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Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 2
Junior Member
I am currently a sophomore (for another six days) in a private college in upstate New York. I am studying electrical engineering. I have pretty much fulfilled all my general education classes in the past two years, and I have done a decent job, nothing great, but they still let me come back.

When it all comes down to it, I think I would have been a lot happier getting into a trade. My dad sent me to school because he wanted better for me. He wanted to make sure I did not have to work all the odd jobs he did as a young man, and I can see where he is coming from. He is my biggest role model. One of my biggest goals in life is to make him proud of me.

After two years of school, I am tired of this place. I am tired of learning material only to forget it again. I am tired of taking tests which require nothing but a gifted memory. I learn by applying what I am taught. Another grievance, colleges tend to hire teachers based upon the credentials of teachers and not on their actual ability to teach. I could never see myself being stuck in this academic grind. What is less reassuring is when I talk to my advisor about his history in electrical engineering and he tells me after he graduated he worked for a couple years, hated it and then got back into academics.

In high school, I was decent at computers. I worked technical support for a regional internet provider for two and a half years before getting into college. That taught me how much I hate working at a desk with computers. Lately I have been thinking about that a lot. I am sure I do not ever want to be stuck behind a desk doing computer or paper work. I will pull my hair out. Time seems to stop at a job like that. You lose your sanity and health working at a job like that. Also having no change in work environment is a killer.

I have always been interested in electronics, but it seems like I enjoy learning about electronics much more as a hobby than I do in class. When I am in class it just seems like I hit a brick wall trying to focus, especially since it is the end of the term. I am thrown all this information but it will not have any purpose for at least another two years, if I was able to find work. The worse thing is that my parents are paying enormous amounts of money for it. It would not break my heart if they decided tomorrow to stop paying.

After reading and looking at BLS occupational outlook statistics, it seems like qualified electricians will be in high demand for a long time. It would be nice to know a trade that you could find work in, in almost any areas of the country if I ever decided to move (taking my parents with me).

I was reading about the IBEW apprenticeship program and it seems like that is a great program to get into. I have a friend from high school whose mom was trying to get him to do that, but he grew up in a family of welders (something else I really want to learn). It seems so practical that you can learn things that are useful in real life and you get paid at the same time. All without having to live off your parent’s money. From some things I read, it sounds like the sooner you get into a trade, the better off you are in the future.

Basically, I am asking for thoughts/advice on this. Is there anything wrong with wanting to drop college and try to get an IBEW apprenticeship? The past couple of months I have thought about something like this. Lately I have been reading a lot about IBEW apprenticeships. From what I read on this forum, it does not sound like too many of you would ever look back and regret the decision you have made to become an electrician. I could only hope for something like this.

My reasoning is that if I could get into an IBEW apprenticeship now, I would not have the 20k in loans to pay back that I will if I stay in college. It seems like it would be pretty hard to find a job as satisfying as working with your hands. This is especially true after graduating from college with the debt from obtaining the degree. What are your thoughts? How would I go about talking to my parents about such a proposition?

[This message has been edited by fflipster (edited 06-03-2004).]

Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 840
While we don't discuss IBEW and other related issues here, I think we can help you.

I was in your shoes at one point. I wanted to drop out of college many times to get a full time apprenticehip. In hindsight, I'm glad that I completed school even though my degree has been of no value. You only have 2 more years to go, so you might want to consider finishing your degree, and working for an electrician in the summer to feel things out and see if you like it first.

Once you graduate, you can decide if you want to become a full time apprentice, or do take a job in your field of study. I decided to become an electrcian, and I don't regret that decision at all. [Linked Image]

Remember, a college education is still very valuable to have, and being a college educated electrician will give you an even greater advantage if you ever want to go into design or management positions someday.

If you have any more questions feel free to ask. I'm sure some members will be happy to email you about the union, myself included.

[Linked Image]


Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 133
Hi fflipster and welcome.
It's been a number of years(ok, ok decades) since I was in college but your post reminds me of myself after my second year of college. I felt almost exactly as you describe. I think most college students come to a questioning stage after a couple of years. Some drop out and some stick with it. Drop out and you'll most certainly regret it. Stick with it and I gaurantee you'll never regret that decision.
As an electrician with an Engineering degree, I have had many more doors open to me than I would have as an electrician without an Engineering degree. I worked as an apprentice during the summers and for a couple of years after college to get the time in to get my license without sacrificing a college education. You can do this too. Don't get me wrong, the electrical trade is a great, well paying and satisfying field but you don't have to give up your post high school education to persue it.

Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 36
I agree finish your degree. I Finished my Apprenticeship 2 years ago and if it wasn't for time and money I would like to take Engineering next. If you quit now you might regret it later. Good luck.

Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 597
Welcome to the Forum fflipster.

I well remember hitting a doldrum going into my third year. The basic circuit theory work is ponderous, at best. . .but I think it's just like math. One doesn't really master one level of math until one is done with the next.

I went home for the summer from my second year of EE and applied with every electrician in town until I got someone willing to take me on. I worked every day, side by side with a master and the owner of company. What I got was someone willing to talk about the code and to try to give a context for it. . .but what I got from the work was a real world association that gave life to the theory. I haven't stopped making those associations.

I continued to work summers and occasional school year weekends for that electrical contractor until I graduated. I then tried a couple years in EE and settled as an electrical contractor, myself.

One thing to consider: the BSEE will give you the automatic permission to test for the local or state journeyman's license.

Good fortune with your decision.


Al Hildenbrand
Joined: Apr 2003
Posts: 139
I'm going to buck the trend here and say if your gut is telling you college is not right and the electrical trade seems more to your preference for work, then go for it.

I believe the value of a well trained Licensed Electrician exceeds that of a highly educated engineer. I also feel the demand will be much higher for the electrician.

Bryan P. Holland, ECO.
Secretary - IAEI Florida Chapter
Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 133
One thing to consider: the BSEE will give you the automatic permission to test for the local or state journeyman's license.

This must vary from state to state. For example, here in MA I don't believe the BSEE alone fulfills all exam prerequisites.

Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 73

Hey buddy, it sounds like your a little frustrated with school?

I don't know how much longer you have left but I would suggest you try your hardest to finish and get out of it what you can. You may not end up on the deans list but you will walk away with something many people don't get a chance to get!

I've been in the trade since 1972 and self-employed since 1984 and all I can tell you is there are many future opportunities for somebody with your "potential education" in the field.
i.e. you finish your Schooling, complete your apprenticeship (so you get a hands on)then, well the world is your's. Proget Manager, designer/estimator man who knows your own company.

Good luck.

PS. Not to many people learn things and remmember them without having to look up info. The important thing is knowing how and when to use what you learn.

Joined: Nov 2001
Posts: 328
I'll add my voice even though I'm not an electrician but as one who has a lot of years working in an environment that almost mandates a degree and where I've been at a distinct disadvantage by not finishing mine. Try to finish yours if you can. Add work experience on the side to gain the real-time application of what you're learning, even if you work for little or nothing.

There are some degrees that offer better than average skill sets which open doors and allow a wide variety of opportunities even beyond what you get during the degree program and engineering is definitely one of them. I'm currently working with an engineer on a project that I'm certain is totally beneath his level and he has been able to bring a caliber of precision and expertise that is bringing a bad project around to a major success story. There are also benefits in that he is teaching the junior team members like myself some of the methods and means to precision managing diverse projects.

Also, just finishing what you start can be an exercise in building character but it can give you and your prospective employer a solid piece of evidence that you will follow through and meet the objectives at hand. I suffer from a malady I call McClellanitis - I'm related to Gen. George B. McClellan and have a propensity to make great plans, launch inspired projects and when I could be just around the corner from decisive success, no matter how meager or magnificent, I tend to fizzle in the follow-through. College has been one of those areas where I constantly look back and think that 4 years would be a drop in the bucket compared to the number of years I've worked to reach the place I'm at now in my career.

Also, go to your counselor and see if there are any career mapping tests or assessments you might take to help guide your career path and your approach to getting the best match for your skills and personality. You might need to supplement the education with more specific learning experiences as it seems you have not only a good technical basis but an awareness of skills and personality blends that is evident in your assessments of yourself and your instructors.

(edited to add clarity)

[This message has been edited by BuggabooBren (edited 06-04-2004).]

Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 33
fflipster, finish your degree. You will probably never forgive yourself if you quit. Getting your degree now is much easier than if you wait until you have bills, kids, wife etc. I remember college being so boring but you are way ahead of the game with a degree. I loved being an electrician until I got hurt and had major back surgery. I was out of work for 4 years!! Now I am an electrical contractor working because I have a wife 4 kids, house payment, 2 vehicle payments etc. I am in much pain everyday and until I am able to finish up on another career I'm stuck. Being an electrician is a great job but also it can be very hard on you physically, just take a look at most seasoned Journeyman, it ain't easy. All I'm am saying is finish school, become an engineer then enroll into an IBEW apprenticeship program, become a journeyman and then when you engineer jobs you can do it with electricians in mind, heck, start your own contracting company then you can design and install. How cool would that be. You are almost there, don't quit!!

One of the better ones-
Electricians do it without shorts.
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