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Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

I'm a structural engineer but with less than 1y work experience. I've been working in finance/management for about 10y now, earning good (about US$ 160k - but this in Europe where life is more expensive than the US).

The thing is, I don't really see myself doing this in 20 years. Is it just a crazy idea to go back to engineering? I would take a pay cut of course, but it's not about the money. Anybody heard of somebody doing something similar? Any relevant feedback is welcome.

RE: Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

I would suggest picking up a practice FE exam, take the exam, look at the results, then ask yourself, how much effort on your part will take for you to pass that test.  Then determine if you are willing to make that change.

RE: Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

Given that he's in Europe, then unless considering immigrating, I'm not sure the FE exam will be that useful.

Maybe get in touch with whatever the professional society for your location is and see what they have with regard to professional development, maybe they have something vaguely comparable to the FE test.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentals_of_Engineering_exam

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What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

My thought is the FE exam would provide him (or her) an idea as to how much engineering knowledge has been retained, and how much would need to be refreshed.

The FE exam would be the practice exam, not the full blown nail biter.

RE: Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

I sort of did that - but already had my PE ---

Not a real big problem - although I did have an "in" where I was employed.  

Go for it - what do you have to lose??

RE: Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

Passed the FE, first try, 12 years out of school. About 250-300 hours of study. 3 months of late nights & early mornings. Did it while I was laid off.

RE: Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

It's NOT about the money?  Are you serious??  I've never heard anyone say that before and actually mean it.

Maybe I'm jaded.  Job satisfaction means nothing, compensation means everything.  Don't let your job be your passion - choose a job that will pay you the most money so you can pursue your passion, be it travel, expensive hobbies, big house, or providing for your family.  Suck it up and stick with what you got.  The best job you can have is one you aren't worried about losing.  To me, it doesn't make much sens to make that kind of fiscal step backwards unless you are already independently wealthy and truly work for 'something to do'.  That didn't come off jaded, did it?

RE: Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

10 yrs is a pretty long time to let structural gray cells to lie dormant.  Other than that, I don't see a specific problem that cannot be overcome with some studying.  Just be aware that an older entry-level engineer faces a few more obstacles than a younger one.  Oh, and your paycut is bound to be pretty substantial, ala more than 50%.

Nonetheless, if you're unhappy with your current profession, then you should get out of Dodge, regardless of compensation.  Doesn't much matter if you earn $160k if you have a heart attack at 39 from the stress.


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RE: Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

Thank you all, I really appreciate the feedback.

ClaytonMagnet: I definitely see your point, and share it to some extent. I have a family to provide for and correspondingly want financial security. But I would like to look back on my career with satisfaction, and I'm not sure I'll get that by remaining a controller/finance manager.

Some background on me: I live in Switzerland, and I'm not sure if there is an equivalent to the PE here. I worked as an engineer for less than a year and didn't like it, but it was during a construction downturn, we had only dull feasibility projects, boring atmosphere in a small office earning badly, I was the only engineer and my boss was 70 year old. So I left it and joined a financial services firm that was looking for suckers like me, and now I'm wondering, what if.

MiketheEngineer, moon161: I'd really be interested in your experiences. Could you tell me a bit more how it was for you?


RE: Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

If you didn't like engineering when they were giving you make-work projects, you won't like it any more when they don't give you enough time to do the real projects.  ... especially when they're already terminally screwed up when you learn of their existence.


Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

Sebast - to answer your original question, yes, people do back into engineering after a long hiatus. My Ex got a degree in Civil Engineering and had only 2 years of civil drafting experience before receiving her BSCE. Then, straight out of college, didn't do any engineering work for 18 years while raising a family. Afterwards, went back into the workforce, got a job as a junior engineer at a small construction firm, and 5 years later went for her PE and passed on the first try. She missed the entire transision of the field from vellum/pencil to computers yet restarted a civil engineering career in her mid 40's.

RE: Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

Sebast - I really do hear what you are saying.  Put it this way, what would be more important when you are 80 years old, to look back and say you were satisfied with your career, or look back and say you were satisfied with your life/family?  Which element (career or life) is more important, and how will you satisfy that?  If it comes from a career change, then go for it.  I don't dislike my job by any means, as far as having to work, I quite enjoy it.  But if something presented itself that would pay me more money such that I could give my family a better quality of life, I would be on that like a fat kid on a Smartie (hopefully the Swiss know what a Smartie is or my metaphor means nothing).

RE: Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

Moon 161

I passed FE as a senior in college.  Went back to work for a company that I had been working for for about 3 years.  I took one year off between sophomore and junior years. (Grades were bad) Then worked part time for them junior and senior year.  Grades went to almost 4.0

Worked for them about another 7 years - got my PE.

Went to work for a friend in the booming real estate business.  Didn't sell but wrote computer programs and ran their financials.  Kind of a Controller/Director of Ops, COO type job.

Owner was bailing out and I went to work as a Tooling Rep where I did programming and selling of a very particular line of tooling - slitter knives, etc.

That business was going overseas and could see we had real problems.  Worked independently for about 2 years - did OK.

First company needed help and I was still friends with the boss and he hired me back - engineering and software support in the wood truss industry.

Job was OK - pay not too good - benefits OK.

Somebody in town was looking for a Head Engineer for a large scale scaffolding company -  been here almost 14 years and love it.  Licensed in 42 states!!

That's the Reader's Digest version.  Any more questions - I'll be happy to respond.

RE: Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

ClaytonMagnet....there are some for whom it is NOT about the money, as long as there's enough to meet needs and reasonable wants.

My dad purposely left an engineering job to become a teacher, taking a 30 percent pay cut in the process. At the time, he was a sales engineer with Dow Chemical and was tired of the constant travel that was taking him away from the family. To him, the pay cut was worth it. The year he took to get his credential, we lived off savings and his National Guard pay. I was about 8 at the time.

One of the things that attracted my dad to teaching was the relatively autonomy that teachers had back then, versus the large corporate bureaucracy. Unfortunately, by the time he retired in 1997, the educational bureaucracy was at least as bad.

"Is it the only lesson of history that mankind is unteachable?"
--Winston S. Churchill

RE: Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

I was miserable after grad, and wanted almost nothing to do with myself. 1 semester of grad school, left and worked in call centers for 6 years, mostly tech support. My house of the rising sun. Took a few months steady effort to get out, found a short stint as a technician, just shy of year in medical device test & validation, great gig, 1.5 convoluting pipes to fit into boxes that were too small for an HVAC mfg. The great wave came, outta work 14 months, got my EIT, designer/drafter now. Trying to develop freelance & consulting work presently.   

RE: Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

Requiring a high salary to be satisfied with family life is wrong on many levels unless you're trying to support 6+ kids and a stay at home mom.

Though, to the OP I dont think this is a wise time to quit a good paying job in this economy with relatively no experience.  I think you're too far into finance for any engineering firm to hire you for more than $50k.  I think the switch should have been made by year 3 into your current job if you really wanted to switch careers.  I think you need to take your financial background and do something with it.

RE: Getting back to engineering after 10y hiatus

I have wondered about this myself. I am an engineer with two masters degrees and a PE. I switched over to the healthcare field and am in a specialty that pays very well. I keep my PE license active by taking continuing education credits but wonder what would happen if I apply for an engineering job again one day in the future. Have been doing my new specialty since 2005.

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