A dangerous/expensive career change?

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Garbo13
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Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2021 12:02 pm

A dangerous/expensive career change?

Post by Garbo13 »

Hi all,

I am looking for some career advice on a potentially expensive career change decision. My current situation is as follows:

I’m 32 and I work in a technical job in the pharmaceutical industry in the UK. My university education was in Chemistry – I have a bachelor’s degree. My current salary is £32,000 a year and I live in one of the cheapest parts of the UK - my salary is well above the median. I am comfortable and do not wish to retire before 50 (that’s what I consider early retirement ^^ ).

I contribute 7% of my salary to my pension, to which my employer adds 7%. I have a small mortgage remaining on my house of approximately £48,000 and my monthly payment is around £200. And I have no plans to move, ever. At present I save 50% of my take-home pay (my take-home pay is £1900/month) and use this money to over-pay my mortgage. Other than my pension (which has around £50k in it), I have no liquid investments.

My question, or rather problem, is this: I have reached a ceiling in my job/career – I cannot increase my salary beyond what I currently earn, and I no longer feel challenged in my day-to-day work. A couple of years ago I decided to try and change direction, and further my education by enrolling in a general engineering bachelor’s degree part-time, which my employer generously agreed to pay for (100%). They agreed to do this because my current role in the company has a basis in engineering.

I have completed 50% of the degree and I am a bit disappointed :cry: because the degree has not allowed me to focus on what I am interested in (the degree is mostly mechanical, structural and electrical engineering and I’ve since come to realise that what I really want to learn is chemical engineering).

I now have the option of switching to another university and transferring all my credits to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering instead of general engineering. The problem is that the new university course is much, much more expensive. It’s a one-of-a-kind course and there is no other like it that exists in the UK.

My company will only contribute some of the money, leaving me to stump up £13,500 over 3 years to finish the course part-time.
I have no debts and I could afford it on paper. What should I do?

I am confident that through this course I can eventually get a better paying job that would recoup the £13,500, and some, but my worry is that I won’t graduate until I’m nearly 36 years old and by that time perhaps I won’t have as much energy and enthusiasm as I have now.

I should also point out that I am not so confident that I can get a good engineering job with the general engineering degree that I'm currently doing, and I feel that it doesn't have that much value.

Thanks for reading this,

Garbo

ertyu
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Re: A dangerous/expensive career change?

Post by ertyu »

you should do the course. but more importantly, you should also, without changing anything else about your current life, begin applying for higher paying jobs you are interested in. it needs an engineering degree and you're only half-way through one? apply. you'd want to be doing this job but you're worried you don't have experience/qualifications? apply. costs you nothing, and you never know. if you get called to an interview, focus on getting practise selling yourself, not on whether you will get the job or not. if you do get a nicer job before the course is over, reasses.

J_
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Re: A dangerous/expensive career change?

Post by J_ »

Yes I would apply too. Because you are only 32 and not satisfied about your work. That is not something to continue for long. The hight of your salary is not as important as your pleasure in what you do, especially as you have a drive to apply/develop skills in the chemical world. I have three times accepted a salary decrease. Every time I wanted to be engaged in another part of my main interests which was real estate. And every time it ended with much more knowledge (and a higher salary). At last (at 41) I had enough knowledge and skills developed to start my own business.

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Bankai
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Re: A dangerous/expensive career change?

Post by Bankai »

Staying for another 18 years in a job that doesn't give you satisfaction is not a good idea. The longer you intend to use your new degree, the more it makes sense to get it and over 14 years it should easily pay for itself few times over. I'd also not worry about being 36 when you finish it - plenty of people nowadays change careers in their 30's and beyond. However, if your employer covers part of the cost, I assume you also need to stay with them for at least those 4 years - are you prepared to stay in an unfulfilling job for that long? Is the degree only to find a new job or are you interested in the topic and would do it even if it wouldn't help with job situation? Is there any opportunity to look for new/more challenging/better paid job now? I second ertyu's suggestion to start applying even if you meet the requirements only partially - I'm in a different industry but from talking to various higher-ups no one really expects an ideal candidate who meets all the criteria as there's expectation that such a person should apply a level higher.

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Alphaville
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Re: A dangerous/expensive career change?

Post by Alphaville »

as a consumer/careerist i would have said: yeah go for the money

as a postconsumer attempter, im thinking more like "they've got the job thing solved! time to develop other competencies..."

(which increases antifragility)

form the "personal finance" perspective, better career and money is better of course, there is no denying that.

from the post-consumer perspective, better career and money might be a mirage: tightening coupling to job, inviting relocation from career purposes, etc. iow, economy determines ideology.

💣

also, could you help a brother solve some chemical questions? i have much to diy on that front...

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Stahlmann
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Re: A dangerous/expensive career change?

Post by Stahlmann »

If you have demonstrated ability to execute project lasting 2+ years, you could try to change directions (you somehow interested in staying in the system for the next 18 years anyway).

Hmm.... Thinking more about it:

On the other hand, I'm too cynic in believing in management promises, but you have solid financial cushion nevertheless.

Is your current role somehow endangered by cuts in the next (ekhm current) economic crisis?
Is there some outsourcing pressure?

Are you sure about prospects with new degree? What's in syllabus?
Can't you DIY some projects during current role from it and show them to the new manager?
OK, in classist society as UK it won't probably work anyway, but I'm just trying to introduce you to extreme methods...

Frita
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Re: A dangerous/expensive career change?

Post by Frita »

Buyer beware, universities are now very much businesses. Whether you learn or recoup your investment is irrelevant to that system. It isn’t always the best place to gain knowledge.

Some more questions (through an American lense): Would you have better job projects with the chemical engineering versus general engineering degree? Is this market dependent? Would this affect your ability to qualify and test for professional registration? (For example, someone with a mechanical engineering degree would more easily be able to study for and pass the civil exam than vice versa. Civil engineers make less money but positions are consistently available. Petroleum engineers make more money but jobs are feast or famine. Some schools have better professional exam pass rates and/or company placement post-graduation.) Is there a way to finish the employer-paid degree and supplement with self-study, university mentorship, on-the-job training, and/or additional coursework for the chemistry component? Are there scholarships for which you could apply to cover all or part of the £13,500? What would your repayment plan be, pay-as-you-go or take on a loan for x-years? If you find another job and leave the current company, would you have to payback all or part of what they paid for your degree? Worst case scenario and you are unable to secure the job of your dreams, how would you feel and what would you do?

Also, I don’t know that you necessarily want to assume that you’ll work until 50. (My spouse and I were FI by our early 30s with interesting work and in higher-functioning workgroups that fostered careerism. His original goal was to work until 50 but was done at 47. He was able to drop the careerism seemingly overnight though there were health repercussions to remediate. Originally, I planned to never stop due due my perceived calling and the meaning I found in my work. I actually had multiple retirement breaks to do different projects. At 52, I have turned the corner with the careerism.). Set yourself up so it works however you pivot. Don’t fall into the careerism trap.

Garbo13
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Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2021 12:02 pm

Re: A dangerous/expensive career change?

Post by Garbo13 »

ertyu wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 6:06 am
you should do the course. but more importantly, you should also, without changing anything else about your current life, begin applying for higher paying jobs you are interested in. it needs an engineering degree and you're only half-way through one? apply. you'd want to be doing this job but you're worried you don't have experience/qualifications? apply. costs you nothing, and you never know. if you get called to an interview, focus on getting practise selling yourself, not on whether you will get the job or not. if you do get a nicer job before the course is over, reasses.

One of the caveats of living in the cheapest part of the UK is that there aren't many jobs available - that being the main reason the area is so cheap.

I understand what you're getting at. I am going to keep my eyes open for other opportunities. Thank you.

Garbo13
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2021 12:02 pm

Re: A dangerous/expensive career change?

Post by Garbo13 »

Bankai wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 8:12 am
Staying for another 18 years in a job that doesn't give you satisfaction is not a good idea. The longer you intend to use your new degree, the more it makes sense to get it and over 14 years it should easily pay for itself few times over. I'd also not worry about being 36 when you finish it - plenty of people nowadays change careers in their 30's and beyond. However, if your employer covers part of the cost, I assume you also need to stay with them for at least those 4 years - are you prepared to stay in an unfulfilling job for that long? Is the degree only to find a new job or are you interested in the topic and would do it even if it wouldn't help with job situation? Is there any opportunity to look for new/more challenging/better paid job now? I second ertyu's suggestion to start applying even if you meet the requirements only partially - I'm in a different industry but from talking to various higher-ups no one really expects an ideal candidate who meets all the criteria as there's expectation that such a person should apply a level higher.
When you put it like that, it makes sense, 18 years is a long time to be doing something I truly hate and would probably affect me in all kinds of negative ways.

My employer will cover part of the cost, yes - I would have to stay with them for the next 3 years. That being said, they are only covering a small part of the costs (£4500/ £18000 total).

I would be prepared to stick it out for 3 years. I am interested in the topic and I would do it even if it didn't help my job situation (assuming it was free).

Unless I moved to another part of the country it would be very difficult to find a better paid job now. It might however be possible to find the job I want, if I accepted slightly less money. Having the chemical engineering degree would really help me get that job. Thank you for replying.

Garbo13
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2021 12:02 pm

Re: A dangerous/expensive career change?

Post by Garbo13 »

Alphaville wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 9:25 am
as a consumer/careerist i would have said: yeah go for the money

as a postconsumer attempter, im thinking more like "they've got the job thing solved! time to develop other competencies..."

(which increases antifragility)

form the "personal finance" perspective, better career and money is better of course, there is no denying that.

from the post-consumer perspective, better career and money might be a mirage: tightening coupling to job, inviting relocation from career purposes, etc. iow, economy determines ideology.

💣

also, could you help a brother solve some chemical questions? i have much to diy on that front...
Thanks for the reply.

Yes I could help - is it for a test?

Garbo13
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2021 12:02 pm

Re: A dangerous/expensive career change?

Post by Garbo13 »

Stahlmann wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 2:29 pm
If you have demonstrated ability to execute project lasting 2+ years, you could try to change directions (you somehow interested in staying in the system for the next 18 years anyway).

Hmm.... Thinking more about it:

On the other hand, I'm too cynic in believing in management promises, but you have solid financial cushion nevertheless.

Is your current role somehow endangered by cuts in the next (ekhm current) economic crisis?
Is there some outsourcing pressure?

Are you sure about prospects with new degree? What's in syllabus?
Can't you DIY some projects during current role from it and show them to the new manager?
OK, in classist society as UK it won't probably work anyway, but I'm just trying to introduce you to extreme methods...
My role is relatively secure for the next 4-5 years.

I am sure about the prospects - it is (most of the time) a requirement for the jobs I want (process engineering). The syllabus aligns directly with what I want to do in my day-to-day work.

My current manager can't do anything for me, my current role is very limited in terms of what I can and can't do.

Thanks for the reply.

Garbo13
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2021 12:02 pm

Re: A dangerous/expensive career change?

Post by Garbo13 »

Frita wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 3:40 pm
Buyer beware, universities are now very much businesses. Whether you learn or recoup your investment is irrelevant to that system. It isn’t always the best place to gain knowledge.

Some more questions (through an American lense): Would you have better job projects with the chemical engineering versus general engineering degree? Is this market dependent? Would this affect your ability to qualify and test for professional registration? (For example, someone with a mechanical engineering degree would more easily be able to study for and pass the civil exam than vice versa. Civil engineers make less money but positions are consistently available. Petroleum engineers make more money but jobs are feast or famine. Some schools have better professional exam pass rates and/or company placement post-graduation.) Is there a way to finish the employer-paid degree and supplement with self-study, university mentorship, on-the-job training, and/or additional coursework for the chemistry component? Are there scholarships for which you could apply to cover all or part of the £13,500? What would your repayment plan be, pay-as-you-go or take on a loan for x-years? If you find another job and leave the current company, would you have to payback all or part of what they paid for your degree? Worst case scenario and you are unable to secure the job of your dreams, how would you feel and what would you do?

Also, I don’t know that you necessarily want to assume that you’ll work until 50. (My spouse and I were FI by our early 30s with interesting work and in higher-functioning workgroups that fostered careerism. His original goal was to work until 50 but was done at 47. He was able to drop the careerism seemingly overnight though there were health repercussions to remediate. Originally, I planned to never stop due due my perceived calling and the meaning I found in my work. I actually had multiple retirement breaks to do different projects. At 52, I have turned the corner with the careerism.). Set yourself up so it works however you pivot. Don’t fall into the careerism trap.
Thanks Frita for your reply.

In short, yes I would have significantly better job prospects with chemical engineering versus general engineering. The export economy where I live is largely (>50%) based on chemicals, pharmaceuticals and medical devices - the market needs chemical engineers.

Both degrees, the one I'm taking now (general engineering) and the chemical engineering degree, are professionally accredited. They are however accredited by different bodies - one is accredited by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the other by Institution of Chemical Engineers.

"Is there a way to finish the employer-paid degree and supplement with self-study, university mentorship, on-the-job training, and/or additional coursework for the chemistry component"

In short, no. The requirement for chemical engineering jobs is pretty strict - a BEng Chemical Engineering. A lot of people think Chemical Engineering is just Mechanical Engineering + Chemistry, and to some extent it's true, but in reality chemical engineers are unique and learn things that chemists and mechanical engineers do not.

"Are there scholarships for which you could apply to cover all or part of the £13,500? " I've already checked, there are scholarships available but the vast majority are for people on low incomes or no income at all, and I wouldn't qualify.

"What would your repayment plan be, pay-as-you-go or take on a loan for x-years? "

I'd pay it upfront in cash.

"If you find another job and leave the current company, would you have to payback all or part of what they paid for your degree"

No - I wouldn't have to pay back anything as long as I stayed at my current company for 6 months after I finished the course.

"Worst case scenario and you are unable to secure the job of your dreams, how would you feel and what would you do?"

Part of me would be happy and proud that I managed to achieve getting a chemical engineering degree, which is what I've always wanted. Part of me would be depressed if I was unable to secure the job I wanted. I would keep looking for that job until I got what I wanted.


"Don’t fall into the careerism trap."
I hope I'm not doing that now, and that's why I've come to you lovely people seeking advice. I am 100% aware that universities (at least in the UK and USA) now operate as primarily businesses.

ertyu
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Re: A dangerous/expensive career change?

Post by ertyu »

Garbo13 wrote:
Sun Feb 14, 2021 6:04 am
One of the caveats of living in the cheapest part of the UK is that there aren't many jobs available - that being the main reason the area is so cheap.

I understand what you're getting at. I am going to keep my eyes open for other opportunities. Thank you.
I understand this - I live in a crap area myself. However, even if you have to travel to an interview + do not actually intend to take the job, experience with being able to confidently sell, "this is how I have the skills needed to teach myself the job, and this is how i have the motivation to do so [even if i don't necessarily strictly meet all the requirements]" is priceless. It's not about keeping your eyes open for options, it's about becoming so good at selling yourself that when that one suitable opportunity comes along you breeze in and snatch it without stuttering or angsting over whether you did well enough. Having the course in progress is part of your "here is how i have the motivation to teach myself how to do the job" btw.

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Alphaville
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Re: A dangerous/expensive career change?

Post by Alphaville »

Garbo13 wrote:
Sun Feb 14, 2021 6:11 am
Thanks for the reply.

Yes I could help - is it for a test?
thanks! oh no ha ha no tests. it's for reality.

ok i will create separate subject-based threads, so as not to derail. i have many of of these but i'll start with one.

eta: please see here: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=11849

Garbo13
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Re: A dangerous/expensive career change?

Post by Garbo13 »

I'd just like to come back again and thank everybody. The decision I made was to change to the chemical engineering degree at a cost of £4500/year for 3 years.

Two things were ultimately behind this decision:

1) The 2018 earnings report for UK chemical engineers which provided me with some confidence that I would get a good ROI.
https://www.icheme.org/media/14843/fina ... 19-min.pdf

2) The satisfaction of learning about something I find interesting - life's too short to do something you hate, right?

ertyu
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Re: A dangerous/expensive career change?

Post by ertyu »

Cngrats and good luck!

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