General Question

Spider's avatar

Is it too late to go back to school; and if not, do I have to start all over again?

Asked by Spider (798points) July 7th, 2010

The extent of my formal education is a BA degree that I received 14 years ago. I’m exploring the idea of going back to school, but I would like a technical degree (science or engineering).

I assume that I wouldn’t be able to begin a Masters program without first getting a BS in the same or a closely related major.

So, is my first step to get a BS? If so, should I expect to take all the non-major-related classes (English, History, etc.) or would those requirements typically be able to be transferred from my Bachelors?

I understand that each college or university would have it’s own policies, but if anyone has insight on what to generally expect in this situation, it would be helpful in my decision making-process.

After finding this fluther post, I added the “is it too late” part because hypothetically, by the time I finish school, my age will prevent me from being hired (I’m 37 now). Also, there was good advice in the replies about doing something you’re passionate about.

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14 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I think that you would only have to take any prerequisite courses for the masters degree you were interested in before beginning (or in conjunction with) grad school.

I do not think you would have to get a whole BS.

Lightlyseared's avatar

It is never too late to go back to school. I have met people who started their first degree in their 70’s. I went back to school and changed careers in my 30’s and had no trouble getting a job.

The best thing to do would be to talk to the admissions tutor for the courses you are interested in and see what they say.

Spider's avatar

@marinelife That would be great… :)

@Lightlyseared Thanks for your response. I generally don’t think it’s too late for anything, but I also want to be somewhat realistic.

I wasn’t sure how much time and admissions counselor would spend with prospective students before they submitted an application. I understand they only want to spend time with prospective students who are serious, but I’m not ready to apply just yet.

BhacSsylan's avatar

Just a quick note, what are you looking to get a masters in? It may change some depending on major, but usually a BA is no worse then a BS in getting accepted to the program. Case in point I’m currently in a Chemistry Ph.D. program and I only have a B.A.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@BhacSsylan has a good point. The important part of a degree in not the facts and figures you learn but the way it teaches you to think about a problem, to conduct research, to construct an argument and to critique stuff. The fact you also happen to know more than any living person really should about medieval Latvian peotry is nothing more than a bonus.

Spider's avatar

@Lightlyseared and @BhacSsylan I see your point… let me explain something major (no pun intended) that I left out by mistake.

I have an Art degree. (dramatic sound dun, dun, DUUNNN!)

I was accepted into an undergraduate engineering program, but when I was at risk of failing out in my second semester (only because I wasn’t able pick up a computer programming language which was part of the Engineering Fundamentals course), I went to the guidance counselor’s office and took a 4-hour test to determine whether a technical or non-technical major was a better fit for me. The result for 50/50, so I took the route that I was more assured to get a degree – the one that also allowed me to participate in my extracurricular activities… I changed my major to Art.

So, although I was good at (and enjoyed) math, wanted to learn physics, and ended up really enjoying my science electives biology and geology, I chose to “just get the degree”.

I’m creative and artistic; I can write, draw, and paint. I love math, solving problems, and reading about psychology, theoretical physics. I like to build things, and I enjoy gaining an understanding of how things work. I’m a “jack of all trades, master of none”.

I’m very interested in many of the physical sciences – physics (astro-, particle, molecular, quantum), even entomology, biology, geology, etc.

What I’m trying to determine for myself is whether I should just take classes here and there and do my own research into subjects that simply interest me without being able to really apply the knowledge to anything, or whether I should choose a specific area and get some real education that allows me to be constructive with my knowledge.

Jeruba's avatar

I emphatically concur that it’s never too late. I shouldn’t think you would have to repeat very much unless you have to account for recent developments in your prerequisite courses.

My mother graduated from college in the early 1940s and began her graduate work in about 1970 without any makeup classes. My aunt graduated when my mother did and started her PhD program in the 1980s. Both achieved their advanced degrees with top grades and went on to work in their respective fields. A classmate of mine in my recent junior college course graduated, like me, with a BA nearly 40 years ago, and he is working toward a second career now. He’s 70 years old.

Don’t let “what ifs” slow you down. Find out what you need to do, and go for it.

Spider's avatar

Thanks @Jeruba – I just thought that “starting over” in a completely different field/discipline would be unreasonable.

Jeruba's avatar

I know lots of people who have done it. A friend of mine was nearly 40 when she gave up her lucrative tech writing career and went for her MA in psychology. She is now in private practice as a marriage and family therapist. My cousin was an M.D. doing cancer research until he was in his 50s, when he went back to school, changed careers, and is now a psychiatrist. The list goes on.

(The 70-year-old mentioned above was an art major, worked in that field for decades, retired, and is now studying physical therapy for seniors.)

I believe that nothing you know is ever wasted. Whatever you have studied and whatever you have done in the past will add dimensions to your new program and career. Good luck.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Of course it is never too late. I would refresh or relearn subjects in the maths and physical sciences so you will not be overwhelmed taking the prerequisite courses to make you eligible to pursue your Masters degree. Find out what essential skills you with require for those prerequisite courses and get prepared in advance.

Best Wishes for your future studies,

Lawrence E. PhD

perspicacious's avatar

Go talk to a counselor at the school. You may have to take some undergraduate courses prior to being accepted into a masters program.

Submarino's avatar

Yes I just did it and I am at least 6,000 years old.. the only draw back is the age mentality thing…It depends on the choice of subject matter maybe…Another thing the social aspect has gone through some major changes..but I say give it a shot…your best one.

Spider's avatar

Thanks @Submarino; and welcome to Fluther. Since I’ve posted this question it’s become clearer that my next major step is to get educated in the field(s) I’m interested in. I have always been interested in them, but there was also a fear of failure, hard work, and making the wrong choice. However, now I have learned that these interests will not simply go away, and it’s up to me to choose whether to explore them and see where I go, or continue to deny them and risk forever feeling like I held myself back from becoming who I want to be.

Spider's avatar

@Submarino: would you mind elaborating on your experience a little more, such as the specific area of study, and why you did it? Thanks in advance, but if you’d prefer not to answer, I understand…

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