/ 45, is an OU Env Science degree worth it?

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teflonpete - on 24 Apr 2013
Quick personal history. I worked for 11 years for a rotating equipment repair company (industrial motors, pumps, fans etc in power stations, oil refineries etc). Started there as a driver and was workshop supervisor when I left 11 years later. Been in my current job for 15 years, starting as a shift maintenance technician, now the engineering and technical support coordinator (junior manager). My job is due to come to an end towards the end of this year / beginning of next due to plant closure as cinema film processing is replaced completely by digital projection in cinemas.

I started studying for an Environmental Science BSc hons with the Open University in 2010 and have completed 2 Level 1 and 1 Level 2 modules, all with distinction grades. Currently working on my second Level 2 module, struggling with it a bit but keeping my head above water. If I continue with the full degree, I'll complete it in 2016, by which time I'll be 49.

Originally I thought it might be a suitable qualification to tack on to my work experience to get a job in one of the renewable energy industries but realistically, I'll be job hunting before I've finished my degree and don't really want a desk job / management role again. Would an employer even be interested in employing a 49 / 50 year old recent graduate? Coupled with that, the emphasis of the level 3 modules on this degree path is on monitoring and understanding the natural environment rather than understanding green technologies and practices. My main reason for wanting the degree qualification was to maintain my employment prospects in a career well paid enough to pay the mortgage on the family home. A divorce and house sale as part of the settlement means that that is no longer an issue.

I think I'd be happier doing short term contracts on a CIS or self employed basis, bearing in mind that I enjoy practical work and have a wide range of practical skills, knowledge and experience.

Since I've lost interest in the path my degree is taking, lost interest in holding a managerial or supervisory role and will be nearly 50 when my degree is finished, is it worth continuing with it and putting the work / hours in just to get a piece of paper with BSc written on it?
goosebump - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete:
Hello Teflon Pete,
Is it as simple as I was/am an engineer, I want to be engineer who works on windfarms?

If that is the case and given your background and lack of desire to be desk bound, I reckon the degree doesnt count so much toward employment prospects. You dont need to know the why of windfarms, just the how. I'd be pestering windfarm contractors/operators or turbine manufacturers now and gaining experience/contacts however I could that way.

From my perspective (ecologist within a medium sized env consultancy), when we recruit age is irrelevant since finding skilled ecologists is pretty hard. Degrees only really matter in terms of proving (hopefully) that people can write and organise their time. Utterly useless at assessing if someone is sufficiently curious to have the field skills needed. To be fair though, we would be unlikley to recruit someone without a degree since they are ten a penny these days...
Tim Chappell - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete:


It's not about the piece of paper.
Dave Cumberland - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete:
> is it worth continuing with it and putting the work / hours in just to get a piece of paper with BSc written on it?

I would say finish what you have started with enthusiasm. You never know where it might lead. Those degrees might be a bit of a codge where you might end up in the box-ticking public sector but you could also do some independent consulting or end up in an enterprising private company in a variety of areas. Someone with your practical background AND a degree will be a major asset.
iksander on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete: If you're not enjoying it and it don't think it will get you what you want then I don't see the point unless you're Magnus Magnusson type.

Signed,

an Env dropout
teflonpete - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to goosebump:
> (In reply to teflonpete)
> Hello Teflon Pete,
> Is it as simple as I was/am an engineer, I want to be engineer who works on windfarms?

No, not quite that simple, I was interested in anaerobic digester plant, waste recycling plant, industrial effluent discharge control, energy efficiency, a number of fields.

>
> From my perspective (ecologist within a medium sized env consultancy), when we recruit age is irrelevant since finding skilled ecologists is pretty hard. Degrees only really matter in terms of proving (hopefully) that people can write and organise their time. Utterly useless at assessing if someone is sufficiently curious to have the field skills needed. To be fair though, we would be unlikley to recruit someone without a degree since they are ten a penny these days...

The degree modules steer more towards ecology but a degree doesn't make anyone a skilled ecologist without practical experience. Ecology wasn't really the path I was looking to take as that would mean completely retraining and gaining whole new fields of experience.
Thanks for your reply, much appreciated.
OwenM - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete: I did an OU degree in Geosciences, I was 48 when I finished it. I was driving HGV's before I started it and I still am. I did get one interview out of it, they laughed in my face. There were a few people doing the course at the same time who already worked in the oil industry and were using the degree to further their careers. I think that would be the most likely way of getting a result. It was still worth doing in it's own right, just don't expect it to become a magic bullet into a new career.
Giles Davis - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete:

Hi Pete, without even reading the other replies my advice would be STICK WITH IT!! I'm 47 and did a Masters when I was around 40, it's made a big difference to my confidence in the workplace and my career.

My wife is 44 and currently doing a Business Management degree at out local college.

Go for it! you're never too old to learn, climb, run, surf mountain bike etc. etc. etc.

Cheers
Giles
Giles Davis - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to Fuerteman:

Should have also added that I left school with no qualifications (surfing lifestyle ruled unfortunately).
krikoman - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete: Knowledge is power, but nowadays I only study things that interest me. I don't see it as giving up if I find something that's not really floating my boat. I've got a finite number of hours to do things and if I'm not enjoying what I'm doing, I do something else.

teflonpete - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to teflonpete)
>
>
> It's not about the piece of paper.

No Tim, it's about still qualifying when you have a tutor that doesn't mark and return assignments in a timely manner, having the degree path morph into something different from what you started because the OU keep changing the modules counting toward it, having final presentation dates for modules set 2 years before the end of the transitional fees period. I could go on and on. When I started on this degree path there were a wide range of modules that counted toward it. Over the last couple of years it has got more and more prescriptive, with more and more exclusions and modules where you have to do 60 point modules of which only 30 points count toward your degree. I'm already looking at having to do 390 points to get a 360 point degree and if I opt not to take geology at level 3 because I didn't do geology at level 2, I'll have to do another 60 pointer for only 30 points to count, totaling 420 points for a BSc hons. It's not just the subject matter that I've lost interest in, it's confidence in the OU too.
Ava Adore - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete:

Bin it.

I wasn't aware you were doing your degree to support a change of career - I thought it was more for interest. If it's not interesting you, stuff it. It's expensive and it's a massive investment in time (as you know).

I had the option of qualifying in the field in which I was working (project management) when I was made redundant a couple of years ago. On rsearching the market, I found that so many jobs were asking for experience (and in this case, sector specific experience) - in 6 months of looking I genuinely didn't find one role that I could have filled as a newly qualified PM. Unless of course I was prepared to blag my way through an interview which, frankly, I just didn't have the self-esteem for at the time.

So I opted to return to work as a senior PA and take a salary cut. And it's been fine. I don't work long hours, I have very little stress and if I'm a little bored at times, it's a small price to pay for the quality of life it gives me in the evenings.

I do hope you find something quickly post-redundancy, chick
Ava Adore - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to krikoman:
> (In reply to teflonpete) Knowledge is power, but nowadays I only study things that interest me. I don't see it as giving up if I find something that's not really floating my boat. I've got a finite number of hours to do things and if I'm not enjoying what I'm doing, I do something else.

Seconded
Frank4short - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete:

> No, not quite that simple, I was interested in anaerobic digester plant, waste recycling plant, industrial effluent discharge control, energy efficiency, a number of fields.

I used to work in that field. Best place to look to see what's happening is on http://www.letsrecycle.com/ it's pretty much the industry standard news site. So hopefully it'll give you an idea of what companies are the movers and shakers in your area. May help you in being able to identify where to send CVs, etc. in the pursuit of your goals.

Just out of curiosity what sort of role would you be looking for in one of these types of plants e.g. management or on your tools?
Skip - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete:
This subject or variations on it seem to appearing with increasing regularity on various forums. My experience is this: i recently completed a BSc in Environmental Resource Management (a "top up" year on the back of a Foundation Degree in Renewable Energy), finished it at age 48. Admittedly i have no relevant experience in the field. Although i have had a good number of interviews i have yet to get a job, my feeling is that i am failing due to my age, i never put my age on C.V.s and believe that once the interviewer(s) realise i am no "spring chicken" it's "game over". However you have some relevant transferable experience and may have some chance.

I am livid that it seems that i have wasted three years of study to effectively be on the scrap heap.
SteveoS - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete:

I'm a 3rd year envi science student and I've found that it's a very broad degree. Unless you choose what you'd want to do as a job for your final year project (something to talk about in interviews / experience)or do a masters it'd be quite difficult to get the job you want.
If you can I'd recommended contacting companies in renewables to see if they can offer you a project/data and get your foot in the door. Speak to lecturers in this field too.

I'd also say you've got job experience where new graduates will not even if you have the same background knowledge of the science, putting you at an advantage.
Green-Winged Orchid - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete: hello Pete. We met at a bunkhouse meet in N Yorkshire. I slept in a chair and you rather fatherly put a coat over me before buggering off to bed.

I started the OU's Environmental Science degree. Did three modules. At the time I was roping up the inside of wind turbines at Embsay and changing the gear boxes in them. At the time there was talk of lots of work in the Solway and good money. Three years later I've not done any further modules and I'm sat at a bench measuring aero parts for less than half the money (250 a week). I'm 50 in two weeks and I am having a major soul searching cow about it. I'm not saying any of those are connected but its reality - for me anyway.

If you can do it I'd like to think you would continue, can't do any harm. Depends if you swap the time and energy for navel gazing? Good luck in what ever you do and take care.
teflonpete - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to Frank4short:

Thanks for that Frank, bookmarked it. Out of interest, I looked through the vacancies section and none of the roles I looked at asked for degrees, all for experience.

I was going to be looking for something either in junior management or process engineering rather than maintenance on the tools.

That's the thing, that has changed and I fancy doing something on the tools on short term contracts. I'm looking at a big lifestyle change coming up soon with other things going on in my life and I'm looking to work less days per year (albeit earning less money) and do something I enjoy. I know what I'd like to do and don't need a degree for it. Think my time would be better spent starting out on my own and building a base of people to sub work from rather than spending my time studying for a degree I won't use.
teflonpete - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to Green-Winged Orchid:

Cheers G. Making the most of the weather warming up I hope.

No, no time navel gazing, got a home to build and places to take it. :0)
dissonance - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete:

tricky.
The "well paid" bit I think is key. Whilst a company might hire the recent graduate they will normally want the recent graduate wages as well so depends on the definition of well paid. Companies will want experience as well (giving the eternal problem for a recent grad), obv you have the advantage on general work experience but depending on the sector may also want the specific sector knowledge.
One advantage would be studying now might look good on the cv (even prior to completing) since shows the expand knowledge and all that jazz which makes HR able to tick some boxes.
As a random other option can you switch to an open degree and top it up with more general subjects, say engineering (since get the idea you are more biased to that)?
Green-Winged Orchid - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete: it's frigging raining! I do miss the OU course but I don't miss those deadlines!
teflonpete - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete:

Just been looking at my options and think I'll complete the module I'm doing at the moment then claim a Diploma and call it a day. I can always go back to it at a later date and do level 3 modules to make it up to an open degree if I want to.
Green-Winged Orchid - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete: sounds like a plan
goosebump - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete:

Sounds like a plan! My final tuppence - the firm I work for has for years serviced the waste industry. AD and EfW show no sign of slowing, with new technologies for both cropping up. There will always be waste - as we get better in the UK there are many many other (interesting, with good climbing) countries playing catch up. A good sector to be interested in I reckon - good luck!
evilellie - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete:
If you don't want to do the 3rd year modules, you could always leave having completed the year 1 and 2 equivalent, with a Diploma in Higher Education, which you could top up at a later date to a degree if you wanted to (you may even find a more specific degree has started up somewhere you could transfer to yr3 of by that time)?
SCrossley on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete: Hi,
sorry to go off topic. I assume you are on transitional fees so circa 700 for a 60 point module wheras if not you would pay circa 2500 for a 60 point module. Do you think that as a mature person you consider 2500 value for money for the OU courses you have done, maybe you are familiar with U116 which I am just finishing and I think it not worth 700 never mind 2500, what do you think.
Also my course has an internet forum populated with Enviro Hags, does your course have similar issues or have I just been unlucky.
sjc
SCrossley on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete:
> (In reply to teflonpete)
>
> Just been looking at my options and think I'll complete the module I'm doing at the moment then claim a Diploma and call it a day. I can always go back to it at a later date and do level 3 modules to make it up to an open degree if I want to.

It could be worth you doing a 10 point courses that interests, you need to study every year I think, to keep your eligibility for transitional fees.
Ridge - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete:
>
> That's the thing, that has changed and I fancy doing something on the tools on short term contracts. I'm looking at a big lifestyle change coming up soon with other things going on in my life and I'm looking to work less days per year (albeit earning less money) and do something I enjoy. I know what I'd like to do and don't need a degree for it. Think my time would be better spent starting out on my own and building a base of people to sub work from rather than spending my time studying for a degree I won't use.

That sounds an excellent idea. From what you've set the degree course sounds a bit naff, so if you're not enjoying it I'd say bin it. At our age (!) degrees tend not to have much relevance in terms of employment anyway. My job applications tend to be on the lines of here are your essential requirements, here are your desirable requirements and here's all my previous experience that meets all of those requirements. My two 25 year old HNCs and a 10 year old Level 4 No Value Qualification get a line at the end. Worked for my last job and it's just got me an interview for another job, so can't be a bad approach.

Ultimately I'm at the time in my life where I'm aiming for reasonable salary doing what I enjoy with minimum stress. If I could do what you're doing and cut the hours for a bit less money that would be perfect!
teflonpete - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to sjc:
No, no way are 60 point courses worth 2500. I find the tutoring very hit and and miss, with the last 2 courses I've done having 2 or 3 tutorials at best. 700 quid for 6 text books, some late marking and an exam seems steep enough.
I did U116 as my first module, the forums are full of people with woolly jumpers growing tomatoes in their own faeces. Seriously! :0S
The good thing about U116 is that it's very difficult to fail and there's no exam. Some of it is a bit of an eye opener, especially the stuff about Brazil and China.
isi_o - on 24 Apr 2013
In reply to teflonpete:
If you are keen to do a degree but not liking the OU set up then you could consider changing uni and applying for accreditation of prior learning to bypass a year of a course or similar? There are other courses out there that run online. I did some OU courses a few years back. Some were ok and I'd consider them value for what I paid, others not so. I'm now studying online with UHI. Much more interaction, everything online so no need to be at a specific place, well organised and well run. I'm doing Sustainable Development and taking the Mountain specific modules, but there are courses relating to renewables, environment etc. too... I'm sure they aren't the only uni out there who do this sort of thing?
Not sure if that helps or not mind! Good luck making your decision - I guess the good thing is that with the OU you can take a year or two off and still go back to it if you decide you want to.
Isi
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