I'm thinking very seriously about going back to school and either doing an engineering degree or architecture/building science. I currently work for an engineering firm, but more on the admin/doc control side, and I love it - I enjoy working with engineers and I like being involved in something "real". There seem to be so many opportunities in this field; construction estimating, quality assurance, construction management, design, etc. etc.
IS anyone else out there either an engineer, architect or work in the construction industry or studying? It doesn't seem as popular on this forum as nursing
My one big fear is ending up in debt for school and not being able to pay it back easily.
Re: finances, look into scholarships and grants. Talk to the student aid office at the universities to which you plan to apply. Keep in mind that there continues to be a push to get more women into engineering, so you should especially keep your eye out for those types of awards. I'm a little out of touch on federal awards now (it's been a long time since I did my undergrad) but there were at different times programs run through the govt of Canada and agencies like NSERC (National Science and Engineering Research Council.) Student aid offices will know what is available.
The chances of being able to do a four year degree entirely on scholarships with no use of savings or loans is low, but most engineers are very employable, so if you do take out student loans, chances are good you will be able to pay them back without too much difficulty. And you don't pay interest on student loans until you've been working for 6 months or something like that.
professor & maman de DS1 (6) & DS2 (1)
I agree that it will be tough to get through with no loans/pay out of pocket, but that engineers tend to be able to find jobs fairly easily. Both times I have looked it has taken about three months to land a job.
It sounds like Civil Engineering would be a good fit. Unless you are 100% sure of a specialty I would stick with one of the "Big 4" - Chemical, Electrical, Mechanical, or Civil.
Best of luck!
Mama to DS (03/09) and DD (10/11) and married to the love of my life
professor & maman de DS1 (6) & DS2 (1)
The schooling is challenging but the payoff is excellent. I recommend taking out student loans and just focusing on the academics as the engineering course work is geared towards problem solving which requires time and effort.
Best of Luck
E married to J, 7/08, DD 10/09, DS 5/12
However, if you're concerned about spending too long/too much money at school, have you considered some type of technician program? I don't know much about what's out there, but BCIT has a lot of good programs, I think - including full engineering degrees (probably more hands-on than UBC). You can end up doing work similar to an engineer but with only 2 years of school (I think). The downside to that though, is that you don't have the prestige of being an engineer (I'll admit it - part of what I love about being an engineer is that everyone else seems to look up to me, even when I have no idea what's going on ).
As far as work/life balance (you didn't ask, but I'll tell you anyway)... I find that engineering's actually really flexible. I don't understand why more women aren't interested in it. Generally I work in the office, but if I need to I can work from home. Sometimes I go to the job sites, which can be all over north america, but my dd's only a year old, so my company has told me that they won't send me away much while she's young. Anyway, I love my time on-site... it's really neat to see something that I designed actually being built, and it's a lot of fun to be in that environment. So far, I haven't run into any issues with being female.
(DH is making fun of me - I don't usually post, so he was asking me what I'm typing, and now he's all "oooo! you saw a post about engineering and just HAD to reply". He's right... I was pretty excited to see a post about engineering)
Of course check out some job descriptions that are targeted toward eng'g techs vs. engineers, to see if you might enjoy work in one field or the other. Ultimately what's important, especially with the time and $ commitment of going back to school, is picking the thing that will be the best fit for you.
Definitely look into scholarships for women in non-traditional careers, and for mature students. Some banks have very generous repayment terms for student loans, and if you live in Canada there is the possibility of government loans. Most student loans require you to pay only the interest while you're in school, and you do not begin to pay back the principal until 6 months after you graduate. Usually student loans have the lowest interest rates, but you might ask your bank about other options, like a huge line of credit. With the prime rate as low as it is, right now might be a fantastic time to pursue something that requires a major financial commitment. (Which leads me to wonder why I'm still not going after a pilot's license, but that's my problem.)
Engineering WILL require a huge amount of your time, especially if you are a full-time student. Although eng'g jobs are generally very family-friendly, getting the degree is NOT. If you want it badly enough, you'll find a way to do it, but be prepared for it to be a rough ride. I'm not saying this to discourage you, because I think engineering is awesome, but just as a reality check.
Having said all that, it has definitely been worth it because I really like my job. (Most days. ) You're right; there are lots of different opportunities and lots of different career paths within engineering. I love being involved in something "real," like you said, and I love the feeling that my work is going towards the greater good.
As far as work/life balance (you didn't ask, but I'll tell you anyway)... I find that engineering's actually really flexible. I don't understand why more women aren't interested in it.
Back when I worked as an engineer, I did have some minor problems being female (I was the first woman hired where I worked) but nothing I couldn't handle.
professor & maman de DS1 (6) & DS2 (1)
For some reason I feel that engineering school would get you out into the engineering field more quickly than architecture school. Architecture has always been termed an 'old man's profession', meaning it takes a long time to accumulate knowledge and experience to get by.
Maybe I'm succumbing to the 'grass is greener' phenomenon? It's just that there are other aspects in architecture, such has history and theory that can make the design discipline a little overwhelming. Design is also not just one thing - it's aesthetics and pragmatics.
Typically, schools focus on aesthetics, representation, computer work, and being able to express a 'big idea' or organizing spaces. You might take a few structure classes, but the focus is typically on design studio. Then you get out into the 'real world' and encounter 'reality' - manufacturers, building codes, organizing a drawing set, how things actually go together, working with a real client, etc.
Not to say that any profession is 'easy'...however the learning curve for architects is a slow and steady slope. An architecture degree can take anywhere from 3 to 4 years for a Bachelor of Arts, 5 years for a Bachelors of Architecture.
That said, the profession is also very rewarding and broad. Interior design, decoration and landscape are sister fields. What an exciting time for you?! I truly wish you the best!
I had a small scholarship, did student loans at a fairly cheap state university and worked part time (and got married and had DS1 along the way). I graduated with a master's degree 10 years ago and my debt from it was $15,000. Totally worth it IMO.