4 answers

Would someone graduating at 40 with their first degree in civil engineering have a chance in the workforce?

Asked Wheaton, Illinois

Is it sensible or feasible (or how does the outlook seem in general) to get one's first degree at 40 as a civil engineer? (Entering college at 35, graduating at 40)

Would potential employers be biased against an "old" newbie, making it impossible to pay off school debt at such a late date because jobs would go to younger graduates?

#engineering #civil-engineering #adult-education #career-change

4 answers

Pamela’s Answer


I think the face of tech has clearly been of younger people, but I feel the notion of older workers being "blocked" is a myth—with one caveat. Older works MUST be open to constant change and constant learning. If you are willing to change and grow as the wind blows AND bring in the unique qualities of your experience, it's a winning combo. Any company that would literally deny someone a job due to their age is not one you want to work for. Hiring based on experience is smart—the more experience the better. As long as the candidate is clearly willing to keep growing and take on new technologies.

Let me also be clear that I am have over 18 years of experience in my field and well over 40 myself—and the youngest on my team. Except for our intern. :-)

Pamela recommends the following next steps:

  • Showcase your experience (even if it's just "life" experience), but balance that with your enthusiasm to learn new things.
  • Don't assume you won't get a fair shot. Don't buy into the myths or get intimated when you see a lot of young faces. A lot of these companies NEED mentors with a world view perspective.

Michael’s Answer


Hi Danni,

I am in the Recruitment industry and I can say firsthand that I do not think you would be greatly debilitated by your age. It is unfortunate that some firms still have an age bias, but I am seeing that as a few and far between problem. I would honestly view your situation as the other way. You have decided to achieve this degree later than most and it shows a true passion for the career. As long as you do well with the degree, find some opportunities and interview well, I think any company would be happy to have you.



Peter’s Answer

Updated Kent, Washington


I am a retired Civil Engineer with more than 40 years of experience in consulting firms. The great majority of new, incoming engineers that I met were in their 20's, as you would expect. I can only remember one new engineer who was in his late 30's to 40. But this person displayed a lot of maturity and insight that goes with being older. He was well-accepted in our Group and quickly rose to intermediate status, becoming a project manager. Your "middle age" can be an asset to a firm and I see no reason why, if you are truely determined, you should not be successful with your mid-life change of career.

Good Luck, Pete Sturtevant PE

Ken’s Answer

Updated Cleveland, Ohio

Congratulations on being interested beginning your career. Age is not necessarily a factor. The most important step in acquiring a job at any age is doing networking to meet and talk to and possibly shadow people doing what you might think that you want to do to see if this is something that you really want to do, as a career area could look much different on the inside than it looks from the outside. When I was doing college recruiting, I encountered too many students, who skipped these important steps, and ended up in a career/job for which they were ill suited.

Ken recommends the following next steps:

  • The first step is to take an interest and aptitude test and have it interpreted by your school counselor to see if you share the personality traits necessary to enter the field.
  • Next, when you have the results of the testing, talk to the person at your college who tracks and works with graduates to arrange to talk to, visit, and possibly shadow people doing what you think that you might want to do, so that you can get know what they are doing and how they got there. Here are some tips: ## http://www.wikihow.com/Network ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/nonawkward-ways-to-start-and-end-networking-conversations https://www.themuse.com/advice/4-questions-to-ask-your-network-besides-can-you-get-me-a-job?ref=carousel-slide-1 ##
  • Locate and attend meetings of professional associations to which people who are doing what you think that you want to do belong, so that you can get their advice. These associations may offer or know of intern, coop, shadowing, and scholarship opportunities. These associations are the means whereby the professionals keep abreast of their career area following college and advance in their career. Here are some tips: ## https://www.careeronestop.org/BusinessCenter/Toolkit/find-professional-associations.aspx?&frd=true ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/9-tips-for-navigating-your-first-networking-event ##
  • It is very important to express your appreciation to those who help you along the way to be able to continue to receive helpful information and to create important networking contacts along the way. Here are some good tips: ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-informational-interview-thank-you-note-smart-people-know-to-send?ref=recently-published-2 ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/3-tips-for-writing-a-thank-you-note-thatll-make-you-look-like-the-best-candidate-alive?bsft_eid=7e230cba-a92f-4ec7-8ca3-2f50c8fc9c3c&bsft_pid=d08b95c2-bc8f-4eae-8618-d0826841a284&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_20171020&utm_source=blueshift&utm_content=daily_20171020&bsft_clkid=edfe52ae-9e40-4d90-8e6a-e0bb76116570&bsft_uid=54658fa1-0090-41fd-b88c-20a86c513a6c&bsft_mid=214115cb-cca2-4aec-aa86-92a31d371185&bsft_pp=2 ##