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Should I go into engineering as mature student?

  1. Nov 11, 2014 #1
    Hi y'all question that has been on my mind for awhile. Currently I'm 21, and I'll be finishing my undergrad in Politics this summer. Before when I wanted to go into diplomacy and/or policy making but now I'm not really interested in doing that, or at least I don't want to do it for some 50 odd years. In fact the policy areas I would like to work in (science, technology, etc.) would be better if I had a science degree. When I was in high school, I knew I was going to a UK uni (originally from Canada) and they require specialisation in certain classes in order to get into programmes (product of their secondary education system which is narrower) and so I had to decide and loaded up on more social science classes and only stuck with Biology and Applied Mathematics as a result.

    However, I've always loved science, engineering, etc. When I was little I was always building things with lego, clay, sticks, you name it. Also loved exploring the natural world and asking questions about how it worked. Talking to my step dad who is a biomedical engineer (in fact he just finished his PhD, and he's 55) has brought that back. He has said it's fine for me to go back into engineering as a mature student, though he says I should get work experience first for at least say 5 years. He also said it'd be handy to do a Masters in Public Policy or Management as he said that all engineering projects (research or otherwise) require good managers and some experience or a degree would be useful. He did say it was no different really from when I was planning on being in the military for awhile.

    I know I'd have to go back and get HS or equivalent in physics, chemistry, and pre-cal in order to get back into engineering (also because I've forgotten quite a bit already, though I've bought some math exercises books to help and also it's for enjoyment). But it is something that is now constantly eating at me. More than the feeling I had when I wanted to become a diplomat. I'd be aiming to get at least an MSc in either chemical or biomedical engineering (though my step dad has said that aerospace might also suit me since he knows how much I love organisations like NASA, the ESA or companies like SpaceX). As for a PhD, I'd probably put that away at least for awhile, as I'd want work experience first, though I find research absolutely fascinating (I'd always watch my step dad do some of the experiments he'd bring home and on occasion help him out, same goes for my mum and her medical research).

    Sorry for the length, just been a feeling gnawing at me and I'm not sure if I should ever pursue it or not. I guess I just want some other people's insight on my situation in case he's being...soft? Considering he's my step-dad and all, but then again he has been straight forward on issues like this. What do y'all think? Would it be fine for a 27-28, hell maybe even 29 year old to go back to uni to pursue an engineering discipline? Or would you advise going back sooner with less time in work experience and/or scrapping any other Masters degree? Or perhaps not going back at all and just stick to what I've got? Thanks for any input!

    - fells
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 11, 2014 #2


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    It would be "fine" in the sense that there is nothing wrong with it at all.

    It would likely be extremely difficult. The older you are, the more difficult it becomes to learn new concepts. The more you have forgotten, the further behind you will be.

    When I was in graduate school as a young man (24), there was a man who was starting at the same time who was an Air Force officer on leave at about age 40. He struggled greatly, and I think he eventually gave it up.

    If you really want to do this, I would suggest go straight for it right now, with no breaks or interruptions. Work experience is always a good thing, but it makes it very, very difficult to get further along in school.
  4. Nov 11, 2014 #3
    As a current college student myself, I'm not qualified to answer the primary question, but I do have something to add that may affect your decision. There are recreational learning websites, and one in particular that is relatively well known in the states, rhymes with Dhan Academy (are we allowed to name drop websites here?) that would likely negate you having to return to HS level courses, and could give you somewhat of a head start on some courses you may wish to take when you return later. This website has math lessons all the way up to Linear Algebra and beyond, and many practice problems through Integral Calculus.

    Sorry if that was somewhat offtopic, but you may consider checking said website out if you're trying to review before diving straight into engineering or keep the material fresh in your head while you're in the work force. It's completely free of course, and lessons are usually on one topic and 10 minutes or so. Anyways, good luck and best of wishes with the choice you do make.
  5. Nov 12, 2014 #4
    Yeah I actually registered with them recently, but their qualifications wouldn't count at any universities, but they would make a good supplement to learning the concepts and doing practice work. I'd have to take exams again as an independent candidate, but that's fine by me as they have text books and revision guides available for people going that route.
  6. Nov 12, 2014 #5
    I can try to give input based on my personal experience.

    At the age of 24 I had decided to go back to school. I enrolled into the local community college transfer program. This was structured to provide courses that generally transfer into STEM programs at 4-year universities within the state. As stated above, it was very difficult initially. My placement tests put me into remedial math courses. I played catch up with math. Transferring was a nightmare as half of the courses didn't meet the engineering prerequisites at the university. I'm 27 now, and I cannot stress the difference in attitude between myself and the majority of other students.

    While I may have struggled initially, school appears to be much easier now than it was when I enrolled at 18 - immediately after high school. I have better time management, more appreciation, a stronger desire to ACTUALLY learn, and better work ethic. Things are going to be different from person to person. I can honestly say that I do not regret waiting to return to school at a later age. I strongly believe my experience in between is what allowed me to land my first engineering co-op as a sophomore.

    If you have the drive, returning to school later shouldn't be an issue. Unfortunately, this typically isn't the case. People get comfortable, and develop a million reasons why they cannot return to school. At the end of the day, determine what you want out of your career (it will most likely change several times) and weigh your options. You may find that you love the areas that your degree in Politics takes you. If you don't, fine. Adjust accordingly. Don't sell yourself short before you even get started. If you can CONFIDENTLY say that you know you want to end up in engineering at a later point, personally, I would pursue an engineering degree now.

    Just my personal opinion.
  7. Nov 12, 2014 #6
    well I don't know what the right decision is regarding studying vs working and so on.I mean, if you go to school obviously you are not working. are you happy living with little money until you finish your studies? From a purely educational point of view, I had no particular problems learning and understanding the subjects as an older student. I went back to university in europe, where education is free, in my 20s. I started my PhD at the age of 33 (bear in mind european PhDs last 3-4 years). My reasons were: I loved physics and I was unemployed.
  8. Nov 12, 2014 #7
    Just a side note, I worked full time (40 hrs.) and went to school full time during my first 2 years. Now, I'm currently doing a co-op (2nd rotation), and that provides me with the money to cover living expenses the following semester. So, if living completely broke as a student doesn't appeal to you, there is always the option of intern/co-op during the summer or rotate between work and school each semester. Graduation will be delayed but is offset by the practical working experience gained.
  9. Nov 13, 2014 #8
    Firstly, 21 is hardly a "mature" student. It's only a few years above the age that most students will be during first year, and there'll be plenty of people that age and slightly above at university in their later years of study. So yeah, go for it.

    Secondly, what type of "work experience" is your step-dad expecting you to get? Without the degree, it's highly unlikely to be anything engineering related I'm afraid. You'd be far better off just going into engineering ASAP, getting your degree ASAP, and then working as an actual engineer.

    So yeah, go for it.
  10. Nov 17, 2014 #9
    21 mature? hahhahahahahahahha I know people in their 30s who started from scratch and became engineers and others got physics degrees. It's all about passion, motivation and discipline.
  11. Nov 17, 2014 #10


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    I agree, at 21 you don't have a clue. There are exceptions, but I would list 21 year olds as quite possibly the most ignorant people on Earth simply because they are caught between a boy and a man.

    I went back at age 30, worked out just fine. 10 years of construction in my 20's got my mind right to go back for engineering. Too immature when I was in the 18 to 21 year range.

    Even at age 30 you are just pretending to be an adult. Although at age 30 you are hopefully mature enough to apply yourself and finish college.

    Everyone matures at their own pace. If you have an opportunity to get educated at any age, go for it.
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