Am I crazy to quit my job and go back to school? (long)

I am 31 years old, married with a 10-year-old daughter, and am currently employed full-time as a shipping clerk at the factory where my husband works as an industrial engineer. I do not fit in well with my current job. At every other job I’ve had, I’ve never had much trouble gaining respect from the boss, but it just doesn’t seem to be happening here, and it’s frustrating. I work hard, but my boss seems to expect utter perfection. She’s never happy with my work (or my co-workers’, for that matter) and it is stressful. I dream of the day I can tell her to “take this job and shove it!”

What I would really like to do is complete my college degree. I went to college for two years after high school. My grades were good, and I was in the honors program, but I never chose a major…I never could figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up. Then I got pregnant with my daughter and decided to take a leave of absence…I honestly thought I would get stir-crazy and be itching to get back to school after a year or two, but it didn’t happen. So, I got a job as a telephone operator. The hours really sucked, and the constant having to be “on” all the time (I’m rather introverted, so it goes against my nature) got to be a bit draining. So, my husband got me the job I have now, mostly because it was close to home and I would be home in the evenings to cook dinner. (He did not know that my boss was such a she-beast at the time, unfortunately.)

In the meantime, I discovered the internet, and message boards such as the SDMB. I’ve dabbled in HTML and making web pages (at one time, my mother-in-law wanted to start a web development business and have me work for her…it did not work out, probably for the better.) I also spent several years editing a newsletter for a club I belonged to in college, and I was a page editor for my high school newspaper. I could definitely see myself doing that sort of layout work for some company’s webpage or a newsletter or a magazine. I’ve seen a few jobs out there that involve such things, but they always want a bachelor’s degree…sometimes they say they want it in communications, English, or journalism, but sometimes it just seems like they only care if you’ve put in the seat time.

Well, that’s what I’m leaning towards, and I’m seriously considering chucking it all in at the end of the summer and starting back up at the University of Minnesota full-time. I know that I could probably go part-time and have it be less of a blow to the family budget, but, frankly, I hate my job (see above), the sooner I get my degree, the better, and it might just be cheaper, since once you pay for 13 semester credits, any more you take that semester are free. (They did not offer that when I was there before.) My husband is supportive…he already has bought me a laptop computer for Mother’s Day and mentioned that half of my paycheck is going into savings right now (401K’s, my daughter’s college fund, etc.) so we only have to worry about the other half. I know we can try to cut expenses, etc., but this scares me a little. Of course, I could also get a part-time job and, of course, student loans.

I’m also not quite sure what I should major in, although I have it much more narrowed down than before. The U offers both Communications Studies and Journalism. I know that someone at the school would probably be more qualified to answer this question, but what is the difference? If I am interested in the web, is one better? How about print journalism? It also looks like the U has some classes on technical writing. Is that a good field to consider?

Most advice that seems to be out there on returning to school seems to assume that you’d be doing it part-time or online, so am I crazy for just diving head-first into things like this? Is it tough to remember how to write essays and take notes? Should I try to join clubs? Will I be that “crazy old lady” that always sits up front and has her hand raised when everyone else is snoozing? :slight_smile:

I just feel like such a late bloomer…I should have figured this out years ago, I suppose. And I’m still hesitant…maybe I won’t like it, but I’ll be stuck with a bunch of loans, or I’ll still find reasons to hate my new career. But, i can’t stay where I am.

Any thoughts? Advice?

Do you not have a degree from the University of Real Life?

Have you considered night school?

I say go for it.

Will you be able to re-use your credits from the first time you went to college? In that case you are only looking at 2 (maybe 3) years - and from what you’ve said you can afford to take the financial hit for that long.

Not to mention that, if you earn more as a result of your degree, you’ll make a profit on the whole enterprise. Considering that you hate your current job, I assume you will leave it sooner or later, whether you go to college or not? Better to be looking for a job with a college degree than not, especially as you’ve already done half the work.

If you are concerned that your academic skills are rusty, it may be worth taking a couple of credits online or in the evenings first, just so that you can hit the ground running when you do go back full-time, and minimize the time spent financially taking the hit as a full-time student.

By being so financially responsible with savings, you have bought the right to return to college - it’s not like you’ll be imposing penury on your family for the sake of some whim. You have a clear path to degree completion, solid objectives, and at least some of the financial resources to make the process comfortable for you and your family.

Have fun! :slight_smile:


Communications seems to be… wider than Journalism, hereabouts; the best way to figure out what is the idea for each is to take a look at credit requirements and sillabi.

I’m thinking of becoming a full-time student for a couple years. I wrote to the school I was considering, because given my work habits and speed I think I might be able to scrunch the 2-yr degree into one year; after a while I got an answer - my letter had been forwarded to something like a dozen people before someone could answer, but hey, it finally found the right person. I’ve now written to that person asking whether anybody could kindly provide me some orientation and answer my questions before I take the plunge. Since I don’t have any source of income other than my job (ok, also no kids), at my side you’re so sane it oughta be illegal.

Not sure that I do, or that it counts for much, at least in the job world. For example, i basically have a dead-end job right now. I say I’m a shipping clerk, but, in most companies, that would meant that I would know how to, say, ship packages by UPS or calculate freight and things like that. No, that’s done by a different department at my company. My job involves packaging parts (flexible circuits, to be precise) in trays or plastic bags, filling out paperwork by hand, and using ancient proprietary computer systems to pull ship tickets and put parts into hold and stock. It doesn’t translate into another job very well. I could maybe get my boss’s job…when she retires…in, oh, 15-20 years.

Also, I enjoyed school when I was there, and I was good at it. I enjoy learning. I look through that course catalog and I practically drool. I have nothing more to learn where I am at right now.

I have considered night school, but with my 40-48hour/week job, I could only take 2 classes at a time, and the class offerings seem to be limited, at least at the U. I know there are other schools, but I haven’t seen a compelling reason to transfer to say, National American University, even if they do have a catchy theme song ;).

Since I am also planning to quit my job (and indeed career) and go get a Masters in something entirely different and surely more fulfilling, you are as crazy as I am. (make of that what you will :wink: )

It sounds like now is great time to do this: kids are, if not cheap, less insanely expensive 10-12 (no braces, no car, no club sports, no college) at this age, and if all hours over 13 are a flat rate (they do this in Texas now too and I think it’s wonderful), then it just makes sense to be in an “all school” mode if you can afford it: go 15 hours your first semester to be sure you are ok, but after that I bet you could go 18 or 21 hours a semester if you put in the same solid 48 hours a week you are putting into work now, and finish in 2 years tops.

I’d have to agree with the rest.

Why not now?

You have savings, you have the support of your family, currently you dislike your job.

Go! Get the schooling while you can, before anything comes up that you could use as an excuse to put it off. A couple years of being careful with the budget won’t do any harm, and the potential future earnings outweigh the short term loss.
Also, apply for scholarships and bursaries. Look around, talk to people at the university. You just might get some help that way. They are out there for mature students as well as those straight out of high school.

At the very least, for night school, I’d say take one class. I too could take two classes, on top of my 40+hour a week job but since I have my own child and wanted to retain my sanity I keep it at one a semester. :wink: One class here or there just means less when you go back full time.

I spent many years being a technical writer, so I should be able to speak to this question. However, I should also admit that I’ve left the field to–yep, you guessed it–return to school and get another degree. So feel free to take or leave what I have to say about technical writing.

I will say that it can be a rewarding and lucrative field. Full-time and salaried technical writers can do very nicely, and freelance tech writers can do even better money-wise. And there is nothing like the feeling of seeing your book, printed and bound, and ready for distribution. Of course, many such “books” today are online or contained in help files, but it’s a good feeling anyway. Still, in spite of the online aspect, I can honestly claim to have written a number of manuals that have been translated into various languages and distributed internationally. I’m kind of proud of that.

But there is a downside. Tech writing suffers from the economic cycles that affect all business. Tech writers are a luxury; a software company, for example, makes money by selling software designed and written by engineers, but they do not make money on including manuals for the software. Thus, tech writers are generally cost centers for companies, and among the first to be laid off if the company is running into hard times.

In addition, there are still many people out there who do not understand what a tech writer does, or how or when he or she does it. I’ve dealt with managers who simply do not understand that I must be regarded as a part of the project team, and cannot be shunted off into a corner to, like an old Irish monk, produce a book without any interaction with the other members of the team. Similarly, I’ve dealt with engineers who have had plenty of warning but who still come to me with a last-minute change after the books have been printed and bound, and demand their change be included. It is frustrating, at times, to deal with such people, but it is a part of the job.

Even if you do not become a technical writer, you may wish to take a course or two in it anyway. Certainly, I’ve been able to put my skills to good use in all kinds of written business communication; and now that I’m back at school, my skills are earning me top marks any time I have a written assignment. You will work hard in such a course–I used to teach it at a college, and I remember what I used to make my students do–but it is a skill that is useful in many ways. Good luck!

I quit my job at the age of 34 to go to nursing school. Fortunately my SO and I were in a financial position that allowed me to do that; student loans and generosity from my parents and his closed the gap. It was tight, but the prospect of a secure future far outweigh a relatively brief period of asceticism.

I think going back to school as a mature student is a great idea, and it sounds like you are in a good position to do so, Tamex. My only concern is that you are so unsure of what you want to take, and what you want to do with it when you’re done. I think you’ll get further faster if you have a more coherent plan of what you want to do and more concrete goals. As they say in the songs, you can’t get what you want until you know what you want.

I was in my 20’s with two kids to support as a single parent when I began going to college. I was driving a school bus to put food on the table while attending classes part time. Mid way through, I got pregnant with Hallboy and had to take off an entire year (pregnancy made me want to sleep all the time). I picked it back up the following year. We survived on school loans/grants and by the skin of our teeth some days. It took me nearly 8 years to get my Bachelor’s degree.

Never once have I ever regretted going to college. Go for it, and chances are, you’ll never regret it either.

Did that. Was fantastic. To the OP, I say go for it, especially as your husband is supportive. And you’re also going to demonstrate to your daughter that you do believe a college education is important.

Not crazy. I do agree that you may want to spend some more time researching what your dream job would be, and therefore what courses will help you pursue it, but you aren’t crazy for wanting to quit your job and go back to school.

Do expect your experiences to be different this time around. (Not neccessarily worse or better, just differennt). Even if you attend a school with a lot of nontraditional students, you are not the person you were when last you attended college. And while I don’t know much about the U of M, I’d be surprised if things aren’t somewhat structured for their “average student”–who is not you.

But while I’ve known a lot more women who were stay at home moms for a while who went back to school to get their master’s degrees than working moms who went back to school to get an undergraduate degree, your choices do not make you crazy. (Incidently, I was pursuing a Master’s degree with most of the first group of women).

I’d suggest going to a community college that has a good transfer program first to help you figure out what you want to do. I went back to school (admittedly at an earlier age than you) and the community college really helped me figure out where I wanted to go. I’m now transferring and I have amazing opportunities to decide between. If you are just trying to decide between two majors then it might be better to go straight to the University but you sound like you need more time to think and explore. At most community colleges out here they have special classes you can take called “Career Exploration” that help some people figure out what they want to do. It just helped me concretely define what I don’t want to do. I figured out what I wanted to do from the classes I took.

For outside the school things you can do, I suggest interviewing people you are interested in “becoming.” My Career Exploration class made me do this and I’ve taken it and used it when trying to make later decisions. For example, I am trying to decide between two different undergraduate schools and if a BS or BA is better so I emailed several individuals in my field that I am interested in becoming and asked them for advice. You can email various people in the fields you are interested in who do work you could see yourself doing and ask them how they got there, what they like about their jobs, and what are the biggest complaints that they’ve had. I am very glad I learned to do this because I am interested in getting a PhD or at least a Masters (I need to in order to do my ideal career) and I wanted to make sure I didn’t screw myself over by getting the wrong undergraduate major or going to an undergraduate school not known for that field. This is more important for some majors than for others.

You’d have to ask another person about Communications but my best friend graduated with a major in Journalism and I’ve been amazed with what you can do with it. She’s really into video games and didn’t have any internships on her resume other than play-testing. Almost straight out of college she got a 40k/year job working for a video game company as a “community leader” where she helps to develop and produce games, write press releases, fix up manuals, etc. She absolutely loves it and is quickly working her way up the ranks. If you are a good writer, you can use a Journalism degree to get a job in a wide variety of fields because many people just can’t write and it is a skill that is rising in demand.

Yeah, good point. “Going back to school” is common enough nowadays and generally a good idea, but I think it is very important to get a real world perspective on your job prospects with the various degrees from people who work in the industry you’re interested in. Some degrees are, shall we say, much more marketable than others are. :slight_smile:

I’d just like to throw out there that I’ve always enjoyed having “non-traditional” students in the courses I’ve taught. I’ve found that they generally offer a different and interesting point of view to class discussions. Also, they tend to be motivated, and instructors love that!

If we’re taking a poll, I’d say just jump right back in full time.

How do I get in touch with people who are in my chosen field? I do know a technical writer at work, and I can talk to him, but I’m not sure he would make a great role-model for various reasons. Is it easier to get those sorts of opportunities once I am enrolled in a program?

Try to find someone (or someones) doing a job that you think you would be very interested in working at, and just call them or email them to ask them if you could have 15 minutes of their time to interview them about their job. People are usually very open to this - I’ve done a few in my time, and one thing people like to talk about is themselves. As long as you make it clear what you’re doing (calling to find out about what a job is like for a career switch, not calling to try to get a job), and do it at a time that works for the person in the job, it can be an excellent way to find out about a career.

Tamex, if you’d like to know more about technical writing or its skills, drop me an e-mail. It’s in my profile.