Career: engineering profession...is it worth it? future of engineering?, advice?

I am looking for some career guidance from an engineer's point of view...
I received a bachelors of Info Tech (comp. networking, some
programming, communications, some db, etc) from a tech college with a competitive gpa, imho, but I am giving some serious consideration to a masters-level engineering degree (eg, electrical, computer, biomedical, etc, or maybe computer science or nanotech if its not 100% hype), but I had a few concerns that continue to rear their ugly heads…
I'm 25 and I have a lot of time, as well as a moderate amount of life experience for a 40year old: I managed and negotiated the sale of my families 2 veterinary hospitals for ~1 yr (accounting, management, etc), managed 15 residential/agricultural/commercial properties (~25 tenants) for ~2 yrs – including major renovations on one of the homes and long-term commercial leases (*all* aspects), handled 2 counts of litigation (with ~10 attorneys total)…I had no notice (or direction !), etc – parents passed away suddenly…I was lucky if I had a set of keys to more than one property, and I had very very very little to make any sort of transition. I had to handle both of their estates (finances, title changes, legal, partnerships, tax prep, etc, etc, etc). Needless to say, it wasn't a 9-5 job! =)
A fundamental aspect of my career of choice is one that _values_ the education that I would be receiving – something that Info Tech never really seemed to offer. For Info Tech, it just seemed that job experience was *the* pinnacle evaluation for employment – although a BS did/could raise the bar slightly, someone with more experience just seemed to continuously win over higher education. I don't think that this is a problem, but I just hope earning a degree is actually *worth* it…certifications and education alone could not cut it against brute experience – it just seemed self-defeating pursuing more education if the guy down the block who when to a community college could get the job and cost the company less $....
I can afford getting an advanced degree, and frankly, I'd like for it to be *worth* it.
One of my personal goals (at least at this point of my life) is to try to pursue a career that would permit a transition into self-employment. I've heard many statistics that many companies are started by engineers, but am inclined to think that may be the personal characteristics of the engineer _himself_, not just the degree, per say. It seems that most environmental/civil engineers can start their own gig pretty easy, but I was always interested in technology rather than landfills…
How difficult is it to start your own company as, say, a computer, electrical, or biomedical engineer? Unless you do only design, can a small business possibly be on the cutting edge, or will they only be able to design lightbulbs?
Also, its no surprise that US' engineering/manufacturing industries are going into the crapper real quick….China, South Korea, Japan…they have the manufacturing industry is the backbone of their economy … and more and more of them are now going into design (eg, China's killer Beijing Microsoft labs, etc, etc, etc). Including India, engineers and comp sci'ers are real cheap. US is now making it increasingly more difficult for foreign students to enter, so they might just run with what education they have already…which brings me to the next question…
Given international competition and offshoring (however much Bush/Kerry say that it is occurring), how can an engineer stand out from the huge influx? Granted you must always continue to learn, etc, but isn't there *always* someone younger to do your job when you are pushing 40-50 years old? Isn't *every* engineer trying to learn and work his butt off, too?
Yes, you could go for management (or a PhD), but its really not funny when managers fire engineers just because they don't like Michael Bolton and don't wear the same type of shoes or aren't an extravert….or are my Dilbert fears too extreme?? How often/why does "The Company" lay you off?
Given my background, I was hoping to play into anything ranging from a veterinarian/family doctor to a robotic engineer, etc…I'm really not one for memorization, but that's what all my Cisco certifications, unix commands, and programming languages are…
Finally, the all telling questions….If you were to do it again, would you? What would you do differently? Would you tell your children to be an engineer, too? How happy are you with your job, given the impact that you have on the product/process, family, or society?
Thanks in advance to any readers and responders…anything would be greatly appreciated!! Know anyone else that I could talk to, esp in PA area?
Nevin snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com
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Get the advanced degree BS or MS even better with a MBA and do some hands on while doing it. You should be able to do by the time your 30 or even less. Do it in something you love to do, that is the most important thing to make it *worth it*. You have to WANT to get up every morning and go to work. Work long hours, but don't forget to go home and play.
:)
Nevin wrote:

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Would I do it again ? Good question. I've travelled the world many times, been involved in some really interesting projects, been on vessels that few even get to see so, yes, I've had fun. Friends have become real estate agents and earned more money. Lawyers command more respect but ask one how interesting it is. Many doctors i know will tell you that medicine is not the profession it once was although the public is yet to realise. Accountancy, well enough said. These are jaded opinions and not all people will report the same but engineering can be pretty good. HOWEVER... dont get stuck in software. I know I'll get flamed and this is only my opinion but software isnt that hard and theres no barriers for entry. Whats more theres a lot of competition. I wouldnt get involved in manufacturing either. Manufacturing is heading towards the low cost labour markets and is incredibly competitive. If youre interested in making the lowest cost compromise then manufacturings probably for you. The one thing that isnt portable is systems engineering and an understanding of physics maths and engineering. They're always in demand and no matter what the current software fashion is C++ java etc etc the physics and maths always stays the same. Yep, youre right about pure PhD's being treated like Dilberts but if youre relevent and applied rather than esoteric and aloof you'll find youre own role.
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