To School or Not To School?

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 create.

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!

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

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... !

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this context. I turn 32 this year, so if I

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.

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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..........

Reply to
James Douglas

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

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


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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.


Reply to
Jonathan Kirwan

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.

Thanks, Rich

Reply to
Rich Grise

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... ;)

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On 8 Jun 2006 21:37:29 -0700, in message , "phaeton" scribed:

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.

Reply to
Alan B

On Fri, 09 Jun 2006 23:13:32 GMT, in message , Rich Grise scribed:

u r 2 krool, sux 2 b u

(Likewise on the inability to resist!)

Reply to
Alan B

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.

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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...

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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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