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Need advice and direction

  1. Apr 27, 2014 #1
    Hello Physics Forums :),
    My name is Justin. So I am looking for some honest advice and some direction. I am going to give a run down of myself so that way giving advice will be easier maybe?
    I am a veteran on the GI bill if that matters at all. Also being from Texas, when my 36 months of GI bill runs out, I then have the hazelwood act that will pay for my school. Just stating that so people may understand why time for me is not as much of a concern. Basically I am not trying to rush and get out of school in 4 years or less is my point. I am looking to get solid understanding and skills that will hopefully set me up for success later down the road (I guess we all are lol.). I would like to get a bachelors, and from there see if I want to continue on to higher levels.
    I am 30 years old. I have no background whatsoever in computers, technology, or formal high levels of math and physics, but will major in something along those lines.
    Basically I have come up with a plan and I am posting it here to see if its a good idea, or if I am off base, please feel free to critique, or give me other options, plans, ideas, whatever. And I can take harsh AND negative constructive criticism (I am an infantry soldier :))
    Fall of 2014 I will finish up getting my associates. I have not realized until to late that I plan on getting into the subjects that I have mentioned, so my associates will not have the classes that I need to be prepared to move on to a 4 year university and take on a junior level workload in any of those subjects( at least that what it seems so far?).
    Also because I have no background in computing, as well as previously mentioned courses I thought about getting a technical certificate to learn from the ground up about computers.
    So after I get my associates I planned on getting a technical degree in computer engineering technology specialization AAS. Also I would be taking an extra math/ needed class course per semester. So basically I would finish the technical degree in 18 months. And have completed up to the level of calculus 1, with one college physics.
    I am essentially doing everything backwards and the hard way I know. But I went to school for a number of years when I was in my late teens, early twenties, that is clogging up this first initial associates.
    Anyway if you read it all thank you. Look forward to any input.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 29, 2014 #2
    Not sure what you want to do. What career do you want to get after whatever final degree you get?
  4. Apr 29, 2014 #3
    I am sorry that I did not come across clear. So I am interested in physics, engineering, chemistry. I would like to get some advice and direction because I have no practical experience, and really limited background in computers, technology. So after I finished getting my associates this fall, I thought about getting a technical degree to help me get some background and a starting base. Plus I need to continue taking math.
    So at this point I am just seeking advice and doing research. I looked up computer engineering technology specialization, A+, and tried looking at some other things. Is any of this a good idea? Or will I just learn what I need to learn in engineering or physics classes in a university? Would I learn a little bit of this stuff in classes but then still be recommended to take additional certificates after I graduate? I have a lot of questions, the counselers are not that great at my community college.
    As far as career paths, I could definitely do something in those career fields and never get bored. The research that I have done seems to show that the job market for physicist is not large, and not stable with the downturn in the economy. Also not as large compared to chemist and engineers. Also I have heard and read that many physicist do not end up getting a job doing physics day to day. If that is true, as much as I like physics, I would not want to put so much time into getting a degree that I will not actually use. I am wrong please correct me?
    So I would like to work with things that are on a micro or macro scale. I would love to work on and in any field where space satellites, micro processors, high grade mirrors, nano, electricity, magnets, computers. I also have no issues working with military and the government. Weapons and such do not turn me off. AI, robotics also interest me.
    What major would help me get to all of those, or at the very least what majors go with the listed items?
  5. Apr 29, 2014 #4


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    It seems like electrical/computer engineering might be what you're wanting to do. I think getting an entire technical degree would be overkill. Anything you need to know about computing and electronics will probably be covered in the actual engineering major. I would spend the time you have to take all the math and physics classes you need at a community college in a timely manner before going for the engineering major. You will need up to calculus 3 and differential equations to enter an engineering major as a transfer student.
  6. Apr 29, 2014 #5
    Thank you for the reply Esuna! So just getting into the electrical/computer engineering classes will teach me from the ground up? I noticed you said "probably". I will file that as a great question to ask.
    I do want to say that I am going to talk to people at a university. I just am doing research and finding out as much as I can to hopefully make that meeting as productive as possible. I really do want to say thank you again for the input. If anyone else wants to give there ideas, thoughts, critiques please feel free. I am open to anything :).
  7. Apr 29, 2014 #6


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    What math have you taken?

    I would advise taking your prerequisites at a community college, especially math. It's cheaper and often the quality of instruction is often excellent, as opposed to huge universities where grad students do a lot of the teaching in the beginning classes.

    You didn't mention if you have taken any math. Most community colleges offer placement exams to determine what math you should start with. Don't be embarrassed if you need to take very remedial classes. I had to start with "Introduction to Algebra" (usually taken in 8th grade) and I ended up with a BS in physics.

    Be patient with yourself! Get on a regular schedule for studying. Your military training will help you with this kind of discipline.

    My opinion: engineering gives you lots of options in the job market. Computer technology does too, but I don't know much about that field so I can't speak with any authority there.

    But be careful about physics and chemistry. If you plan to stop at the bachelor's level, it is sometimes difficult to find a job with those degrees. This can vary depending on where you live, though. If you're in Texas, there are chemistry jobs in the petroleum industry, I think.

    Best of luck to you :smile:!
  8. May 1, 2014 #7


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    Typically the point of an undergraduate education is to assume you know nothing and build up basic knowledge and skills in certain areas. Be sure to ask what courses they expect you to have coming in as a transfer student. If you're thinking about engineering ask about internship opportunities. If you're thinking about chemistry or physics ask about research opportunities(and/or internship possibilities).
  9. May 1, 2014 #8

    jim hardy

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    A 4 year engineering degree teaches one enough math and physics to go into industry continue your education by "hands on " solving of problems with machinery.

    Electrical and mechanical engineers are always in demand by industry.
    But there are other niche degrees.

    My school graduated two ceramic engineers every year , and the ceramic engineering graduates always had highest starting salaries.

    Power system engineering should be a good field as the electric grid infrastructure modernizes.

    Computers change too fast for my taste.

    Ball, the outfit that makes Mason Jars, also makes satellites.
    Coors beer bottle folks made heat shields for early space vehicles.
    Corning and PPG are innovators.
    Westinghouse's steam turbine folks are in the Carolinas. Their nuclear folks are in Pittsburgh and Orlando.

    In your shoes , i'd write an introductory letter to each of above's personnel department explaining you'd like to tailor your education to the needs of an interesting industry , and inquire about internship..
    It's in their interest to attract somebody with your extra years of maturity.

    To summarize - i'd actively seek a field that's off the beaten path.
  10. May 4, 2014 #9
    Sorry for the late reply to all that answered. Thank you all for answering.
    Lisab- I have started from the bottom in math. I have pre-algebra, algebra 1 and 2. And in the fall I will be taking college algebra. I also self study with the various "dummies" guides, and do khan academy. So I am three prong attacking this thing lol. Yes I am aware of what you stated about certain degrees and only getting a bachelors. That's why I have decided to go the engineering route. If I get a bachelors in engineering and decided to stop there, no harm done. Thank you for the encouragement :)
    Esuna- I kinda assumed that, but I was not sure with things like engineering and physics. From the few people have meet that are into and doing these majors I find out that they all either did a lot of related things when they were younger, or have various job experience that is similar. So I was unsure of just how low the level is that these courses start out at...
    Jim Hardy- Wow thank you for the insight. The things you wrote were great lol. It just literally blew my mind. It has sent my mind in new directions and that is why I posted here. I had no idea that those companies were involved in those kind of things. But yea, now I know, and thank you so much again.
  11. May 4, 2014 #10
    The next question I have then is about these internships and research positions. So if I do not have any of this calculus and physics yet, would that be a deal breaker? Or would I need to wait until those are at a higher level?
    If it is more simple than that, like it is just selling yourself to get it, and then proving yourself once your in, then I am a gamer, and ready to get my hands dirty.
  12. May 4, 2014 #11

    jim hardy

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    Back in my day that attitude was a winning one. I found the best question i could ask an applicant was "Do you change your own sparkplugs?"

    If you can squeeze in a course in computer drafting, like basic autocad, you'll be of immediate worth
    to them.

    Best of luck !!

    old jim
  13. May 5, 2014 #12


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    You've got the right attitude to reach your goals and that's a big part of it. I concur with the advice to get as much of your math and physics pre-reqs out of the way. It sounds to me like Electrical Engineering is the ticket for you. It is one of more flexible engineering degrees. I'm an EE and I'm incredibly happy with my job. It's just a lot of fun (usually).

    One thing I wanted to mention is to dump the plan to get the Computer Engineering Technology degree. It's not the same level as a BS in engineering and you won't learn that much truly useful stuff. I'd focus on getting into the best undergrad you can and killing it while you're there.

    Also try your best to get an internship. You'd do well at a defense contractor or a national lab with your military background.
  14. May 6, 2014 #13
    Khan academy, Mathematics (or anything else) For Dummies are not very good at primary sources and should be used as a supplement to what you are learning (maybe the Dummies books aren't even good enough for that).
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