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New career: engineer?

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New career: engineer?

Postby scheherazade » Sat Jun 29, 2013 5:30 am

I'm hoping some of you lovely schizoids out there can lend me some career advice about whether to switch careers and become an engineer. Somehow it's just so ineffective trying to communicate your career needs to NTs! ("Don't worry, you'll succeed, just be nice to people and make friends!!" ugh.)

I'm 32 now, have a degree in bio sci and thought I would become a researcher or a pathologist (ie, autopsy doc) but I also live in Canada where there are very few jobs in bio sci (I know several PhDs who are basically unemployable...), there's very little public money for school (scholarships or even government loans, especially if you're not coming straight from high school), and ridiculous competition to get into any medical school, let alone try to get in as an aloof person who isn't interested in emotionally connecting to live patients and who would prefer to work with cadavers. Also I'm massively in debt from my first degree and from my occupational ineptitude, so that's also an issue. I've always wanted to be highly self-sufficient, always thought I was pursuing that path, and have always been highly highly disappointed that my skills are not marketable and that no one seems to be hiring people with my background.

I've worked as a minimum-wage medical researcher (loved it; but this is partly why I am massively in debt), a government cog (hated hated hated it and would never go back for multiple reasons, though the pay was nice), and now work oddly enough for a communications agency, where the pay and the hours are crap, the social expectations are also crap (unless you're a social butterfly, in which case they're wonderful), and the job is total BS, but I'm occasionally of value to them for my ability to find information that others can't.

I am now thinking very, very seriously about going back to school to become a structural (civil) engineer. I think this would be a great career for me because I have always been strong in math and logic, I prefer to work with analytical people and male-dominant workplaces (I'm female but I hate the henhouse), and it would greatly improve my level of self-sufficiency as a marketable profession with decent number of job openings, flexibility in location and type of employer, and good salary. I also realize that many of the weird interests I had as a kid or an adult seem to fit - obsession with studying house blueprints and new homes sections as a kid, artistic hobby mainly focused on building 3-dimensional sculptures or drawing/photographing architecture, geek obsession with bridges, trains, infrastructure, construction sites; and I seem to recall leading my high school bridge-building team to create a much, much stronger bridge than everyone else.

If I go back to school at my age, it's going to take quite a bit of sacrifice. I'm going to have to move away from my current city, family (more an issue of guilt than of loneliness), and my one mutually introverted friend, take on more loans and possibly declare bankruptcy on everything else I owe, arrange to continue working part-time at my current horrible job in the early, early morning hours before my school day starts, endure the annoyance of being a mature student among teens, and then try and restart a career all over again. So I want to make sure I'm making the right decision.

Does anyone know if structural engineering is a good fit for SPD? I know it sounds good in theory but I have no idea what the actual day-to-day is like in terms of having to fake small talk with people, amount of time spent working alone, having to sell people on your company's plans or ideas that you may be critical of, having to "connect" with other stakeholders like contractors and project managers, or suck up to clients, and any other sort of team-building nonsense.

Is anyone on here a civil engineer? What is the worst part of the job for SPD? Would you recommend it for a slow-starter in their 30s to get into?
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Re: New career: engineer?

Postby Anepsios » Sat Jun 29, 2013 10:56 am

Not a 'civil' engineer, and haven't even graduated yet, but one thing I do know is that here, due to their rarity, female engineers get very much attention, and are also a bit shunned and not taken seriously, as it is considered a male profession. Can't advice anything else, as it is very different here.

Sounds like a tough time should you choose to study it though. You have to be sure you can go through with it.
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Re: New career: engineer?

Postby Platypus » Sat Jun 29, 2013 11:07 am

scheherazade wrote:I am now thinking very, very seriously about going back to school to become a structural (civil) engineer. I think this would be a great career for me because I have always been strong in math and logic, I prefer to work with analytical people and male-dominant workplaces

Have you thought about bioinformatics? It may require less retraining than civil engineering.

I don't know but I would guess that civil engineering requires more teamwork than other types of engineering (e.g. electrical, software, chemical etc.) Something to consider?
No diagnosis, lots of opinions, and a bunch of issues that I haven't quite figured out.
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Re: New career: engineer?

Postby VegFit » Sat Jun 29, 2013 11:33 am

My brother in law is a civil engineer and from the little that I hear about his job, it sounds like there is quite a bit of social interaction between coworkers and clients. He mentions not relating to people at work and trying to learn Spanish so that he could communicate with people at work. If there is something that would require less training so you don't go so far into debt, I would go for that.
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Re: New career: engineer?

Postby kelphelp » Sat Jun 29, 2013 11:49 am

scheherazade wrote:Would you recommend it for a slow-starter in their 30s to get into?


I am not a fan of incurring debt to get out of debt, even if it is for the short-term. This is especially true when it comes to school debt since one can only speculate if the degree will bring about the career change you want.

You say you liked your medical research job despite earning minimum wage. Although supporting yourself on minimum wage is tough, not everyone who earns minimum wage and is not getting external help ends up incurring massive debt.

Is it conceivable to get back into medical research and use the experience to segue to a post-graduate program in biomedical engineering, biomedicine, bioinformatics, or pharmaceutical biotechnology? Also, it is possible in some university programs for employed research assistants to take classes at the university with remission of tuition or for significantly less than full tuition.

Last thought-- female engineers/CEOs/surgeons/housewives-- anyone-- can be "shunned and not taken seriously." Vague generalities do not help. I suggest you consider looking into professional organizations like the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) for information.

Good luck.
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