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Should a liberal arts graduate to back for engineering, or get an MBA (underemployed)

  1. Oct 11, 2011 #1
    Bit of background about me. It's a bit long, but I really need advice.

    I am a 24 year old living in an economically hard hit area of the country. I have dual degrees in psychology and english, and am currently working in a job that doesn't require my degrees. Originally, I went to school majoring in psychology and minoring in English because I wanted to get a Ph.D in psychology so I could get into counseling. About halfway through my college career, my parents advised me that going to medical school to be a psychiatrist would be much more lucrative. So I got into premed, but the courses just destroyed me. I struggled in math, physics, and chemistry mostly. I would always go to my professors' office hours, do the study guides, and study, but I always struggled and my GPA nosedived. Eventually, I have to drop out of premed, so I decided to turn the minor in English to a major and I finished with both.

    I am beyond depressed at the "stigma" that my field of study gets online through people who don't think it's a "real" degree or that I "partied" and got drunk the whole time. I busted my butt for those two degrees, and when I was in premed i did everything I could to succeed, but it just wasn't for me. My parents were helping to finance my education, and I felt so guilty for the waste that was premed. Even now I am deeply depressed, and this job market coupled with the stabbing things that people say about people like myself just cut deep.

    Which is why I am debating between going back to school for either an MBA or to get a bachelors in Engineering. Maybe, despite my past struggles, something good can come from a second run. Maybe eventually I can find a job with my two degrees. I don't know. I am tired of being told I studied something useless and that I am dumb and worthless. Since everyone says "major in engineering", maybe I should too. The premed thing didn't work out, but who knows? Maybe a second run will be better in my physics and math.

    Thanks for reading.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 11, 2011 #2
    Re: Should a liberal arts graduate to back for engineering, or get an MBA (underemplo

    a few notes:

    1) Even if you are going for a different degree program, it might be hard to find a university that would be willing to grant a an additional bachelor's degree (it's somewhat easier to "double major" (and use gen-ed credits for multiple purposes and get the degrees awarded as at the same time to then "apply" after one degree is awarded to a second degree program at the same level). You'd need to talk to an admissions counselor at the school/schools you are interested in.

    2) After the above is sorted out: You may want to really check out the "Maybe second run will be better in physics and math"... by taking a course or two. It would do two things: check your ability to maintain the GPA needed to pursue the course... and check your interest in the route. Engineering (at least in the majors offered at our school) is a lot more math, physics, and chemistry intensive than pre-med (although the civil engineering has dropped some requirements in physics, so I no longer see those majors in a pretty difficult calculus-based Electricity and Magnetism course that I teach).

    I don't know much about MBA's and employability... so I can't advise on that front.

    One last question/thought though: Even if your current job doesn't require your current education... what is your happiness with the company, and is there a chance for mobility in that job, where one of these routes would be preferable? Unfortunately in this economy, a job is at least a job... and it might be preferable to no job, and support of the company, if possible (especially during try-out period in one of these tracks) might be nice.
  4. Oct 11, 2011 #3
    Re: Should a liberal arts graduate to back for engineering, or get an MBA (underemplo

    Thanks for replying Physics Girl Phd:

    I don't think my current job has much upward mobility. It's part time retail I have had for about three months now. I'm happy I have a job, don't get me wrong, and grateful, but I am still looking for something that I can grow in. Either that or go back for a more "practical degree."

    Also, as a note, I didn't choose the liberal arts, especially English, because it was easy. I chose it because it is what I love to do, and have always loved my whole life. I was always that guy who was a few grades ahead in reading and writing, but struggles in math. It's frustrating, because I find joy and interest in something that people seem to really look down at now.
  5. Oct 11, 2011 #4
    Re: Should a liberal arts graduate to back for engineering, or get an MBA (underemplo

    First of all, I sympathize with you. You clearly chose to study something that you genuinly love to do. I respect that. Everybody should respect that. Don't let other peoples judgements get you depressed. I'm sure you busted your *** off to get these 2 degrees. Other people are usually ignorant about you and there opinion does not matter.

    That said, engineering is a really difficult degree if you don't like math and science. You have always struggled with math, you say. I fear that you will also struggle with engineering then. Don't rush things: don't go to college immediately and waste a whole lot of money. First, rent or buy a couple of books on mathematics and physics (like a calculus book, and a physics for scientists and engineers book) and read it. If you like it and if it's not too difficult, then you're ready for engineering.
  6. Oct 11, 2011 #5
    Re: Should a liberal arts graduate to back for engineering, or get an MBA (underemplo

    I actually often feel those things about the job I'm in now, even though it's clearly related to my degrees... and for many people, the liberal arts aren't as easy as science or math (i.e. their vocabulary isn't very extensive, they couldn't write a coherent sentence -- let alone paper-- and they couldn't identify onomatopoeia if it smacked them in the face).

    Unfortunately, it's a decision to start fresh or retool a bit building on what you have (a decision I'll likely face as a "trailing spouse" when we eventually move on)... and that's a decision many face in this economy. That's why I'm curious as to how an MBA might help you... is there a clear way in which it fits along the easier "retool" front versus the more difficult "start fresh" path? Or are there other retooling options? Grad school (to pursue counseling, if you're still interested... not as lucrative as the medical route to psychiatry, but perhaps not bad)?

    Of course you're younger than I am (and may not have some of the family-attachments/commitments I have), so the "start fresh" option might be more attractive.. but again I'll just note the warning that some institutions don't like to admit you to undergrad if you've already completed an undergrad degree (even if it's in a completely different area).
  7. Oct 11, 2011 #6
    Re: Should a liberal arts graduate to back for engineering, or get an MBA (underemplo

    An MBA would be a good choice to go for because your psychology degree would possibly help you get a job in industrial psychology. That specific field also integrates engineering among other disciplines into it, so I think that may be a good fit for you if you haven't considered it presently. (Edit)* In addition to the MBA, you would need a master or PhD in psychology. There are programs where you can do both MBA and Psy. PhD.

    There is also law in which a psychology and English dual degree would go well with. You have many options to take what you learned with your degrees and do something with them.
  8. Oct 11, 2011 #7

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    Re: Should a liberal arts graduate to back for engineering, or get an MBA (underemplo


    Or popped them in the nose?
  9. Oct 12, 2011 #8
    Re: Should a liberal arts graduate to back for engineering, or get an MBA (underemplo

    The reason I am considering an MBA is because my parents suggested that it might be a "practical" degree. I did suggest going back to get a bachelors in some kind of engineering field, but they are frowning a bit upon it seeing as how I am not that great in math. Right now, my job search is just so frustrating.
  10. Oct 12, 2011 #9
    Re: Should a liberal arts graduate to back for engineering, or get an MBA (underemplo

    This is true. I'd like to add, though, that when you're trying to read through an engineering math/physics book, don't worry if it doesn't come easily. I'm near the top of my class in engineering, but I continually struggle to understand new concepts. I understand them eventually, but it's very rare that I can read a chapter through once at reading-a-novel speed and understand everything. Things need time to absorb for even most good engineering students, so don't beat yourself up if you don't understand everything the first time you read it. What you want to check when reading through is that you're making progress and that you do eventually understand things.
  11. Oct 12, 2011 #10
    Re: Should a liberal arts graduate to back for engineering, or get an MBA (underemplo

    Good idea. I was thinking of going to the library to check out a math or engineering book and see if I can self-teach myself a bit. My problem with math is that I will understand the "example" and "sample" problems easily. Usually, a book will run through one problem, then give a couple more to do on your own, which I can do relatively easily. The problem is, once I get to the exercises portion of the chapter, the questions become more complex than the examples. This is where I hit that mental wall. I will go through the first few problems easily, then get stuck when they get harder.
  12. Oct 12, 2011 #11


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    Re: Should a liberal arts graduate to back for engineering, or get an MBA (underemplo

    If you have not done well in math and sciences in your previous studies, I would strongly suggest the MBA path. Engineering is not going to be for you unless something in your skill-set or inclinations has changed.
  13. Oct 12, 2011 #12
    Re: Should a liberal arts graduate to back for engineering, or get an MBA (underemplo

    On a side note, do you guys think that there are people who are just not cut out for engineering, despite their best efforts? Part of my depression came from people on other boards or news articles about unemployed graduates who say that anyone who doesn't study STEM subjects are useless and dumb. I know I tried my hardest in premed, but I just couldn't do well (not to mention I lost several pounds just due to stress).
  14. Oct 12, 2011 #13


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    Re: Should a liberal arts graduate to back for engineering, or get an MBA (underemplo

    People have different aptitudes and proficiencies. There are those who are suited for STEM and those more suited to the humanities, or liberal arts, and occasionally, there are those who are strong in both STEM and humanities.

    The introductory math and physics required for pre-med is much the same as that required for engineering, but as one progress to upper levels, the math requirements (partial differential equations, numerical analysis, complex variables, . . . .) for engineering become greater. If math and physics were problematic in the pre-med program, the engineering may not be suitable, but that may also depend on the engineering discipline. One could look at environmental engineering and engineering management majors.

    MBAs are practical for those pursuing careers in business management. Many people in business studied liberal arts.

    With an English background, perhaps technical writing is a potential area.

    It is unfortunate that some you have encountered seem to disparage non-STEM studies. Ignore them. Don't let others get one discouraged.

    BTW - I've encountered engineers who should not be engineers.
  15. Oct 12, 2011 #14


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    Re: Should a liberal arts graduate to back for engineering, or get an MBA (underemplo

    When I was a freshman in engineering, I spent much of my spare time tutoring my roommate, who was in pre-med. He put in the time and effort, but seemed to have a hard time getting comfortable with the curriculum that he'd have to ace to get into medical school. He just wasn't wired for it. He ended up in law-enforcement, which, given his usually calm demeanor, was probably a plus for the local police force.

    An MBA might be a really good fit with your current education. You might easily be able to piggy-back it on your current degree, unlike engineering, which would require you to take years of a structured curriculum building on your math and science skills before you could get a degree in that field. Good luck, which ever way you go.

    BTW: In today's economy where jobs can appear and disappear seemingly overnight and manufacturing jobs seem to disappear and never return, if I were in between college and job, I'd look really long and hard at the MBA. You might have to move to chase open positions during shake-ups, but at least you'd have options.
  16. Oct 12, 2011 #15
    Re: Should a liberal arts graduate to back for engineering, or get an MBA (underemplo

    It's not clear to me that this will help you do much except get deeper into debt. If I were in your situation, I'd get a job (any job) and once I've started making money, then look at education part-time.

    If you can't find a job with two degrees, I don't see how a third is going to help. Also, if you don't have money coming in, then you'll have a problem with massive debt.

    That's a different problem. What works for me is to figure out whose opinions matter and whose doesn't. As long as the people whose opinions matter have confidence in me, then everyone else can just jump in the lake.

    Bad idea. Some people you just can't please, and there is no point in trying to do it.
  17. Oct 13, 2011 #16
    Re: Should a liberal arts graduate to back for engineering, or get an MBA (underemplo

    I'm back. I just wanted to say thank you for all the replies, suggestions and encouragement. I am going to consider getting an MBA, but I'm not going to rush into it at the moment (I am fortunate enough to not have any debt). Honestly, after hearing all the bashing that comes from articles detailing graduate unemployment, I feel much better than I have had in awhile. Yes, it is true that STEM graduates are in the minority when it comes to unemployment or underemployment, but I don't think that means that it is right for other graduates to suffer. I always wondered what the mentality is of someone who writes "I bet you all of those graduated with 'useless' degrees", or "they deserve to be unemployed". I'm just glad that all of you were very kind and helping to me.

    On that note. I also hate it when liberal arts or humanities grads trash people in STEM fields. That is just bitterness, and has no place in a human heart. Personally, I admire and respect you guys because you are able to do things that I could only dream of. My ex was in Mechanical Engineering (Probably graduated by now, haven't talked to her in awhile), and I was always in awe of what she could do and study.

    Again, thanks a bunch everyone.
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