Author Topic: Career change - engineer to technical college teacher  (Read 1022 times)

name_was_taken

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Career change - engineer to technical college teacher
« on: March 31, 2017, 10:46:23 AM »
Iím currently an engineer at a large Midwest manufacturing company. Iím 26 and have been there for 3 years. I like the company and my coworkers, donít like the union (for wage employees), and donít have much passion/interest in my job.

Iím considering applying for an instructor position at the local community college in an advanced technologies department - something reasonably aligned with my experience as an engineer.  Iím hoping that I will have more enjoyment/fulfillment in the teaching position, but Iím worried that it might be an ďout of the frying pan, into the fireĒ scenario. I donít really have any previous experience teaching, but I think I would enjoy it, and I believe that teaching at the community college level would take away a lot of the headaches that grade school teachers face.

Pros
fewer hours - the college is 9 hrs per day, 4 days per week (Iím sure I will be working more starting out, getting lesson plans ready, etc).
Possibly more autonomy in the job. Currently, I feel like I do very little engineering and a lot more project management coordinating work with the wage employees and giving work direction.
More time off - 6 weeks off in the summer, 5 weeks off during other breaks throughout the year - time to look into other side gigs, or turn hobbies into profit
My wife works at the college already, so we would have the same breaks off for traveling, badass hiking trips, etc.
Cons
Pay cut - from $75000/yr as an engineer to $55000 as an instructor. However, I think I could make some of this up by working other jobs on my Fridays off or during breaks, such as tutoring, construction, rental properties, etc.
Probably slower wage growth. If I remain in engineering, I could probably expect a promotion and raise within a year, plus normal 3% raises each year. In teaching, I would probably have a much lower salary ceiling.
This would probably push FIRE for my wife and I back by 1-2 years, from 33 to 35 years old. If I enjoy the job more on a day to day basis, Iíll gladly take that.

Retirement and other benefits are probably a wash.

Does anyone have any experience going from engineering to teaching, or teaching at a community college in general? Right now, I dislike my engineering job enough that I donít feel like I have anything to lose by switching (except the money). If I try the teaching and absolutely hate it, then Iíll have to try something else. I guess my main conundrum is trying to predict whether I will like the job better and be good at it.

Vindicated

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Re: Career change - engineer to technical college teacher
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2017, 11:16:06 AM »
Hi there!

I actually transitioned from engineering into teaching when I was 28.  I went into MS/HS rather than college.  I can't offer much advice with secondary education teaching.

How I went about it:

I applied to the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship, and was luckily accepted.  They offer a stipend to help pay for your Masters in Education, help you with mentors, and get you a full year of student teaching experience.  They even mentor after you've finished the initial classes and find a job of your own.

I ended up teaching at a wonderful Middle School (Physics, it was an accelerated charter school) as my first job after finishing the program.  I loved it.  Then, I got my GF pregnant, and I went back into engineering.  Even with a Masters, I only made $40k the year I was teaching.  There was almost no extra time for side-gigs, because teaching is WAY harder than any engineering job I've done.

Now, I plan to stay in engineering for ~10-15 years, to save enough that I can go into teaching, and have extra income from investments/dividends.  I hope I'm back to teaching (or at least have the option to go back into teaching) by 50!

If you think you can live off of ~$40k/yr starting, then go for it.  I wouldn't expect to make much more than that, even if you got into a college professor position.  Maybe you'll love it.  Maybe you'll hate it.  Out of the 17 people from my Fellowship Cohort, 6 or 7 didn't finish the student teaching portion, and about half of the others went back into their higher paying fields after a year or two.

Good luck!