Thursday, November 01, 2007

Follow-up: Whether to go back to school.

[I am sneakily inserting this post into my blog and back-dating it so that I don't mess up the look of the site.]

The issue I have been dealing with is whether or not to go back to school. Obviously from my discussions with literally 30-40 patent attorneys on this subject, they have all said the same thing -- a patent attorney must have a technical science degree to practice patent law.

While I have been on the dream that I can get around this because I have 40 science credits (pre-med undergrad) and because I was eligible for, took, and passed the USPTO patent registration exam, I need to face reality -- namely, that either I go back to school or I drop the crusade of becoming a patent attorney.

The main degree that law firms want these days is an electrical engineering (EE) degree, or a PhD in Chemistry/Biology/or the other hard sciences. Computer science is the next in the list, but few firms want this over an EE degree. After this, all the other engineering degrees (mechanical, etc) are next in the list.

My wife and I have determined that it makes no sense to go back to school full-time and become a student again because we have a baby and my wife is no longer working and is home full-time with the baby, so the burden of paying our rent is on me alone. Thus, enrolling full-time as a student no longer is financially an option, so we have looked into part-time and online programs, and here is what I've found.

The State University of New York (SUNY) has a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering program, but it is not a 4-year program. Rather, it kicks in only once you've completed the first two-years of the program. So, I'm around 1.5 years away from getting all the pre-requisites to even enter this program, and then once I do, it is only a two-year program if you are a full-time student (15-18 credits per semester). Part time (e.g. 6 credits per semester, this program will take around 4-5 years to complete). This is a killer solution, but it is a killer on our finances and our life.

The next solution we found is a Masters in Computer Science at Ellis College (NY Institute of Technology) which could be finished in a year and a half, but it is quite expensive and I'm not sure how firms would value this degree. The SUNY program does not disclose on the degree that it was an online program, but this degree gives it away based on the school that would be on the degree which gives it a lower value. Plus, I am not sure how much computer science patent attorneys are in demand, especially from an online part-time school that is not so highly valued. Lastly, to enter this program, I also have around a year of pre-requisites to take before even being accepted into the program -- funny enough, the pre-requisite courses are the same as those for the electrical engineering program (e.g. Linear Algebra, Programming, etc.)

So far I haven't found any other alternatives. If I don't go into school, I feel as if being a patent attorney is no longer a real option as a field to practice in, and I would need to find another field. The difficult thing is that coming from my low-tiered school, I was relying on the USPTO patent attorney license to raise me up from the reputation of my school and convince a firm to overlook where I come from. Please don't get me wrong -- I love my school. However, the real statistics are that *if* a graduate from my school passes the bar exam (which I did after some real studying), there is a slim-to-none chance that he or she will find a respectable job, if ever. Without working in a specialized field, I feel like I am just another one of the pack searching for the generalist low-paying jobs, and I wonder why I went to law school in the first place.


Anonymous said...

Why don't you work as a patent examiner?

Yechiel said...

Those are two programs I am also looking into. Let's chat. -Y