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Too old? Is 30 too old for a third degree?

  1. Jan 12, 2014 #1
    I'm looking for some insight from human resources people, or others that have been in my position. I am thinking of going to school for electrical engineering, but I am 30 years old!

    I earned a H.B.Science (genetics) from 18 years old to 22 years old. I worked for a while, then earned a M.Sc.Education from 23 years to 26 years old. Then, I spent four years teaching high-school math & science. My job is okay, and I take home about $65k a year, but that's teaching during the day, night school, and summer school.

    So, I'm very comfortable with my math & science (more comfortable than anyone else entering first year engineering), but worry that I'm too old to change directions.

    Any advice or experience would be very much appreciated!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 12, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Yo're not too old. Old is when you're fifty and above (the closer to retirement the harder it gets) trying to change and the companies you're applying to are looking for people in thier twenties and thirties. this is especially true for programming jobs. It could be true for various engineering majors as well as I've heard you're obsoleted after being out of school for twenty years. Not all companies but major players mostly.
  4. Jan 12, 2014 #3
    I have two degrees, am in my early 30s and am also working on an BS in EE. I'm not too worried about my age being a negative yet, but the prospect of competing against young smart people for an entry level position when I am almost 40 does worry me a little. Not too much though.

    The average starting pay for a graduate from my prospective program is about 50k. That would be amazing for me, I have never made half of that. But that would be a pay cut for you, so keep that in mind.
  5. Jan 12, 2014 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    One trick is to market yourself by combining your degrees or showing that your degree adds an extra dimension to your older degree.

    A simple example might be getting a degree in Biology and then later going back to get a degree in Mechanical Engineering then you would have the skills to beat out a Biomechanical Engineer because you have more years and more courses. You'd be both a biologist and an engineer.

    In my case I was a Physics major with a BS and then got an MS in CompSci so I was qualified for doing scientific programming, computer simulation of physical systems... making it easier to find a job.

    In your case a degree in genetics coupled with say programming could place you in computational biology, with EE you could investigate synthetic biology:

  6. Jan 12, 2014 #5
    Too old for what?

    If you're getting degrees for a higher salary, then there is a point of diminishing returns. If you're getting degrees because you're genuinely curious, then pursue it with gusto, and don't look back.

    But it sounds to me as if you're looking for a third degree so that you can do something else and make more money. If you're seeking a new vocation, it's not too late. But if you're looking to make more money, well, we don't have a crystal ball that can tell you that. Will your education pay for itself? It might if it fits in with everything else that you've learned in the past. However, it it is just another degree with no real common thread, I don't think it will earn you more money unless you find an intersection of these subjects that might make your expertise very desirable. Even then, you need to find someone willing to pay you for that combination.

    So the answer is get the degree if you want to make a change or if you're curious. But if you're looking to earn more money, it probably won't be a good investment.
  7. Jan 23, 2014 #6
    No, older people are quite resistant to torture :)
  8. Jan 23, 2014 #7

    Ben Niehoff

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    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I did engineering for my undergrad and there was one student in EE who looked to be in his early 40's. It is certainly possible, and I think it's easiest for industry-oriented fields like engineering.

    However, competing for entry-level engineering jobs will be tough, because age discrimination is rampant (despite being technically illegal). You should be thinking about how you will make the case for a higher-level job, because nobody will believe you'll actually be happy in an entry-level job and they'll hire some 23-year-old instead.
  9. Jan 23, 2014 #8
    No. I have a friend/classmate that will be 38 when he graduates in May, he already has several job offers. We are nuclear engineering majors
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