for you your first day. If they do hire a college graduate, they are hiring them for what they may be able to do a couple years down the road. Remember, graduation is often referred to as "commencement". Commencement means "The Beggining".

Also, it's almost impossible for someone to mentor you into what you will be doing at work. Why is that? Because you never know what type of job you will land! There are exceptions, but in general, what is stated above I find to be the truth.

The one real exception is if you land an internship in college, then get hired by that same company after graduation. Then you should be able to hit the ground running in some capacity.

Last edited: Mar 12, 2014
20. Mar 28, 2014

mrmjp

I will graduate with my BS in EE at 41 next year. Age has nothing to do with ability and desire.

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