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One student’s career change from paramedic to engineer

Some people know exactly what they want to do with their lives, but for most it’s not that simple. Deakin online student Tom Bosley says he was a ‘typical undecided teenager’. He’d wanted to be a pilot and considered applying to join the airforce in Year 10, but learned his eyesight made that career impossible. Now 31, Tom spoke to us about his search for the right role and advice for those in need of a career change.

Trying out career options

After Year 12 I got into a building design and technology advanced diploma. Although I enjoyed the course theoretically I was not much for sitting behind a drawing board spending hours drafting – I flunked out. Then I decided I would do a 12-week personal training course. My plan at that stage was to work as a personal trainer until I was 21 and could apply to university as a mature age student, which would open up my options, as my ENTER score of 67.5 was limiting. When I turned 21 in 2006, I was really enjoying working as a personal trainer and I considered doing either a nutrition and dietetics or exercise science degree, but I was unsure about direct job-entry. Mum suggested I become a paramedic. I enjoyed the course greatly because I found the pathophysiology of illnesses very interesting. Plus all the hands-on aspects and interventions were appealing.

A life-changing profession

It has been over seven and a half years since I started working for Ambulance Victoria, and it has been an important part of my life. You need a thick skin. Mostly it’s a lot of minor trauma such as elderly falls, chronic general medical illnesses that aren’t usually fatal, and drug and alcohol jobs. One of the hardest things about the job is the shift work; I normally do two 10-hour days, two 14-hour nights, four days off, then repeat. I can be dispatched to cardiac arrests after 14 hours when I’ve been awake for 20 hours. There are definitely times where I have almost fallen asleep at the wheel driving home after night shift. I’ve witnessed traumatic things and had to tell people their loved ones have died. But I’m still very proud to say I’m a paramedic. The job has made me who I am today and given me a different perspective on life than most.

Reaching a career crossroad

We were in the middle of a horrible enterprise bargaining agreement negotiation and morale among paramedics was low. We all felt undervalued. We’d given up our lives to work these anti-social hours. I had to make a decision: do I advance myself and take the management route, go down the intensive-care paramedic route, or find another career? It made sense for me to find a long-term solution to get out of shift work. I decided to look at online degrees I could do while still working full time. I was not prepared to go back to university on campus because I had a mortgage and bills to pay, so that was not practical. I wanted some sort of career change related to science, as I always have been passionate about science, but not one branch in particular. I searched until I found the Deakin University online engineering course.

The transition takes time

This is my fourth year completing the degree online and my experience has been positive overall. It has been very hard balancing full-time work, study, spending time with my wife, family, friends and now a young daughter, but I have a pretty good routine. I’m still working full time as a paramedic, which makes on-campus days and exam days difficult, but I especially enjoy the flexibility of being able to watch lectures and tutorials in my own time. Since starting the degree I have seen how diverse the field is and there is a wide variety of areas I can work in. So I guess I will see where the opportunities are when I am done.

Now is as good a time as any to return to study

To anyone considering a career change – I would say go for it. You definitely need to consider how it is going to impact your life because we often underestimate the amount of study and effort required, which I did early on. I’ve had to repeat a couple of units in the past because I put too much on my plate. You need to find some sort of balance, you can’t just work and study, you need to have some time to relax. Use a weekly planner to map out your study time, that way you’re less likely to procrastinate, and you can see how much time you actually have and what you can handle. I don’t think it’s too late to start fresh. It’s easy to say ‘it’s too late for me to change now,’ but with increasing flexibility of education, a lot of mature age students are getting on board and changing careers.

Learn more about studying Deakin University’s Bachelor of Civil Engineering online.

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