Can I expect to get programmer work?

I am 36 total newbie at programming and have spent 15 months learning Python from my home with a simple book. I am by no means an expert on it but I am pretty confident I know what I am doing with it and find I enjoy it. It was tough for me at first being I have never tried to learn programming before but I got the hang of it. I have not finished learning it yet and I realize I will never be able to learn all of a programming language as they are generally too big but you can get a good grasp on the fundamentals.

I want to eventually get work programming but I really don't know what the field requires these days to get into such a thing. All my previous work experience has been totally unrelated from IT (customer retail) but I justwant very small time work for small time company's as I know realistically that's all I will get, at least at the start.

I plan to learn more Python then try to move onto other languages and learn them for another 2 or 3 or more years before I can begin to consider myself for small time programming work. Some of you may say that there is no such thing as 'small time' programmer work but I have been told many times that simple work such a 'de-bugging' is very much the simplest (at least by programmer terms) thing to do for companies. Of course the pay is bad but I don't care.  Even if I am an intern I don't care even though its a little embarrassing to be one at my age.

I worry I am too old also but that may be for another post another time.

Advice from anyone who knows about the industry would be appreciated, I just want to know if I would be totally wasting my time here or not, especially seeing as the job economy isn't exactly brilliant these days. Ty.
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Not a lot of big wisdom in my next sentences, but I'll give it a try.
Here what I think.

I think if you want to get a job as a Programmer and you have an 'unconventional' CV, then it's up to you to show others why you're an interesting candidate.

I would recommend.

Work on some mini projects yourself and publish them in the internet.
So if somebody hires you, they can see what you did.

Apart from that I think that the best 'mix' is if you find a job, where your other, previous  skills are important.

If you worked for example  in the medical domain before, then it will be easier to get a SW job in a SW company working with in the medical domain.

If possible try to work with somebody (friends, open source project) on a common project. Your peers will then be able to assess how good you are, whether you're learning fast enough, etc. Getting feedback from peers is helpful to understand yourself better.

Programming is a wide field, it might help if you can narrow down what exactly you're interested in:
Mathematical / scientific programming
financial programming
system administration

Somehow all this is the same, somehow it makes a difference on the skill set required. The more you like what you're working on the better you'll be.
Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
I don't know who you have been talking to but 'debugging' other people's code can be the most difficult job, not the easiest.
Mark BradyPrincipal Data EngineerCommented:
I can tell you from an industry point of view that companies are having a hard time recruiting engineers. There are not enough to go around. Keep in mind, every day more and more companies are turning to websites to promote/conduct their business. It has little overhead and is by far the most widely used form of promotion these days.

Keep learning python and if you can take a look at PHP. they are fairly similar and both are used widely.
Our companies has interns (sometimes several) and they move on into full time engineers if they work out. We also take graduates from Masters degrees and start them off in the real world of engineering. In the last 12 months we have hired around 15 engineers ranging from PHP, Python and Javascript.

Start looking around and applying. Even though your experience is low your attitude toward learning this stuff will get you a long way. Good luck and keep up the hard work!

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