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Engineering US military career change to engineering and need advice

  1. Sep 27, 2016 #1
    I am interested in pursuing a career change to electrical engineering with the specific goal of working in the space industry. I have served 18 years in the US Army in a field that has nothing to do with engineering or any other technically oriented field. I am committed to four more years of service before I can walk away. I am currently finishing a degree in management (good to have, cost me nothing). Any further undergraduate level education will cost me nothing due to accrued benefits, however I don’t have a lot of relevant programs available to me.

    There is an online BS in electrical engineering from Arizona State University that is ABET accredited and appears to be well built. There is a local Engineering Technology program physically located near me that has night classes. There is a local Physics program with daytime classes, but I cannot attend due to work requirements.

    I am considering the online course from ASU while concurrently going through the Eng Tech program for more practical skill acquisition. Does anyone see any downsides to this (cost is covered, my free time is irrelevant)? I have no idea if this is actually helpful, or if it will be viewed in a negative light by future employers.

    I want to finish (or nearly finish) my education before leaving the Army as I will be 43 years old. I don’t feel age is a factor for me personally, but this doesn’t always seem to be the case in the civilian world and I don’t want to greatly delay jump starting my second career. I will have some level of veteran’s preference due to accumulated bumps and bruises, so that may be helpful for GS/government work.

    I literally don’t know what I don’t know at this point, and any advice or insight would be helpful. Thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 27, 2016 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Welcome to PF, and many thanks for your service!

    The path to electrical engineering is pretty straightforward. ASU should be fine, but is there any specific reason to limit your options to the space industry? You will find placement easier if you don't limit your options unnecessarily.

    You will probably want to target a management role as early as possible.
  4. Sep 27, 2016 #3
    I think it is an excellent, well thought-out, mature plan.
    The EE curriculum is quite theoretical. If I, as a hiring manager, was told by you that you actually had a "plan" to gain some practical skills and then chase the theoretical, I would think very highly of you.
    Age is of no consequence. With a military background (and presumably a level of maturity and ingrained discipline), I think many places would jump at the chance to hire you. When you get to that point, be sure to market yourself as such. Some of my most-admired classmates were ex-military starting a second career. Carry on, Soldier.
  5. Sep 28, 2016 #4


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    Hi J,

    Fellow veteran here ( Navy, 4 years. ). I also plan on doing the EE online program through ASU in the fall of 2017. Currently taking classes at the local CC.

    My only nugget of advice I could give is to try and take as many of your STEM classes at a brick and mortar school before transferring, particularly your upper level Math and Physics classes. Online distance works, but IMHO some of those classes are just better taught when youre in a building with a teacher and classmates to bounce problems off of. ASU is $633.00/credit hour, with about 6-7 credits taken per semester. It would absolutely suck to have to burn through your G.I. Bill from retaking classes, and have to pay out of pocket tuition.
  6. Sep 28, 2016 #5


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    The above is excellent advice from tensor0910. I would also suggest you look over any online program carefully and determine what their maximum amount of transfer credits are. Most semester based schools only accept a maximum of half of their course work for graduation. ie 128 semester BS degree would only let you transfer 64 semester credits into their program, NO MATTER how many you have earned from another accredited school. But you should try to maximize this loophole by taking as many local courses as is practical from a reputable local college or university. And once you are in a program like ASU, you might also convince them to accept CLEP for some of their electives ie English, Literature or some other elective requirement that may be available via CLEP or departmental exams.
  7. Oct 2, 2016 #6
    I used to be much more skeptical of distance learning coursework than I am now. I now have as much confidence in distance learning courses from an ABET accredited program than I have in credit earned in a brick and mortar school. Depending on a student's learning style, attending a brick and mortar school may be easier from a learning viewpoint, but if your learning style works with distance learning courses, you can do fine.

    As mentioned above, do pay careful attention to the transferability issues.
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