Help 47 yr old man decide on degree?

Last year I went back to local community college for 1st time ever at age 47
I took 3 hrs per semester. Just stuck my "toe" in it to
see how it felt.
It felt "good".
I took Accounting 101... and then Econ 101. Got "A" in both.
This semester I hope to take 6-9 hrs per semester. But its getting down to the wire and I must make a decision as to where I'm going with this. So I need some opinions and advice on what to take class wise.
My "ultimate" goal in life would be to work for myself. To have assets that make me an income. But until then I need to add "value" to myself so that when I sell my "time" to someone else I can make a decent wage.
I view a college degree as just another "tool" in the "toolbox" that I can use if needed. And not something that guarantees me big wages. Heck I know people who mow grass for a living making big money and have no degree at all. Still going back to school is something I "want" to do in case this "working for myself" fails and I must return to the "work for someone else world".
Altho I currently work in the engineering dept as a "CAD tech"..... sometimes I wonder if engineering is all its cracked up to be. I see my bosses who are engineers working long hours with very little "respect" for their expertise.
I also have a STRONG interest in computers and networking.
My original thoughts abt going back to school was to get a combo business and IT degree. Something I could "sell" to the "man".... but also something that would benefit me and my ultimate goal of owning my own business.
But lately I've been "waffling". It was a remark made to me by an older retired man who got an accounting degree in his younger days. He told me that he originally was going for a business degree but the counselor said he should get an accounting degree instead. When he asked why he was told" cause an accountant can be a business man..... but a business man cant necessarily be an accountant".
Well..... I'm wondering if that's true of engineering as well. Can an engineer just as easily be a production manager but a production manager cant be an engineer?
Bottom line..... I'm leaning towards taking all the math and accounting classes I can. To cover BOTH fields for the next two years until I make up my mind.
I would forget the english and humanities and social studies until last. Altho I like these subject I have to put myself on a fast track since I'm 47 yrs old. And I feel I could easily take those classes when things "firm up" in my mind where I'm going with this "life adventure".
I'm going back to school one way or another. I've made up my mind I'm doing this if I have to take one class per semester forever! <G> But I cant afford any dead end turns on this path.
So what say all? Is my logic flawed or does it make any sense? That is to study accounting and engineering rather than business and IT?
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It sounds like you've got a solution without a problem. Or, more precisely, like you're planning on going back to school without knowing why. If, as you say, it feels good, then that may be all the reason you need; but that won't necessarily help with a career path.
Thinking of a sheepskin as a "tool" is good; but the kind of tool you need depends on the job you're trying to do. I'll offer you the same advice I typically give youngsters and high-schoolers facing college choices and career path decisions.
First, find out what you really, REALLY want to do with the irreplaceable hours and days and years that ARE your life. If you don't get that part right, then nothing else will matter. Think about something you'd be proud to do, would enjoy every day for a long, long time, and could be passionate about, regardless of whether it offered any other rewards. Owning your own business isn't it. That's just another way of saying that you're not happy with whatever you're doing now; but don't have any clue about something you'd like better.
Read, think, or just go get whatever jobs you can find in fields that you think might be interesting. And I mean WHATEVER jobs you can get, in ANY field that looks like it might make sense. It might seem strange that a 47 year old man would take a job as a second assistant paper pusher in a dentist's office, for example; but I'll guarantee you'd learn more about the real world of dentistry in the first week on that job than you could learn in ten years of standing OUTSIDE the dentist's office wondering or guessing what goes on behind the door.
Talk to people about what they do - in detail, not just generalities. FIND SOMETHING that you'd love, that you want to be good at (even if you aren't at the moment). And THEN take whatever steps, including education, that will help you make a career in that field.
Think about it this way: If I could plug a USB cable into the back of your head, and just MAKE you educated, experienced, and capable at anything you wanted, what would it be? If you're like most people, there are countless possibilities that wouldn't make you happy at all. And, if something doesn't make you happy - if it doesn't challenge and excite and motivate you, then you probably won't work hard enough, or master it well enough, that it'll pay you much money either.
And if you name some non-specific thing like "owning your own business", then don't expect to be real satisfied with the results of that, either. What KIND of business is what matters, and what you do with your ownership of it. Those things work the same as with any other job description. The name on the stock certificates doesn't matter as much as what gets done in a typical workday.
And when you CAN tell me what to upload through the cable, then you'll already know the most important part. And after that, education, work experience, or whatever, will serve just as well as an instant upload. Better, actually, because the process of growing into a career is often more important, as as much fun, as the career itself.
In case it matters, I'm 53. I'm self employed. I design and build CNC metalcutting machinery. And I wouldn't do anything else if you put a gun to my head. And I got where I am by doing things I loved and cared about. The years I spent in college, actually, were some of the hardest years, because all the time in school got in the way of work. And I loved my work. I loved it 35 years ago. I loved it this afternoon. And I'll love it tomorrow, too. And the rest of my life benefits every minute from the fact that I'm happy about what I do for a living.
Answer the important question first. THEN all the other stuff will be easy, no matter how hard it is, or how long it takes.
Just my two cents worth. Hope it helps.
KG
snipped-for-privacy@privacy.net wrote:

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If you feel the deep interest inside you, go for it, and you'll love it. Have an open mind, making adjustments if necessary, as this is something new to you, and as you'll also have to look for opportunities.
My situation is not quite the same as yours as I am 64 and retired. The similarity is that I made a big switch to go for something which I like. I end up being a sculptor. I am working very hard on it as this has become my passion.

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.

The going back to school part makes sense. I don't know about deciding *now* what you are going to specialize in making sense.
Here's how I see it. for one, an engineering degree is a four year (at least) undertaking, and I've known plenty of college people who don't really decide their major until the end of sophomore year. Not that I reccommend that practice, but the bacc core classes are pretty much the same.(not the math and physics stuff, though)
I went back to school, for mechanical engineering, when I was about 29. I was laid off from an inventory auditing job when the plant closed; and truth be told, though it paid the bills fine, it was boring as hell and in my opinion a trained monkey could have done it fairly well.
I had good unemployment bennies for about 6 months, so I decided to explore re-educating myself. Luckily, I saw a career counselor at the nearby community college who was perceptive and helpful. I told her my interests- math, science, machinery and mechanics- and my personality traits- precise, organized, a good communicator- and she said, "consider engineering". I researched it, and was focused on M.E. from day one back in school.
Maybe see a career counselor, or take an aptitude test, or just look inside and say "what feels right? what could I do every day for the rest of my life and love doing?"
I am about to graduate this winter with a degree in ME from a good school. It's been really tough, sometimes, as I have more responsibilities than some of the college kids with no family or other obligations, but never have I regretted choosing this path. I get more and more fascinated with my chosen field of specialization the more i learn about it, which is thermodynamics and power generation. I love studying this stuff and can't wait to work in the field with it.
If you don't feel like that about engineering, the incredible amount of work required to get a degree might not feel worth it. If you do, though, you will learn lots of really cool stuff and have a very worthwhile degree at the end.
my four cents, anyway, boiling down to 'find what you love and do it".
k wallace
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Without regard to where you will work, or what you will do, try selecting the set of courses that are MOST interesting to you.
When all done, stand back and see where that takes you.
You'd be amazed how simple that can show you what you already know.
Or, slightly "shift" the direction you were going.
- Robert -
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Thanks for advice Robert
I will consider doing that
I think some of my problem is finding TOO many things interesting
Heck I even thought abt an English degree.
Reason being cause as I get older I'm drawn more to people and philosophy rather than gadgets and "things"
Hence my concerns if engineering really IS for me.
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Thanks for the input K
yes I'm probably getting ahead of myself on the "path" as I'm just starting. Heck I don't even have a two year degree yet. Only a handful of credits.
Matter of fact I went up and talked to the counselor this PM
She has convinced me to forget accounting for now.. Said that is best taken later anyway so its fresh in your mind when transferring to a four year school.
Looks like I will be taking the following:
college algebra psychology econ 102
I've already had econ 101 so hate to NOT take econ 102.
Question for you tho. Did you START at a two year college and then transfer? If yes.... how was the transition to the bigger school (4 yr)?
Looking back now do you wish you'd just started in the four year school to begin with?
And....what kind of job do you see yourself doing when graduating? Working in a power plant?
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yes, I went to a community college,and no I don't wish I'd started at the 4 yr school. I got a really good preparatory education, as far as the theory goes- the classes were smaller, I found a set of friends doing the same things and studied with them. What was not preparatory were two things- the amount of work that I would have to do in my jr/sr years compared to my fresh/soph years- there's NO comparison, my workload has made me totally nuts at times- and the reliance on numerical computation, computer analysis,etc- this really wasn't stressed to the degree (I feel ) it should have been. I got to junior year and had barely heard of mathematica, never heard of Maple or MatLab(which we have used a LOT and I was very behind on compared to the students who'd been at OSU for 4 years). I'd also only been required to take very basic programming classes as requisites. This stuff is what's used now, and really needs to be stressed and taught at the sophomore level, introduced at least.
As far as what do I want to do? Power plant would be okay, I have lots of thoughts regarding the alternative energy industry, but it's still (unfortunately) a niche market. I want to be able to use my thermo, and expand on it, basically. OTOH, I'm doing a VERY cool senior project using computational fluid dynamics to model the heat-sink capabilities of a fractal-geometried object, and it may work out really well. My advisor on that project would like to see me stay for grad school, but the reality is I am way in debt, which is not comfortable for me, and I want to get back to work and maybe get a MS later.
HTH, k wallace
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Hi K
Sorry abt late reply....
You make a very god point abt not being up on MatLab or Maple coming from a junior college
Are these two apps something I can play with and learn on my on while in a two yr college? BEFORE I get to the 4 yr college?
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MatLab costs money. octave is free, under GNU licensing and is pretty close to being 100% compatible. Learn one, you've learned the other.
Historically, octave's supporting group have answered my questions within an hour.
Depending on your computer acumen, there are several forms for you. http://www.octave.org
- Robert -
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Thanks so much Robert!!
I will check it out!
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What platform do you use?
Did you check out octave?
Just thought of something. Start at 21 and work 'til you're 75. At 47, you're one year short of half way through your career.
Now, consider increasing returns to scale, which means each year, as skills accumulate, you are able to produce more than you could the year before. But, alas, brain cells keep dying off destroying that increasing productivity. Your peak productive years won't occur until you're more like 68 to 70
Don't forget the origin of retirement at 65 was not the result of industry learning when people lost productivity, but started years ago when some a**hole chairman of the board simply wanted an easy way to get rid of his president.
- Robert -
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Yes I did
have not downloaded it yet tho... but will

Good point
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Robert Macy wrote:

hey, I didn't know about that either. Thanks! I had er...'picked up' a Matlab for my home system, but there were no help files available (beggars can't be choosers, and all). I'm going to check out octave right now, it sounds like a good deal. I can't stress enough to someone thinking about eng. education how much computer skills figure into it! I never thought I would need much programming, and I do(for school anyway, I hope I don't need it too much afterwards b/c I really don't care for it over much). I thought AutoCAD was more for architects, but have found that the complicated (to me) solid modeling programs and CFD, FEA etc. are powerful tools that I am expected to be fairly comfortable with. At least, it looks that way when I browse job postings.
Re. the going back to school at 47, though- I don't think the age thing is a barrier, really. I am biased- eng. degree for me is a change of career(I'm 36).
Actually, I believe I have MORE to offer a prospective emmployer than a 20-something fresh out of college who has never worked in anything but teenage jobs for the most part. I have been a manager, a small-business owner, and a team member/team leader- I've been in office politics and understand how that world works. Plus, I'm settled in my life, my family and marriage- while employers aren't "allowed" to consider that, I know that some of them, sometimes do. I've hired, and sat in on hiring/promotion selections, enough times to see that in action.
-k wallace
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Thanks for advice above
I'm already comfortable with solid modeling tools as that's what I'm doing now (CAD work).
I use Mechanical Desktop and Inventor. Don't do any FEA tho. And what is CFD?
But what I'm NOT experienced in at all is programming or something like MatLab or Octave
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CFD = computational fluid dynamics

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If your goal is to eventually work for yourself as an engineer, you may want to reconsider being self employed. I say this because a BS in engineering will take at least 4 years to obtain. Then, if you want to work for yourself you will need to get a Professional Engineering license. To get the license you have to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering and the Professional Engineering License exams. You also will have to have 4 years of experience, in most states, before you can get licensed. Unless you develop some specialty very quickly, there aren't very many companies that would contract with you until you do get your license.
If you were 20 years younger, I would say go for it, but since you would be 10 to 15 years away from retirement once you got licensed I would be concerned.
You would be better off with a drafting degree, but I don't know how good the market is for people trying to be self employed.
You may also want to go to a college or university and observe some of the engineering students. Engineers and scientists tend to have a different personality type than the rest of the world. You may want to see if you can identify with them, or if they scare you. If their world seems very foreign, maybe you should go with one of your other options.
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No....I guess I should reword that
My goal would be to work for myself in ANY form.... but not as an engineer.
Example.... I might own rental housing or storage units or a car wash.... work for myself
But have the engineering degree to "fall back" on if the businesses don't work. To have the engineering degree to sell to the "man". Does that make sense?
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snipped-for-privacy@privacy.net wrote:

um...not to me. An engineering degree is a S**TLOAD of work; why anyone who doesn't really really REALLY want to do it, would bother undertaking it, is beyond me. IOW, if you don't love it, don't do it. Being self-employed has its perks- my ex and I used to own a landscaping business, and there were good things about being the boss(es). But...we put in 60+ hours a week each and netted, our best year, 40 K. So, owning "a business" can be great, or it can suck; generally it does a little of both. IMO of course. k wallace
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An engineering degree is not a "fall back" type of career field. You should look elsewhere for that type of degree. You should consider a degree that is non-technical or does not have any aspect that changes from year to year, unless your self employment deals with it directly.
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