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Teacher to engineer

  1. Jun 9, 2014 #1
    I am curious to know what my chances would be to transition into engineering after having taught physics and math at the high school level for about a decade. I have a BA in physics and math and have also accumulated a host of professional development hours, many in research. Is transitioning into an engineering discipline possible, or would I need an engineering degree?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 9, 2014 #2


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    Unfortunately, a BA in physics and math is not equivalent to an engineering degree.

    There are many different types of engineering, but most of the undergraduate courses are the same across the various engineering fields. Depending on your choice of engineering field, perhaps some of your credits from your current degrees would be accepted, but you would need to discuss that with whatever college or university you plan to attend.
  4. Jun 10, 2014 #3
    Thank you for your candid reply, SteamKing. Apologies for not posting in the correct category.
  5. Jun 10, 2014 #4
    Like any major career changes, it can be done, but you'll need to be patient and willing to put in some significant work at apprentice wages.

    The good news is that you have a bachelor's degree. You can take the EIT and you can work with a registered professional engineer. After a period of time that varies from state to state, you can take the Principles and Practices exam. Then, if you pass, you'll be as much an engineer as anyone who bothered to get the degree.

    Is this difficult? yeah. But going back to school for an actual engineering degree would be a waste of your talents and it would still have you working at entry level wages for a while. At least this way you'll be working for SOMETHING instead of going in to debt.
  6. Jun 10, 2014 #5


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    Jake gives great advice about the EIT exam. It gives you a blueprint for what you need to know to get an entry-level engineering job.

    There are several ways to study for the EIT: self-study, online or in-person classes specifically aimed at the EIT, or college classes (Statics, Dynamics, Thermodynamics, Circuits, and Mechanics of Materials, for a start).
  7. Jun 11, 2014 #6
    Thank you for your advice. I've not heard of the EIT exam. I'm surprised that none of my engineering contacts have made reference to it. If I passed the EIT, would I be able to continue into grad school for engineering?
  8. Jun 11, 2014 #7


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    one of my fellow graduate students had been a high-school physics teacher for about 10 years before coming to grad school. He had to take several remedial courses but was able to get an MS EE in two years. You have an unusual background (teaching) which will be interesting to some graduate admission committees.

    Last I heard from my friend he is happy he made the transition.
  9. Jun 11, 2014 #8
    Engineering is meant to be very practical; the polar opposite of an academic education. You need the academics to give you a foundation you can work with, but the actual practice is something you can only get with experience.

    The start of that experience is the Engineer In Training (EIT) exam. If you pass that, you're deemed to be fit to work as an engineer under the tutelage of someone with full PE certificate. However, the EIT has virtually no merit among academia that I'm aware of.

    Please understand that there is more to Engineering than just academics. Even those with engineering educations are completely clueless when they get to the work-place. Designs can be done many ways and there are many reasons for choosing one design over another. Understanding the implicit requirements, not just the stated requirements, understanding the safety and security trade-offs of each design, and understanding what the client actually needs is crucial. The main reason those with engineering education backgrounds do better is because they have actually been exposed to a few methodologies and shortcuts that a physics student might not be aware of. However, they have no experience selecting one design over another. For that, the only solution is to get experience.

    I'm suggesting to you that by studying for and taking the EIT, you can avoid the school part and go straight for the experience. Then, after you have the experience, you can consider whether to further your education or not.
  10. Jun 11, 2014 #9
    How many hours would one need to log as an apprentice prior to becoming a P.E.? Any idea about the pay range for an apprentice and a P.E.?
  11. Jun 11, 2014 #10
    It varies from state to state. The last time I checked in Maryland, I think it was two years with an engineering degree, four years without. But it has been a while since I last looked at these regulations and I suspect such things have changed.
  12. Jun 11, 2014 #11


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    I'm not in the US so I don't know about the specifics of EIT etc. But in the (large multinational) company I work for, we have a couple of ex-teachers in a group of about 100 engineers, and they are both doing fine.

    Don't forget you have something valuable to bring to the party in your communication skills, ability to figure out "where the other guy is coming from", etc, that (presumably) you have developed as a teacher. You will probably have a head start over new graduates in those aspects of the job, even if your technical knowledge is weaker.
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