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To School or Not To School?

Discussion in 'Electronic Basics' started by phaeton, Jun 9, 2006.

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  1. phaeton

    phaeton Guest

    Alright... Lately (yet again) I've been considering returning to
    school. Off and on since I've gotten my now unused AOS in 1994, i've
    considered this. There have been a lot of majors i've considered, but
    one that keeps coming up is Electrical Engineering. Five years ago I
    would have said Computer Science without hesitation, but since then
    I've seen a lot of my friends put out of work and their jobs shipped
    overseas. No kidding. I'm even a little bit burned out on it from my
    day job. I haven't done any research yet, but I have a feeling that
    EE's are a little harder to replace (now you watch me eat my words in 5
    years when everything starts getting designed in Taiwan and built in
    the Czech Republic). Nonetheless I would declare EE as the major, CS
    as a minor. Their prerequisites cover a lot of the same ground.

    Some folks here are EEs, or are studying to be an EE. I think most are
    not, even some of the more competent folks. I understand that the
    likelyhood of me doing stompbox/amplifier stuff (which is the only
    thing I really do much of atm) post-college as a career is probably
    pretty slim. That's ok. I can still do it for 'fun'.

    I have crappy math skills. I know algebra. No calculus, trigonometry
    or any of that. I'm not math incompetent, only ignorant. I spent most
    of my days in High School getting high, playing my guitar, and chasing
    chicks. Math was a bore so I just eeked through it, like much of High
    School. I barely graduated, but it wasn't lack of ability, it was lack
    of motivation. I've recently borrowed an algebra II book from the
    library and did some of the tests in it. I surprised myself on what I
    actually do know, but I understand completely that I'm going to have to
    'do High School over again' on the way.
    OTOH, I'm self taught with a lot of other stuff. The electronics
    knowledge I have I've learned on my own from books and forums, or
    Usenet. All of my current computer/networking knowledge i've learned
    myself. I can program in about 5 different languages, some compiled,
    some scripted. C being my strong point. While I'm not an incompetent
    C programmer, I don't have a whole lot of experience. There's just not
    a lot of stuff I've ever needed to code. I have the same issue with
    microcontrollers. I'm completely *in love* with the idea of
    programming AVRs and PICs. I just don't have anything I *need* to

    I'm old. Well, old in this context. I turn 32 this year, so if I
    spend the next 6 years going to school I'll get a BA at 38. That is
    uncomfortably close to 40, and as anyone will tell you it's already all
    over with by the time you hit 30. I don't know how much of an impact
    my age will have on anything. I tried this several times about 10
    years ago. I wish I would have been more successful.

    I'm horribly ignorant on what EE's actually do every day in their job.
    Sure, some design stuff. Others redesign that stuff. Yet others fix
    stuff or break stuff. It's a broad field, but I'm not sure what part
    of it I would be good at or like.

    Funding. I'm still paying for the last go-round. Almost done, but
    it's been a thorn in my side for far too long. I'll try to do it
    better this time- applying for grants and scholarships first, then
    loans. Maybe try to get hired somewhere that will help pay the
    tuition. The military is out of the question, sorry. I'm up for
    suggestions (or even donations!) on how to approach this. I live
    pretty close to Madison Wisconsin, and the University of Madison is
    reputed as being one of the finest in the nation. Expensive though-
    about $300 a credit. Obviously I'll want to do a lot of the bonehead
    stuff in a Community College and transfer. I doubt that there are such
    things as "trade schools" for EE, but if there are I'd prefer to avoid
    that. Last time around I went to a "degree mill" and i'm not doing
    that again.

    I'm probably forgetting a lot of stuff, but we'll see how this thread
    shakes out. I'd appreciate any input, good, bad, ugly from anyone in
    here. Current EEs, former EEs, EE students and/or EE hopefuls. Even
    the guys bagging groceries at Piggly Wiggly.

    Bombs away!
  2. Guest

    Consider junior college first. You can kill the math and physics (and
    liberal arts- yuck!) prerequisites there without spending too much

    Some junior colleges might surprise you. There are 3 in my area, and
    one of them even offers a class on microprocessors. It's during my
    regular work schedule, though, so I can't attend. Waah!!! ;(

    If you enjoy it, stick with it... !
  3. kell

    kell Guest

    Snipped a lot of yada yada yada.
    I started engineering school at 38. Dropped out.
    I'm 50 now. I'm getting osteoarthritis now because I did carpentry
    most of my life.
    No idea where I'll go from here.
  4. Currently there has been news that large compaines, APPLE for example,
    have moved back to the USA for various reasons. There is still quite a
    few jobs in programming. Study web-based technologies and it's probably
    best to focus on the Microsoft products. I have a degree in Electrical
    Engineering which I used for about 10 years after getting it servicing
    large unix systems, which BTW rarely have any hardware issues, it was
    mainly software and that's how I ended up of the other side of the house
    writing code.

    If I can get through the math I am sure you can, I ended up taking some
    classes two times as I sorta sucked the first time..........
  5. Hage-bai

    Hage-bai Guest

    if u do consider pursuing an EE degree defiently brush up on your mat
    skills. They'll probably make u take a bunch of mathc classes as wel
    but unfortunatley the bulk of coursework theory is math based
    especially communcations etc.

    If u like programming i suggest perhaps applying to a program tha
    offers a computer engineering like u'll take a mix of E
    and computer science classes and can focus a lot more on embedde
    systems design

  6. These are good points. I've my own emphasis to add.

    To phaeton:

    Hage's comments about CE are good. Definitely consider that as an
    option, if you can find such a program locally. It represents a
    reasonable mix of skills and will press you some in mathematics
    without perhaps dragging in too much, given your existing math
    experience, knowledge, and interest. In my area, Portland State
    offers CS, CE, and EE programs. (The CS seems to attract some folks
    looking for easy money and low stress as an alternative to becoming,
    say, an accountant.)

    But I think you should look for something you can stick with for the
    long haul. And that means something you can enjoy. reality is going
    to hand you ups and downs in any work, so if you are going to stay
    with it in the long term it cannot be entirely about the money. You
    have to have other reasons for being there, so that they will hold you
    when things are harder, moneywise. Otherwise, you will quit and go on
    looking for yet something else that pays better the next time things
    are difficult or thin and thus never settle down.

    If you really are going to do electronic design, you need to get more
    comfortable with mathematics (or else you need to have one of those
    rare talents of intuition, supplemented by lots of Excel spread sheet
    and simulator work that may manage to get you by without so much
    math.) The first few chapters of ordinary differential equations (2nd
    year calc) can, with use of integrating factors to solve linear
    differentials, allow you to compute closed solutions, with voltage or
    current as functions of time to circuits with inductors and capacitors
    and resistors. Some familiarity with complex numbers and a simple
    ability to use complex conjugates to place rational fractions into
    standard form, polynomial expansions of some key things like e^x, pi,
    and a few transcendentals, plus Euler's e^(ix)=cos(x)+i*sin(x) and
    some familiarity with hyperbolic sine and cosine and how they relate
    to e or to sin(i*x) or cos(i*x) will help. So a couple of years of
    calculus and a good teacher or two. Fourier and Laplace transforms,
    also. And familiarity with matrix algebra helps, at times.

    But I think a lot of electronics designers manage to get by with far
    less math. So may you.

    By the way, I'm no designer nor an EE. I just enjoy math and physics
    and happen to sometimes spend time with electronics for personal fun.
    So really, I'm more suggesting you think about what it is _you_ want
    to do and can stay with.

  7. Rich Grise

    Rich Grise Guest

    If you _do_ go to school, please learn how to read and write proper
    English, like for example, capitalization, spelling, that sort of thing.

    Scriptkiddies are the scum of the earth.

  8. Guest

    Minor Edits:

    If you _do_ go to school, please learn how to read and write proper
    English: for example, capitalization, spelling, et cetera.

    Script kiddies are the scum of the earth.

    Sorry, couldn't resist... ;)
  9. Alan B

    Alan B Guest

    Dude, you are soooo young! You'll need the math. I like the junior
    college idea one poster put forth. My EE degree, obtained at age 30,
    landed me in automatic test equipment (ATE) software acquisition and
    maintenance. I had a good, long and mostly satisfying career. I started a
    new career in microwave radio communication at age 48. I had several job
    offers in ATE and avionics testing when well into my forties.

    Being an EE has been fun. I recommend it.
  10. Alan B

    Alan B Guest

    u r 2 krool, sux 2 b u

    (Likewise on the inability to resist!)
  11. phaeton

    phaeton Guest

    Thanks, that's encouraging. So far most everyone tells me i'm making a
    bigger deal out of the age than i should be, and making less of a deal
    out of the "are you *sure* this is what you want to do" thing.

    Problem is, I'm not sure.

    I've never been sure about anything, and this is why I've been wanting
    to return to school to study something, but never could decide. One
    month i'm fascinated with mechanical engineering, next month it's
    electrical engineering, next month it is computer programming, next
    month it is hydraulics, next month....

    well.... ad nauseum until my brain gets mad and goes home.

    Thenagain (this is the 'separating the wheat from the chaff' scenario)
    I'm going to guess that there are probably just as many people who
    chose to be an EE because it is a good career and pays well, but don't
    have any real passion for it. It's just a "job". A pretty good one,
    but a job nonetheless.

    Just like in the IT world. You'll find network and server admins that
    all but computers, but the boom of the late 90s attracted them into it.
    A lot of them are leaving now though, I think. $5 and a side of fries
    says that the EE field is less volatile.
  12. Guest

    Take a class or two at the local junior college. You'll get to network
    with professors and classmates, ask questions, see what you like and
    what you don't like. For cheap.

    If you can't finish junior college, the questions are moot, really.

    Summer session is starting up. See if you can get a class. Otherwise,
    mid-August or so is when the semester starts...
  13. Guest

    Possibly. I chose chemical engineering for various reasons - I liked
    the idea of renewable energy, water treatment in third-world countries,
    being on the cutting edge of materials science - but at work I'm more
    of a contract manager than as an engineer. If I wanted to work in
    contracts, I would have majored in business... but I chose engineering.
    But it pays the bills. ;)

    Similar story with my cousin - he majored in EE in college, and now
    supervises 4 employees.

    A friend (who never finished college) went to work for a software
    company, and now supervises several employees (somewhere between 4 and

    Seems like the big money is in management.

    Good luck!

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