Is It Realistic to Become an Engineer Later in Life?

I am 31 years old, I have a B/S in psychology with a minor in biology. I have realized that I truly have a passion for math and am contemplating the decision to go for an engineering degree. I have already completed the first year of an engineering program and find that I really like it however I am constantly wondering if I am too old to be starting into a new field at this point in my life. Is it realistic to become an engineer later in life?
posted on June 27, 2012

Answer by Lisette Manrique Miller

Mara, To reflect on your words, what's most important about how you make a living is that you have a passion for what you do. If you're enjoying engineering feel that it is a good fit for your career, then keep going! Your background in psychology biology is a GREAT fit for medical device design. The FDA is more-than-ever focused on ensuring that appropriate usability studies are conducted before medical devices are approved for use in the market. That means that we need to be able to capture both the patients' and clinicians' needs, and design a product that not only functions well, but is safe to use too. Getting a degree in engineering is a good foundation for your technical background, and you may leverage your prior experience as a lens for bringing human factors into your designs. It is realistic to become an engineer later in life if you're willing to make the sacrifices associated with starting new in any career. Consider that you may be starting at a modest salary, and that compared to your peers you'll be working on more basic assignments early in your engineering career. But life experience and maturity will likely allow you to progress quickly. Also getting hands-on experience in industry is critical to obtaining a job after you graduate. Apply for internships, co-ops, or part-time work whenever possible, within the industry which interests you most. If paying jobs aren't available, consider volunteering to get initial experience. Lastly, be aware that most engineering workplaces remain to be male-dominated, which may be different than what you're used to. The ratio of women to men in engineering classes is often higher than that in industry, so don't be misled by the gender balance in your school. This imbalance in industry is not necessarily negative; just something you should be aware of, or become familiar with, especially if this type of work environment is new to you. Best of luck with the rest of your classes. Stick with it! We need more women engineers out there. Lisette