Cheating the system CLEP vs. AP tests for college credit.

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DeepThink

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Cheating the system CLEP vs. AP tests for college credit.

Post by DeepThink » Mon Dec 5, 18:01 2016

After getting laid off my mentor won't drop the whole positive attitude about me going back to school to be an engineer. I was the seventh person in that position and the pay was too low, but I was actually making headway doing work other people hate. The best part is I was really good at the technical work and learned pretty fast how to use the programs. I earned the respect of upper management and have enjoyed learning from the people I worked with. While I was working with him he did teach me a lot, but I have to say I'm not sure because I just can't afford it. I know what I would do in a heartbeat but I just don't know what I would study for the degree. Every single college I might get into has a different title and description and if accepted I'd rather be there and go all three to six years part time to be done with it.

In the meantime I'm taking courses in IT certifications (CompTIA A+ and working my way up) to get paid to do what I have had fun doing for years. Trying to find work in this area is really difficult and I've been to two interviews only to find out that the interviewers weren't going to hire me at all. They only interviewed other people so they couldn't get HR complaints when they hired their friends. You could say I'm crushed, but I know the score. A lot of good paying jobs won't let you around anything less than a bachelor's degree now, but do I really have to go back for an engineering degree? Can't I just study, take the FE test and be done with it?

I've taken AP tests and passed them so I've saved myself thousands of dollars on redundant courses and want to see if I can make the dollar stretch farther than that. My concern is that I keep seeing people claim that one is more accepted than the other. I haven't figured out where to go yet as I can't afford to pay outrageous "non-resident" fees and tuition moving to other states. AP tests are difficult but I've never invested the money on a CLEP test to compare them. I'm looking at Texas A&M but also like a few others in the state because I literally can't afford to move. My job went overseas in the Recession and I doubt I'll ever get to work in that area. I can't go to some expensive school or some ivy league (unless Georgia Tech would take me) then I'm out of luck.

Has anyone taken the Fundamentals of Engineering test on their own? I keep reading there are ways to do this but I have yet to hear anyone crow about accomplishing this feat. There area also a lot of arbitrary requirements like getting an engineering job without a degree, having engineering experience (not as a drafter) or other absurd generalities I see no employer agreeing to do.

Are AP scores more accepted than CLEP test scores?

I went to College Score Card and thought it was nice, but didn't tell me the overall experience of the students either. My mentor claims he knows the best college (his alma mater of course!) but it's too expensive.

I'm looking to get into building actual... things you can use. Mechanical tools, hydraulics, and work heavy in computers because I find it so fascinating. Yeah, narrow it down will you - you weirdo! If anyone has any idea what kind of engineering degree that is it would be nice. I saw that A&M is working to offer an Mechatronics or Multidisciplinary engineering degree and the courseload is beyond what I could take full time.

https://engineering.tamu.edu/etid/mxet

It looks like a good fit, then so did Electrical Engineering... and Materials Engineering. I really love working on computers and find cyber security and hacking to be addictive. I'm such a moron I'll spend hours working on a car knowing I don't have the strength to do the work! I have fun both covered grease putting things together or designing it in a computer (3D printing is my new addiction with computers) to snap parts together. I do keep hearing that a computer science degree isn't worth it since technology is become redundant on a shorter cycle.

It really sucks because I don't know what to do. Any ideas Spacefem engineers? I do have a handicap so I can't work in the field I originally wanted to in Industrial Design. I heard that Design Engineers actual design and build things, but I haven't seen this listed on any college website for a degree option. I'm frustrated with the whole process and feel that I would be nickeled-and-dimed like last time - only to find a degree isn't really needed yet again.

Bottom line is I'd love to be able to design and build machines and software - but have a handicap that limits my options. For the fun Spacefem quiz I had a strong aptitude for Electrical Engineering, Materials Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

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Re: Cheating the system CLEP vs. AP tests for college credit.

Post by rowan » Mon Dec 5, 20:57 2016

I'm not an engineer (I'm in physics) so I can't speak to the FE exam, although I have actually looked at the exam (I've thought about switching careers). I don't know how just taking it would go over, though. I'll leave that for an actual engineer.

I think that any STEM career is going to involve computers in some way, and programming is pretty useful in a lot of places. I think having good coding skills is pretty useful, the logic that you have to do coding is really great in other ways, thinking through problems etc. I do know our engineering students have pretty awesome portfolios by the time they leave our school. They build things, they do robotics and projects for improving energy processes, lots of sustainability, and more. I love walking through the senior projects every year. I think things like that can make a program actually really useful. But that isn't to say you couldn't get your foot in the door with just passing the FE exam, either. However, I rarely see really entry level "we'll grow you" type of jobs listed, at least around here. It's pretty frustrating. I know the recruiters are wandering the presentations and job fairs that's how they find new people. So... not sure how helpful that is. Hopefully an actual engineer or two can chime in.


As for funding, there are resources for people going back to school, based on income, and sometimes private colleges can be (not always) cheaper in the end because of school-based grants and other things. If you do decide to go make sure to look into a lot of financial aid options. Things that don't have to be paid back are best (grants, fellowships, etc) if you can find them, but those can be pretty competitive.
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Re: Cheating the system CLEP vs. AP tests for college credit.

Post by DarkOne » Tue Dec 6, 7:13 2016

There's a lot to respond to in your post. A few random thoughts:
- Regarding the FE, I took it my last semester at school. It's been years since I took it, but my impression is: Sure, technically, you could just study for it and possibly pass it, but even if you do, i don't think it would mean much. The FE doesn't work like an AP test, where you can test out of a degree based on how well you perform on the FE. In fact, besides being a stepping stone towards getting your PE license, the FE serves little purpose as far as I've seen. A PE license is often required if you are doing design work such as construction or installations, or if you want to work as an independent consultant, but I'd guess a vast majority of engineers aren't PEs. FEs and PEs are state-specific, as are the rules about who is required to have a professional license. And not once have I seen having passed the FE exam as a requirement (or even a desirable) on a engineering job posting.

- On AP vs CLEP, I'd guess the preference varies by school. In your shoes, I'd scout out a few technical colleges or 4-yr degree schools that would fit your location/budget/degree interest, contact the Admissions Office and ask about their policies on testing for college credit. Contact the financial aid office to see what your options are as far as aid, too.

- There are schools that offer an Associate degree in Engineering or Engineering Technology. I wasn't even aware an Associate degree in engineering was a thing until I hired on here and found out there were people who did not have a Bachelor's degree. Ask your mentor if this is something that would make sense for you. People with associates's degrees don't earn as much as those with BS degrees, so some companies trying to save a buck like to hire Assoc degree engineers. Assuming you're in the US, there are regions of the country that are more friendly to the idea of hiring people with Engineering Technician or Assoc. in Engineering degrees. I wouldn't expect GE or Boeing or Apple or Microsoft or Disney... to hire a lot of non-bachelor-degree students, but it wouldn't surprise me in less competitive markets or smaller firms.
EDIT: A number of schools offer these associate engineering or engineering technology degrees online. This should be cheaper than traditional on-site education.

- Yes, that there are a bunch of job descriptions that list as q requirement "BS in engineering or equivalent experience", but I think that equivalent experience is an obsolete qualifier that keeps getting put there out of laziness to edit recycled job postings. BS degrees are now what HS diplomas used to be. There is no shortage of degreed engineers to justify to most employers using the "equivalent experience" clause.

- I don't know if you're thinking about future mobility from your current job/geographic location/career path, but when trying to get hired for an "engineering"-type position, looking good "on paper" is half the battle. You'll be competing against other people who can produce a diploma and a G.P.A. and, like Rowan said, can list a number of interesting school experiences or projects they have worked that are relevant to the potential employer, and that you can't get from just sitting at your desk doing whatever it is you do now. Going to school to get an engineering degree is not just regurgitating a bunch of science and math that you may or may not need to use later -- you get actual exposure to research areas/new technology/companies/career paths you might not have otherwise considered. Sometimes it's a professor, or a class design project, or a summer internship or a semester co-op working opportunity how you learn about these alternate paths. And these connections also help you get your foot in the door and get hired later on.

- Design engineering isn't an actual degree - it is more of a job description. You can be a Design engineer with a degree in virtually any engineering discipline. As for aptitude, it sounds like the Spacefem Quiz nailed it with you. I think an ME gives you a good broad foundation, BUT I'm biased. Whatever discipline you go for, if you decide to do it, go heavy on the programming/SW/automation angle -- I think that would give you an advantage.

- Don't be discouraged if you're a bit older than the average freshman. When I hired on to my current job, I sat next to a 50-yr old engineering intern -- he is now a full-time engineer here.

Good luck.
Last edited by DarkOne on Tue Dec 6, 10:04 2016, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Cheating the system CLEP vs. AP tests for college credit.

Post by Sonic# » Tue Dec 6, 9:11 2016

^ I'll just add that I've encountered several people who have transferred to my current school with an Associate degree in an engineering-related field. So that kind of progression is possible, especially for nontraditional students.

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DeepThink

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Re: Cheating the system CLEP vs. AP tests for college credit.

Post by DeepThink » Wed Dec 7, 17:58 2016

Thanks to all for your insight and for telling me your experiences!

The junior college only offers certificates and they have no information on job placement. The local university is where I'm going to take certification tests and nothing else. They're way too expensive and are known to be corrupt (personal experience), because they argue transfer credits to death and allow professors to fail students they hate. The only degree in engineering they offer is a hesitant Mechanical Engineering degree with no real hands-on experience - which is a must for me. I guess their labs use erector sets? I have no idea how I would feel comfortable saying I have the degree but didn't build, restore, or repair something.

What's the point of designing something on paper and in your head if you can never physically get your hands on it? Oh the frustration! I love my tools that I bought second hand to work on my car with and use them for a few other projects. Forget diamonds - I love tools! Right now I'm setting up a budget for PC repair and to add to my network repair kit. It will be glorious to wait for holiday sales.

After reading your advice DarkOne I found a website for CLEP and AP testing information. AP will get you credit 100% of the time and CLEP depends on the college. After reading some fine print these institutions want you to take a minimum number of hours to actually earn a degree there which is fine because you need those specialized courses, but a bit absurd to argue over a foundational course. I really don't want to take something like Public Speaking 101 again, thanks. The FE test sounds like a way to part students from even more of what little money they have. If I have to take it then I'll have to suck it up and just pay the test fee.

I am in my thirties now but don't see myself ever getting married, having kids, or owning a home so moving is a plus for me. I can definitely find the time (or make the time) to do this but I'm so nervous about doing all that work for nothing again. I have to get back into the programming like I used to because it's scary what you can forget in a short while. I'm just studying day and night before the test and hope I don't freeze up. It's been a while since I've studied anything to this degree and I feel there is so much that depends on my scores. No pressure right?

I'll make updates and if anyone else is interested let me know. Even if I can't afford the degree there are plenty of online open courses that are free so I can still earn the knowledge. Plus it's a sneaky way to pre-study what will be coming up in your curriculum too. The website for the AP and CLEP test information is below. I would also add that do call and make sure they are accepted because you can't trust what's on the internet. You can check for a lot of information in one place and I found it pretty helpful.

https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/home?navid=ap-aps
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