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Considering Major Career Switch and want to hear from those who have BTDT

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Right now I am working as a substitute teacher's aide.  I feel like it's a helpful and meaningful job, but I don't like picturing doing this forever.  My father keeps going on about how there are such good pensions if I stay on with the school board, but I practically get the shivers picturing doing this forever.  I feel really under-challenged.  I considered going back to school to become a teacher, but I don't really feel any better about it.  What I'm really interested in is environmental science. I had originally wanted to double major way back as a music student, but was young and inexperienced in stating what I wanted when pushed into choosing one or the other.  Because I had seasonal work which ended (trail guide) and I'm casual as a teacher's aide now, I've been on unemployment insurance to top up income.  Right now I have a really good opportunity to apply for job re-training funding.  The community college has an eligible program in environmental technology that qualifies for assistance (we would need some, financially speaking) and it has the bonus of having an articulation agreement with several environmental science and environmental engineering programs (worth 2 years of the bachelors program).  I really want to change things and applied.


What I'm finding hard is knowing I'm going to be questioned over and over about this.  Everyone I know seems to figure that people in their late thirties should be "settled" into a career.  I feel like I just fell into what I'm doing, and I don't want it to be a life sentence.  I also feel like it's selfish of me to do this when the kids need stability. It also would be tough financially at first, although I don't think our school system right now is a stable job market, and renewable resources do have better projections for the future, so it might be better in the long run to return to school.  I'm just worried the change is a lot to put the kids through.


Thoughts anyone?  Anyone do a major switch later in life like this?  How did it go?

post #2 of 11
I went to an environmental science program, and it was actually MORE common to have mid-level professionals in that program. In fact, it was so common that they actually spun-off a new program especially for people who have a decade of work experience under their belt. Going to school is stressful, but I don't understand why you think it's unstable?

Definitely firm up what direction you want to go into before you make this move. You CAN make money in environmental science (I do!), but it's NOT a huge money-maker, particularly if you're not getting an engineering degree, at least in the US. It's also a little bit fickle: different issues and technologies rise and fall in terms of popularity and funding, which impacts job stability. But it's a fun and rewarding work area that makes a difference! treehugger.gif
post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

Nice to hear that older students aren't uncommon for that program.  I'm more specifically planning to take the natural resource environmental technology program.  It's aimed mainly at environmental managers and assessors in the forestry field, and environmentally minded entrepreneurs in the natural resource sector.  It's considered to be in the environmental engineering family (the most common bachelor's upgrade is in environmental engineering technology) but is by nature less mechanically oriented and more directly hands-on oriented.  I live in a location where forestry is the main industry and clear cutting has just been made illegal.  I'd like to work in forest restoration or sustainable management of forests.


I guess what I meant by unstable is that right now I have a sound idea of how much income I can generate for the family on average and what sort of work schedule I have to work around the family's needs.  There are a lot of unknowns as to how much and when I can contribute financially while studying, and what sort of time availability I'll have for family.  Maybe I mean there's a lot of the unknown and change involved.  I want change, but it's a bit scary.

post #4 of 11

I'm actually contemplating a similar move the other direction.


I work in biomedical research and have a Bachelors degree in Biology. I'm getting to a point where I am ready for a major change. Pursuing a Masters or PhD program in Basic Biomedical Sciences holds no interest for me so I'm looking at going for a Masters program in Education that includes a teaching certificate.


It is scary to figure it all out. Can we survive without my salary? What sort of replacement salary will I have to bring in? How much of my program can I do while still working? Can I keep up with my kids and family while working (probably at least part time) and going to school? It's been a long time since I studied, can I focus and learn like I need to? As an older student I feel like I need to really excel at whatever program I choose. I'm going back to school for a career that makes similar to or even less than I currently make. Is that crazy?...........


I have another year on my current grant funding and then I think it's time to make some decisions.


So no BTDT, but just someone in a similar boat.

post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 

Good luck to you, anyway.  I hope I see a post from you in a year when you're ready to make that decision.  My husband actually did make a move more in your direction, from IT to nursing.  But even in this day and age of involved fatherhood (and he is an involved father) the life balancing issues weren't quite the same for him as they are for me as a mother.

post #6 of 11

I am in a similar situation. I just decided to leave the PhD program I've been in for years, and am flailing to figure out what to do next. I'd really like to spend more time with my daughters, and have another baby, but I also worry that pulling completely out of teaching would be a blight on my resume down the line when I am ready to work. I love teaching, I could be happy in a lot of different scenarios, yet it feels strange to be so drawn to being a SAHM or to be content with anything less than a total professional identity. It's very weird. I sympathize with your dilemma and applaud your boldness!

post #7 of 11


I understand your debate. I spent my first 10 years post-college as a seasonal with the Park Service and Forest Service moving around for work. I then decided to try what I had gone to school for- teaching. I taught HS science for 12 years. I wanted a change and am now back in school in a doctorate program. We have a young daughter. It has been difficult juggling all of the different balls while in school, parenting, and being married. I have often struggled with the guilt of having to study some times versus being there all the time. It has been good for father/daughter time, for sure. I decided to go back to school and go for getting into this program in my early 40s. Some of my extended family members are not supportive, but for the most part my family as well as others I have met, think it is really neat that I am doing this. There have been times during the semesters, where I have thought about dropping the program- that is usually when I am really tired- both from lack of sleep and from feeling like I don't get to go do fun stuff much. I know it will be worth it in the end. Make sure that completing the environmental science program is something you really want, and not a case of the grass looking greener. It is tough, but if you want it, you CAN do it.

post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 

It's nice hearing from someone who has done this!  I just got accepted on waitlist for the program, so I really have to start putting things together.  I do think this is what I really want.  I'm just very much in the habit of doing what helps other people get what they want.  The kids think it's neat I'm doing this, and I think there's some advantages to kids seeing adults study.  When my husband went back to school to study nursing, it really helped the kids get used to the whole culture of school - how a person studies, what's considered acceptable research practice, etc (and they all ace anatomy tests!).  I'm most worried about hearing from my Dad because he gets so fixated on retirement benefits for different jobs, and most of the neighbours find job switching odd, except those I worked with over the tourist season working as a trail guide - that comes as no surprise to anyone who is used to seeing me out in the forest.

post #9 of 11

I'm not a mom yet, but I'd love a job change in the opposite direction. 4 years ago I quit environmental consulting because it was making me miserable. The plan was to go back to school, but I took a graphic design class and DH started to get cold feet about the cost of another degree, etc. so I let it go. (I can see where he was coming from. I was in my early 30s, and pretty much everyone we know has gone to college straight out of high school and then stayed on their original career path.) I ended up being off work 3 years all told, partially because of the economy and partially because I was dragging my feet about getting back into the workplace.


I went back to my former employer last February, and I HATE it (I thought I was stressed and miserable before, but it's even worse now). I wish I had done just about any other possible thing with my life. I think my only option to get out is to stay at home with the baby for a while. I'm hoping it works out that I can do that, because I just can't imagine how I will handle this kind of sadness and anxiety AND have a child. Going back to consulting was easily the worst decision I have ever made in my life. I wish I was strong enough to just suck it up and continue, but I just don't think I can.


I think this is a great field if you are really passionate about it, and the money is decent, but for me it's a complete square peg in a round hole situation. Of course it sounds like you are taking a program that is very tailored to your interests, and I agree with you that it is important for kids to see their parents learning and studying.


Best of luck with this move! I mean that very sincerely, and I honestly don't mean this post to be a downer in terms of your personal situation. Any career move is a very individual thing, and it sounds like for you, this is absolutely the right choice. Not to mention, I love to see people following their dreams because it gives me some hope for my own future.

post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hey scowgirl!  When my kids were little (DS1 was 8 mos and within another 2 mos I had a baby on the way) I went to school in my field to upgrade skills.  DH went and completely changed his field (from computer engineering to nursing) when the youngest child turned three (we have two kids with special needs out of three so while he'd thought of returning a little earlier, he actually stayed at home for two years and then decided to go back).  Just wanted to say that it wasn't a bad time to be in school with young kids.  Their needs were actually simpler to schedule around than now with preteens, and our lives were new with the new kids so having all the routine changes at once seemed natural (I know the experts say too many changes at once are stressful, so take me with a grain of salt).  If you really don't want to work at your old job, I actually think before having kids, while pregnant or with young kids is a great time for school, and your kids deserve to see you happy!  We have no regrets, despite the money, about DH returning to school to change careers.  Our kids see that it's important to take care of your career needs.  My Dad really hated his job, and here he is retiring this week, and I keep wondering if this pension was worth all the years he came home miserable.


I hear you about the square peg in the wrong hole.  I actually like my job at times (although I actually started in nursing, which I did, truly, grow to hate, and teacher's aide work was a lateral move following a little extra education), especially I like working with the kids.  It's more how I feel about co-workers.  It's better than in nursing, but I'm still generally surrounded by uber-sociable people, interested in pop culture, gossip, talking about family/feelings, etc.  Then I get asked what I'm reading, and it's old naturalist books, Darwin and Tiger (by John Vaillant, new book and awesome) and I get looked at like I'm half crazed.  Then I hear about the odd hippy parent a teacher is dealing with or some annoying person who never does anything for birthdays and I'm just about hiding my head.  I would love to save my people time for my own family and friends, even though I do care about the kids and there are some really special moments when small things make big differences.  If you are feeling like everything about your job is not fitting, it's really worth it to change it.  I literally got sick working as a nurse because of the stress, and I reached a point that the only thing I liked about work was biking there and back.  When I took a year off and felt what it was like to not have the apprehension and dread every day, I wondered how I could have waited so long to change things.  If you can at all afford it, don't stay somewhere you hate.  It sounds like you are way beyond the "might" be good to have a change point.

post #11 of 11

Aww... Thanks so much for the support when I barged in and made your thread all about me. That is a great point about it being possible to do school with young children--to be honest I hadn't really thought of that and will have to give it some serious thought. Best of luck to you with your career change--I agree with you that coworkers and their attitudes/approach, and the atmosphere of a job are definitely important too, not just the actual work.

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