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28 Years-Old and Want to Get an Engineering or CS Degree, Should I At This Point?

LogicManLogicMan Posts: 7Registered User New Member
edited September 2012 in Engineering Majors
Hey all, well I have a bit of a dilemma. As the thread title says, I am currently 28 years-old. When I graduated high school back in 2002 or 2003, I went straight off to university and was majoring in computer engineering. However, due to some bad things that happened regarding my family, I ended up bombing out in year two (like some straight-up F's; year one wasn't that great either). My mom and I were hit with a big poverty situation, and I spent the years aged 21-25 living in a trailer with her.

We were out in the boonies for lack of a better word, so there were no places within walking distance in which I could get a job, and she had to use the car to drive to work, so I was stuck unable to get any kind of employment. When I turned 25, she had saved enough money and we were able to move into an apartment, which was a huge step up over the trailer. To get an idea of this trailer, well a lot of bugs called it a home as well, also we only had dial-up Internet, and the front of the trailer had started sinking, so the kitchen sink stopped draining, which created all manner of problems for cooking as you can imagine. During the summer, dry rot would grow in certain parts of the bathroom floor (dry rot looks like mushrooms, but they aren't). Also the place was incredibly drafty, and we really couldn't afford heating oil, so we had to always have the place very chilly during winter (and this is Upstate, NY!). We would walk around with thick socks, slippers, and hats on, it was really like Little House on the Prairie living to a degree, so the apartment was a huge step up!

Anyway, as everyone knows, in 2007 the real-estate bubble popped and then in 2008 the financial system almost crashed and the economy went into a major recession. I have a vehicle now that my uncle gave me, but finding a job has been nearly impossible. It's also tough to be in your mid-to-late twenties and never have been employed and having to explain this to an employer.

I am getting desperate as I don't want to be living with my mom the rest of my life, and especially not as a loser like this (not working), and I would like to still become a computer engineer or computer scientist or software engineer (one of those), so that leads me to this thread. My questions are:

- Am I too old to become a computer engineer/computer scientist/software engineer? Since I am 28 and with a horrible academic record, I would first have to go to a community college I'd figure and do well in their computer science and mathematics courses, then re-apply to a university. Then provided I was accepted, computer engineering can be a four to five year program. I figure I could maybe complete it in three to four years if I worked extra hard and took extra classes, but still, I'd be around 31, 32, or 33 upon graduating. Will an employer even hire someone that old fresh out of university (with no prior work experience)?

- With this current economy, and also my age, I mean I wouldn't want to put myself into a huge amount of debt going to university to get an education that I won't even be able to use in the end (for employment anyway).

Is there any hope or should I avoid going to university and try to figure something else out?

Thanks,
LogicMan
Post edited by LogicMan on
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Replies to: 28 Years-Old and Want to Get an Engineering or CS Degree, Should I At This Point?

  • art2CSart2CS Posts: 225Registered User Junior Member
    Consider your alternatives. You can spend the rest of your life toiling in menial labor jobs with at best the possibility of doing well enough in a trade/business to progress through the ranks, constantly in competition with others who hold degrees, or perhaps start up your own business, provided you have the adequate work ethic, funding, and luck... or you can bust ass and get a degree, which arguably will allow you to fare much better in any state of the economy, with the added gratification of having completed study in a field you enjoy. 28 is still young, dude.
  • NeoDymiumNeoDymium Posts: 1,306Registered User Senior Member
    It's that or very undesirable alternatives. Take your pick.
    Financial aid, work, maybe scholarships can help. Just don't waste money on anything education-related.
  • sumzupsumzup Posts: 799Registered User Member
    I know a guy in my CS program who will be over 40 by the time he graduates next year. He's interning at Amazon this summer, and is likely to have a pretty good career after this.

    So don't worry about your age. Just make sure that you intern during your summers so that you can get some work experience.
  • Orbit196Orbit196 Posts: 329Registered User Junior Member
    Let's make sure you don't fail again when the stakes are now much higher. Can you tell us why you failed (laziness, social scene...) the first time? The family situation is understandable, but there must be other forces at work to get straight F's?
    The beauty of CS is that pretty much any class (with lectures from Stanford, MIT, Berkeley, Harvard, etc.), any book and and any piece of information you can find online for free. I suggest starting over from the beginning and really get an understanding of the fundamentals and take as long as you need.
  • MomfromKCMomfromKC Posts: 352Registered User Member
    Don't worry about your age. People join the military, get the GI bill and then go to college, sometimes part time while raising a family and get out around your age. Women go back after their kids are in school all the time. Certain professions are taking continuing education classes all the time. Some people switch careers mid way. My 16 year old had a guy about my age doing his student teaching with the Physics teacher this past year.
    I would be concerned about your lack of anything to put on a resume. But the truth is you don't have to tell them how old you are. All you have to put on your resume is the date on your diploma. You don't have to tell them when you graduated high school. Just don't volunteer a full transcript. Make sure you are in darn good shape and look as young as possible. And make sure your grades are solid and you get some job experience.
  • GLOBALTRAVELERGLOBALTRAVELER Posts: 2,856Registered User Senior Member
    1) 28 is not old

    2) Do you know there are quite a few CS/CIS programs for folks who want to change careers. Schools have these programs because they know that the industry will still hire folks as long as they have the skills.

    I know this may not totally relate to the OP but yours truly did not attend grad school until my early 30's.

    Why am I bringing this up?

    Because once you acquire some experience, very few future employers will ask you WHEN you received your degree(s). They just want to know that you have them. My resume HAS NOT had my years of graduation for over 15 years.
  • kkuo12887kkuo12887 Posts: 117Registered User Junior Member
    There is no time like the present!
  • noleguy33noleguy33 Posts: 484Registered User Member
    I'll be graduating at age 31. I've often felt like my age gives me an advantage. Go for it.
  • terencterenc Posts: 1,127Registered User Senior Member
    Don't forget, you will probably qualify for lots of financial aid. And I think the obstacles you've had to overcome will make for a very compelling story - don't be afraid to share the external difficulties you've had to overcome.
  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn Posts: 18,472Super Moderator Senior Member
    My husband went back at your age. Thank goodness, because we met in engineering school! If he hadn't gone back, we would never have met.
  • LogicManLogicMan Posts: 7Registered User New Member
    Thanks for the responses everyone :) I am very glad to read that I am not too old to go back.
    Consider your alternatives. You can spend the rest of your life toiling in menial labor jobs with at best the possibility of doing well enough in a trade/business to progress through the ranks, constantly in competition with others who hold degrees, or perhaps start up your own business, provided you have the adequate work ethic, funding, and luck... or you can bust ass and get a degree, which arguably will allow you to fare much better in any state of the economy, with the added gratification of having completed study in a field you enjoy. 28 is still young, dude.

    Entrepreneur is actually a dream I have, but the problem is acquiring the startup capital to ever do it for the business ideas I have. Also I very much want to learn engineering and computer science anyway.
    Let's make sure you don't fail again when the stakes are now much higher. Can you tell us why you failed (laziness, social scene...) the first time? The family situation is understandable, but there must be other forces at work to get straight F's?

    It was a combination of things (mom and dad separating, IRS going after my mom over something my dad had done, etc...lot of crap and I fell into a bad depression and just sort of gave up entirely). There were some other things as well.
    The beauty of CS is that pretty much any class (with lectures from Stanford, MIT, Berkeley, Harvard, etc.), any book and and any piece of information you can find online for free. I suggest starting over from the beginning and really get an understanding of the fundamentals and take as long as you need.

    Yes, that is what I am planning to do. I am working through a book on algebra, and then intend to work through my calculus textbook that I still have. Then through my physics textbook. I also am planning to work through my Java books and then a few C++ books.
    1) 28 is not old

    "Old" sure is starting to get relative, I remember when I used to think of 26 as ancient, now 26 sounds young! I know in five years I am going to look back on 28 as very young too and then five years from then, the same thing.
    2) Do you know there are quite a few CS/CIS programs for folks who want to change careers. Schools have these programs because they know that the industry will still hire folks as long as they have the skills.

    Nope, I didn't know that, but thanks for the information, that is good to know.
    I know this may not totally relate to the OP but yours truly did not attend grad school until my early 30's.

    Why am I bringing this up?

    Because once you acquire some experience, very few future employers will ask you WHEN you received your degree(s). They just want to know that you have them. My resume HAS NOT had my years of graduation for over 15 years.

    That is good to know. What concerned me there is I know a guy who in his thirties went to college and got a degree but no one would hire him because he lacked experience. But he couldn't get experience if no one would hire him, thus creating a catch-22.

    One thing, but would you all recommend I go for just an undergraduate degree or go for something like a master's as well? I know that my original university (Rochester Institute of Technology) has a combined BS/MS program (their undergraduate engineering programs are five years, but in combined BS/MS you can get a master's as well in five years). But would that over-qualify me or give me better qualifications?

    I have read that computer engineering is a unique profession in that even having a full-on Ph.D in that can be of benefit for employment as opposed to over-qualifying someone as it does for a lot of other professions, so I would imagine a master's would be better to have in that field as opposed to just a bachelor's...?

    Again, thanks for the information and advice people, I appreciate it.
  • BoondocksBoondocks Posts: 309Registered User Member
    I run a retained executive search firm, and evaluate executives for companies for a living.

    One thing I see over and over again are people who don't have degrees, and wish they had gotten degrees. They often have moved up within their companies to pretty good positions, but they tend to be underpaid in these positions, and they have a tough time changing companies. A big cause of both of these is that they don't have degrees.

    Huge opportunities are opened up with any bachelor's degree.

    Regardless of what you think or have been told, people will hire "ancient" 32-year-old freshly-minted graduates. If you're good (and by then, you'll probably have added some co-op or summer job experience that gives you additional value beyond your degree), people will hire you. 22-year-olds change jobs a lot in the early parts of their careers. Many companies prefer someone with more maturity.

    Get a degree any way you can.
  • cosmicfishcosmicfish Posts: 3,427Registered User Senior Member
    OP -

    - I entered school for aerospace engineering at 17, flunked out at 22
    - Bummed around for years working as a technician, a waiter, a salesman, etc, getting laid off 3 times and reorganized out of a job 1 time
    - Eventually realized that I was neither going to be happy nor financially secure without a degree
    - Returned to my original school at 28, convinced them to readmit me under "academic rehabilitation" which allowed me to restart my GPA but keep some of my original credits
    - Graduated 2 years later with high distinction in EE
    - Got job offers from 2 of the 3 companies and 2 of the 3 PhD programs to which I applied
    - Accepted a job offer, earned my masters on the side, and am now at a top PhD program paid for by my employer

    Why do I mention all of this? To show that it is 100% possible to come back from your kind of position. Whether or not YOU can do it is mostly dependent on YOU.

    Some specific advice:

    - Make sure that you know exactly why you failed originally, and why you will succeed now. You will need to convince someone else to get admitted, and you will need to convince yourself to be able to graduate.
    - Talk to your original school, as they may have some method for readmitting you that will improve your position over starting somewhere else.
    - Make success in this the top priority in your life.
    - Don't obsess over costs, minimize them where you can, but nowadays an engineering degree and substantial debt is still better than no degree and no debt.
    - Don't worry about a masters degree right now (and therefore avoid the BS/MS combined programs). Your first and biggest priority should be getting that BS and a basic qualification for professional employment.
    - When you are nearing graduation you will be better positioned to determine whether or not an immediate grad degree is worthwhile, and if you defer until you are employed you may be able to get it while working, saving you a bundle in the long run.

    Good luck!
  • BoondocksBoondocks Posts: 309Registered User Member
    “- Don't obsess over costs, minimize them where you can, but nowadays an engineering degree and substantial debt is still better than no degree and no debt.”

    Great point.

    I keep having clients tell me that they are having trouble finding engineers, even though the unemployment rate is high.

    - One semiconductor materials supplier told me that the unemployment rate doesn’t apply to engineers.

    - Another heavy equipment manufacturer has been struggling for 6 months to find a welding engineer and a hydraulics engineer. These are core competencies for their company, and they would pay over $100K for an engineer with 10 years of experience in these fields in a region where a beautiful home costs $180,000.

    - The median starting salary for a computer engineering graduate from RIT is reported to be $60,000 (Students - Salary Data | Office of Co-op and Career Services). You can pay off debt if you start at that level and move up.

    You can also consider community colleges or state schools if a school like RIT is too expensive, even after aid. If you’re a New York resident, SUNY IT in Utica has low costs, is fairly easy to get into, has a new computer engineering major, and the state has just spent somewhere in the range of $70-million on the place to build new facilities.
  • MomfromKCMomfromKC Posts: 352Registered User Member
    Boondocks, tell your welding and hydroaulics company to "Grow their own." Hire a fresh grad maybe a Mech Eng and train them. Where do they think these people come from? There is a reason why places like CA (Computer Associates) and Boeing have buildings on eng campuses and scholarships at Eng schools with their names on them. It is unethical of them to steal the employees of other companies that have invested in the training process.
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