Making the switch to engineering

Guten Morgen!

I was not academically successful in high school and had zero ambition to pursue any sort of degree. I failed both math and science; it was never something that I felt I had any business learning until recently. I started working on my prerequisites for nursing last fall, although I do not have a strong passion for the career. Since returning to school at the age of 28, I found that I'm highly skilled at math. I received not only the highest score on midterm and final exams for the last 3 consecutive quarters but have also earned the highest overall grade. One professor has also commented that I was the hardest working student he's had in his career. It's got me thinking that maybe I could do more than nursing. That's not to say that nursing isn't lucrative or challenging (my husband is a nurse for the US Army). But it's my "safety" major.

I haven't taken any science courses yet. I'm due to start those in October. My husband is now strongly encouraging me to research engineering as a career rather than continuing on my pursuit for a degree I'm only half heartedly interested in. I have many concerns about making the switch. The biggest one being what if I'm not as great at science as I am math. I'm also worried that I will be one of the older students which will be less desirable to employers. And then there's that nasty gender bias.

I'm not sure where to begin looking at what options I have and mainly just hoping for reinforcement that it it's not inconceivable for a woman in her late 20's to pursue a degree in engineering. I would be extremely grateful for any advice you could offer.

Many thanks,

Kimberly
posted by Kimberly, Ramstein Air Base, Germany on June 30, 2014

Answer by Dr. Corinna Lathan

Hi Kimberly!  You are absolutely on the right track.  Late 20's is YOUNG!  You have plenty of time to find your passion, and you should search until you do.   I would worry less about what degree to get and more about what interests you.  Science and Math are simply tools to accomplish your REAL goals.  

There's a great book (at least it was 10 years ago) called What Color Is Your Parachute?  I Just looked it up and there is a 2014 edition.  Get it!  Or find a copy in the library.  

As a more "mature" student, you will have many advantages and you need to make the most of them.  For example, let's say you find a professor who is doing really interesting work.  Maybe making prosthetics. Or maybe looking at models of the heart. Whatever it is, you should get some hands on experience and professors will jump at having a hard working, responsible adult on their team instead of (or in addition to) the typical 18-20 year old flakes :)  And that value will carry over to employers - DON"T worry about your age! It is an asset, not a liability.

Good luck!!

-Cori