Going into engineering later in life

Hello. I am a 34 year old nurse. I have decided to change careers. I want to be an engineer. I know that I would love Bio-medical, but I am really looking to get out of medicine. I would like some advice.
First, Is being a older a female going to be a challenge for me as an entry level engineer?
Are there any women here whom have turned to engineering later in life?
Second, I am a mother so my commute to school is a major factor in deciding what sub-specialty to choose and what universities are available to me. My local university only offers AAS in either Building and Environmental Systems, Architecture, or Electrical Engineering, all of which interest me. I can then transfer to another local campus to finish an Electro-Mechanical BS or apply to a different university for a BS in engineering. I have no clue how to decide what course of action to take. I believe I would enjoy Electro-mechanical and civil, but because I live in southwestern PA the potential is great in Petroleum/Mining Engineering because of Marcellus Shale. So which of the 3: Arch. , Electro_Mech. , or Building/Enviro Systems offers the best lead into the gas industry?
And however do I choose, since I have no insight into engineering? I just do not want to be in the same position in the future as I am now, after being a nurse for 13 years and deciding its the wrong field for me!
posted by Desiree, Mt Pleasant PA on November 2, 2013

Answer by Stephanie E Lewis

Hello Nurse Desiree,

First of all, I believe that being an older female should not be a challenge for you as an entry level engineer as long as you are motivated and looking to cotinue a, at times, challenging career. I don't mean challenging in a 'hard' way, I mean more like a fullfilling career. From my experience, women engineers are needed and wanted! Big companies are really starting to see what women add to the workplace and we there is still a short of women engineers in the world. Now is the time to get in!
Obviously Petro/Chem would be the easiest and safest route for getting into the gas industry but it certainly is not the only one. I myself am a Mechanical Egineer and I certainly do not regret my decision to go this route. Mechanical engineering is the broadest of all the sub-specialties. You will have many many options or where your career can go. I am working in gas industry, and I have friends who are working in engine design, fire alarm systems design, piping design, oil drilling, auto industry, air/space industry, etc. I don't know of any electro-chemical majors but I have no doubt that it would also provide you a broad list of options for careers. Arch. and Building/Envir Systems don't jump out to me as ways to get into the gas industry. But that doesnt mean that you should totally discount those options either. 
I have heard time and time again nurses saying that did not enjoy their work and wanted change. I can honestly say I have NEVER heard that come from an engineer. I think it is because engineers can do so many different things with their career. And many engineers move into management at some point in life if they want to. 
In school when you get to your first few engineering classes it is usually easier to decide if it is for you or not. I hope I helped a bit. Please feel free ask me and more questions. You can email me @ stephanie.lewis@atmosenergy.com if you need. Best wishes Desiree. 

Stephanie E. Lewis, Associate Engineer
Atmos Energy