Author Topic: US Student Seeking Education Advice  (Read 7814 times)

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Offline Spilly

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US Student Seeking Education Advice
« on: September 20, 2014, 01:48:51 pm »
I am a third semester Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology student attending a local community college (Isothermal Community College).  In my time between classes I work on electronics and programming projects.  The one I am most proud of is writing a bit bang SPI driver for communication between a Texas Instrument IC and a microcontroller.  An open source driver did not exist, so I made one.  I enjoyed doing this and I believe I would enjoy creating interfaces for new hardware, or something similar, as a career.


       
Currently I am at a cross-road which has literally been keeping me up at night.  These are the paths that I can see.


1. Start over and enroll in Electrical and/or Computer Engineering courses at a different School.  Yes, shame on me for not knowing the difference between engineering and engineering technology.


2. Finish my associates degree at the community college and then transfer to an Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology School that will accept my previous courses towards a bachelor degree and specializes in a field I enjoy.


3. Finish my associates degree at the community college and then transfer to the ABET accredited Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology school (Western Carolina University http://www.wcu.edu/academics/departments-schools-colleges/Kimmel/academic-programs-degrees-offered/engtech/bachelor-of-science-in-electrical-and-computer-engineering-technology.asp) and build my knowledge in a field I enjoy outside of class.  WCU offers a 2+2 ECET program with the community college I am attending which means all of my ECET classes will transfer towards a bachelor degree.

a. If I go this route will it be difficult to find a job that is not in the same specialty field as the school I graduate from?


Adding to the difficulty of this decision is I am 27 years old, married, and my wife has a good job.  I worry that if I extend my time in school, I will graduate a bachelor.  The closest ABET accredited school would allow for my wife to keep her job.  The school is geared towards industrial manufacturing.  This is not the area I want to specialize/work in.

In reference to finding a job, several people have told me that it is not necessarily what school you go to but what you can do.  To what extent is this true?

I currently live in the small township of Union Mills, NC.
       
I’m not expecting someone to make this decision for me.  I am simply looking for any thoughts you may have on my situation.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2014, 08:11:09 pm by Spilly »
 

Offline JoeO

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2014, 02:28:10 pm »
It would really help if you told us where you are and what college you are referring to.
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Offline Spilly

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2014, 02:43:00 pm »
It would really help if you told us where you are and what college you are referring to.

I currently live in the small township of Union Mills, NC.

I am currently at a local community college (Isothermal Community College).  #3 is referring to Western Carolina University http://www.wcu.edu/academics/departments-schools-colleges/Kimmel/academic-programs-degrees-offered/engtech/bachelor-of-science-in-electrical-and-computer-engineering-technology.asp

The OP has been updated with this information.  Please let me know what other information would be useful.
 

Offline JoeO

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2014, 03:01:33 pm »
OK.  Thanks for the update.

I teach in a local Community College and advise students.

First things first.  After the Associate degree, you need to get a Bachelor degree.  Then after that you get a Master's degree.

In looking through the link you provided, this paragraph stands out:

"Fully accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission (TAC) of ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology), this program meets or exceeds high standards set for the preparation of computer engineers and computer systems engineers. This program emphasizes the use of microcomputers to solve industrial problems relating to automation, instrumentation and control in systems involving robotics, data communications, networks, and/or automated testing. In all cases, microcomputer hardware and software are used for data acquisition, transfer and analysis."

Although this may not look like EXACTLY what you want, it is still very close.   There are some elective courses you can take to learn more about the field you want to get into.

You need to make an appointment with someone at WCU to see what your options are.  Start with the Admissions department.  Tell him/her exactly what you wrote here.  Ask how many of your credits will transfer.  What transfers depends on what program you go into and what your grades are.

Good luck!  Keep us posted.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2014, 03:04:30 pm by JoeO »
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Offline Spilly

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2014, 03:15:36 pm »
First things first.  After the Associate degree, you need to get a Bachelor degree.  Then after that you get a Master's degree.

Yes, I get the two mixed up.  I meant the four year degree.

You need to make an appointment with someone at WCU to see what your options are.  Start with the Admissions department.  Tell him/her exactly what you wrote here.  Ask how many of your credits will transfer.  What transfers depends on what program you go into and what your grades are.

An important bit of information I should have included in my OP (will update OP) is WCU offers a 2+2 ECET program with the community college I am attending.  From my understanding, this will allow all of my ECET courses to transfer.

Thank you for the input.
 

Offline JoeO

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2014, 03:19:58 pm »
The transfer info sounds "good" but usually in these kind of transfer programs you need to have a certain grade point average.

Also, most colleges do not transfer a grade less than a "C".
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Offline Spilly

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2014, 03:24:32 pm »
The transfer info sounds "good" but usually in these kind of transfer programs you need to have a certain grade point average.

Also, most colleges do not transfer a grade less than a "C".

I currently have a 4.0 GPA.

Are there any other "fine print" you are aware of?
 

Offline tggzzz

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2014, 03:29:40 pm »
A few points to ponder, which should not be interpreted as advice.

After a few years in the job, what will matter is what you have done in the job, and how useful it is and will be in the future.

There are two distinct career trajectories to consider. Firstly to become a jack of all trades and master of none. Secondly to become a world expert in frobnitz do-dahs. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

Whan I've been an interviewer, I've always looked for someone that asks interesting questions, goes out and does more than necessary simply because they enjoy it, has understood the practice and theory of whatever they have done, worked out what they would do better next time. Note that the specific technology isn't mentioned in there, because all specific technologies have a finite lifetime that is shorter than your career.

There is only one valid reason for doing a PhD in the UK: because you want to. Any idea that it will get you a better job is false (although there are/were some government career paths where lack of a PhD was a glass ceiling).

If your location is fixed, it might be helpful to find out what local employers value.
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Offline JoeO

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2014, 03:49:47 pm »
The transfer info sounds "good" but usually in these kind of transfer programs you need to have a certain grade point average.

Also, most colleges do not transfer a grade less than a "C".

I currently have a 4.0 GPA.

Are there any other "fine print" you are aware of?
Colleges are on the look out for good students.  That would be YOU!
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Offline dannyf

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2014, 04:48:52 pm »
Quote
I am simply looking for any thoughts you may have on my situation.

I would finish your degree at the community college and go for a masters or a phd.

The difference between a bachelor's degree and an associate degree is minimum and is a waste of time to do both.

If you really like engineering, go to a good school. UNC in your state, or Georgia Tech next door. A lot more choices further north but they tend to be snobby and coming from a school they don't understand puts you at a disadvantage.

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Offline zapta

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2014, 06:34:59 pm »
The difference between a bachelor's degree and an associate degree is minimum and is a waste of time to do both.

+1

And the value of a bachelor degree is much higher (think of it as an enlisted vs. officer).
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Offline IanB

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2014, 06:50:37 pm »
The difference between a bachelor's degree and an associate degree is minimum and is a waste of time to do both.

But it is absolutely not a waste of time to continue on from an associate degree and convert it into a bachelor's degree if you can carry over the credit and not start again from scratch. A bachelor's degree is much more valuable.

You can't go straight from an associate degree into a PhD program, so that should not even be suggested.
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Offline JoeO

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2014, 07:46:20 pm »
I would finish your degree at the community college and go for a masters or a phd.

The difference between a bachelor's degree and an associate degree is minimum and is a waste of time to do both.

If you really like engineering, go to a good school. UNC in your state, or Georgia Tech next door. A lot more choices further north but they tend to be snobby and coming from a school they don't understand puts you at a disadvantage.

People may read this at a future time and not realize that all 4 sentences are totally incorrect.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2014, 07:48:56 pm by JoeO »
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Offline Spilly

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #13 on: September 20, 2014, 08:38:57 pm »
Whan I've been an interviewer, I've always looked for someone that asks interesting questions, goes out and does more than necessary simply because they enjoy it, has understood the practice and theory of whatever they have done, worked out what they would do better next time. Note that the specific technology isn't mentioned in there, because all specific technologies have a finite lifetime that is shorter than your career.

In such a situation how big of a factor is a person's degree?  For example a bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering vs Electrical Engineering Technology?
 

Offline dannyf

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2014, 08:39:19 pm »
Quote
WCU offers a 2+2 ECET program

Engineering schools are very much like business schools in that if you don't get into the top programs, you might as well don't go, assuming that you want to do some thing good in engineering.

I would aim a little bit higher, and play up your "un-usual" background - poor background, bad schools, difficult life, volunteer works, etc. You just have to remember that those academia types are extreme liberals and you have to play that card to your advantage.

Another angle is to go into a cross-disciplinary area, like engineering for medical devices, etc. If you have the right background, you can greatly enhance your chance of admission that way.

I would also think about what programs you want to get in, and start correspond with the professors who have research focuses on those areas. It will help you a lot in admission.

There aren't a lot of good engineer programs in the US, particularly in the southeast. Aside from UNC and Georgia Tech, some areas at NCState (semiconductor materials) are good too. Going further north, Hopskins, VTech, Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh (bio engineering), Drexel, Columbia, MIT, UMass or maybe Cornell are your best bets - there are some very good private engineering colleges in Mass but they are expensive and without the right pedigree, it is difficult to get in.

Going west, you have WashingtonU, Illinois, Purdue, Michigan (expensive for out of state students), and of course a bunch of CA schools - super snobby, particularly if you don't have the right background.

I would focus first on public schools in your state, and then public schools out of your state, with limited efforts on private schools that you really like.

The key is really to think from the schools' perspectives and make you fit their criteria. Once you are in, you have a lot more freedom to do whatever you want.

If you are a white male or Asian, you have a handicap in this game and you have to double your efforts to even the odds, unfortunately.
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Offline dannyf

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #15 on: September 20, 2014, 08:42:10 pm »
Quote
In such a situation how big of a factor is a person's degree?

Practically none.

What matters if which program you come from? how's your program, not even your school, viewed? What interesting things you have done, and your personality / chemistry.

Obviously, your technical capabilities, particularly math, are presumed there.
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Offline tggzzz

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2014, 09:52:24 pm »
Whan I've been an interviewer, I've always looked for someone that asks interesting questions, goes out and does more than necessary simply because they enjoy it, has understood the practice and theory of whatever they have done, worked out what they would do better next time. Note that the specific technology isn't mentioned in there, because all specific technologies have a finite lifetime that is shorter than your career.

In such a situation how big of a factor is a person's degree?  For  example a bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering vs Electrical Engineering Technology?
I don't understand that distinction - it is unknown on this side of the pond.

The best advice I can give is to do something that (a) interests you (b) is practical/possible for you (c) within a reasonable timeframe. Many employers moan about new graduates not understanding the real world. That's a stupid, myopic, ignorant attitude, but the sooner you can lay it to rest - by getting a (relevant) real job - the better. It is a balancing act and ultimately a judgment call.

My experience is that once you are talking to the engineers, they will judge you on how your experience and ability meets what they need. If the engineers are competent they will find ways to allow you to (a) show what you've achieved in the past (b) quiz you on your expertise  relevant to the job. Having the ability to talk about (a) helps the interview along no end!

However, the problem can be getting to that stage, and that is where a competent recruitment agent might be helpful. The key problem is that technically ignorant HR-droids get a large stack of applications, and their first job is to decide which 90% to ignore. Degree/school/age can all become "discard" filters.

My daughter has just graduated in a non-technical subject. In her case it has been critical to do jobs (some paid some volunteer) in a area which is relevant. Through that she built up sufficient contacts and experience, and has ended up working in the same university department on a one-year contract. That's a good example of why "doing more than necessary" for your degree can be so helpful. But I suspect you already understand that.

BTW, "doing more than is necessary" is deliberately vague - all that matters is that you show an interest beyond gaining bits of paper, and that you have the gumption/ability/perseverance to complete something above and beyond the call of duty.
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Offline EEVblog

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #17 on: September 20, 2014, 11:46:32 pm »
If your location is fixed, it might be helpful to find out what local employers value.

If they are anything like Australian employers, then they value one thing above all else - can you do the job?
If you can do the job, and they like you, then you are hired.
It rarely matters what qualifications you have, or where you got the experience.
In fact on a professional resume you put your experience and skills first and your qualifications become just a small footnote at the end.
But even here there are some regulated industries where you most often can't get the job without the appropriate level of qualifications.
E.g. government department, medical device industry etc.
Sometimes you don't need a certain qualification, but you do need membership of the relevant professional body (IEA here). It's just that the qualification gives you instant membership.
And it is sometimes possible to get that membership if you don't have the appropriate level of qualification by means of a lengthy vetting process.
It's common to see in such job ads in Australia - "Must be eligible for membership of the IEA", and nothing else.

Of course it's very wise to get your 4 years bachelors if at all possible.
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #18 on: September 20, 2014, 11:56:18 pm »
In such a situation how big of a factor is a person's degree?  For example a bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering vs Electrical Engineering Technology?

It usually only matters when you are going for your first job, because usually that's all that sets those with no experience apart.
As an employer, when looking at graduates or entry level positions I will always pick the person I think has the best attitude and potential.
Only if I liked two people equally and couldn't decide would I let the better qualification be the deciding factor.

If you have that honors degree from MIT and seemingly little personal interest in the field, and someone with a 2 year or 3 year technical Diploma comes waltzing in and shows me all the projects they have worked on in their spare time and is really enthusiastic - too bad for the MIT kid, go work for IBM in upper management.

And if I'm hiring an experienced person, well, experience and likeability is all that matters.
 

Offline nctnico

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #19 on: September 21, 2014, 01:02:53 am »
Unfortunately sometimes it is hard to tell whether someone is interested in electronics or not. At one point my boss promised an internship to one of his relatives. The young man in question didn't make much effort to sell himself (rather the opposite) but I soon discovered he had a real talent for electronics.
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Offline onlooker

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #20 on: September 21, 2014, 01:14:52 am »
In some of the posts, I can see the tendency to place work experience against college degree.

But the truth can be quite the opposite if one views the process of getting the degree as a big relevant project and experience. 

With this view, it is also easily understandable that after working in a field for many years, that relevant "degree" project becomes remote and therefore less relevant just like any other project one had done long long ago.
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #21 on: September 21, 2014, 01:18:30 am »
Unfortunately sometimes it is hard to tell whether someone is interested in electronics or not. At one point my boss promised an internship to one of his relatives. The young man in question didn't make much effort to sell himself (rather the opposite) but I soon discovered he had a real talent for electronics.

Yes, I've seen that, and it can be an unfortunate problem for some people.
When interviewing people I have been able to pick up a "vibe" that it's just interview nerves or whatever. So if I sense that then I try various ways to coax some excitement or knowledge in them.
But for me, your work experience (or qualifications) isn't enough, if you can't at least show some promise in the interview then as an employer there isn't really anything I can do about that. I have to ultimately base it on the interview and the vibe I get.

Of course, it's also not just a matter of being enthusiastic and bringing stuff to show, you have to back it up.
I once had this guy who had a few years experience in micro development, was totally enthusiastic and confident, resume sounded great, good education from a top local uni, bought in his thesis project documentation which looked great, I thought he'd be a shoe-in.
I really liked him and was getting a good vibe, but then asked him some basic questions like "can you name some brands of micro's"? - zip!
Huh? I thought you were a microcontroller specialist?
Ok, so I opened random page of his thesis project project and asked him to explain some stuff - zip!
Well, ok, you can't remember everything, lets try again by getting him to explain what he wrote on a random page. Even when it was clearly written there in front of him he still couldn't explain it! Clearly he got someone to write his thesis project for him.
Couldn't boot him out of there fast enough. FAIL.
 

Offline tggzzz

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #22 on: September 21, 2014, 08:13:40 am »
Unfortunately sometimes it is hard to tell whether someone is interested in electronics or not. At one point my boss promised an internship to one of his relatives. The young man in question didn't make much effort to sell himself (rather the opposite) but I soon discovered he had a real talent for electronics.
I've seen that too.

One problem youngsters (like my daughter) have is that they don't know what they have to offer - until they've witnessed what other people don't have to offer. Youngsters tend to do /learn remarkable things without realising how remarkable they are.

The only way around this is to get some, any, experience of a workplace doing something roughly relevant to your field near to people that are working in your chosen profession (i.e. not bar staff, although a bit of that does give some useful "life skills" too!). Then you'll see how callow/immature others can be, and be able to ask/witness what employers value.
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Offline EEVblog

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #23 on: September 21, 2014, 09:29:07 am »
The only way around this is to get some, any, experience of a workplace doing something roughly relevant to your field near to people that are working in your chosen profession (i.e. not bar staff, although a bit of that does give some useful "life skills" too!).

A reminder - anyone who puts their primary or high school and/or non-engineering related jobs or hobbies on their Resume gets marked down!
 

Offline tggzzz

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Re: US Student Seeking Education Advice
« Reply #24 on: September 21, 2014, 09:42:39 am »
The only way around this is to get some, any, experience of a workplace doing something roughly relevant to your field near to people that are working in your chosen profession (i.e. not bar staff, although a bit of that does give some useful "life skills" too!).
A reminder - anyone who puts their primary or high school and/or non-engineering related jobs or hobbies on their Resume gets marked down!
Oh, that's a little simplistic! There can be relevant non-technical "life skills" learned in non-engineering hobbies, and HR-droids love those (partly because they can talk about them).

Example: one of my daughter's hobbies allowed her to demonstrate teamwork in dangerous environments, and that she could competently handle unexpected problems (that caused other people to visibly blanch) on her own.
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
Glider pilot's aphorism: "there is no substitute for span". Retort: "There is a substitute: skill+imagination. But you can buy span".
Having fun doing more, with less
 


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