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when is it too old to get work as a programmer?

Posted on 2015-01-27
Last Modified: 2015-02-18
I am 37 and have spent the last 3 years learning Python and some C++. I am by no means new but not an expert either but given 1 or more or so years I am confident I will be pretty good.

I really wish I could had discovered programming when I was young but I never thought to even try it as I find I enjoy it and want to get work with it once I have gotten good in it.

I have not worked in the IT industry before but my biggest worry is my age. I know this industry seems to be known worldwide as an industry primarily meant for 21 year old young hotshot Uni grad's and that a guy my age will not even be given an interview much less a job. Many say to still try it but I worry maybe it will be all for nothing and I won't be able to get work with my programming abilities. And yes while its true you should do what makes you happy etc at the end of the day a man has to make a,living! I have food to put on the table and bills to pay so will this all be worth it?

What do you guys think? am I too old to get work? when is it considered too old in the programming industry to get a job? I am hoping to hear from people who know the IT/programming industry. Thanks.
Question by:Alan Rodgers
LVL 10

Expert Comment

by:Jeffrey Dake
ID: 40574555
I don't think you are too old to get a job.  You will need to work strongly on your skills and will have to accept that you would make less money starting out. Career changes are possible, but most likely you would have to start off with a junior level job, meaning less money. If you are willing to accept that then I say it is not too late.

There is a lot of competition and your resume will be harder to build without the formal education and experience. I recommend that if you are serious building as many "real life" projects you can.  The number one thing I want to hear from a candidate is the ability to explain programming concepts and examples of what they have built. Do this and someone will give you an entry level somewhere.
LVL 32

Accepted Solution

phoffric earned 500 total points
ID: 40574597
Age is probably not a factor these days due to age demographics in the USA. If you presented this question given, say, an age of 22, my answer would be the same.

Twenty two year old college grads probably didn't get a programming degree - more like a computer science, computer engineering, or IT degree. In that curriculum are probably 18+ semester courses of computer related materials including computer design, algorithms, operating systems, and architecture. Today, there is a growing demand for students that understand how to take advantage of parallelism due to multi-core platforms. In 20 years, you will still be sharp and experienced and still in demand (unless programs start writing their own programs).

You can get experience by contributing to open source projects. And doing this will help you determine what aspect of design and programming that you enjoy.

C++ usually takes years to learn very well. Python is a lot easier, so I am told.
One way to start out is to work as a software tester and looking at code in your spare time.

From  your question, I think you need to consider the career path of a programmer. It often moves into very complex systems requiring a broader background than just understanding the syntax of a language. Much of the information to gain that knowledge is available online for free from universities. For example:
LVL 32

Expert Comment

ID: 40574602
You didn't mention your current line of work and general interests. Sometimes you can leverage that background to land a job where program design and programming are part of the responsibilities.
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Expert Comment

by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 40574715
I'm 67 and I work daily as a PHP programmer.  But I worked into it thru electronic design over the last 35 years and I'm self-employed.  I've known others who were working programmers into their 70's.

If you want to get work as a programmer in a larger company, you will probably have to show both programming skills (working software) and knowledge of programming standards and language so you can work with others.  The vast majority of programming work is as part of a team, not as an individual programmer.
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Expert Comment

ID: 40575863
>> The vast majority of programming work is as part of a team, not as an individual programmer.
Very true. And one way to get used to working with a team is to pick an open source project from, say, the github link in previous post. Now you will be collaborating with a team spread out all over the world and in different time zones. This will force you to write down your thoughts carefully enough so that programmers in other parts of the world will be able to read and understand your ideas while you are sleeping.

Author Closing Comment

by:Alan Rodgers
ID: 40618142

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