Author Topic: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?  (Read 4291 times)

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Offline trrway_32

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Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« on: May 21, 2018, 07:47:58 pm »
Background: I am 21, based in the US. I will try to keep this as concise as possible.

I went to college (mechanical engineering) straight out of highschool. I got few scholarships, and dropped out due to multiple factors (failed calculus, stress, depression, not really wanting to go in the first place). In hindsight, I wasn’t emotionally ready, and also made the mistake to going to an out-of-state school (higher tuition). Afterwards, I floated around, moving to a maker space, doing product design work until it dried up, and eventually working in a lab doing medical devices and neural implant research.

In my years since I left school, I realize I need to build a foundation of knowledge if I want to get better. However, I am disgusted at the cost of a college education here in the US. Ideally, I want to find a way to build that kowledge without taking on loans.

My goal:

I’m not entirely sure. I like reading research papers and learning about the latest science. I’m not sure if I want to focus on a purely technical track, or a project-management-type one. I like soft robotics and as of recent bioengineering

My options:

Apply for opportunities like the Theil Fellowship
Move back home and plow through community college (save money on rent, etc.)
Move back home and go to an in-state school.
Continue my path of doing jobs/internships until my background knowledge slowly builds up.

My questions:

1. How can I obtain knowledge, degree or no degree, for less than 40k? By knowledge I mean competency in subjects required for engineering (math, basic chemsitry, physics).
2. What other scholarships/fellowships/opportunities do you recommend I look into? I tried applying to the Dyson Institute, but didn’t get in.
3. Should I jump back into university now, or continue exploring until I’m absolutely certain of the track I want to pursue?
 

Offline BillB

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2018, 08:10:41 pm »
Free:

https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/electrical-engineering-and-computer-science/

Regardless, you should definitely make sure you have a plan and a goal before you jump into anything.  However, do it while you're young, before life gets in the way too much.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2018, 08:57:10 pm by BillB »
 
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Online ataradov

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2018, 08:36:29 pm »
I agree, if you are looking for knowledge and not the degree, then OCW and similar programs from various Universities have plenty of information.
Alex
 
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Offline james_s

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2018, 12:32:33 am »
KhanAcademy is another good one. Knowledge is more widely available than ever before.

It's unfortunate that there isn't a lower cost path to a degree, or something in between because university tuition has reached absurd levels.

I suppose you could study online to get the knowledge then blast through a community college degree. If you already know the material then it will be much easier.
 
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Offline JohnnyMalaria

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2018, 01:18:31 am »
I like reading research papers and learning about the latest science.

Outside of an academic institution or a large corporation, reading journal articles is outrageously expensive. Typically $50 - $100 per article with only the abstract to read before you buy. I subscribe to DeepDyve for about $40 per month which gives access to a very large array of journals. There's no fee to read the paper online but you have to pay to download as a PDF. When I worked in Corporate America, I was very spoiled - unlimited access to just about everything you can imagine. It's a different story now that I'm my own concern. Keeping up is harder especially if you are so old you prefer hard copies.
Tell me it can't be done and I'll do it. Or give it a damned good try.
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2018, 01:30:01 am »
1. How can I obtain knowledge, degree or no degree, for less than 40k? By knowledge I mean competency in subjects required for engineering (math, basic chemsitry, physics).

You can do the entire MIT engineering course for free:
https://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm
You just don't get the bit of paper at the end of it.
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2018, 01:32:05 am »
You just don't get the bit of paper at the end of it.
To be fair you also don't get your homework checked and graded. And you don't have access to people with the knowledge if you are stuck. Both things can be worked around, of course.
Alex
 

Offline TK

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2018, 01:50:57 am »
You can take lots of coursera classes for free, you just don't get the certificate but you can follow strict homework and assignment schedule.  The last time I checked MIT OCW are a collection of videos of classes, coursera is online education.  Udacity is another option.
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2018, 01:52:38 am »
OCW publishes course work material and homework assignments as well (without answers, of course). You pretty much get everything a student get.

And they've been like this since the very beginning.
Alex
 

Offline TimNJ

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2018, 03:42:40 am »
I hate saying this, because I wish it wasn't true, but I think having a degree is ultimately very helpful for your professional career. That said, I think the importance of a degree largely depends on what kind of work you'd like to (eventually) do.

But, to spend another 3+ years in school...I see your dilemma...

If you were to attend community college, what do you think you'd study? Physics? I know community colleges near me don't have too many offerings in the engineering realm.

How about attending community college while being very diligent about developing engineering skills at home. As many people will likely agree, personal projects are huge, maybe just as important as formal education..in the eyes of employers. If you can really hone your engineering skills at home and produce meaningful projects, I think that will put you ahead of so many of the clueless new grads trying to land a job fresh out of college.

I'm 23. I graduated BSEE last year. What struck me about college, especially towards the end, was that most of my peers knew damn near NOTHING about engineering. Sure they did okay on the tests, but past that, pretty useless. I'd say that most employers, and more experienced engineers, can sense if a candidate actually knows their stuff or if they're just another shmuck with a degree.

That said, I feel that most employers will be hesitant to hire someone without any formal education altogether. There may be some more "progressive" employers willing to give you a shot, but overall, probably more limited. I think some sort of baseline education plus a strong emphasis on self-learning and personal projects will get you where you want to be. Some sort of differentiator helps too. Of course, what works for me won't necessarily work for you, but I know my Youtube channel was always a strong talking point for me during interviews.

Anyway, best of luck.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2018, 03:46:38 am by TimNJ »
 
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Online ataradov

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2018, 03:49:21 am »
That said, I feel that most employers will be hesitant to hire someone without any formal education altogether.
It would be interesting to know if it is actually the case.

I know that when I interview people, the question about their education does not even cross my mind. I'm looking for completed projects and some level passion for the field.

I had my first two jobs while I was at the university, so no degree. And by the time I was done, I had 4 years of relevant job experience, so diploma was not of any real interest to anyone.

Ditto on actual know ledge of people graduating in my group. Everyone who knew stuff going in got something useful out of it, others just got a piece of paper.
Alex
 

Offline TimNJ

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2018, 04:07:33 am »
That said, I feel that most employers will be hesitant to hire someone without any formal education altogether.
It would be interesting to know if it is actually the case.

Well I can't speak for all employers, of course. It's great that you don't judge candidates based on their formal education, but I'm not sure that all employers are like that. (That said, do you really want to work for a company like that anyway? Maybe, maybe not.)

I guess what I'm saying is: Having a degree can be helpful and will almost never hurt you.

But that's from my privileged perspective. I never had to be concerned about wasting time or money because my parents paid for my education in full. But to the OP, these are obviously real issues. Maybe he/she can't "just get a degree". So in that case, where is his/her time best spent?

I'm suggesting getting some sort of technical degree to help keep your options open, but focusing more on making yourself stand out, outside of the classroom.

But of course, that's only my perspective. Other people might be more in tune with this.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2018, 04:10:23 am by TimNJ »
 

Offline JohnnyMalaria

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #12 on: May 22, 2018, 04:52:07 am »
That said, I feel that most employers will be hesitant to hire someone without any formal education altogether.
It would be interesting to know if it is actually the case.

It most likely depends on the size of the company, the industry and the country. For large multinational companies I doubt you'd get beyond the resume screening without a degree. Not once in my 24 years in the pharmaceutical industry (huge employer of scientists and engineers) did I come across anyone in a salaried position without a degree. Employees without degrees were paid hourly and a lot less. Job postings were very clear about education level and minimum experience in years. It was possible to get a position that required a master's and 3 years if you had a bachelor's and, say, 7 years relevant experience. You could also get by with less experience (years) if your resume was strong enough. But never without a degree.
Tell me it can't be done and I'll do it. Or give it a damned good try.
 

Offline IanB

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2018, 05:02:27 am »
I always think it's quite strange that high school education is supposed to be available free to every child, but further education on leaving high school is suddenly a really expensive, for-profit enterprise.

I'm not very familiar with the system in the USA, but from what I've heard the most economical approach is community college to get foundation credits and then transfer to an in-state college to complete a bachelor's degree. I don't believe it is worth paying a lot for that formal qualification. (Put another way I'm sure it's great to go to MIT, but I'm not sure it's good value for money.) Get the piece of paper to satisfy HR departments and then teach yourself after that. After a while the degree doesn't matter any more and access to jobs depends on experience and demonstrated ability. Successful people undergo a process of lifelong learning, using every resource available to further their understanding. With today's internet access to learning resources has never been greater.
I'm not an EE--what am I doing here?
 

Offline CatalinaWOW

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #14 on: May 22, 2018, 05:10:48 am »
You can learn all you want outside of a school environment.  $40K worth of textbooks contain a huge amount of knowledge, and if you are diligent you can go through and make it yours.  If you purchase used and utilize library resources you could get there for far under $40K.  You can get reading lists just be checking what various universities are using in their texts or several people here can provide good lists.  If you go this route, don't focus on just your interest fields, look at the university curricula and at least try to understand why they choose the courses they do.

This isn't an easy path, but depending on your personality and habits it might be easier than college.

But, as others have pointed out you end up lacking two things - practical experience and certification.  Practical experience can be achieved through home projects, but depending on the specific subject you pursue the lab equipment and supplies can be very expensive.  Setting up your own semiconductor lab is possible but not for the faint of heart.  The certification can only be remedied by school, or possibly by getting a PE license.  At least once upon a time and in some states by passing the appropriate tests and showing work experience under a registered engineer you did not need a degree.  This may not be possible any longer, it was starting to slip away the last time I looked so you will need to check before pursuing this approach.  I also don't know if HR departments will accept a non-degree PE.

Another thing to look into is low cost schools.  While there is certain benefit from some prestige schools (Stanford, Purdue, CalTech and the like depending on field of specialization), for most purposes the worst accredited school is as good as almost all the rest.  Find the state with the lowest tuition and move there long enough to establish residency.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2018, 02:54:20 pm by CatalinaWOW »
 
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Offline TK

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #15 on: May 22, 2018, 01:23:30 pm »
It most likely depends on the size of the company, the industry and the country. For large multinational companies I doubt you'd get beyond the resume screening without a degree.
One exception is software engineering, if you are a natural born hacker, you can get hired even without a High School degree
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #16 on: May 22, 2018, 01:39:42 pm »
That said, I feel that most employers will be hesitant to hire someone without any formal education altogether. There may be some more "progressive" employers willing to give you a shot, but overall, probably more limited.

Come to Australia and it's completely different. The only ones who really care about qualifications are regulated industry (medical for example), and government departments. Most in the electronics industry don't care much. Can you do the job, and do we like you are the only questions asked. Here your qualification go in a footnote at the bottom of your resume.
 

Offline andyturk

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #17 on: May 22, 2018, 01:43:38 pm »
I know that when I interview people, the question about their education does not even cross my mind. I'm looking for completed projects and some level passion for the field.
Unfortunately, a candidate without a degree may not even make it to a face-to-face interview if the vast majority of other candidates do have degrees of some sort.

The ratio of resumes to interviews during an engineering hiring cycle might be 50:1. That means the HR dept., hiring manager, or someone has to read through literally dozens of resumes for each one that might be worth following up on. So hiring managers are initially looking for ways to make the pool smaller (i.e., disqualifying candidates) rather than looking for what makes each snowflake special.

But you're right, by the time you get to an actual interview, previous experience, attitude, energy level, etc. are often more important than a degree.
 

Offline Zero999

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #18 on: May 22, 2018, 01:49:15 pm »
That said, I feel that most employers will be hesitant to hire someone without any formal education altogether. There may be some more "progressive" employers willing to give you a shot, but overall, probably more limited.

Come to Australia and it's completely different. The only ones who really care about qualifications are regulated industry (medical for example), and government departments. Most in the electronics industry don't care much. Can you do the job, and do we like you are the only questions asked. Here your qualification go in a footnote at the bottom of your resume.


Except don't you need a degree to be able to emigrate to Australia? I've heard it's a difficult country to get in to.

KhanAcademy is another good one. Knowledge is more widely available than ever before.

It's unfortunate that there isn't a lower cost path to a degree, or something in between because university tuition has reached absurd levels.

I suppose you could study online to get the knowledge then blast through a community college degree. If you already know the material then it will be much easier.

Why do you want to gain education?

If it's for a well paid job, then you need something formally recognised to get paid well, even if it's below degree level.

If it's for personal reasons, then there's a wealth of information available on the Internet for free. Whilst test equipment isn't free, it's much less expensive, than it used to be and parts are very cheap. There's also simulation software, but be very careful, it's not perfect and can land you in trouble later on.

I studied an HND (Higher, National, Diploma) at college, which is a recognised qualification, but below degree level, but I've acquired a lot of higher/degree level knowledge from the Internet and now know more than many graduates. However, I do think my formal education has enabled me to study further, even  informally, and it would have been more difficult starting with basic high school qualifications. I don't plan on going back to formal education though, partly due to my age as well as lack of interest.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2018, 03:26:53 pm by Hero999 »
 

Offline BillB

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #19 on: May 22, 2018, 01:49:36 pm »
Because the OP is in the US, formal education is a big deal, especially since the crash in 2008.  Because of the subsequent recession and the FedGov getting into the loan origination business, a massive bubble was blown in the secondary education market.  Many older workers postponed retirement while companies cut back.  This significantly reduced the number of entry level jobs available.  Kids had little choice but to stay in school, especially since loans were so easy to get.  So, they did.

As a result, we have a huge number of, in effect, over-educated and over-qualified candidates competing for the entry level jobs that are available now.

My company is in desperate need of talented engineers (but we have special constraints on hiring) and it is highly unusual to see candidates that have no formal education.

 

Offline rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #20 on: May 22, 2018, 02:14:58 pm »
The story sounds familiar...

I started college in Sept 1963 and dropped out the day Kennedy was assassinated, Nov 22, 1963.  Correlation, not causation...  I just wasn't ready for college.

I started college again in '69 and graduated in '73, took a couple of years off and then finished my Master's in '76.  I never looked back.  Electronics, and the degrees, were really a hobby plus they paid the cost of admission to a professional career.  Mostly, I worked in electrical and project management.

I left out the bit where I spent a couple of years in the Army and that allowed me to use the GI Bill to pay for college.  I still have some of the $8 text books!  But undergrad was a night program and I was working 40-60 hours per week as an electrician.  There wasn't a lot of spare time...

Today, I would recommend going to community college long enough to get an AS degree in something and then transferring to an in-state college to finish the last two years.  Community college used to be considered something of a joke.  Not any more!  Around here (California), the material is deep and thorough.  I've been helping my grandson with Calc I (finally over) so I'm pretty current on what is going on.  The key is to get the AS degree rather than just barely enough transfer units to get into a state college.  It's a step in the process.  You HAVE the AS degree in your hannd, there's no taking that away.

Having a degree is a binary thing.  You either have one or you don't and there is no middle ground.  You can have all the knowledge equivalent to having a degree, heck you could be better educated than most graduates, but it doesn't mean a thing when your resume' is trashed due to no degree.  And that is really the way it is, degree or no degree - binary.

There's an enormous amount of help on the Internet.  Khan Academy, Desmos.com, Symbolab.com, CalcWorkshop.com (costs money and worth every penny), 3Blue1Brown videos, and so on.  Help is nearly endless.  There's even one site (costs money) that has all of the homework solutions for a number of popular Calculus texts including Stewart's.

It doesn't matter which branch of engineering you sign up for, the lower division (4 semesters) all have math starting at Calc I and progressing through Calc III and finally Differential Equations.  This is some serious math and there's no time to study Pre-Calc and you simply won't make it through Calc without Pre-Calc.  At our local community college, Pre-Calc is a two semester (1 year) course all by itself and it doesn't count toward the 4 semesters of math in the AS program.  Consider it a cost of entry and plan to add a year to community college.  Three years - minimum.  Plus 2 years at the state level (probably turns out to be 3).  Figure 6 years to get through college these days unless you are one of the very bright young kids that aced AP classes.

Financing is always a problem but if you only spend two years at an in-state institution, receive some grants, it might not be terribly expensive.  It won't be nearly as expensive as not going.

STEM programs aren't for the casually inclined.  You need to take 12-15 units per semester and, at some point, all of them are going to be hard classes.  Figure 2 or 3 hours (5 hours if you are having trouble) of homework per week, per unit.  Plus an hour per week per unit of class time (except for labs, they are 1 unit and take LOTS of hours).  A 15 unit load will require at least 60 hours per week of class and homework.  Maybe more!  That's 8 hours per day, 5 days plus a couple of hours off on Sunday.  This is no joking matter, people horribly underestimate what it takes to get a STEM degree.

Hint:  Try to spread out your General Education courses such that you have one of these easy courses every semester.  That way you will only have 2 hard classes plus 1 easy class.  You'll get the idea...

Hint:  Talk to a counselor at the community college and select a program.  Then build a map of the courses you need in the order you have to take them.  Build a map on a piece of project board sticking 3x5 cards on the board for each class.  You order them by their pre-requisites - essentially the order in which you have to take them.  You will have 3 or 4 columns (one of which will be all math) depending on how many units you plan to take per semester.  This is your map!  Keep it handy!  Pull off (or cross out) the classes as you finish them.

Hint:  It doesn't get easier as you get older.  Get started!

 

Offline dr.diesel

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #21 on: May 22, 2018, 02:34:37 pm »
I know that when I interview people, the question about their education does not even cross my mind. I'm looking for completed projects and some level passion for the field.
Unfortunately, a candidate without a degree may not even make it to a face-to-face interview if the vast majority of other candidates do have degrees of some sort.

The ratio of resumes to interviews during an engineering hiring cycle might be 50:1. That means the HR dept., hiring manager, or someone has to read through literally dozens of resumes for each one that might be worth following up on. So hiring managers are initially looking for ways to make the pool smaller (i.e., disqualifying candidates) rather than looking for what makes each snowflake special.

But you're right, by the time you get to an actual interview, previous experience, attitude, energy level, etc. are often more important than a degree.

This can't be stressed enough in the US, any resume without a 4 year degree won't even make it to my desk.  Even if I personally know you, I am prevented from hiring any non degreed engineers (even technicians now) by HR, no matter how much I push for the candidate.

Right or wrong, that is the way it is, at least for larger corporations.
 
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Offline rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #22 on: May 22, 2018, 02:37:29 pm »

As a result, we have a huge number of, in effect, over-educated and over-qualified candidates competing for the entry level jobs that are available now.


And despite this, the annual mean wage for a computer hardware engineer in Silicon Valley is about $146k.  That's 'mean', not 'top' (nor 'bottom').  These folks are making some pretty nice money!

https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172061.htm#st 

Don't overlook all the terrific career information available at www.bls.gov.  You can drill down by profession, area, wage and so on.  This is a very useful site!
 

Offline rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #23 on: May 22, 2018, 02:39:38 pm »
I know that when I interview people, the question about their education does not even cross my mind. I'm looking for completed projects and some level passion for the field.
Unfortunately, a candidate without a degree may not even make it to a face-to-face interview if the vast majority of other candidates do have degrees of some sort.

The ratio of resumes to interviews during an engineering hiring cycle might be 50:1. That means the HR dept., hiring manager, or someone has to read through literally dozens of resumes for each one that might be worth following up on. So hiring managers are initially looking for ways to make the pool smaller (i.e., disqualifying candidates) rather than looking for what makes each snowflake special.

But you're right, by the time you get to an actual interview, previous experience, attitude, energy level, etc. are often more important than a degree.

This can't be stressed enough in the US, any resume without a 4 year degree won't even make it to my desk.  Even if I personally know you, I am prevented from hiring any non degreed engineers (even technicians now) by HR, no matter how much I push for the candidate.

Right or wrong, that is the way it is, at least for larger corporations.

If you want your resume' to stand out, spend the time to get a Master's.  It may take another year or two, depending on the program, but it's worth every penny.  Where I worked, everybody has a degree.  The leaders had Master's and the top bosses had PhDs.  Just the way it was...
 

Offline rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #24 on: May 22, 2018, 02:51:30 pm »
Summer session is just starting around here.  Sign up for something!  Get started!
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #25 on: May 22, 2018, 04:01:45 pm »
These folks are making some pretty nice money!
Not really. $150K is decent living, but not more. Half or third of your after tax money will go towards rent, and with a salary like that you can forget to ever buy a house.
Alex
 

Offline JohnnyMalaria

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #26 on: May 22, 2018, 04:30:38 pm »
These folks are making some pretty nice money!
Not really. $150K is decent living, but not more. Half or third of your after tax money will go towards rent, and with a salary like that you can forget to ever buy a house.

?

When I left corporate America my salary was less than that and I bought a house, paid it off over 15 years and I have no loans for a cars, credit card debt etc.

About 60% of people in the US own their own home but only about 5% earn $150K or more. The median salary in the US is less than a third of that value.

If you still have to rent on that kind of salary then you're being reckless with your money.
Tell me it can't be done and I'll do it. Or give it a damned good try.
 

Offline IanB

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #27 on: May 22, 2018, 04:31:02 pm »
Not really. $150K is decent living, but not more. Half or third of your after tax money will go towards rent, and with a salary like that you can forget to ever buy a house.

Depends on your location. In Silicon Valley that money doesn't go very far, but in Texas you could live like a king.
I'm not an EE--what am I doing here?
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #28 on: May 22, 2018, 04:32:33 pm »
About 60% of people in the US own their own home but only about 5% earn $150K or more. The median salary in the US is less than a third of that value.
The number was specifically about Silicon Valley. What does the rest of US has to do wit this?

Yes, it would be nice to live in Colorado and get a Silicon Valley salary.
Alex
 

Offline mtdoc

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #29 on: May 22, 2018, 04:40:09 pm »
About 60% of people in the US own their own home but only about 5% earn $150K or more. The median salary in the US is less than a third of that value.
The number was specifically about Silicon Valley. What does the rest of US has to do wit this?

Yes, it would be nice to live in Colorado and get a Silicon Valley salary.

Yes, Silicon Valley and several other high rent areas of the US are completely different. Where I live in western Washington state,  $150K salary will let you buy a very nice home.  In Seattle, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, New York, etc, etc -  not so much.

Also the problem with the data on the BLS website linked by rstofer is that it only shows mean salary.  Median would be much more useful info.  I have no doubt that there are a handful of Silicon Valley software engineers being pain ridiculously large amounts of money.  It is not a normal distribution, hence mean salary is almost "meaningless" information.
 

Offline GreyWoolfe

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #30 on: May 22, 2018, 04:44:51 pm »
These folks are making some pretty nice money!
Not really. $150K is decent living, but not more. Half or third of your after tax money will go towards rent, and with a salary like that you can forget to ever buy a house.

I remember seeing on a website a home in Cali on a small lot that was fire damaged and unlivable that sold for 1.3 million dollars all due to the location, of which I can't remember.  Also saw at the time another home on a small lot that was abandoned and needed major renovations sold for $800K.  $150K a year is not going far.
"Heaven has been described as the place that once you get there all the dogs you ever loved run up to greet you."
 

Offline rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #31 on: May 22, 2018, 04:49:41 pm »
These folks are making some pretty nice money!
Not really. $150K is decent living, but not more. Half or third of your after tax money will go towards rent, and with a salary like that you can forget to ever buy a house.

Well, specifically, I was thinking about 'Dinks' - Dual Income No Kids.  To the extent that geeks inter-marry, getting by on $300k is pretty sweet!

Housing is going to be expensive but there is only so much dirt and there isn't going to be any more.  Houses are a terrific investment if bought right.  I bought a house in '86 for about $81k and sold it in '03 for $290k.  In the meantime, it kept me warm and dry for a lot of years.  No, it wasn't in Silicon Valley but it was close enough to have a reasonable commute - in the early years.  Later on it got to be a drag and today it is completely impossible.

But I only had one income so buying something in the Valley was pretty much out of the question.  Where I really messed up was not using a VA Loan to buy a $50k house in Milpitas back in '76.  That seemed expensive at the time but it's probably selling for the better part of a million dollars today.  And the commute would have been shorter...

 

Offline rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #32 on: May 22, 2018, 04:53:53 pm »
I remember seeing on a website a home in Cali on a small lot that was fire damaged and unlivable that sold for 1.3 million dollars all due to the location, of which I can't remember.  Also saw at the time another home on a small lot that was abandoned and needed major renovations sold for $800K.  $150K a year is not going far.

Like this one?

https://sf.curbed.com/2018/3/2/17073100/silicon-valley-house-home-sunnyvale-record-price-crisis

A post-war 850 sf house for $2 million.

You need to be careful in California's housing market.  A few years after I sold my house for $290k (mentioned above), the realtor called to ask if I wanted to buy it back for $130k.  I didn't...

I should have, it's back on the market for $300k+  I just don't have the knack for real estate!  That and I don't want to buy rental property.
 

Offline Zero999

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #33 on: May 22, 2018, 05:01:25 pm »
Having a degree is a binary thing.  You either have one or you don't and there is no middle ground.  You can have all the knowledge equivalent to having a degree, heck you could be better educated than most graduates, but it doesn't mean a thing when your resume' is trashed due to no degree.  And that is really the way it is, degree or no degree - binary.
Does it have to be a STEM degree for an engineering position or will anything pass the HR droids?

I feel some assumptions have being made about the original poster, one is that they want to go into further education for the money. If this is true, then I doubt doing an engineering degree will get the best return on their investment. I don't know about the US, but in the UK an engineering degree certainly isn't the best thing to do, purely for financial return: economics and law are probably better options.

If it's not about the money, then it might make more sense to study something completely different, get a comfortably paid job and informally study electronics for a hobby.

Quote
Hint:  It doesn't get easier as you get older.  Get started!
That's true. I have thought about topping up my HND to a degree, which I could theoretically do by studying for another two years full time (I've done a quick Google and the HND is higher than the US associate degree). In reality, I'd have to do it part time, which would involve a lot of, late nights and travelling in jammed traffic. I currently earn enough to overpay my mortgage, so there's no financial motivation there.

These folks are making some pretty nice money!
Not really. $150K is decent living, but not more. Half or third of your after tax money will go towards rent, and with a salary like that you can forget to ever buy a house.

?

When I left corporate America my salary was less than that and I bought a house, paid it off over 15 years and I have no loans for a cars, credit card debt etc.

About 60% of people in the US own their own home but only about 5% earn $150K or more. The median salary in the US is less than a third of that value.

If you still have to rent on that kind of salary then you're being reckless with your money.
Why? In some places renting makes more financial sense. It depends on whether on average, house prices annually rise much faster, in terms of the percentage, than the interest rate or not and how often one needs to move.

If house prices in your location are static, but interest on savings is good, then it makes more sense to rent and save the rest for retirement. If you need to move fairly frequently, then again, renting is the more sensible option.

Of course in the UK house prices have risen above interest for a long time, so buying is always better, than renting, unless you move more often than two years.

« Last Edit: May 22, 2018, 05:03:03 pm by Hero999 »
 
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Offline rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #34 on: May 22, 2018, 05:02:31 pm »
Also the problem with the data on the BLS website linked by rstofer is that it only shows mean salary.  Median would be much more useful info.  I have no doubt that there are a handful of Silicon Valley software engineers being pain ridiculously large amounts of money.  It is not a normal distribution, hence mean salary is almost "meaningless" information.

And there are unskilled dorks pulling the 'mean' down.  Just because they have the title doesn't mean they have the skill.  BLS looks at title, not ability.  There's a lot of title creep in the industry.

I'm good with 'mean' because, in the end, it's just a comparison to other occupations.
 

Offline TimNJ

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #35 on: May 22, 2018, 05:03:50 pm »
That said, I feel that most employers will be hesitant to hire someone without any formal education altogether. There may be some more "progressive" employers willing to give you a shot, but overall, probably more limited.

Come to Australia and it's completely different. The only ones who really care about qualifications are regulated industry (medical for example), and government departments. Most in the electronics industry don't care much. Can you do the job, and do we like you are the only questions asked. Here your qualification go in a footnote at the bottom of your resume.

Yes. Would be nice if the US was more like that, but in my (limited) experience, it is not.

And I don't think many employers really care about where you went to school, or if you got a 3.0 or a 4.0, but that said, they likely will NOT call you in for an interview if you don't have some sort of relevant degree. There are arguments for and against this kind of screening process. I don't completely agree with it, but I can understand why it's like that.
 

Offline JohnnyMalaria

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #36 on: May 22, 2018, 05:27:43 pm »
If house prices in your location are static, but interest on savings is good, then it makes more sense to rent and save the rest for retirement.

Currently, interest on bank savings accounts is so pitiful (0.1 to 1% if you're luck) so the only point to save is to have a immediate source of cash to hand. In real terms, it diminishes in value. In the US, bank accounts are insured by the federal government for up to $250K should something happen. Of course, there are stock-related investments which are used to put away tax-deferred money for retirement. These aren't insured. But all you need is the fickle bunch in NY, London etc to have an emotional fit and suddenly you have to work another 5 years. It took that long for my retirement funds to recover after the 2000 crash.
Tell me it can't be done and I'll do it. Or give it a damned good try.
 

Offline rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #37 on: May 22, 2018, 05:31:40 pm »
I don't know about the US, but in the UK an engineering degree certainly isn't the best thing to do, purely for financial return: economics and law are probably better options.

If it's not about the money, then it might make more sense to study something completely different, get a comfortably paid job and informally study electronics for a hobby.


Law pays good (sometimes) but around here there are more lawyers in the phone book than doctors and dentists combined.  Most work in family law so it's all about divorce law.  I'm not sure I would want to do that.  I guess the criminal prosecutors make a good living.

Economics?  Darned if I know.  I've never met anybody who has a degree in Econ.  It could be useful as an individual investor.

The reason I haven't met one?  There are only 1500 state-wide in California

https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193011.htm#st

There are 60 in Montana so that would be a great occupation if you just wanted to skip the rat race.
 

Offline Zero999

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #38 on: May 22, 2018, 05:35:58 pm »
If house prices in your location are static, but interest on savings is good, then it makes more sense to rent and save the rest for retirement.

Currently, interest on bank savings accounts is so pitiful (0.1 to 1% if you're luck) so the only point to save is to have a immediate source of cash to hand. In real terms, it diminishes in value. In the US, bank accounts are insured by the federal government for up to $250K should something happen. Of course, there are stock-related investments which are used to put away tax-deferred money for retirement. These aren't insured. But all you need is the fickle bunch in NY, London etc to have an emotional fit and suddenly you have to work another 5 years. It took that long for my retirement funds to recover after the 2000 crash.
The basic, bank interest rate is similar here, but I forgot that there are other investments which can get a far greater return. For example, chose a bond which is split across many different company's stocks and you're bound to get a greater return, than leaving it in the bank. Precious metals, such as gold are other things which will also reap a better return, than the banks. Again, whether any of these are better than buying a house, depends on the location.
 

Offline rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #39 on: May 22, 2018, 05:38:09 pm »
Of course, there are stock-related investments which are used to put away tax-deferred money for retirement. These aren't insured. But all you need is the fickle bunch in NY, London etc to have an emotional fit and suddenly you have to work another 5 years. It took that long for my retirement funds to recover after the 2000 crash.

And if you held on, you got everything back (except time) and then some.  If you sold out at the bottom, you took an awful hit.  You're right, it was a long dry spell.  They happen from time to time.

I wasn't doing my own trading at the time so I just rode through it.  Everything has worked out fine.

And I watch it like a hawk now that I'm retired.  I need that money.  I'm not sure why, I only take the mandatory distributions, but I have the feeling it will come in handy for medical at some point.
 

Offline Zero999

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #40 on: May 22, 2018, 05:42:59 pm »
I don't know about the US, but in the UK an engineering degree certainly isn't the best thing to do, purely for financial return: economics and law are probably better options.

If it's not about the money, then it might make more sense to study something completely different, get a comfortably paid job and informally study electronics for a hobby.


Law pays good (sometimes) but around here there are more lawyers in the phone book than doctors and dentists combined.  Most work in family law so it's all about divorce law.  I'm not sure I would want to do that.  I guess the criminal prosecutors make a good living.

Economics?  Darned if I know.  I've never met anybody who has a degree in Econ.  It could be useful as an individual investor.

The reason I haven't met one?  There are only 1500 state-wide in California

https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193011.htm#st

There are 60 in Montana so that would be a great occupation if you just wanted to skip the rat race.
You forget that most people with a law degree don't end up a lawyer and the same for economics. People who study that kind of degree, end up working in senior management, which often pays much more.
 

Offline rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #41 on: May 22, 2018, 05:45:13 pm »
Here's another side to engineering:  How many of you degreed engineers think about resolving the forces when you see a bridge?  Or you look at light fixtures in the medical clinic and remark on how they screwed up 'ceiling brightness'.  How many just like know how stuff works?  Sometimes you just know the Physics isn't in your favor.

There's more to EE school than just electronics.  Physics (two semesters) is the part I liked.  Sure, DC and AC theory was interesting, Fourier and Laplace were a grind (no calculators, hadn't been invented until I was ready to graduate), a course in statics, another in dynamics.  How about heat transfer?  Do you ever play around with Differential Equations (analog computing) just for giggles?

There were so many cool classes to take and the education stays with you, at some level, for the rest of your life.

It's fun to know stuff!

 

Offline rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #42 on: May 22, 2018, 05:50:55 pm »
You forget that most people with a law degree don't end up a lawyer and the same for economics. People who study that kind of degree, end up working in senior management, which often pays much more.

Absolutely right!  We have one in our family with a Master's in Law (Employment Law) and he has a nice job working in HR.  Very well paid!  And none of the math...

Given the paucity of Economists in California and the $77k mean income, I think these folks wasted their money on college.  The only reason I can come up with for chasing this degree is to become a stock trader.  But then the job title probably isn't Economist and there will be another BLS title with more money.
 

Offline trrway_32

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #43 on: May 22, 2018, 06:23:49 pm »
Quote
Outside of an academic institution or a large corporation, reading journal articles is outrageously expensive

There are gray area ways to obtain papers, like SciHub and Library Genesis. Also, some libraries in the US have Jstor and other subscriptions.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2018, 08:18:47 pm by trrway_32 »
 

Offline trrway_32

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #44 on: May 22, 2018, 06:26:31 pm »
@TimNJ

Yeah, it's a dilemma. I do agree, if I don't get some formal credentials I limit myself from government jobs and other places. However I realize that this system of high student loans is not sustainable, and part of is just so frustrated seeing coworkers still stuck with loan payments that I want to find another way.
 

Offline trrway_32

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #45 on: May 22, 2018, 06:29:36 pm »
Hero,

I want to gain an education because, while I can and have learned on the job, I still need practice with the fundamentals (calculus, physics, etc.) if I want to step up my game, learn quicker, and work on even more complex projects.
 

Offline trrway_32

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #46 on: May 22, 2018, 06:35:07 pm »
rstofer,

Thank you for responding. Yes, I've looked in to community college in my state, though they aren't as well regarded as the ones in California. Maybe I can move just for the community college? And yes, I realize it doesn't get easier as I get older, which is why I'm slightly panicking.

I did take a year in college, and I did screw up on Calc 2 (I had some AP credits that helped cover math and electives). I do realize my mistakes and know what to change if I did go back to college. The only minor issue is that I'd be on academic probation due to the calc class.

I have substituted and complemented my learning with Khan Academy and other MOOC's.
 

Offline trrway_32

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #47 on: May 22, 2018, 06:36:36 pm »
Thank you all for responding. I did not expect this turnout.

I'm still processing everybody's perspective.
 

Online blueskull

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #48 on: May 22, 2018, 06:46:38 pm »
1. How can I obtain knowledge, degree or no degree, for less than 40k? By knowledge I mean competency in subjects required for engineering (math, basic chemsitry, physics).
2. What other scholarships/fellowships/opportunities do you recommend I look into? I tried applying to the Dyson Institute, but didn’t get in.
3. Should I jump back into university now, or continue exploring until I’m absolutely certain of the track I want to pursue?

All responds are based on my observation at NC State University where I earned my PhD and just started as a postdoc.

1. You don't need to go to school. I learned most online, from reading magazines and app notes. When you are above a certain level, you need facilities and utilities from university, but before that, it's all about learning on your own. University does, however, force you to learn in case you don't have perfect self control.

2. Funding sources don't pay money out of good will. They give money based on observation of a good student that does well. You need to go to a community college or whatever cheap uni to get GPA3.5+ to prove yourself first. Also, while in uni, there are multiple ways to get money, such as working in university dining, working as resident advisor, doing REU or joining ROTC. REU is basically free money, as long as you are willing to work in a lab. I would even pay for he things that one can learn from this experience.

3. The older one gets, the more reluctant one becomes in studying. Eventually you will reach a point where your pressure from life is too high for you to quit job and go to school. Being young is a good wealth, and use it when you still have it. You have a lifetime for working, but just a few years for concentrating and studying.
 
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Offline james_s

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #49 on: May 22, 2018, 07:44:26 pm »
3. The older one gets, the more reluctant one becomes in studying. Eventually you will reach a point where your pressure from life is too high for you to quit job and go to school. Being young is a good wealth, and use it when you still have it. You have a lifetime for working, but just a few years for concentrating and studying.

The problem I had is that when I was in college I had very little income and could not afford to continue with school. I got lucky and got a job that paid fairly well but then I had no time for school. I've known people who managed to get through college fulltime while simultaneously working full time but I lack the sort of superhuman endurance required to do that. I'm just fortunate that at the time I got into the tech industry there wasn't much emphasis on qualifications. Throughout my career I've worked with some brilliant people, and some who were less than brilliant and I haven't seen a lot of correlation between job performance and the degrees they held. Of those with degrees, probably 50% had degrees in unrelated disciplines. A degree certainly helps get past HR, but it's never something I've cared about in the least when I've interviewed candidates. If anything I tend to favor those without degrees, I find they tend to be more "out of box" thinkers. Obviously this depends on the job though.
 

Offline rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #50 on: May 22, 2018, 08:04:14 pm »
rstofer,

Thank you for responding. Yes, I've looked in to community college in my state, though they aren't as well regarded as the ones in California. Maybe I can move just for the community college? And yes, I realize it doesn't get easier as I get older, which is why I'm slightly panicking.

I'm having these very same conversations with my grandson.  He's in Community College and he just aced Calc I.  That's pretty outstanding!  But there's more to do.  Oh, and I get a co-A...  Do grandfather's get credit?

Our conversations are now focused on his major.  He wants to take Mechanical Engineering and I'm pushing for Computer Engineering.  ME is boring and CE is MAGIC!

Community college is certainly a good place to start.  Take whatever is available but start now!
 

Offline trrway_32

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #51 on: May 22, 2018, 08:08:05 pm »
Quote
I feel some assumptions have being made about the original poster, one is that they want to go into further education for the money. If this is true, then I doubt doing an engineering degree will get the best return on their investment. I don't know about the US, but in the UK an engineering degree certainly isn't the best thing to do, purely for financial return: economics and law are probably better options.

If it's not about the money, then it might make more sense to study something completely different, get a comfortably paid job and informally study electronics for a hobby.

Hero,

Yes, a main drive is that I want to go back and finish my degree is for financial improvement. You said you don't think it will give me the best return on investment. What would then give me a better return on investment?
 

Offline trrway_32

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #52 on: May 22, 2018, 08:13:20 pm »
Quote
He's in Community College and he just aced Calc I.

I've heard community college is just a continuation of high school i.e. you're surrounded by people who aren't really that motivated. Is this true? Does he feel he's missing out on things like clubs, campus life, and networking with potential companies?
 

Offline Seph.b

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #53 on: May 22, 2018, 09:21:18 pm »
Quote
He's in Community College and he just aced Calc I.

I've heard community college is just a continuation of high school i.e. you're surrounded by people who aren't really that motivated. Is this true? Does he feel he's missing out on things like clubs, campus life, and networking with potential companies?

From my experience gen ed/100 level classes at a 4yr college are just like high school. May as well get the boring stuff out of the way for cheap so you can focus on your degree classes when you go to 4yr. More expensive universities will probably provide a better experience for those type of classes, but at a much higher cost. 
 
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Offline rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #54 on: May 22, 2018, 09:30:23 pm »
Quote
He's in Community College and he just aced Calc I.

I've heard community college is just a continuation of high school i.e. you're surrounded by people who aren't really that motivated. Is this true? Does he feel he's missing out on things like clubs, campus life, and networking with potential companies?

I used to view Community College as 'kiddie college'.  I don't do this any more.  There are programs like 'rocks for jocks', sure, but for the engineering units to be transferable to the engineering curriculum at state colleges and universities, they have to cover the very same material to the very same depth.  There are standards!  These CC's are serious schools.  That AS degree is earned in sweat and tears!

We (my grandson and I) have talked about clubs, campus life, Greek life and networking and it all comes down the same way.  In E school, you don't have time for that stuff.  There's a reason that engineers are characterized as a little weird and socially inept.  There's just no time for getting drunk on Friday night and sleeping it off on Saturday.  Unless you're a genius and then you will be socially inept anyway and nobody is going to invite you to the party.

Go back to the numbers I posted earlier:  There will be 2 or 3 hours of homework per week for every unit in the course.  For some classes, this might explode to 5 hours of homework.  So, take a 4 unit Calculus class and expect to spend 5 hours in class and up to 25 hours on study.  Now multiply by 3 because you simply must take 12 units (minimum) and you're looking at 90 hours a week.  That's about 13 hours per day, every day of the week.  There's simply no time for a hangover.  A more realistic number is probably just around 60 hours per week or about 8 hours per day.  This is a full time job!  Some semesters you have to take 15 units - it just gets worse.

When I went to EE school, it took 141 units to graduate.  I had thought it was 132 but when I looked at my transcript, it said 141.  Either way...  Take 132 units and divide by 4 years and you get 33 units per year.  Divide by 3 semesters (trimester system) and you can just squeak by with 11 units per semester, call it 12.  In a two semester system with a short summer session, you can't do this.  There's no possible way to take a Calculus class in a short semester.  So, maybe you can take a few units of General Education but that's about it.  So, you have to average 12 to 15 units so that you wind up with 27 units during the two main semesters and perhaps 6 during the summer - if there are that many easy courses available in the summer.

It will be interesting to see what the other engineers have to say about their study habits but I'd be willing to bet that most of them didn't do a lot of partying.  If you want to party, take Psychology or History.

By all means, talk to a counselor!  Do NOT take my word for anything, I'm just writing what I recall and what my grandson is working through.  There are other opinions.

Networking... Many E schools have internship requirements.  You spend your summer vacation working in industry.  Probably for free but at least for credit.

Here is the EE program for the University of the Pacific

http://www.pacific.edu/Documents/school-engineering/acrobat/ee%2017-18.pdf

Notice the 32 units of CO-OP as a requirement.  Bottom of the 2d page...

Another reason employers want to see a degree:  They know what you went through to get it!  They know you can work for weeks on end with no break in sight.  They figure if they slide Pizza under the door from time to time, you'll be working on their project.  They'll send in the janitor every once in a while to take out the empties.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2018, 09:33:53 pm by rstofer »
 
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Offline TimNJ

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #55 on: May 22, 2018, 10:21:58 pm »
Well, don't want to get off topic from OP's question too much...but...

From my perspective, I'd say >50% of engineering majors at my school partied just as hard as any other person from any other major. I think it all kind of scales. The workload is absolutely harder,  but engineering majors are also typically smarter to start with. And I went to a school generally known as a very "studious" school, definitely not known for its party scene.

But in the end, like any experience, it's what you make of it. If I didn't join clubs or Greek life, I probably would've been miserable, especially with social media shoving everyone else's fun down your throat. Engineers are human too. We like fun just as much as anyone else. It's up to you to figure out what your optimal balance of fun and work is. While you go to college to prepare you for a profession, there are many other intangible skills to be developed. I think it is important not to overlook those.
 
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Offline trrway_32

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #56 on: May 22, 2018, 11:03:26 pm »
Quote
But in the end, like any experience, it's what you make of it. If I didn't join clubs or Greek life, I probably would've been miserable, especially with social media shoving everyone else's fun down your throat.

TimNJ,

Thanks for responding. Yeah, social media was a big contributor to my anxiety and not doing well the year I went. I had my hopes up that everything will fall into place freshmen year, and I'd work hard and play hard, and get laid, and meet my future wife right away...

It left me with unreal expectations, and I still have trouble breaking them.
 

Offline trrway_32

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #57 on: May 22, 2018, 11:06:57 pm »
Quote
Another reason employers want to see a degree:  They know what you went through to get it!  They know you can work for weeks on end with no break in sight.  They figure if they slide Pizza under the door from time to time, you'll be working on their project.  They'll send in the janitor every once in a while to take out the empties.

Devil's advocate: college/higher ed is so expensive and full of bulls**t to break students into being compliant workaholics i.e. "hey, we got this guy to go into debt, and trained him to jump through hoops and test questions like a show dog. He'll be perfect for bossing around and when he's overworked and worn out we'll have plenty of students left desperate to pay off their loans"

Pardon my rant; I'm really just fed up with socities' disrespect for obtaining education.
 

Offline james_s

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #58 on: May 22, 2018, 11:44:10 pm »
These folks are making some pretty nice money!
Not really. $150K is decent living, but not more. Half or third of your after tax money will go towards rent, and with a salary like that you can forget to ever buy a house.

Depends on where you live. I bought a house when I was making only about $50k at the time, though that was almost 14 years ago. No way I'd be able to afford one around here now, but if I made $150k it might be possible. Seattle is one of the most expensive places around to live though.
 

Offline rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #59 on: May 23, 2018, 12:01:06 am »
Well, don't want to get off topic from OP's question too much...but...

From my perspective, I'd say >50% of engineering majors at my school partied just as hard as any other person from any other major. I think it all kind of scales. The workload is absolutely harder,  but engineering majors are also typically smarter to start with. And I went to a school generally known as a very "studious" school, definitely not known for its party scene.

But in the end, like any experience, it's what you make of it. If I didn't join clubs or Greek life, I probably would've been miserable, especially with social media shoving everyone else's fun down your throat. Engineers are human too. We like fun just as much as anyone else. It's up to you to figure out what your optimal balance of fun and work is. While you go to college to prepare you for a profession, there are many other intangible skills to be developed. I think it is important not to overlook those.

I'm biased against having time to party.  I was also working 40-60 hours per week, with a wife, kid, two cars and a house to cover.  It wasn't pretty!
 

Offline rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #60 on: May 23, 2018, 12:27:03 am »

Devil's advocate: college/higher ed is so expensive and full of bulls**t to break students into being compliant workaholics i.e. "hey, we got this guy to go into debt, and trained him to jump through hoops and test questions like a show dog. He'll be perfect for bossing around and when he's overworked and worn out we'll have plenty of students left desperate to pay off their loans"

Pardon my rant; I'm really just fed up with socities' disrespect for obtaining education.

Hey, it's your thread!  If you want to go back to school, fine!  If not, no biggie...  No matter how expensive college is, it's cheaper than not going to college.

I was working as an electrician installing huge NC machines.  Hundreds of horsepower of cutting heads machining vast pieces of aluminum to an unbelievable precision, all driven by a 1" paper tape. Circa 1969...

I went to EE school specifically to learn how the machine controls worked.  It was a hobby, really.  I could have kept my electrical job indefinitely and still been well paid.  But I wanted to know how these systems worked.  After a couple of years I had the information but I stuck it out for the BSEE.  The 4th year was really a drag...  I swear, if it had taken another semester I would have junked the whole idea.

I started grad school just because my employer had a flyer on the bulletin board and paid all the expenses.  It was a night program aimed specifically at engineers in the aerospace industry.  I signed up.  This was the very beginning of the microprocessor era and hardware engineering was interesting.  I got to take the courses I wanted, not just a preordained list.  It was fun!

I never did work in my major.  I did a wee bit of consulting (code weenie mostly) and that's about it.  Everything else has been electrical or project management.  I only used Fourier Analysis one time in 40 years.  The rest of the time I sold my skills in the electrical trade.  Not by bending pipe and pulling wire but by having a lot of other people bending pipe and pulling wire.  And the other trades as well...

My education was the cost of entry.  Without the paper I would never have been hired.

I would never have been involved with engineering a wafer fab in a foreign country.  I would never have made 13
 dive trips to Malaysia, sleeping on the sandy beaches of small islands, eating food supplied by the American School, drinking wine supplied by the American, New Zealand and Australian embassies (there was a contest), dove from a week long live-aboard sailboat near Phuket, Thailand, lived in a hut and dove in the Maldives ending up with 113 dives in one year and still got the fab built.  Best time of my life and it damn sure wouldn't have happened without the paper.

You just never know how things are going to turn out.

And, yes, I just got lucky!
 

Offline james_s

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #61 on: May 23, 2018, 12:48:51 am »
I don't think it's always cheaper to go to college than not. There are loads of people that go to college and get some degree that isn't really very useful, and end up in a job where the degree might have been a small amount of help getting in but not something that pays enough to really be worth it. Some people go to college with the wrong attitude, or get through school somehow not really knowing much of anything about their field of study. There are some jobs where you absolutely need college, but there are also a lot of jobs that I don't see much real benefit. Personally I think a nice middle ground would be to have more 1-2 year degree or certification programs and then something along the lines of white collar apprenticeships. I'd also like to see less of a stigma on the trades, those have always been perfectly respectable and necessary careers but then at some point the push for everyone to go to college led to some real shortages. The cost of college is also out of control, if it's going to be necessary for nearly anyone then it should be provided either free or at greatly reduced costs. We already provide 12 years of public education, why not toss in a 2 year degree for those who elect to do so? Then they can go take additional schooling if they want a BS or MS or whatever.
 

Offline ez24

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #62 on: May 23, 2018, 01:07:18 am »

1. How can I obtain knowledge, degree or no degree, for less than 40k?


You might find something here:

https://www.eevblog.com/forum/other-blog-specific/a/msg1341170/#msg1341170
YouTube and Website Electronic Resources ------>  https://www.eevblog.com/forum/other-blog-specific/a/msg1341166/#msg1341166
 
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Offline rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #63 on: May 23, 2018, 01:16:12 am »
I don't think it's always cheaper to go to college than not. There are loads of people that go to college and get some degree that isn't really very useful, and end up in a job where the degree might have been a small amount of help getting in but not something that pays enough to really be worth it.

Throughout this thread, I have been talking about STEM and, in particular, engineering.  Yes, it is possible to graduate with a degree that leads nowhere.  Try Psychology...  At best you can get a job as a social worker.

Quote
Some people go to college with the wrong attitude, or get through school somehow not really knowing much of anything about their field of study. There are some jobs where you absolutely need college, but there are also a lot of jobs that I don't see much real benefit. Personally I think a nice middle ground would be to have more 1-2 year degree or certification programs and then something along the lines of white collar apprenticeships. I'd also like to see less of a stigma on the trades, those have always been perfectly respectable and necessary careers but then at some point the push for everyone to go to college led to some real shortages. The cost of college is also out of control, if it's going to be necessary for nearly anyone then it should be provided either free or at greatly reduced costs. We already provide 12 years of public education, why not toss in a 2 year degree for those who elect to do so? Then they can go take additional schooling if they want a BS or MS or whatever.

My lawn guy and his helper are making $50/hr each doing my yard work.  The thing is, I don't want to do it and they do.  The price seems outrageous until I think about having to do it myself.  I'll just pay for it!

I have always maintained that the electrical trade was the one to have.  My father was an electrician and he trained both of his sons.  As he said it "I'll teach you all you'll ever know about the trade.  I won't teach you all I know!".  Worst case, my brother and I had a trade we could always fall back on.

Community college is fairly inexpensive.  It's $46 per unit plus books, student fee and parking permit.  Books are a big deal - used may be a better way to go.  A good textbook is near $200 but, in the case of the Calculus book, it is used over the entire 4 classes (I believe).  If you figure about 60 units in CC, you're talking $2800 for tuition, I don't know how much for the student fees and probably $150 in parking plus, perhaps, $2000 in books (just guessing).  So maybe $5k for the AS program.  Financial aide is usually available but even if it isn't, $5k isn't a lot when it's spread over 2 or 3 years.

Tuition at the state colleges is fixed at $5742/year (more than 6 units per semester) plus probably $2000 in books so another $14000 for the BS degree.  Total around $19k, call it $20k.  I don't think $20k is a big number when you look at the 'mean' salaries for most engineers.

Where students get into trouble is when they borrow as much as they can, pay out of pocket as little as they can, party their brains out and major in Art History.  Of course they're going to be carrying a lot of debt for the rest of their lives.

 

Offline TimNJ

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #64 on: May 23, 2018, 02:33:38 am »
Quote
But in the end, like any experience, it's what you make of it. If I didn't join clubs or Greek life, I probably would've been miserable, especially with social media shoving everyone else's fun down your throat.

TimNJ,

Thanks for responding. Yeah, social media was a big contributor to my anxiety and not doing well the year I went. I had my hopes up that everything will fall into place freshmen year, and I'd work hard and play hard, and get laid, and meet my future wife right away...

It left me with unreal expectations, and I still have trouble breaking them.

I absolutely know how you feel, and you definitely aren't alone. People tend to avoid talking about the emotional and psychological struggles young people are faced with in college. These struggles are especially real if you go away to a four-year college. And it's way more complicated than just putting your head down and getting your school work done. Maybe if you're a robot. But for us humans, comparing yourself to people around you and your own expectations, can be absolutely crippling. For me, it kind of felt like I was part of some f****d up social experiment. Luckily, had a group of friends there to catch me. But, obviously, not everyone does.

Interestingly, I don't think I would've had all of those insecurities if I had decided to stay at home and/or went to a community college where social status isn't as "baked-in" as it is in four-year universities. Do I wish I did that? No. But I only say that because my college experience ended up being a good one. BUT, it could have very well been awful, had a could of things not happened.

I say all this because: If you feel that the pressures and anxiety associated with four-year colleges is going to be overbearing, maybe I'd suggest staying away from that type of environment. Community college or a "commuter" school will perhaps help you to stay focused on your studies.

And regarding the ladies, you WILL find someone who loves and appreciates you. It might not be on the first try, or the second, but that's okay. Be with someone who YOU want to be with, and not who you think others would want to see you with. Be honest with who you are. Let who you are shine through and almost inevitably someone will notice and appreciate who you are. Speaking from experience, making a lot of blunders on that front... ;)
 
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Offline CatalinaWOW

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #65 on: May 23, 2018, 02:58:46 am »
Good life advice in the last few posts.  I will add that different colleges and universities offer very different experiences.  Your first college experience may have resulted in part from a terrible mismatch between you and the institution.  Not surprising since most people don't really understand what they want or need, and it is even rarer in those of the age to go to college first try.  It is also very hard to evaluate a schools culture from the outside. 

You may be in a better position to evaluate these things now and would find the school experience much more rewarding.
 

Offline trrway_32

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #66 on: May 23, 2018, 07:23:30 pm »
Quote
Good life advice in the last few posts.  I will add that different colleges and universities offer very different experiences.  Your first college experience may have resulted in part from a terrible mismatch between you and the institution.  Not surprising since most people don't really understand what they want or need, and it is even rarer in those of the age to go to college first try.  It is also very hard to evaluate a schools culture from the outside.

You may be in a better position to evaluate these things now and would find the school experience much more rewarding.

Thanks for the response.

Yeah, I've been wondering that lately myself. I either didn't get into the school I wanted, or felt that the competition to get into the schools I actually wanted was so high that I didn't even try, let alone even know other universities existed. In hindsight I wish I applied to all the schools I really wanted. It feels like I've settled too much in life. Maybe it's me, maybe I'm just too picky and have too high expectations about what I'll get out of college. I dunno.
 

Offline Rick Law

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #67 on: May 24, 2018, 12:07:47 am »
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He's in Community College and he just aced Calc I.

I've heard community college is just a continuation of high school i.e. you're surrounded by people who aren't really that motivated. Is this true? Does he feel he's missing out on things like clubs, campus life, and networking with potential companies?

Partially true.  Community college is a mix of that you cited, and a group of "already in the work force folks" trying to make more of themselves.  This already in the work force group is very motivated because they have a goal and they are there because they wanted to.

As to clubs, campus life, etc.  If you are going to college for that, you are wasting money.  I may be out-of-date (already retired), but I am sure very few will hire you because you had a wonderful campus life in the last few years.  Same for clubs.  Companies typically do not recruit at community college (aka: junior college).  Some don't see the two-year degree (associate degree) as a real degree.  But, some companies do hire interns from community colleges.  That is a way in.

Community College typically have a much lower admission criteria and much lower cost.  It is a good place to get the non-major related requirements filled.  You do have to make sure the 4-year college you intend to transfer to will accept those credits.  Besides filling non-critical requirements, check with the school to see what local firms hires interns from them.  According to various reports, the lower-income end of the US job market is beginning to till towards employees.  It may spread to higher end markets.  When that happens, companies will reach "lower" and take more interns from 2 year colleges.

The most important part is, once you decide this is your mission (ie: gaining knowledge or gaining employment), stick to it.  Push hard.
 
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Offline rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #68 on: May 24, 2018, 12:54:44 am »
Community College typically have a much lower admission criteria and much lower cost.

Both are true but the important part is that for the units to be transferable, the content needs to be equivalent.  There would be no point in a state college or university accepting students from community colleges if they didn't have the skills to succeed.  In which case there wouldn't be any need for community colleges.

Quote

  It is a good place to get the non-major related requirements filled.  You do have to make sure the 4-year college you intend to transfer to will accept those credits.


Around here, the community college can tell the students exactly which courses are transferable and for which course at the state college level.  In some cases they can also tell the student how the courses line up for local private universities.  This stuff is all worked out.  The student just needs to sit down with a counselor and get the program set up properly.  This is important!

There are two schools of thought:  First, just take the General Eds at community college and do the major courses (including lower division) at the state college or university.  This works but it takes longer due to the sequential nature of certain programs.  You really need to take the proper courses early on.  At our local community college, Calculus I is a first semester course.  This assumes that the incoming student has a good handle on Pre-Calc and, if they don't, Pre-Calc is a two semester program.  So there's another year...

Second, instead of just looking for transfer credits, work through the program to get an AS degree.  This is one of those binary things, you have a degree, in your hand.  Yes, it's just an AS but it is a degree and it changes how your work is viewed at the state college or university.  At least that's the way it works around here.

As I said, I didn't have time to party and I don't imagine any of today's EE students do either.  Maybe over the breaks but certainly not every night or every weekend.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2018, 01:07:26 am by rstofer »
 

Offline Rick Law

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #69 on: May 24, 2018, 01:09:17 am »
An additional point: BlueSkull mentioned ROTC.

That is indeed a way to fund college, but make sure you really want to be in it.  You are required to serve in the military a certain amount of time upon graduation.  You can't quit at-will like if you are working a McDonalds.    If you do want to serve, this is pretty sweet.  You get paid while you attend college.  Work your backside off (if you are Navy) waking up before sun rise to run the tracks, and you may even get a cruise during summer in a windowless ship.  You are sure to have a job upon graduation.  If you don't want to serve, that is a pretty hard way to earn money; and then you are forced to take a job that you don't want for X years upon graduation.

I do know a guy, accepted by MIT, and needed money for college.  He funded his MIT education by joining N-ROTC (Navy ROTC).  He found his life in the Navy.  He is now a Navy Captain.

I was giving someone a ride to the recruiting station (and to the unit for Q&A) last school year.  I sat there and listen in.  Let me share with you what I know.  You have to find out the applicable rules for yourself.  This is based on my understanding and may be incorrect.

Last year, NROTC will (upon selection) pay a salary (~$400/mo, I think) as well as your tuition plus some extra (book fees, I think).  Upon graduation, you are require you to serve somewhere around 4 years to 6 years depending on the path you choose.  I think you have to be 27 or under and pass their physical ability test.  Again, you should check the rules - even if what I remember for last year is correct, it is probably updated/changed by today.  NROTC includes U.S. Marines.  The Navy side focus more on engineering and related (the unit I saw).  The Marine side, well, more physical.

Those not selected can still get in (unit commander's decision) and then try to work your way into scholarship.  The recruiter said (I overheard) that freshman year is no-obligation.  By end of second year, you are committed.   Everyone who stay in 3rd year are with scholarship, or with special permission.  (I think it means if you are not selected before starting your junior year, you are pretty much out of luck).

Whatever path you choose, stick to it.  Success is a choice.  Bill Gates didn't finish college.  Jack Welch on the other hand got his PhD to get to the next step of the ladder.  Both did rather well.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2018, 02:08:10 am by Rick Law »
 

Offline ez24

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #70 on: May 24, 2018, 03:50:53 am »
A crazy idea that worked for me. 

I had trouble in and out over 15 years going to college.   I had the ability to travel around the world on free flights (military) and I could not get that out of my mind.  Once walking across campus, I turned around (dropped out) and flew to Thailand.

 What really worked was I went backwards.  The most interesting courses are senior and grad classes.  So I took those first and worked my way to the freshman classes.  I always crashed a course on the last day except for one course that required written proof from someone.  I had to see a counselor once and his exact words were "what the hell are you doing".

It made going to school interesting and at 49 I got a BSCE degree.  It was not easy but it worked because it kept my interest up. 

The hardest and first course I took was a grad class on a 68000 and it blew me away and I had to drop and change my major. No more grad classes after that.   :-DD

At the end I knew if I dropped out that would be the end (no degree) so for many years when my dad was ill,  I made sure I took at least one class.

Things worked out and at least I am not homeless and at the end of my career (water treatment plant inspector) was interesting.  The bad thing was the age discrimination at work.  Also I was able to buy a DZ1054 and drive a beat up 1999 Chev.

So if there is a will, there is a way.

You really do not have to follow the sheep because there is no Australian Shepard (FYI - the smartest dog) chasing you.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2018, 06:37:42 pm by ez24 »
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Offline Rick Law

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #71 on: May 24, 2018, 06:07:46 pm »
...
It made going to school interesting and at 49 I got a BSCE degree.
...
...
So if there is a will, there is a way.

You really do not have to follow the sheep because there is no Australian Shepard chasing you.

Ez24, Wow!  BSCE @ 49!  I admire you for your tenacity and will!  Hats off to you.

"So if there is a will, there is a way."   This is too often missing.  Success is a choice, too many college kids too often just drift and only sadly discover it too late.

So, to the OP, I encourage you to shake yourself down, convince yourself this is, or this is not the path you want.  Your post indicate you are thinking and thinking hard.  Shake yourself down to the point you are confident of the rightness of the goal.  Once you decide the goal, push hard.  Where there is a will, there is a way.

Check with the community college and see if you can "audit" (aka, "sit in") a course.  That is, to sit in the class room without signing up to be a student (and without paying.)  Some colleges allow that.  Some professors even welcomes it.  This may help validate your decision to go via community college or not.

I sincerely wish you success!
« Last Edit: May 24, 2018, 06:22:55 pm by Rick Law »
 
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Offline james_s

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #72 on: May 25, 2018, 12:53:24 am »
I've seriously considered going back to school and getting a degree once I've paid off my house and can afford to work part time although by then I'll be in my late 40s so I'm not sure how much value it will add. I've got nearly 20 years of experience in software, developed a couple of hardware products myself and got a patent for one of them and there are gadgets I've designed all over my house but I still don't generally call myself a "real" engineer. I did about 2 years of college toward EE before financial realities ended that and I took a "summer job" at a large software company that accidentally lead to a career change. School was so long ago now that realistically I'd have to start over at the beginning to re-learn all the stuff I haven't used since then and I don't think I'd want to make EE a fulltime job anyway as it's something I enjoy so much as a hobby. CS would probably make more sense at this point.
 

Offline ez24

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #73 on: May 25, 2018, 01:04:25 am »
I've seriously considered going back to school and getting a degree ...

My prediction (let us know in 10 years which one is correct)

- If you do you will be glad (and your wallet) that you did

- If you do not, you will regret it

When you are 70, I hope you will not be sitting and regretting. I do not regret it.

I do not think you would face the same age problem that I did.  I started at the bottom at 49, sounds like you will not be at the bottom.



YouTube and Website Electronic Resources ------>  https://www.eevblog.com/forum/other-blog-specific/a/msg1341166/#msg1341166
 

Offline IanB

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #74 on: May 25, 2018, 02:27:34 am »
School was so long ago now that realistically I'd have to start over at the beginning to re-learn all the stuff I haven't used since then and I don't think I'd want to make EE a fulltime job anyway as it's something I enjoy so much as a hobby. CS would probably make more sense at this point.

This is an interesting comment. If there's stuff you haven't used since so long you've forgotten it, is it stuff you haven't needed to use, or stuff you have needed to use but didn't know how to do it?

If it's stuff you haven't needed, then relearning it now would be pointless unless you make some kind of career change where it becomes useful?

If it's stuff you have needed, then I would hope you have tried to learn it by yourself and you wouldn't need to go back to school (college) for it. Because college tells you what you need to know, but you still have to do the learning. Whether someone stands up in front of the class and writes on the board, or whether you read the book by yourself, it is the same hard road to understanding. College doesn't make the learning easier, it just provides a structured program, forces you to work to a schedule, and provides people you can ask for help.
I'm not an EE--what am I doing here?
 

Offline james_s

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #75 on: May 25, 2018, 04:56:06 am »
Mostly stuff I haven't needed, although what's needed varies by the line of work one chooses to do, and the point of getting a degree would be to open possibilities for career growth. When I started out in the tech industry hardly anybody cared about degrees, only about half the software engineers I worked with had a degree and a lot of those were not STEM degrees. In recent years that has shifted somewhat although it's still far from universal. Whether I need it or not there's still a lot of stuff one has to know in order to pass the classes.

 


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