Author Topic: English major wants to go back for STEM degree  (Read 2754 times)

Lmoot

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English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« on: February 03, 2019, 06:32:52 AM »
Hi friends. I don't know if my question is all that relevant to the site (it might actually be antithetical), but I feel like MMM is my social group that has the largest amount of STEM professionals, so here it is.

I have an English degree. I've been working the last 6 years at a zoo part time, in addition to my *insertgenericworkfromhomehealthinsurancejob*. I spent the last 4 of those 6 years working in environmental education. My co workers mostly have science degrees and a couple have or are pursuing PhD's (climatology); as I don't have a science background, my career track was based more on experience/working my way up, vs education. I do alot of public speaking and create interpretation material in my job so having an English degree definitely helps. Anyway, I have done a lot of self-studying  over the years in order to keep up with everyone else, and now I'm finding that I really want to go back to school and get a science degree. It's hard to be around people who geek out about  all things science, and  willingly get paid peanuts despite having higher level education, in order to do what they love...and not be inspired by that. Everyone in my family that has a degree, has a science or healthcare degree (nurses, civil engineer, microbiologist, accountant, anesthesiology), and I am the only one with a degree that's non-STEM. I got an English degree because I always told my self I suck at math and science, and to be honest wasn't a great student (didn't try) and wanted to graduate ASAP and get it overwith (this was over 10 years ago). I have matured a lot and have since learned that when I have a project to work on, I find the problem-solving and math aspects come easily to me and it makes me rethink the narrative I (and others) have always told myself.

I love working in zoos and while I plan on always working in this field in some form, whether paid or a volunteer, I want to go back to school for something in the realm of green building and design. I have a long-time obsession of house building, rehabbing, and design. I bought a pretty rough house at a pretty young age, made a lot of expensive mistakes and priceless learning experiences...and it was invigorating and life-changing (and currently money-earning as it became my first rental property). Now I want to learn about building and renovation, and combine that with my appreciation for the environment and could see myself in the future buying fixer-uppers and adding or converting passive energy and water-saving features. It wouldn't really be economically-advantageous since I don't plan on making a career as an engineer per se, but it would be my version of making the world a little better and encouraging others to do the same, while doing something I hopefully enjoy. And I really need to respect my vocation, no matter how little or how much it pays.

In terms of working in zoos, I would really love to consult on or design habitat projects that saves zoos money (many AZA zoos are non-profit), and which takes animal instinct and behavior in consideration to improve their lives in managed care. I also spend a lot of time in Africa visiting family, and many live in rural places without running water, some only having got electricity in just the last 10 years, and it would be great to even work pro bono on minor engineering type projects with local municipalities, while I'm there.

And the last reason for my decision to pursue a STEM degree, is that I've always wanted to have the skillset that would make me indispensable in a zombie apocalypse. I'm not kidding, but you can choose to believe I am if it weirds you out less :)

I feel something in the engineering field would definitely provide me the knowledge that would be applicable in all of the things above. The problem is I am so torn because there are many degrees in the environmental/green/engineering/mechanical etc etc etc that seem like bits and pieces of what I'm looking for...and more are being added as the green industry expands. Are there any engineer or affiliates here that can give insight based on my goals, on which branch of engineering would be best to pursue? Currently I am waffling between civil and environmental, but I also question whether an engineering degree would be overkill (afterall you don't need an engineering degree to build houses, or a well, or install solar panels....but it seems like it sure would help, no?). Are there other degrees or specialty programs anyone has heard of that might be of interest to me?

Thank you for any assistance. I will also be interested in hearing from "mature students", or those who went back a second time and did it right, no matter the degree. I will be 35 and have finally figured out what I want to do when I grow up, and would like to be pursuing my new career within 10 years.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2019, 08:08:32 AM by Lmoot »

KungfuRabbit

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2019, 09:13:13 AM »
The only actual specific goal you stated was being useful in the Zombie apocalypse.  Are we talking Day 1 of the zombie apocalypse, or year 3?  The initial days it'll all be about having somewhere safe to buckle down, and weapons.  I'm not kidding when I say your best bet is likely join one of the ultra ULTRA right wing militia groups out there that have camps in the middle of California or Texas or something, and I'm not sure how they choose their members - military probably helps though.  Later on trying to cope / rebuild it'll likely be more about farming and tinkering / fixing electronics and cars and such, and trades like welding - I promise you in the midst of a Zombie apocalypse the only value of an Environmental Science diploma will be a few minutes of warmth while burning it.   

All kidding aside (or am I...), you never really talked about money.  If your current job is good and you are progressing, could you keep at it and go to night school?  STEM degrees are not trivial to get, and that is assuming you still remember all of the math and other sciences you learned in high school.  With a 10 year break from that are you up for the challenge of working your butt off? 

From a financial stand point I'm also not a huge fan of undergraduate soft science degrees (chemistry, biology, anything that doesn't end in engineer really).  There just aren't a lot of good paying jobs for them, you are either looking at 35k / year as a lab tech or jobs that want PhDs.  I also know there are 100x more people graduating with degrees in Zoology than zoos need to hire, not a great position to be in. 

If you want to get into building green buildings my best suggestion would really be actually be the one doing the building.  I don't know where you live, but in the area I live trades people for home construction and remodeling are in SERIOUS short supply.  You can't find a finish carpenter or a tile layer or plumber to save your life (though, there are plenty of painters...dont get into painting...), and they make a TON of money.  My uncle is an electrician at a big company by day, probably making 70-80k / year, and he commented this last Christmas that he makes more money doing free-lance work on a few nights and weekends than he does in his day job, because he can literally command like $100 / hour.  Generally speaking the easiest way to get into that is just be an apprentice for someone.  Pick an older person and offer to help out, you'll do the dirty grunt work for a years and they'll pay you pennies, but when you are good at it you can break off on your own.  You could also find a remodeling company that specializes in green building / remodeling (there are TONS around here), and try to join their team as a general laborer.  You could start off doing grunt work like demo, cleaning, prepping for others to work, etc, but learn the hard stuff on the job.  Or if you are a good speaker and sales person you could also work with them to get new clients. 

I guess the questions you need to ask yourself are about money and time.  How much you want to / expect to make, how long you are willing to go without money to get there. 

Igelfreundin

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2019, 09:21:34 AM »
My first degree was in language, and I went back six years later to get a physics degree. I did have to work extra to refresh my maths skills, but it was definitely doable.

Since I can't comment on environmental engineering, I'll just recommend that you find people who are doing the job you want and do an informational interview with them. This was really helpful to me, to learn what their typical day looked like, what they lived and hated about their job, what degrees/ training I actually needed.

Good luck!

Case

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2019, 07:37:57 PM »
The only actual specific goal you stated was being useful in the Zombie apocalypse.  Are we talking Day 1 of the zombie apocalypse, or year 3?  The initial days it'll all be about having somewhere safe to buckle down, and weapons.  I'm not kidding when I say your best bet is likely join one of the ultra ULTRA right wing militia groups out there that have camps in the middle of California or Texas or something, and I'm not sure how they choose their members - military probably helps though.  Later on trying to cope / rebuild it'll likely be more about farming and tinkering / fixing electronics and cars and such, and trades like welding - I promise you in the midst of a Zombie apocalypse the only value of an Environmental Science diploma will be a few minutes of warmth while burning it.   

All kidding aside (or am I...), you never really talked about money.  If your current job is good and you are progressing, could you keep at it and go to night school?  STEM degrees are not trivial to get, and that is assuming you still remember all of the math and other sciences you learned in high school.  With a 10 year break from that are you up for the challenge of working your butt off? 

From a financial stand point I'm also not a huge fan of undergraduate soft science degrees (chemistry, biology, anything that doesn't end in engineer really).  There just aren't a lot of good paying jobs for them, you are either looking at 35k / year as a lab tech or jobs that want PhDs.  I also know there are 100x more people graduating with degrees in Zoology than zoos need to hire, not a great position to be in. 

If you want to get into building green buildings my best suggestion would really be actually be the one doing the building.  I don't know where you live, but in the area I live trades people for home construction and remodeling are in SERIOUS short supply.  You can't find a finish carpenter or a tile layer or plumber to save your life (though, there are plenty of painters...dont get into painting...), and they make a TON of money.  My uncle is an electrician at a big company by day, probably making 70-80k / year, and he commented this last Christmas that he makes more money doing free-lance work on a few nights and weekends than he does in his day job, because he can literally command like $100 / hour.  Generally speaking the easiest way to get into that is just be an apprentice for someone.  Pick an older person and offer to help out, you'll do the dirty grunt work for a years and they'll pay you pennies, but when you are good at it you can break off on your own.  You could also find a remodeling company that specializes in green building / remodeling (there are TONS around here), and try to join their team as a general laborer.  You could start off doing grunt work like demo, cleaning, prepping for others to work, etc, but learn the hard stuff on the job.  Or if you are a good speaker and sales person you could also work with them to get new clients. 

I guess the questions you need to ask yourself are about money and time.  How much you want to / expect to make, how long you are willing to go without money to get there.

I just wanted to correct your misuse of the term Ďsoft scienceí.  Chemistry and biology are most definitely hard sciences.  Actually, engineers are not necessarily scientists, though some engineers study the sciences, and many professions use the scientific method whether they know it or not. 

Aside from that, I agree with your statements.

Case

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2019, 07:52:30 PM »
Hi friends. I don't know if my question is all that relevant to the site (it might actually be antithetical), but I feel like MMM is my social group that has the largest amount of STEM professionals, so here it is.

I have an English degree. I've been working the last 6 years at a zoo part time, in addition to my *insertgenericworkfromhomehealthinsurancejob*. I spent the last 4 of those 6 years working in environmental education. My co workers mostly have science degrees and a couple have or are pursuing PhD's (climatology); as I don't have a science background, my career track was based more on experience/working my way up, vs education. I do alot of public speaking and create interpretation material in my job so having an English degree definitely helps. Anyway, I have done a lot of self-studying  over the years in order to keep up with everyone else, and now I'm finding that I really want to go back to school and get a science degree. It's hard to be around people who geek out about  all things science, and  willingly get paid peanuts despite having higher level education, in order to do what they love...and not be inspired by that. Everyone in my family that has a degree, has a science or healthcare degree (nurses, civil engineer, microbiologist, accountant, anesthesiology), and I am the only one with a degree that's non-STEM. I got an English degree because I always told my self I suck at math and science, and to be honest wasn't a great student (didn't try) and wanted to graduate ASAP and get it overwith (this was over 10 years ago). I have matured a lot and have since learned that when I have a project to work on, I find the problem-solving and math aspects come easily to me and it makes me rethink the narrative I (and others) have always told myself.

I love working in zoos and while I plan on always working in this field in some form, whether paid or a volunteer, I want to go back to school for something in the realm of green building and design. I have a long-time obsession of house building, rehabbing, and design. I bought a pretty rough house at a pretty young age, made a lot of expensive mistakes and priceless learning experiences...and it was invigorating and life-changing (and currently money-earning as it became my first rental property). Now I want to learn about building and renovation, and combine that with my appreciation for the environment and could see myself in the future buying fixer-uppers and adding or converting passive energy and water-saving features. It wouldn't really be economically-advantageous since I don't plan on making a career as an engineer per se, but it would be my version of making the world a little better and encouraging others to do the same, while doing something I hopefully enjoy. And I really need to respect my vocation, no matter how little or how much it pays.

In terms of working in zoos, I would really love to consult on or design habitat projects that saves zoos money (many AZA zoos are non-profit), and which takes animal instinct and behavior in consideration to improve their lives in managed care. I also spend a lot of time in Africa visiting family, and many live in rural places without running water, some only having got electricity in just the last 10 years, and it would be great to even work pro bono on minor engineering type projects with local municipalities, while I'm there.

And the last reason for my decision to pursue a STEM degree, is that I've always wanted to have the skillset that would make me indispensable in a zombie apocalypse. I'm not kidding, but you can choose to believe I am if it weirds you out less :)

I feel something in the engineering field would definitely provide me the knowledge that would be applicable in all of the things above. The problem is I am so torn because there are many degrees in the environmental/green/engineering/mechanical etc etc etc that seem like bits and pieces of what I'm looking for...and more are being added as the green industry expands. Are there any engineer or affiliates here that can give insight based on my goals, on which branch of engineering would be best to pursue? Currently I am waffling between civil and environmental, but I also question whether an engineering degree would be overkill (afterall you don't need an engineering degree to build houses, or a well, or install solar panels....but it seems like it sure would help, no?). Are there other degrees or specialty programs anyone has heard of that might be of interest to me?

Thank you for any assistance. I will also be interested in hearing from "mature students", or those who went back a second time and did it right, no matter the degree. I will be 35 and have finally figured out what I want to do when I grow up, and would like to be pursuing my new career within 10 years.

As some have indicated, you want to go get an engineering degree, so that you can learn the relevant knowledge/skills to help in your current area of work, but you donít want to become an engineer?  This will be expensive, and difficult.  Maybe you should instead consider a night class (intro to civil engineering oro something like that) to get a taste for it, first?  Or an online class, or just go buy a text book and start reading.  There is also Khan academy, though not sure if they have the specialty you are looking for.

You should think deeplyabout what you really want, what it will take to get there, and make sure your are serious.  If you are, then by all means pursue the engineering degree.

Cgbg

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2019, 09:51:16 PM »
Engineering is math-intensive. In many programs, youíll need calculus 1 thru 4 (thatís four classes of calculus!) then differential equations, linear algebra and a statistics course. Itís pretty much torture.

And thatís just the math.

I was an older returning student- Iíd completed the first year of undergrad engineering and then walked away and had a career. I went back at 24 and graduated at 27. I was not the oldest student.

As an older student, you are mature, will take classes seriously and will likely find folks to study with. Itís doable but remember when you get out youíll be competing against every 22 year old. If youíre doing this part time while working itíll be harder to get an internship which can be key to your future career. Youíll have to work for four years before sitting for the PE exam.

Consider looking into the path for your state to become an environmental health specialist. If you have enough science already from undergrad it may be fairly easy to start as a trainee. If not, you might need a graduate degree in something like public health. Check out the field- it may be sciency enough for you to enjoy a career without another four years of undergrad.

Malkynn

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2019, 05:58:29 AM »
Sorry to be blunt, but your goals are a god damn mess.

It sounds more like you have a notion that you want a STEM degree for some only vaguely definable reasons and you are trying to retrofit some sort of goals to justify that move.

You love your zoo job, but envy the people you work with who have science backgrounds, so you want a science background that you don't actually need to do your job, but you also don't seem to want to stay in your job.
Ok...already confusing.

You liked building one house and may want to build more houses, which you think an engineering degree might help with, but definitely isn't necessary, and it certainly isn't clear if building houses is really the main thing you want to do.
K...more confused.

You want to do pro-bono major engineering projects in Africa...okaaaay.
It's not like you can just decide to do pro-bono projects. It's one thing to be willing to work unpaid, but it's another to actually fund and organize a major project for free. Also, I know A LOT of people with engineering degrees and almost none of them have the skills and experience to execute major projects like you are talking about.

Unless you mean that you want to volunteer with non profits that do major engineering projects in Africa? Except, I would imagine that most non profits still actually hire professional engineers. Is there an Engineers Without Borders kind of organization? Or would you consider actual paid employment working as an engineer for non profits. That might actually make some sense for you...except you don't want to work as an engineer.
Oy...my head hurts.

Which leads to: you don't actually want to work as an engineer.
Wait...what???
You want to go through the punishing rigours of an engineering degree, but you don't want to work as an engineer, except to do "major" pro-bono projects in Africa???

On to my favourite part of your post: Zombie Apocalypse Utility
This is my favourite part since I actually know the people in my federal government who have worked on the Zombie Apocalypse preparedness file. Yep, it's a real thing because a Zombie Apocalypse is an amazing model for testing emergency preparedness in the context of widespread violence AND pandemic disease spread at the same time.

Trust me, most engineers are nowhere near the top of the list in terms of people who have utility, and it's definitely not the ones with just a BEng and no practical engineering experience.
There are countless skills that would make you robustly valuable in a Zombie Apocalypse scenario, and most of them require infinitely less financial and time investment than an engineering degree, which you don't even really use.

The engineering degree itself: Ugh
Yes, going back to school as a mature student has its advantages, but do not underestimate the downsides. School can be exhausting, and it can be tedious sharing classes with essentially teenagers who have infinitely more energy than you do.

I can't fathom being a mature student, dragging my ass back to rigorous full time school for only a vague notion of how my degree may or may not directly help my future career. Knowing the payoff of the degree can be critical to maintaining the motivation to complete it.

There will be days where you question why the fuck you put yourself through it, and without a solid goal, how will you be able to answer that very legitimate question?

Besides, you don't need a degree to learn everything you want to learn about a subject.

+++ The obvious years of lost income, no savings, and cost of the education itself. Really, just how much is getting an engineering degree of minimal practical utility worth to you in terms of dollars???

I'm not trying to discourage you from pursuing your dreams. It sounds like you are in the perfect position to engineer a life and career within which you can find great fulfillment.

However, you are working backwards. Instead of getting it in your head that you want a STEM degree and vaguely trying to imagine a use for it; instead, think of the life you want to live and determine the educational investments necessary to achieve that life.

Lastly: it's all fine and good to romanticize a career where you are doing work you love that's filled with meaning, but I can tell you from enormous experience of talking to people in "dream jobs" that a lot of that joy gets sucked right out of the experience when you start off in bad financial shape and look back at where you could have been by now if you hadn't taken on the debt/financial sacrifices for that "dream".

Being financially waaaaaay behind throws some serious ice water on the rosy glow of a dreamy career.
DO NOT discount that factor when making decisions that seriously impact your financial health long term.



Lmoot

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2019, 12:13:03 PM »
Wow. Thank you all for your honest and thoughtful insight. I truly appreciate it and it's given me a lot to chew on.

KungfuRabbit
I aim to be more of a post-apocalyptic survivalist (long-term survival and rebuilding), and would likely need to rely on luck and wits and either go solo and hunker down out of sight, or make friends with day 1 survivalists, trading skill for additional protection ;)

Your point about the oversaturation of certain science degrees, is a small part of the reason I want to avoid them.  Also if I ever do decide to move up in my current field (which would be actually working with animals), much of the applicable knowledge I would gain from a Biology/zoology degree, I could study on my own or learn on the job, which I already have in part. My zoo puts new-hires working in animal-care departments, through some online zoology courses as part of the onboarding process, as quite a few people hired into the field do not have much education in natural sciences...simply having a science degree, practically any science degree, is all that's required in many positions. That makes sense because  people who are finally hired as keepers, animal nutritionists, or clinic staff, have worked a year or longer as interns, and so it's assumed by the time you are hired at an AZA facility, you already have the experience desired, you just need that BS to get your foot in the door. I don't have enough of a desire to be a zookeeper to jump through hoops (and spend that much) on a natural science degree. If it happens in the future and I can do it for a couple of years, or seasonally, or on a part time basis, that's great; but I'm not going to invest alot money and time to do it. 

I should have been more clear about my work/retirement goals in my OP, as it differs from the norm. I don't want to work year round, or rather I don't want a job that requires me to work year round. Over the years I've had a mix of working full-time, and cobbling together a living from multiple streams of income. I've come to realize I like being a cobbler. I like the idea of working a project, or a seasonal gig, followed by a break with a length of my choosing. I am tired of being tied to a job, only getting a few weeks per year away. I don't want to retire early, I just want to not have to work for several months per year. I could see myself working full-time in a job that personally fulfills me, but only for a couple of years at a time, and not as a build up to a long-term career. Also, I plan on making a good chunk of my income and assets, from real estate.

I like the idea of being the one to do the building, and have considered getting some type of construction degree or even just a contractor license (and I am still not ruling that out). But I do ultimately want a science degree, as I feel that will open more doors for me in the things I am interested in doing in the future of which I admit there is a lot. I am not going to go back to school after this last shot, so I guess I am trying to predict the action that will offer me the most options in the future, particularly since I plan on job juggling.

I am willing to spend up to $35k for a degree (but hopefully less). I won't have to take certain core classes as I already have a BA. And my full time job offers tuition reimbursement for courses towards a healthcare degree (which would include some math and science), so I could use that for some of the pre-reqs. But once I do (if I do) get accepted into an engineering program at my local uni, I will need to stop working full-time, but plan on continuing to manage my rental property and work part time at the zoo. I plan to use a combination of savings, income from rental and part time job, and a cash-out refi on the rental property (before I quit working full time of course), which I would keep in a CD that will hopefully earn me back over half the interest I'd be paying on the addition to the mortgage, essentially giving myself a "student loan" at 2-3%.


I am still formulating my responses to everyone elses's replies. You all gave me so much to think about! Even if no one reads my responses (I know I am long-winded), it is really helping my thought-mapping to work through the questions and advice.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2019, 12:31:32 PM by Lmoot »

thesis

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2019, 12:23:00 PM »
What Malkynn said.

If you love your job at the zoo, you need to stop and take a deep whiff of that sweet-smelling rose right now. Right now! Goodness, don't envy people who do what they love for pennies. If you must envy, envy those who do what they love and get paid a ton for doing it. Romanticizing poverty is not going to help you.

It sounds like you want to make a difference in the world. Great. Do some PR editing pro bono. This is actually a valuable skill, nothing says, "We don't know what we're doing" like little typos in a non-profit blog / media. Many people who are drawn to English degrees also do well with social media and marketing and there are plenty of opportunities to help in those realms, too.

If you must choose engineering, go spend $100 on older editions of various engineering textbooks. Textbooks aren't always the best way to gauge interest, but I only survived college because I loved what I was studying, and I even loved the content of my textbooks. If engineering is boring to you, I suspect you will discover this very quickly with a $20 textbook from 2013. Just a suggestion.

Don't feel bad for not going hard-science. As others have mentioned, this is not the key in itself to a good job or "making a difference" in the world. You need to be more strategic than that. Getting involved may even help you more than getting a degree because it often requires more initiative on your part. There is no shortage of graduates struggling to get jobs in their field because they have no experience, as they decided to ride the degree train and invest nothing more than turning up to class and writing papers. Be warned.

JZinCO

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2019, 12:33:20 PM »
Researcher here (in ecology but methodologically steeped in both data science and fluid dynamics)...
Your goals are still confusing to me. Perhaps I'm hung up on the loose interchange between stated interests in science but, if I understand right, career aspirations in engineering (which as pointed out, most definitely is not science; engineering is application).

It sounds like you need to hash things out more before you can get useful advice from the forum. I'm welcome to stick on the thread if you need to think aloud.
-One point though. Look carefully at the tuition reimbursement terms (e.g., Do you need to finish the program AND/OR stick around for X years post-graduation?).

acepedro45

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2019, 02:42:06 PM »
Hello fellow English major! I, too, work in a highly technical field surrounded by people with STEM degrees, often advanced ones. Like other posters, I wonder what exactly your plan is for that second undergraduate degree.  You are vague on this point except that it will maybe "open some doors" for you.

Quote
...I bought a pretty rough house at a pretty young age, made a lot of expensive mistakes and priceless learning experiences...and it was invigorating and life-changing (and currently money-earning as it became my first rental property)....

I identify with this passage a lot; it's what makes life fun and engaging! Thing is, you've already got the degree you need to do a lot of the things you seem so passionate about! I think the value of an English (and more generally liberal arts degree) is the freedom and confidence to explore, experiment, and learn from your mistakes. You've already got a great degree if you'd like to be a "cobbler" of different work areas. I speak as an actuary who has spent stretches as a dabbler in politics, journalist and professional blackjack player.

I second what somebody else already said: if you think your passion is building green buildings, try building one instead of pursuing another degree. You'll learn just as much and even with some rookie mistakes it'll be cheaper than another degree.




Beach_Bound

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2019, 05:25:07 PM »
Engineer here. Youíve listed a lot of things you might be interested in: geeking out about science with your coworkers, green house designing/building/rehabbing (but not as an engineer working for a company), consulting or designing zoo habitats, volunteering on engineering projects in Africa, and improving your survivalist skills. The thing is, an engineering degree isnít necessary for any of that.

If you want a non-traditional assortment of part time jobs (which sounds great, donít get me wrong), then why are you trying to follow a traditional education path?

Have you looked at what an engineering curriculum actually involves? Check out the courses that your local university requires. Iím betting youíd find about 10% of the classes interesting or useful. Typically, your first 2 years will just be a bunch of math, physics, chemistry, and computer science. Youíll start moving from background classes into engineering in your 3rd year, but most of the engineering classes will be predetermined requirements for your major. Things like fluid mechanics, statics and mechanics, and materials science. Most engineering curriculums have space for 4-6 technical electives, but you have to fit those in with all your other required courses. What if the course on green design conflicts with your mandatory fluids lab? Or what if the two courses you really want to take are only offered in the spring semester and you only have time for one of them? Your goal has to be the degree rather than any specific course. And oh, the group projects. There are so. Many. Group. Projects. It will not be fun to be the one ďoldĒ person in a group of 4 young adults who consider an early meeting time to be 10am and a normal bedtime to be 2am.

An engineering degree not practical in terms of survival skills. When I graduated, I could derive the shit out of an equation. I could complete problem sets like a champ. I had almost no skills that would be useful in a zombie apocalypse. I had a little practice with power tools, but far less than any apprentice carpenter. I had some understanding of what could be made on a mill or lathe, but a machinist would be way more useful than me in making replacement parts for broken equipment. I could calculate the fluid flow through a pipe, or the amount of current through a wire, but youíd want a plumber or electrician to work on your off the grid system instead of me.

Now on to designing structures Ė you will likely need a PE (professional engineer) license to sign off on drawings. Getting a PE means working under a licensed PE for 4 years and passing a difficult test. Itís very doubtful that you could get this through a series of part time jobs. Even if you did, youíd still need insurance, just like a doctor with a medical degree needs medical liability insurance to operate. If you worked for a company, they would typically provide the insurance. Iím guessing that paying for insurance for yourself would be more expensive than hiring an engineer to complete drawings for you.
 
Donít get me wrong, Iím very glad I studied engineering, and Iím not trying to discourage you from following your dreams. I think that a life filled with volunteering at the zoo, occasional green house renovations, traveling and volunteering in Africa, and developing practical skills sounds wonderful. Itís a great balance of creativity, learning, social activities, and giving back to different communities. I just think an engineering degree will take a lot of time, money, and effort, without getting you much closer to achieving your goals.

Lmoot

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2019, 07:26:25 PM »
My first degree was in language, and I went back six years later to get a physics degree. I did have to work extra to refresh my maths skills, but it was definitely doable.

Since I can't comment on environmental engineering, I'll just recommend that you find people who are doing the job you want and do an informational interview with them. This was really helpful to me, to learn what their typical day looked like, what they lived and hated about their job, what degrees/ training I actually needed.

Good luck!

That is impressive to do such a turnaround of studies; gives me hope.

Definitely trying to gauge how realistic my expectations are by reaching out, and getting the feedback here is already helping so much.

Lmoot

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2019, 08:38:22 PM »
Engineering is math-intensive. In many programs, youíll need calculus 1 thru 4 (thatís four classes of calculus!) then differential equations, linear algebra and a statistics course. Itís pretty much torture.

And thatís just the math.

I was an older returning student- Iíd completed the first year of undergrad engineering and then walked away and had a career. I went back at 24 and graduated at 27. I was not the oldest student.

As an older student, you are mature, will take classes seriously and will likely find folks to study with. Itís doable but remember when you get out youíll be competing against every 22 year old. If youíre doing this part time while working itíll be harder to get an internship which can be key to your future career. Youíll have to work for four years before sitting for the PE exam.

Consider looking into the path for your state to become an environmental health specialist. If you have enough science already from undergrad it may be fairly easy to start as a trainee. If not, you might need a graduate degree in something like public health. Check out the field- it may be sciency enough for you to enjoy a career without another four years of undergrad.

Fortunately I don't need to worry about competition as this is more of a personal endeavors vs seeking a career in engineering (and I likely wouldn't even sit for the test, unless I feel it would benefit me some how). As I am reading and thinking more on it, it does seem that a standard education in engineering will be focused more on preparing students for a career in engineering (understandably so, why wouldn't it?). And that may not align with my intended use.

I am definitely a different person than I was when I started college two weeks after graduating high school, within a month of turning 18. Over a decade of experiences, in and outside of the workforce, has given me a much clearer vision of what I want to do with the rest of my life.

As an English major I definitely don't have much credit in sciences or maths. But you may be onto something if I pursue a grad degree in something relate to public outreach. I just might be able to persuade myself into a program with my experience at the zoo, and taking (and acing) some pre-reqs. Something to consider, thank you! While the course load may not give me the knowledge and skills I'm looking for upfront, it could allow me access to jobs/internships or specialty classes that will allow me a chance to learn in the field. If there is anything I've learned, it's there is no guarantee you will work in your field of study.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2019, 08:44:15 PM by Lmoot »

Lmoot

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2019, 10:05:57 PM »
Sorry to be blunt, but your goals are a god damn mess.

It sounds more like you have a notion that you want a STEM degree for some only vaguely definable reasons and you are trying to retrofit some sort of goals to justify that move.

You love your zoo job, but envy the people you work with who have science backgrounds, so you want a science background that you don't actually need to do your job, but you also don't seem to want to stay in your job.
Ok...already confusing.

You liked building one house and may want to build more houses, which you think an engineering degree might help with, but definitely isn't necessary, and it certainly isn't clear if building houses is really the main thing you want to do.
K...more confused.

You want to do pro-bono major engineering projects in Africa...okaaaay.
It's not like you can just decide to do pro-bono projects. It's one thing to be willing to work unpaid, but it's another to actually fund and organize a major project for free. Also, I know A LOT of people with engineering degrees and almost none of them have the skills and experience to execute major projects like you are talking about.

Unless you mean that you want to volunteer with non profits that do major engineering projects in Africa? Except, I would imagine that most non profits still actually hire professional engineers. Is there an Engineers Without Borders kind of organization? Or would you consider actual paid employment working as an engineer for non profits. That might actually make some sense for you...except you don't want to work as an engineer.
Oy...my head hurts.

Which leads to: you don't actually want to work as an engineer.
Wait...what???
You want to go through the punishing rigours of an engineering degree, but you don't want to work as an engineer, except to do "major" pro-bono projects in Africa???

On to my favourite part of your post: Zombie Apocalypse Utility
This is my favourite part since I actually know the people in my federal government who have worked on the Zombie Apocalypse preparedness file. Yep, it's a real thing because a Zombie Apocalypse is an amazing model for testing emergency preparedness in the context of widespread violence AND pandemic disease spread at the same time.

Trust me, most engineers are nowhere near the top of the list in terms of people who have utility, and it's definitely not the ones with just a BEng and no practical engineering experience.
There are countless skills that would make you robustly valuable in a Zombie Apocalypse scenario, and most of them require infinitely less financial and time investment than an engineering degree, which you don't even really use.

The engineering degree itself: Ugh
Yes, going back to school as a mature student has its advantages, but do not underestimate the downsides. School can be exhausting, and it can be tedious sharing classes with essentially teenagers who have infinitely more energy than you do.

I can't fathom being a mature student, dragging my ass back to rigorous full time school for only a vague notion of how my degree may or may not directly help my future career. Knowing the payoff of the degree can be critical to maintaining the motivation to complete it.

There will be days where you question why the fuck you put yourself through it, and without a solid goal, how will you be able to answer that very legitimate question?

Besides, you don't need a degree to learn everything you want to learn about a subject.

+++ The obvious years of lost income, no savings, and cost of the education itself. Really, just how much is getting an engineering degree of minimal practical utility worth to you in terms of dollars???

I'm not trying to discourage you from pursuing your dreams. It sounds like you are in the perfect position to engineer a life and career within which you can find great fulfillment.

However, you are working backwards. Instead of getting it in your head that you want a STEM degree and vaguely trying to imagine a use for it; instead, think of the life you want to live and determine the educational investments necessary to achieve that life.

Lastly: it's all fine and good to romanticize a career where you are doing work you love that's filled with meaning, but I can tell you from enormous experience of talking to people in "dream jobs" that a lot of that joy gets sucked right out of the experience when you start off in bad financial shape and look back at where you could have been by now if you hadn't taken on the debt/financial sacrifices for that "dream".

Being financially waaaaaay behind throws some serious ice water on the rosy glow of a dreamy career.
DO NOT discount that factor when making decisions that seriously impact your financial health long term.

First off...thank you for your bluntness! My goals certainly sound a mess, but I assure you they are the next step to ever-present themes in my life. I've had these goals long before the desire to seriously pursue a STEM, much less engineering degree. I have gotten to practice (albeit on a very peripheral level), many of the things my goals entail:

I've worked with my dad on restoration type work in Africa...small things like fixing erosion damage to houses (caused by the damming of the nearby river by an Australian gold-mining corporation), using compact termite mound clay and planting deep-root plants along the foundations), and digging out drain-fields for the outdoor latrine and bathhouse. And I liked it. I liked learning, and the physical labor, and doing something that impacts quality of life. Plus the feeling of accomplishment.

I even got to help design a house that actually got built. I drew up the main design of my parentís retirement house in Africa, which my father tweaked and scaled for the builders since he used to be a licensed contractor.

In terms of working with local government, to be honest I probably wouldn't unless I was part of an outfit. But also to be honest, the rural areas I'm talking about have practically no oversight, and that's part of the reason why so many basic development issues (like what to do with trash and human waste), slip through the cracks and become the residentís problems to solve, down to the individual level. I may not be of any use outside of my immediate family, and I am perfectly ok with that! But even if I didn't head a project myself (I agree that was pie-in-sky thinking on my part, as I can't imagine I would have the ability, or desire to be honest to take that on) it wouldn't be so bad to have enough knowledge to at least be an effective advocate for improvements to some of the villages I have a personal/familial connection to.

Man I would LOVE to get eyeballs on official government Zombie preparedness documentation. That is amazing. I feel comforted knowing that exists, somehow. I remember a while back a CDC rep (maybe jokingly) assuring Americans that the CDC is prepared in the case of a zombie virus outbreak (back when people in Florida were on bathsalts and eating their neighbors' faces). But you're telling me it's actually a thing. wow. 

You and others are making me see that an intensive STEM degree could actually take me further away from my goals. I still want some type of degree or certification in the STEM field as many of the seasonal or part time jobs, or possible future careers I want to pursue, would involve working in the field of natural sciences; although I do love working at the zoo, it was my personal connections and working my way up, that got me a position that frankly others that internally applied, were much more qualified for. It won't be that easy for me at other institutions without a science background. And my personal projects (real estate investing and rehabbing) would rely less on engineering and planning, but moreso on just getting hands-on experience. I think I can let this go for now, work on doing pre reqs towards a more STEM-lite degree that provides a more well-rounded education. And continue finding opportunities to learn more about basic building. I already have a plan to buy my next house in my hometown...a cheap fixerupper I can take down to the studs and framing, and challenge myself to learn as much as possible in the rebuilding process; the first time around was a hectic blur and I didn't even know that I wanted to "know", yet...so I didn't pay all that much attention outside of completing some tiling jobs and minor plumbing. I think studying for a contractor's license will help me find that understanding of how a house "works", even if I don't learn the ins and outs of each component. Ultimately I need to start with a "big picture" reference before deciding how or if I want to delve into the nitty gritty.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2019, 04:24:45 AM by Lmoot »

Lmoot

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2019, 10:38:03 PM »
What Malkynn said.

If you love your job at the zoo, you need to stop and take a deep whiff of that sweet-smelling rose right now. Right now! Goodness, don't envy people who do what they love for pennies. If you must envy, envy those who do what they love and get paid a ton for doing it. Romanticizing poverty is not going to help you.

It sounds like you want to make a difference in the world. Great. Do some PR editing pro bono. This is actually a valuable skill, nothing says, "We don't know what we're doing" like little typos in a non-profit blog / media. Many people who are drawn to English degrees also do well with social media and marketing and there are plenty of opportunities to help in those realms, too.

If you must choose engineering, go spend $100 on older editions of various engineering textbooks. Textbooks aren't always the best way to gauge interest, but I only survived college because I loved what I was studying, and I even loved the content of my textbooks. If engineering is boring to you, I suspect you will discover this very quickly with a $20 textbook from 2013. Just a suggestion.

Don't feel bad for not going hard-science. As others have mentioned, this is not the key in itself to a good job or "making a difference" in the world. You need to be more strategic than that. Getting involved may even help you more than getting a degree because it often requires more initiative on your part. There is no shortage of graduates struggling to get jobs in their field because they have no experience, as they decided to ride the degree train and invest nothing more than turning up to class and writing papers. Be warned.

I like the idea of old textbooks. I also want to look into auditing free online courses for whatever degree path I choose. Seems like it would be a good resource for someone who's been out of school for a while and wants to be familiar with the course load before enrolling.

I'm not looking for a higher level position in the field, or a long-term career in one area, so I'm not too concerned in my ability to turn it into a profitable career, as I plan on earning profit in other ways besides active income. I would probably not work full time in a zoo because I certainly do not romanticize poverty lol. I see my poor coworkers working 2 and sometimes 3 jobs or gigs, just to stay afloat (and they have higher level degrees). I don't love it that much.

Lmoot

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #16 on: February 04, 2019, 10:56:02 PM »
Researcher here (in ecology but methodologically steeped in both data science and fluid dynamics)...
Your goals are still confusing to me. Perhaps I'm hung up on the loose interchange between stated interests in science but, if I understand right, career aspirations in engineering (which as pointed out, most definitely is not science; engineering is application).

It sounds like you need to hash things out more before you can get useful advice from the forum. I'm welcome to stick on the thread if you need to think aloud.
-One point though. Look carefully at the tuition reimbursement terms (e.g., Do you need to finish the program AND/OR stick around for X years post-graduation?).

Ecology is something I once considered (especially now that engineering for now is off the table). I like the idea of learning about connectivity, whether it comes to natural science or building a house (studying the different systems that come together to provide structure, water, and energy), and ecology is definitely something I would consider as a possible STEM course of study.

My goal is to have a science education I can put on my resume, considering that I want the option to work mid-level jobs that would likely require some type of formal science background. The reason I don't have anything concrete to provide other than I want to work outdoors/in nature, is that there are so many options for that type of work. Being that I want to pursue seasonal type work, I can imagine there would be a variety of things that a science degree would help facilitate. Work in zoos in a more technical role, working in wildlife care or management, work as an interpretive park ranger, work on field projects, I see myself being a teacher for at least a few years....etc etc. And I say now that I want non-committal jobs, but who knows what the future brings. Maybe down the line I fall in love with one of these seasonal gigs and want to make a profession of it. I don't want a lack of a science degree to hold me back or put me on the bottom of the maybe pile. I feel like I have the desire and drive now, and am still "young enough"  so why the heck not.

Thank you so much for offering yourself as a resource. That is very kind. I have never heard of fluid dynamics. Is it something similar to what environmental engineers study (but natural hydraulics vs mechanical)? This is why I can't decide...there are just so many wonderful little areas of study in science, which I have never ever heard of. It makes me feel like a little kid again, wanting to know why the sky is blue. But I suppose for my purposes I can learn whatever I want, no matter what degree I eventually pursue. The beauty of the internet, and books :)
« Last Edit: February 04, 2019, 11:08:23 PM by Lmoot »

Lmoot

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2019, 11:20:32 PM »
Hello fellow English major! I, too, work in a highly technical field surrounded by people with STEM degrees, often advanced ones. Like other posters, I wonder what exactly your plan is for that second undergraduate degree.  You are vague on this point except that it will maybe "open some doors" for you.

Quote
...I bought a pretty rough house at a pretty young age, made a lot of expensive mistakes and priceless learning experiences...and it was invigorating and life-changing (and currently money-earning as it became my first rental property)....

I identify with this passage a lot; it's what makes life fun and engaging! Thing is, you've already got the degree you need to do a lot of the things you seem so passionate about! I think the value of an English (and more generally liberal arts degree) is the freedom and confidence to explore, experiment, and learn from your mistakes. You've already got a great degree if you'd like to be a "cobbler" of different work areas. I speak as an actuary who has spent stretches as a dabbler in politics, journalist and professional blackjack player.

I second what somebody else already said: if you think your passion is building green buildings, try building one instead of pursuing another degree. You'll learn just as much and even with some rookie mistakes it'll be cheaper than another degree.

Hallow! Who would have thought my English degree would be what lands me a job in a science-y industry? I didn't even need that degree for my *insertboringhealthinsurancejob* which is my full-time job that pays the bills. I wouldn't have gotten my education job without my English degree, which eventually led to me wanting a science degree. I LOVE my English degree. Your unique and varied experiences definitely exemplifies the magical existence between nothingness and everythingness, that seems to be the habitat of the English major.

I agree with your advice to just get in there and pursue my interests, degree or no. I definitely have no desire to be a perpetual student and just get a degree for degree's sake. But I also don't want to make the mistake of pinning my potential, on a piece of paper. There are certainly other ways to hone my skills, and I want to be more prepared and realistic about my expectations should I go back to school.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2019, 04:30:21 AM by Lmoot »

Telecaster

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #18 on: February 05, 2019, 01:04:53 AM »
Ecology is something I once considered (especially now that engineering for now is off the table). I like the idea of learning about connectivity, whether it comes to natural science or building a house (studying the different systems that come together to provide structure, water, and energy), and ecology is definitely something I would consider as a possible STEM course of study.

My goal is to have a science education I can put on my resume, considering that I want the option to work mid-level jobs that would likely require some type of formal science background.

That's the thing.  On the bachelor's level, degrees in the sciences, chemistry, physics, etc. are fairly difficult and there is very little pay off.  Life sciences tend to be a little easier, but not always.    I would be a bit surprised if you increased your employability with a degree like that over simply having four or five more years of work experience in your chosen field.  In most sciences, a B.S degree gives you the ability to be hired as a technician, and your career path is working up from there. 

I say "a bit surprised" becomes sometimes employers just want that degree.  So maybe you really do need to go back to school.  But you must figure in both the actual costs of going to school as well as the opportunity costs.  I highly doubt it pencils out, because again, B.S. degrees in the sciences aren't worth very much (sad to say).

If you really do feel like you need another degree to advance you career, I would advise you strongly to consider an engineering degree, where there really is a payoff, or to consider an MBA.

In any event, I urge you to carefully evaluate your career goals, and then select an education path.   Based on what you've said, you don't seem certain of your career path.  Nothing wrong with that, but adding a degree won't help solve the uncertainty. 

Linea_Norway

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #19 on: February 05, 2019, 02:11:08 AM »
Look guys, I know we have a tightly controlled format where I do amusing/frustrating/incredible stories about my work. We can get back to that tomorrow, but I'd like to make a small digression backwards today. It's college application season, and I'm occasionally asked for career advice by parents on what to major in. More often, I have individuals in the latter stages of college asking for advice about grad school.

When I was in high school, everyone said go into STEM (this was when it was a newer term). Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Two of those fields generally lead to good careers. Two of them don't. Not knowing any better, I rolled the dice and picked one of the losers.

Secondary school teachers don't know any better, but someone has to be out there, dropping the truth bombs. So here it is, all (or at least some of) the reasons getting a PhD in biomedical science is probably a bad idea. 

Let's start off by highlighting the differences between another sorta-scientific job, the medical doctor, from a career in scientific research. I make this comparison because almost everyone in biomedical research originally considered becoming a medical doctor before being diverted to research. Maybe they didn’t have the grades, were turned off by human medicine (me, but a story for another day), didn’t know so much about the research option, or whatever. In any case, they were considering medical school (MD) or grad school (PhD).

Both are not super easy careers, but for very different reasons and with very different challenges to "making it".

The main barrier to becoming a doctor is getting into medical school. High competition, tons of applications, cutthroat scores on standardized tests. Once you get in, though, you’re almost assured of making it through if you really want to/can handle the shitty aspects of being a healthcare provider. My SO is a veterinarian - it's far more difficult to get into than medical school - so she knows a lot about fighting her way in initially. Her quote when I asked about life there: “‘D’ is for doctor!”

Applying to a PhD program is radically different. I swear, the main requirement to get admitted to a PhD program is a pulse. Can you fog a mirror? Congratulations - you're in!

Applying for medical school, you pay to travel to a bunch of schools and sweat through interviews. The campus visits for PhD programs are, by comparison, almost mini vacations. I remember skiing at the University of Utah one week, then going clubbing and playing beach volleyball in Miami the next weekend. I selected Valentine’s weekend to a local university because they put me (and - unknowingly - my lady friend) up in the romantic on-campus hotel.

Medical schools charge you a boatload of money. PhD programs pay your tuition and PAY YOU a tiny-but-liveable stipend while you’re there, so you graduate debt-free.

All these perks of PhD programs are the siren's song. PhD programs WANT you. They NEED you to do the hands-on work. The skiing and free food are the free drugs the dealers would give us to get us hooked (or so my DARE officer promised). Once you're sucked in, you find out how screwed you really are. 

Unlike medical school, the hard part of the PhD comes after you show up. Being successful at any level of academic science requires you to publish, which requires discovering original knowledge worth writing down, which requires either a lot of luck, tremendous amounts of lab time, and usually both. The only person who will spend the amount of time necessary to do this isn’t an hourly technician, but a student whose degree depends on success. No papers, no degree, no decent next job. So you spend years slaving away at max power for pennies, chasing the carrot. 

Long ago, professors realized that students (and postdocs) are the best bang for their buck, and have FLOODED Universities with new trainees over the last twenty years. New jobs haven’t matched pace, creating a glut of PhDs and a real problem that you only see as you approach graduation.

Two anecdotes to drive this home: I was at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in 2015. Biggest field-specific meeting in the world. A sign by the door announced the attendance of various classes of members. I took a pic (below), because the numbers floored me:

Total attendance: 23,627

Member: 9,287 (this is anyone with PhD, incl. Professors, industry members, etc. who isn’t a trainee)
Postdoc member: 3,550
Student Member: 8,610
Nonmember: 1,264 (a catchall. This was my category, actually.)
Student Nonmember: 916

55.3% of the attendees were self-described students. That’s a pyramid with a real wide base and a real narrow top. And it's been that way for a long time.

Second anecdote: International Society of Stem Cell Research, same year. Paul Tesar wins the Young Investigator award. Paul Tesar is 38. Seems a bit old for a young investigator award, but whatever. As he talks about his research, I check Tesar’s lab website and discover this dude has produced something like 14 new PhDs already.

Just a follow-up to this: their “young investigator” winner in 2017 was Jayaraj Rajagopal. From his biosketch, dude was 50(!) when he won - closer to social security than college. And Rajagopal’s lab website says they are currently spawning 11 grad-level trainees.

I'm not trying to pick on these guys specifically, but you can see the field's symptoms in the success stories. In addition to a flooded job market, BS and MS people have to compete with higher-level folks who are leaking into their traditional job domains.

So let's move past training and talk jobs. Unlike medical school, where a job is a given upon graduation, the real challenge is scrabbling into a good job after your training is completed. When you finish grad school, most people take a postdoc - this is essentially being a grad student in someone else's lab for maybe $10K more per year - because they have to - it’s the only science-y job they can land with any degree of certainty. Three or five (or seven) years later, they run out of postdoc and realize that there are a hundred other postdocs with similar qualifications for every decent job they are applying to. For every Tesar, there are ten PhDs who are underemployed as adjunct faculty or long-term postdoc/research assistant positions in academia (the so-called “permadocs”).

An anecdote on career prospects: I joined a solid biomedical research program. There were about 50 people in my first-year class (this is about fifteen years ago, FYI). Two of my classmates (one dropout and one who actually graduated) are professional cake decorators now. This is exactly the same number of classmates who are now tenure-track faculty at research universities (you know, the job we trained to do). I tell this to students whenever I give young kids a talk, because no one’s telling it like it is to these young ‘uns. 

Think about that for a moment. Best-case scenario, you’ve sunk ten years (usually the 22-32 decade where you’d otherwise build earnings up) into your training and now you're making industrial amounts of frosting. That is MUCH worse than not getting into med school at 22 and going to work in corporate america.

Life, viewed through a certain lens, is essentially a series of wagers. I would liken picking a career in scientific research to the baccarat table - classy and elegant from afar, but highly dependent on luck and circumstance. And, like all casino games, it may be possible to win on any given wager, but the odds are inexorably against you.

I'm stopping now, because this was a public service announcement and if I get into the non-professional parts of academic science I might never find my way back to talking about MegaPharma.

Car Jack

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #20 on: February 05, 2019, 07:08:17 AM »
I can help.

The interests you express are done by a number of different kinds of engineers/majors because there is a lot of overlap.  I would encourage you to look into civil engineering.  You might think that you don't want to build a bridge when hearing that but Civil engineers work in everything from building work through finite element analysis of stresses in aircraft to software modeling to development of green buildings.

Now, I think you would do fine with the math/science that in the past you avoided.  I personally went back to school for my engineering bachelors (EE) after working as a technician for years with an Associates.  My motivation was extremely high to do well and I always had in the back of my mind that if I didn't pass a course, I'd have to pay to take it over again.  I got pretty much all A's and ended up working for a company who sent me back to school full time and paid for my Masters. 

You will be going for another Bachelors as an English degree pretty much gets you through your Freshman year in engineering in credits.  So expect to do 3 years.  But, of course you can pick up courses in the summers and some schools discount summer courses.

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #21 on: February 05, 2019, 09:14:14 AM »
As an English major I definitely don't have much credit in sciences or maths. But you may be onto something if I pursue a grad degree in something relate to public outreach.
Yes! I know you are in this field already but it is actually a large field that has places to go--Editing for academic journals, science outreach, environmental interpretation, education. I mean if I want to live a quote FIRE lifestyle, I would work for Semester at Sea. Researchers are notoriously bad writers and communicators as a whole. We need help writing because good articles are those that have a narrative which requires flexing 'artistic' thinking. I also know several national labs that hire people with your background; their job is to interview researchers, curate their scientific mumbo-jumbo into laymen's terms and then produce 'science you can use' bulletins. You do not need a science degree to these jobs at all.

----
Given your interest in capacity and sufficiency building in developing countries, have you considered a job with an NGO such as Impact Initiatives? They work with the UN and host governments in order to design projects where natural resources are at risk or at a premium (e.g. How do we get secure access for drinking water to communities?). They use teams of technicians like GIS specialists, science subject matter experts, but also project managers. In order to be involved, you could go to school to be qualified as a tech or as a science SME, but project managers have diverse backgrounds.
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I still want some type of degree or certification in the STEM field as many of the seasonal or part time jobs, or possible future careers I want to pursue, would involve working in the field of natural sciences; although I do love working at the zoo, it was my personal connections and working my way up, that got me a position that frankly others that internally applied, were much more qualified for. It won't be that easy for me at other institutions without a science background.
So say you pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. You could work on problem sets for which you are qualified but not others. In other words, if there's a job in forest engineering you can build relatively unimproved roads in remote areas but you need forestry and civil engineering education. If you want to work on plant insects and disease you need pathology and physiology training. If you want to work on waterways, you need hydrology training. If you want to be a jack of all trades and you study environmental science, there are few jobs that require that education because it gives you only surface-level content mastery of several fields. My point is to say jobs that require a science background requires intensive, specialized, and specific education and training. If you have a generic science degree you'll be particularly qualified for no job. On the demand side, if a job advertises that they want an application with a STEM background, then a science degree isn't really necessary; they generally just want someone who has basic quantitative or systems-thinking skills. This is especially true of seasonal, parttime, tech and most field-based jobs. You do NOT have to go school to be a good fit for those jobs.
edit: Here's a concrete contrast. Two jobs: Coastal restoration ecologist and Game Warden. The former job will absolutely require a background in marine science, rangeland ecology, botany etc because the day to day job will require making decisions like what species to plant where, how engineering projects should be tailored in order to protect coastal vegetation, etc. The Game Warden job will require a degree in criminal justice, or sociology, or wildlife, or forestry, or biology, or etc etc. That's because you only need surface level scientific knowledge. enough to understand people, animals and plants because you have to execute laws and statues which govern people, animals and plants.
That's why I say I think you should hash out exactly what you want to do. That way you can tailor your education or training for that job.

-----
On to your response to me:
My goal is to have a science education I can put on my resume, considering that I want the option to work mid-level jobs that would likely require some type of formal science background. As stated before, if it really requires a formal science degree, the field of study will have been narrow and any ol' science degree won't cut. For example, a wet chemist will have to know chemistry, and likely some subdiscipline. The reason I don't have anything concrete to provide other than I want to work outdoors/in nature, is that there are so many options for that type of work. Being that I want to pursue seasonal type work, I can imagine there would be a variety of things that a science degree would help facilitate. Work in zoos in a more technical role, working in wildlife care or management, work as an interpretive park ranger, work on field projects, I see myself being a teacher for at least a few years....etc etc. Not really, you could do all those jobs without a science degree. They may however require a specific degree only and that is only because the applicant pool is so large. It's like why a sales job could say 'a BA or BS is required'. Not because it really is, but because an applicant with university education is on average better than an applicant without.And I say now that I want non-committal jobs, but who knows what the future brings. Maybe down the line I fall in love with one of these seasonal gigs and want to make a profession of it. I don't want a lack of a science degree to hold me back or put me on the bottom of the maybe pile. I feel like I have the desire and drive now, and am still "young enough"  so why the heck not.

Thank you so much for offering yourself as a resource. That is very kind. I have never heard of fluid dynamics. Is it something similar to what environmental engineers study (but natural hydraulics vs mechanical)? Fluid dynamics is a field within mechanical engineering. And this points to exactly what I'm saying. I do alot of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) work. I am qualified to use the tools because I understand fluid dynamics at a conceptual level and I know the basics of FORTRAN so I can help engineers and software devs work on the CFD program. But I am not an engineer so I could not take the code and swap out a different way to resolve wind turbulence. That's what the engineer can do. And I cannot manage the hundreds of thousands of line of code even though I can make simple FORTRAN programs on my own. On the other hand engineers and software devs don't have the content mastery in order to use CFD to answer questions about wildfire spread in forests using the CFD models. Only I can. Science is heavily specialized. another example. My papers generally have 3-6 coauthors because each coauthor has a different background.. someone knows something about tree regeneration, someone knows about tree physiology, someone knows something about fire dynamics, someone knows something about boundary layer meterology, etc This is why I can't decide...there are just so many wonderful little areas of study in science, which I have never ever heard of. It makes me feel like a little kid again, wanting to know why the sky is blue. But I suppose for my purposes I can learn whatever I want, no matter what degree I eventually pursue. The beauty of the internet, and books :). But I suppose for my purposes I can learn whatever I want, no matter what degree I eventually pursue. The beauty of the internet, and books :)
« Last Edit: February 05, 2019, 09:21:22 AM by JZinCO »

Laura33

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #22 on: February 05, 2019, 12:17:22 PM »
What Malkynn said.

To begin with:  your career goal is "cobbler" -- you like to do bits of this and bits of that, what used to be known as a "Renaissance man."  You know what background equips you for that sort of breadth of knowledge?  A liberal arts degree!

I think you are fantasizing about all the possible roads not taken, and breathing in all the current focus on STEM as the be-all, end-all, without having much of an idea about the academic background and work experience required to succeed in the areas you're interested in.  Because all of those things you described are very, very different from each other and require completely different degrees and skill sets.  So if you really want to equip yourself to do all of that, you're looking at being a perpetual student.  Which is fine -- but recognize that that path is basically a full-time, expensive hobby that may not even get you where you want to be in the end.

So instead of focusing on the piece of paper, why don't you dive into learning the substance?  On your own, just for yourself?  Sign up for a Biology or Ecology or Engineering 101 course at the local Community College and see if you are enjoying science more now than you did when you were in school.  Or do Khan Academy or something similar.  Start volunteering for organizations that do stuff you're interested in and see what you can learn along the way.  Read science journals in areas you are interested in.  With the internet, the universe of human knowledge is at your fingertips.  You don't need to pay someone tens of thousands of dollars to learn stuff.

If you do that work on your own and in your spare time, and you find yourself drawn to a particular area, and you discover that you actually do need a piece of paper to break into/move up in that field, then sure, go back and get a targeted degree at that point.  But don't throw that kind of money around in the hopes that it will get you where you want; wait until you know you need to.

BTW:  I'm an environmental lawyer.  And I've managed just fine with my B.A. in English.

kimmarg

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #23 on: February 05, 2019, 07:14:33 PM »
Just throwing out an idea here but what about home energy auditor? It's something you could easily set up as your own business. It involves 'green' to a certain extent, but doesn't have nearly the degree requirements of engineer. It would put you in a position to come visit people like me and asses how we could be more green.

My local Community college has this program- maybe look for something similar?

https://www.smccme.edu/academics/degree-programs/building-sciences-sustainability/

Malkynn

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #24 on: February 06, 2019, 06:44:58 AM »
Yes!

Thankfully many people have made this point well, but I want to absolutely crystalize it:

You seem to be conceptualizing a STEM degree as some kind of broad education that will open up so many doors in multiple areas of science and engineering...except that's not how it works.

I've known literally hundreds and hundreds of people with STEM degrees, and very few of them are as broadly useful as you seem to think a STEM degree would make them.

The chemical engineers are good at chemical engineering. The neuroscientists can barely understand what the neuroscientists in the neighbouring labs are working on. The astrophysicists...I barely understand what the hell they do. They each know their little area of their discipline along with some minimally useful, entry level survey knowledge of other disciplines.

I think you are perceiving this broad range of subjects included in the vast universe of STEM, and not recognizing that a single degree will give you moderate expertise in a particular subject. That's it.

The list of things a given STEM degree will NOT help you with in any way is much much longer than the list of things it will help you with.

It is NOT a panacea. Not even close.

Formal university science education has REMARKABLY little practical utility, which is why there are so few jobs that require an undergrad science degree. It really isn't an education that opens doors...except to more science education...

Unless you are looking to become an engineer, which you aren't...so...

You obviously are hung up on the idea of getting some kind of STEM degree, but you really should listen to the very insightful people here who are telling you that it is not at all an effective step along your path to your nebulous goals.

3-4 years is a LONG TIME, a degree is an ENORMOUS amount of work, and I highly doubt that you will enjoy it as much as you think you will.

You will be sucking back your 7th coffee sitting in a shitty campus cafeteria bickering with 18 year olds about writing up reports anxious to get back home to memorize 16 pages of definitions all while questioning if you will ever EVER actually need to know this stupid shit, which you will just fucking forget if it doesn't remain relevant to you in the future.

Yeah...that's the best fucking part.
YOU WILL FORGET MOST OF WHAT YOU SLAVE TO LEARN.
I'm serious. You will invest all of this time, energy, money, lost years of wages, and you will cram your head with testable factoids, which aren't all that important and then if you don't use it daily, you will literally forget 95% of it.

It will be like spending hundreds of hours painstakingly learning a foreign language only to never use it and within a few years barely be able to speak broken partial sentences.

I'm willing to bet that I have forgotten more science than you will ever learn, and even if I remembered half of it, almost none of it would be useful in the ways in which you are imagining a science education would be useful. I've forgotten it all because it's decidedly NOT useful enough to even remember.

It's not that getting a STEM degree is useless, it's that the trade off really REALLY isn't worth it in your case. It is not going to give you what you think it will give you.

You do you, it's your life to live and I actually have no problem with your crazy open nebulous goals. I think that's a great way to live life, I just think trying to force the square peg of a STEM degree into the round hole of your future goals is inefficient and ill advised.

That's A LOT of energy to use up when you could actually accomplish AMAZING things with that amount of time/energy/resources.

If I were you I would hold off on the STEM degree unless and until I solidified a goal that directly required a specific type of education. Otherwise, you could very very very easily get a degree and then years later discover a type of work that makes you wish that you had gotten a different degree, and what, will you go back for a third undergrad degree?

mm1970

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #25 on: February 06, 2019, 10:59:53 AM »
Quote
Yeah...that's the best fucking part.
YOU WILL FORGET MOST OF WHAT YOU SLAVE TO LEARN.
I'm serious. You will invest all of this time, energy, money, lost years of wages, and you will cram your head with testable factoids, which aren't all that important and then if you don't use it daily, you will literally forget 95% of it.

True that.

I'm an engineer.  But I'm old. Degree in Chemical Engineering.  I've done nuclear, photolithography, process and product engineering in semiconductors.

I've learned all that on the job.  My chem eng books?  Well, one of them is being used to prop up my second computer monitor to align with the first.

Car Jack

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #26 on: February 06, 2019, 11:44:12 AM »
Good points in this thread.  Engineers don't turn out to be Bill Nye the science guy, with the ability to understand and teach every aspect of science.

I'm a 34 year seasoned EE.  So while I have the basic understanding and background that all engineers get to understand stresses in beams, I would not be able to design a building.  Even within EE, I don't do digital stuff.  All my background is analog, magnetics, power supply design.  We have other guys who do non-power analog and others that do digital hardware.  So even within an engineering discipline, we all tend to specialize in what's needed for our jobs and as years go on, the more expert we are in a job, the more money we command in the next job.  So if you were to ask me a chemistry question, I'd probably respond with my understanding of dihydrogen monoxide (H2O) which I use as a joke at parties to freak out someone drinking a beer (Dude, you're drinking that beer that's full of dihydrogen monoxide!!!).  But I have no clue about organic chemistry,  remember nothing of dynamics (mechanical or civil).

At one point, I was thinking about changing gears and going into forest management.  I spoke to a department head at the college nearby and found that to get an appropriate bachelors, I'd need 3 years.  I've already got an MSEE.  So yah......STEM isn't just one big degree that does everything.

Lmoot

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #27 on: February 06, 2019, 11:52:42 AM »
Engineer here. Youíve listed a lot of things you might be interested in: geeking out about science with your coworkers, green house designing/building/rehabbing (but not as an engineer working for a company), consulting or designing zoo habitats, volunteering on engineering projects in Africa, and improving your survivalist skills. The thing is, an engineering degree isnít necessary for any of that.

If you want a non-traditional assortment of part time jobs (which sounds great, donít get me wrong), then why are you trying to follow a traditional education path?

Have you looked at what an engineering curriculum actually involves? Check out the courses that your local university requires. Iím betting youíd find about 10% of the classes interesting or useful. Typically, your first 2 years will just be a bunch of math, physics, chemistry, and computer science. Youíll start moving from background classes into engineering in your 3rd year, but most of the engineering classes will be predetermined requirements for your major. Things like fluid mechanics, statics and mechanics, and materials science. Most engineering curriculums have space for 4-6 technical electives, but you have to fit those in with all your other required courses. What if the course on green design conflicts with your mandatory fluids lab? Or what if the two courses you really want to take are only offered in the spring semester and you only have time for one of them? Your goal has to be the degree rather than any specific course. And oh, the group projects. There are so. Many. Group. Projects. It will not be fun to be the one ďoldĒ person in a group of 4 young adults who consider an early meeting time to be 10am and a normal bedtime to be 2am.

An engineering degree not practical in terms of survival skills. When I graduated, I could derive the shit out of an equation. I could complete problem sets like a champ. I had almost no skills that would be useful in a zombie apocalypse. I had a little practice with power tools, but far less than any apprentice carpenter. I had some understanding of what could be made on a mill or lathe, but a machinist would be way more useful than me in making replacement parts for broken equipment. I could calculate the fluid flow through a pipe, or the amount of current through a wire, but youíd want a plumber or electrician to work on your off the grid system instead of me.

Now on to designing structures Ė you will likely need a PE (professional engineer) license to sign off on drawings. Getting a PE means working under a licensed PE for 4 years and passing a difficult test. Itís very doubtful that you could get this through a series of part time jobs. Even if you did, youíd still need insurance, just like a doctor with a medical degree needs medical liability insurance to operate. If you worked for a company, they would typically provide the insurance. Iím guessing that paying for insurance for yourself would be more expensive than hiring an engineer to complete drawings for you.
 
Donít get me wrong, Iím very glad I studied engineering, and Iím not trying to discourage you from following your dreams. I think that a life filled with volunteering at the zoo, occasional green house renovations, traveling and volunteering in Africa, and developing practical skills sounds wonderful. Itís a great balance of creativity, learning, social activities, and giving back to different communities. I just think an engineering degree will take a lot of time, money, and effort, without getting you much closer to achieving your goals.

"If you want a non-traditional assortment of part time jobs (which sounds great, donít get me wrong), then why are you trying to follow a traditional education path?"

What you wrote here really stuck out for me. It's a valid and obvious question I hadn't considered.Thank you for such a logic-filled response (and hilarious but probably accurate rendition of a-day-in-the-life of a mature college student), and for sharing your limitations as an engineer. I guess that makes sense that much like an architect designs a house, they still rely on a team of people with varying skills, to get that house built.

I think you came closest to actually understanding my goals (and recognizing them as a lifeplan and not just navel-gazing). As convoluted as I may have presented them, in my mind I have a pretty clear idea of my goals, and have for years. I've known for a while that I:

A) Want to work in environmental/wildlife conservation (in more of a physically engaging role vs administratrive; ex: being a tour guide/nature interpreter or wildlife management and animal care). Good news is already do some of this!

B) Owning and managing rental properties was always the plan. During the renovations of my house, I mentally added the component of fixing up properties to prepare for renting as a way to capitalize on both sweat equity and passive income, when I saw how much the value of my house rose after repairs. I most recently explored the idea of cosmetically restoring properties to the style of their build-year, and adding green tech to flip for sale. I don't think I have the typical real estate investor goals. It would be more of an income-producing hobby for me. My focus would be on mid-century single family homes. There are several historic neighborhoods, and adjacent neighborhoods without the the designation, but with the untouched inventory that the designated neighborhoods no longer have. My rental property is in one of those adjacent neighborhoods and it has gone up in value so much I almost couldn't afford it today. So there is a market for what I want to do.  I've lived through a total gut reno, and I've been managing a rental for a total of 6 years now.

C) I want to be a teacher one day, for a time. It fits my desired work schedule (busting butt, then getting several months off). I like engaging kids and feeling like I am contributing to a future. While technically I am not a teacher, I have gotten some related experience in my work at the zoo's school, which is actually part of the county school system.

D) Regarding work in Africa. Lets be honest, when I visit I spend much of my time reading, and sipping palm wine under the mango tree. I work 7 days per week in the states, and I'm on vacation damnit! But it would be nice to have pet projects to work on to improve the lives of my family and the people that live in the villages. Although there is a huge improvement in local government getting involved (within 10 years they've installed electricity, and last year they started laying plumbing for running water HALLELUJAH!). When I visited in summer 2017 3/4 of the concrete water reservoirs at my grandmother's house leaked, and there was a draught, so no rainwater either. I had to walk 1/2 a mile to the school where the pump was, and haul nearly 50 pounds of water on my head...it took myself and one other person to lift. We all did this about every other day, and when we had guests visiting we had to do it daily that week, in order for there to be enough water for cooking and everyone to bathe (bathing is considered a form of daily healthcare as its believed to keep the mosquitos away, therefore preventing malaria so everyone bathes twice per day...at one point we had 20 people staying at my grandmothers house, that's up to 40 baths per day. All of the able-bodied women, which included me, and girls, and boys with bicycles, were responsible for collecting our own daily use water, as well as water for the guests. We would fill up the one working reservoire, and it would be nearly gone by end of next day. I ate so much aspirin I am shocked I didn't develop an ulcer. I never want to do that sh*t again. But now I also realize I don't need an engineering degree to figure out a solution for a problem :) And I feel a bit silly for thinking it would be easier/better to be taught something, rather than just trying to learn on my own.
To go back to what you said:

 If you want a non-traditional assortment of part time jobs....then why are you trying to follow a traditional education path?

Thank you again.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2019, 12:03:28 PM by Lmoot »

libertarian4321

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #28 on: February 06, 2019, 11:56:58 AM »
The only actual specific goal you stated was being useful in the Zombie apocalypse.  Are we talking Day 1 of the zombie apocalypse, or year 3?  The initial days it'll all be about having somewhere safe to buckle down, and weapons.  I'm not kidding when I say your best bet is likely join one of the ultra ULTRA right wing militia groups out there that have camps in the middle of California or Texas or something, and I'm not sure how they choose their members - military probably helps though.  Later on trying to cope / rebuild it'll likely be more about farming and tinkering / fixing electronics and cars and such, and trades like welding - I promise you in the midst of a Zombie apocalypse the only value of an Environmental Science diploma will be a few minutes of warmth while burning it.   

OP needs to go into environmental engineering rather than environmental science.

Then she can make sure they have clean water to drink during the zombie apocalypse.

Military experience is a plus also.

As an ex-Army environmental engineer, I expect to be invited into one of the good survivor camps.  Added bonus: I'm also a home brewer- now that's a skill that will definitely be valuable, because who wants to survive the zombie apocalypse sober?

Getting to the serious part:  If OP wants to do this, I'd suggest taking classes on nights/weekends while still working.  That way, OP won't run up tons of debt in the process.


libertarian4321

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #29 on: February 06, 2019, 12:00:10 PM »

I just wanted to correct your misuse of the term Ďsoft scienceí.  Chemistry and biology are most definitely hard sciences.  Actually, engineers are not necessarily scientists, though some engineers study the sciences, and many professions use the scientific method whether they know it or not. 

LOL.  My chemist wife would pummel me if I dared make such a suggestion about Chem being "soft."

aajack

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #30 on: February 06, 2019, 12:09:12 PM »
I won't weigh in on whether or not this is a good idea, but if you choose to go forward here are 2 things to consider:

1. Online accredited classes are gaining a lot of traction right now. I don't know what state you are in, but for example check out https://www.ccconline.org/ for Colorado classes. You could get a lot of your math/chem/comp sci/physics classes out of the way all online and self paced, fully accredited, and much cheaper than at a 4 year institution. You could be getting some of these credits out of the way while you still work at the zoo by studying after work.

2. A lot of people have been talking about how a BS isn't enough for STEM fields. Whether or not that's true, keep in mind that - if you are a GOOD student - you can likely find a free grad program somewhere. Your tuition will be waived and you'll get a stipend to live on (not a good paycheck, but enough to cover the bills if you are frugal). That is how I got my masters in geology. My boyfriend has his masters in statistics, and many of our friends have their PhD's in electrical engineering and physics. They all had the same experience - tuition gets waived and you get some small living stipend while you're a student.

mschaus

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #31 on: February 06, 2019, 12:14:16 PM »
Lmoot, I think you would be well-served with a plan like this:

1. Get a subscription to Make Magazine (https://makezine.com/)
2. Spend your evenings building, tinkering, and learning in a local hackerspace (https://wiki.hackerspaces.org/List_of_Hacker_Spaces).  You could spend tens of thousands of dollars on supplies and tools to build amazing projects and still come out ahead compared to a fresh university degree.
3. Use the local library full of books on survivalism, emergency preparedness, engineering, and maker projects.
4. Find your local chapter of Engineers Without Borders and start volunteering now. You'll quickly learn where you can contribute and what types of things you can learn to be the most effective.
5. See if your local government has a training program for being a leader during a natural disaster (mine does, they call it the Community Emergency Response Team).

That will allow you to participate in all your desired activities right now!

(that's what I'd recommend, having a master's in mechanical engineering myself)
« Last Edit: February 06, 2019, 12:17:49 PM by mschaus »

Malkynn

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #32 on: February 06, 2019, 01:07:06 PM »
Quote from: Lmoot

[b
"If you want a non-traditional utitime jobs (which sounds great, donít get me wrong), then why are you trying to follow a traditional education path?"[/b]

What you wrote here really stuck out for me. It's a valid and obvious question I hadn't considered.Thank you for such a logic-filled response (and hilarious but probably accurate rendition of a-day-in-the-life of a mature college student), and for sharing your limitations as an engineer. I guess that makes sense that much like an architect designs a house, they still rely on a team of people with varying skills, to get that house built.

I think you came closest to actually understanding my goals (and recognizing them as a lifeplan and not just navel-gazing). As convoluted as I may have presented them, in my mind I have a pretty clear idea of my goals, and have for years. I've known for a while that I:

A) Want to work in environmental/wildlife conservation (in more of a physically engaging role vs administratrive; ex: being a tour guide/nature interpreter or wildlife management and animal care). Good news is already do some of this!

B) Owning and managing rental properties was always the plan. During the renovations of my house, I mentally added the component of fixing up properties to prepare for renting as a way to capitalize on both sweat equity and passive income, when I saw how much the value of my house rose after repairs. I most recently explored the idea of cosmetically restoring properties to the style of their build-year, and adding green tech to flip for sale. I don't think I have the typical real estate investor goals. It would be more of an income-producing hobby for me. My focus would be on mid-century single family homes. There are several historic neighborhoods, and adjacent neighborhoods without the the designation, but with the untouched inventory that the designated neighborhoods no longer have. My rental property is in one of those adjacent neighborhoods and it has gone up in value so much I almost couldn't afford it today. So there is a market for what I want to do.  I've lived through a total gut reno, and I've been managing a rental for a total of 6 years now.

C) I want to be a teacher one day, for a time. It fits my desired work schedule (busting butt, then getting several months off). I like engaging kids and feeling like I am contributing to a future. While technically I am not a teacher, I have gotten some related experience in my work at the zoo's school, which is actually part of the county school system.

D) Regarding work in Africa. Lets be honest, when I visit I spend much of my time reading, and sipping palm wine under the mango tree. I work 7 days per week in the states, and I'm on vacation damnit! But it would be nice to have pet projects to work on to improve the lives of my family and the people that live in the villages. Although there is a huge improvement in local government getting involved (within 10 years they've installed electricity, and last year they started laying plumbing for running water HALLELUJAH!). When I visited in summer 2017 3/4 of the concrete water reservoirs at my grandmother's house leaked, and there was a draught, so no rainwater either. I had to walk 1/2 a mile to the school where the pump was, and haul nearly 50 pounds of water on my head...it took myself and one other person to lift. We all did this about every other day, and when we had guests visiting we had to do it daily that week, in order for there to be enough water for cooking and everyone to bathe (bathing is considered a form of daily healthcare as its believed to keep the mosquitos away, therefore preventing malaria so everyone bathes twice per day...at one point we had 20 people staying at my grandmothers house, that's up to 40 baths per day. All of the able-bodied women, which included me, and girls, and boys with bicycles, were responsible for collecting our own daily use water, as well as water for the guests. We would fill up the one working reservoire, and it would be nearly gone by end of next day. I ate so much aspirin I am shocked I didn't develop an ulcer. I never want to do that sh*t again. But now I also realize I don't need an engineering degree to figure out a solution for a problem :) And I feel a bit silly for thinking it would be easier/better to be taught something, rather than just trying to learn on my own.
To go back to what you said:

 If you want a non-traditional assortment of part time jobs....then why are you trying to follow a traditional education path?

Thank you again.

Contrary to what you think, we are not actually discounting your goals, we are challenging the utility of a STEM degree for the sake of goals that do not clearly benefit from from the massive investment of doing a second undergrad degree of little utility to even your clearest stated goals.

Take away the insistence on a STEM degree and suddenly your goals sound pretty fun and interesting. They're only a total cluster fuck mess in the context of how they relate to investing in a second degree.

I like that your goals are big, adventurous, and open ended. And certainly, as you move through your various projects you may stumble upon a career path that benefits from a degree of some sort, or some kind of certification, etc.

I don't doubt that extensive learning will be part of your future, just don't shoot yourself in a foot by wasting all of your education energy, money and time on a degree before you've found a use for one.

Ignore the questionnable STEM degree part of the plan, and have fun fighting zombies and doing plumbing in Africa! Why the fuck not?

[Note: just in case it's not clear, I'm not being sarcastic at all, your life plans sound pretty damn fun and interesting]

JZinCO

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #33 on: February 06, 2019, 02:46:23 PM »
Lmoot, Forums are hard (for me) to follow because posts are often rambling without much structure. Thanks for presenting your goals in a modular way.

A) Want to work in environmental/wildlife conservation (in more of a physically engaging role vs administratrive; ex: being a tour guide/nature interpreter or wildlife management and animal care). Good news is already do some of this! Cool beans! But this is still super broad. You could definitely do interpretation without another degree. Find opportunities at your work, animal rehab centers, etc. Maybe take some online classes in diverse fields such as museum studies, communication, etc if you want to work on specific interpretative skills. If you want to be a professional in conservation I will lay out four tracks:
1) Wildlife or fisheries professional in the US. You have to have a degree certified by The Wildlife Society (or American Fisheries Society); both should also get you certifiable by the Society for Conservation Biology (certifications in natural resource management are everything in applied science fields). You'll likely work for a public agency for little pay and be in one of the most competitive fields of applied science (in terms of graduate supply vs job demand).
2) Restoration. You have to have a generic degree in the biological sciences (i.e. super broad area to pick from). You will likely work private often for energy and development permitting. You will make alot of money. The projects often require special knowledge about a genus or species. They way you pick that up is work as a technician for a couple seasons and then move up the ladder.
3) You mentioned animal care. Vet med is hugely lucrative but requires several years (often a decade for specialization). I wouldn't recommend that for a FIRE-aspirer.
4) Be a tech. Make low pay, work seasonal. You're outdoors initially running chainsaws, doing prescribed fire and other habitat management work. Eventually you will get to do things like tagging and banding animals.
I would google two job boards - Society of Ecology Restoration and Texas A&M Wildlife job board; they cover types of jobs for options 1,2 and 4. You can also look at SWCA and CEMML job adverts. They are the largest consulting firms in the country for private and military clients, respectively. Those jobs would align with Option 2 (which I think is the most ideal).
 


B) Owning and managing rental properties was always the plan. During the renovations of my house, I mentally added the component of fixing up properties to prepare for renting as a way to capitalize on both sweat equity and passive income, when I saw how much the value of my house rose after repairs. I most recently explored the idea of cosmetically restoring properties to the style of their build-year, and adding green tech to flip for sale. I don't think I have the typical real estate investor goals. It would be more of an income-producing hobby for me. My focus would be on mid-century single family homes. There are several historic neighborhoods, and adjacent neighborhoods without the the designation, but with the untouched inventory that the designated neighborhoods no longer have. My rental property is in one of those adjacent neighborhoods and it has gone up in value so much I almost couldn't afford it today. So there is a market for what I want to do.  I've lived through a total gut reno, and I've been managing a rental for a total of 6 years now.I'm in the same boat as a soon-to-be landlord-roommate. I would like to acquire a bit of RE on the side for semi-passive income. It's totally doable to do this on the side if you have the bandwidth, plus I'm a believer in diversifying income sources.

C) I want to be a teacher one day, for a time. It fits my desired work schedule (busting butt, then getting several months off). I like engaging kids and feeling like I am contributing to a future. While technically I am not a teacher, I have gotten some related experience in my work at the zoo's school, which is actually part of the county school system. As in certified teacher? Many universities had one-year programs if that is what you desire. But, most school districts have environmental ed centers and every land management agency (from city parks to the US Forest Service) hire environmental ed and interpreters which does not require certification. There are also many private environmental ed companies that are within the boundaries of national parks (they do like one to two week environmental-ed camps for kids). I think you could naturally merge teaching with your conservation goal. 

D) Regarding work in Africa. Lets be honest, when I visit I spend much of my time reading, and sipping palm wine under the mango tree. I work 7 days per week in the states, and I'm on vacation damnit! But it would be nice to have pet projects to work on to improve the lives of my family and the people that live in the villages. Although there is a huge improvement in local government getting involved (within 10 years they've installed electricity, and last year they started laying plumbing for running water HALLELUJAH!). When I visited in summer 2017 3/4 of the concrete water reservoirs at my grandmother's house leaked, and there was a draught, so no rainwater either. I had to walk 1/2 a mile to the school where the pump was, and haul nearly 50 pounds of water on my head...it took myself and one other person to lift. We all did this about every other day, and when we had guests visiting we had to do it daily that week, in order for there to be enough water for cooking and everyone to bathe (bathing is considered a form of daily healthcare as its believed to keep the mosquitos away, therefore preventing malaria so everyone bathes twice per day...at one point we had 20 people staying at my grandmothers house, that's up to 40 baths per day. All of the able-bodied women, which included me, and girls, and boys with bicycles, were responsible for collecting our own daily use water, as well as water for the guests. We would fill up the one working reservoire, and it would be nearly gone by end of next day. I ate so much aspirin I am shocked I didn't develop an ulcer. I never want to do that sh*t again. But now I also realize I don't need an engineering degree to figure out a solution for a problem :) And I feel a bit silly for thinking it would be easier/better to be taught something, rather than just trying to learn on my own. Lot's of voluntourism opportunities! For example, there's a work program in Belize that pays a basic stipend and has housing in exchange for doing marine conservation work. It's on my list of things to pursue. This can open up opportunities as you expand your network. By that point you will know how you want to engage in community development overseas.

I also forgot to mention that, from someone who works inside academia, getting a second bachelor's rarely makes sense. What you want to do if you are moving into a highly credentialed field is to find a non-thesis MS program that is certified by the relevant professional organization. Or, if it is not highly credentialed, look into a graduate certificate. These programs move faster (but not too fast) and are aimed at working professionals looking to move past an educational requirement in their current career ladder or for those looking to switch careers. The material is also going to less academic, 'easier' (IMO having taught for one of these programs), and focused on job-readiness.
Edit: Here is an example. Say you want to work for CEMML and do some field biology and writing management plans to conserve critters. Here's how I would go about it. Step 1) Try to get in as a seasonal tech. The job advert quals will look like: 'must be able to perform strenuous work, hiking miles under load; ability to recognize species using taxonomic keys'. Note 'ability' means aptitude. Step 2) Enroll in a military lands sustainability & management graduate certificate. A few unis have this and it'll cost you like 5-10K over one year. If you got in as a permanent during Step 1 it'll be free. Step 3) Move up the ladder and you now have full bennies as you get to travel around the country in the field, tagging animals, singing to trees, and pocketing per diem. You will not get to FIRE faster than an engineer but you definitely will not have project managers breathing down your neck as deadlines approach. So you won't be tempted to quit.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2019, 03:02:23 PM by JZinCO »

Lmoot

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #34 on: February 09, 2019, 07:15:49 AM »
Thank you all so very much for such wonderful, thoughtful, and in-depth advice. It has changed my way of thinking and my course of action (in a good way). I need to consult the MMM community more often!

While I am not currently looking for career ideas as I have a pretty solid idea of what I want to do, and for now that involves specifically avoiding a career in the traditional sense, or basically anything indoors or that involves me looking at a computer or preparing documents...I have saved this thread as a reference for if I do decide to seek a science/environmental career as there are so many wonderful ideas here I never thought of or even knew existed.

You all have helped me peg down my priorities and it's learning how to fix (and maybe one day build) houses. It's what is going to make me the most money, out of the other things I want to do, and what I am most passionate about. Alongside that I want to learn about alternative energy (installing solar panels and building battery sheds) and doing simple things such as adding water-conserving features from as basic as rainwater irrigation, grey water recycling, to building wells. I've been dabbling in raised gardens and I think adding a producing raised garden to a "green flip", hooked up to rainwater irrigation, could be a major selling feature to people interested in urban sufficiency (and in my area there is a growing interest). I despise a majority of house-flips, and this is my way of producing another option to others who also detest the slap-stick styles. I think I can do it in a cost-effective way (especially if I learn to do as much on my own, with the help of friends and family...who I would pay of course), using used materials. I am fortunate to live close to not one, but two Habitat ReStores, and got alot of material and furnishings for my house, from there. And of course there would be modern features as well, because well I do need to sell the house for a good price :) Smart tech is getting cheaper and it's a minor investment to install to attract more buyers. I'm babbling, but I'm literally thinking this through as I am typing this, and getting really pumped. My brother (who through venting to, I found out is also interested in this stuff), turned me onto this youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/engineer775 I think this is a good place to start for me.

In terms of continuing education. I think in addition to getting a degree, I really just want to BE in school. I miss it, and miss being a part of a student community as I feel I didn't really give it the ole college try the first time around. But I agree that until or if I NEED a BS, it would be a waste of time and resources, and would hinder my true goals.

I want to have one foot in the door though, whether that door leads to more exciting job opportunities, or to a BS or even graduate school, so I will probably pursue an AS at my community college. I'll take the basic prereqs to satisfy a number of STEM degree pathways, and if I do well enough in them, who knows...maybe if I do go back to school (many years later) I can go straight to grad school and be done in less than 2 years. It's a good compromise, and while some of you rightly pointed out that a formal science education isn't required, it's often preferred, and since my seasonal work model pretty much will require me to apply to multiple jobs per year (vs someone on a career path who only needs to impress one potential employer every few years), and since the positions I'd apply to will be popular, with way more applicants than jobs,  it can't hurt to have some science in there. I think of it this way, to flip it on its head: Here I am wanting a BS to make me fit in, but if I can get away with an AS to check whatever invisible box an employer may need to check, and let my English degree make me stand out amongst a bunch of BS's...well that would just be the ultimate irony then ;)

So what is my next step? Buying a house (for myself to live in) this year has been a goal for a bit. I am now looking at land as well as the possibility of building a house from the ground up seems to be a reasonable step for someone....wanting to learn how to build houses, or at least how houses are built.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2019, 06:57:44 PM by Lmoot »

Malkynn

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #35 on: February 09, 2019, 07:56:35 AM »
Great update!

Please keep us posted, your life path sounds really interesting. You should start a journal.

Dusty Dog Ranch

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #36 on: February 09, 2019, 11:04:09 AM »
I'll echo what someone said upthread: science desperately needs better communication. If this is one of your strengths, you would do a lot of good!

Since you are at an AZA zoo, you may have already heard of this, but if not; https://www.zoo.org/aip. Since you already have a B.A., why not get a masters? You will get field experience in addition to the coursework. PM me if this interests you, I have connections there.

My husband got his masters in Environment and Community at Antioch University in Seattle. It included several of your areas of interest including green building. I don't think they still offer it, but there may be similar programs around.

I co-teach a high school ecology course where I bring in lots of natural resource professionals to share their subject matter expertise and career/ed background. It is one of the most valuable parts of the class. I'd encourage you to reach out to folks who do what you are interested in and talk to them. Winter is a good time to find field-based folks; crappy weather is perfect for writing grants (another important skill) and reports and crunching data, and doing informational interviews!



civil4life

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #37 on: February 09, 2019, 06:48:30 PM »
tl;dr whole post.

I am a civil engineer.  There are many civil degrees that include environmental engineering either as part of the curriculum or as a sub-specialty.

IMHO it does not sound like what you want to do career wise will improve with a STEM degree.

Any kind of STEM degree is more about the theory than practical application.  I am the one that prepares the plans and my degree/license just gives me the authority to sign off on documents taking legal responsibility for the design.

I think you would be better doing apprenticeships in the various trades you enjoy.  Or look at some technical AA degrees.  Or even volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.

austin944

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Re: English major wants to go back for STEM degree
« Reply #38 on: February 09, 2019, 08:38:10 PM »

Perhaps you could look into a degree in Construction Science and Management:

https://www.txstate.edu/technology/degrees-programs/undergraduate/construction-sci.html

Use Electives to focus in the areas of your interest.