Higher Ed for Field/Tech Folks

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I am what is commonly called in academic circles “an older learner”. I received my Bachelor of Science in 2007 at the age of 47, my Master of Science in 2008 at 48, and am hoping to complete my PhD by December of this year, at the age of 54. Part of my delayed learning experience was that I was a “field person” working as an Instrument Technician, and later as an Operations Technician, for many years. There is typically no higher education available for these kinds of people, even if they want to pursue it. Then I discovered the University of Houston’s Organizational Leadership and Supervision (OLS) program in the college of Technology (note: it was called Technology Leadership and Supervision when I graduated).

The OLS turned out to be an excellent program for someone like me. It was in these classes that I learned that older learners really do have things to contribute and I had many younger students wanting to sit next to me, to have me on their teams, or to include me in their study groups. And it wasn’t because I was smarter than them, but rather that I had experiences to share that they didn’t. Classes at UH are no easy thing, but not only did I survive intact, I also realized that I had more I wanted to learn. I began my MS program at the University of Texas, Austin, just one week before my UH graduation. Again, that turned out to be an excellent choice for me.

My point here is that just because you are in a traditional field as a craftsperson does not mean you are excluded from opportunities for higher education. Also, you should not let your age be a deterrent as your field experience will definitely be an asset in your classroom interactions and exercises. I took all of my classes while holding down a full-time job. It wasn’t easy, but it was doable. And the benefits are really hard to measure but impossible to ignore. Not only did my employers recognize this as an indicator of my capabilities, recognition that moved me over into management roles, but knowing I had both the experience and the academic training gave me the confidence to try new things, take new risks, and pursue new challenges.

If you are a “field technician” of some kind but think you might have what it takes to go further, you might consider the path I took and pursue enhancing your education. As I prepare to defend my dissertation in my pursuit of a PhD, I can still look back and remember how unsure I was when sitting in a university classroom in my late 40s. Anyone who knows me know will recognize that I’ve come a long way since then. The path I chose was definitely the right one for me and perhaps it might be for you too.

For more information about the University of Houston OLS program, be sure and check out their website at http://www.uh.edu/technology/programs/undergraduate/organizational-leadership-and-supervision/.

Filed under: career, education, experience

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