Another career change thread

Hi all,

First off, I have read the other posts, which are very similar to mine and they are helpful but I just wanted to ask questions that were very specific to my situation.

I have been a teacher for 10 years now and after a rather unhealthy past few months (stress/anxiety), I handed my notice in. I am now looking at what steps I need to take to kickstart a new career in programming or something that uses coding skills. I am not entirely sure on the direction yet - web, software, games but I do want to be able to learn to code - just not sure which language I will end up focusing on or if that matters yet, maybe I just need to get a feel for a few different ones at first? I am currently following an introductory course on Udemy and then plan to start on the Freecodecamp courses here.

Due to my age (40 years old) and financial commitments, I can’t afford to go back to college/university full time so I was planning on getting a part time or flexible job (something that isn’t too demanding) that allows me time to study and self-teach everything I need to be able to get a job in the industry.

I have always had an interest in IT and computers in general - I was even computing coordinator for 7 years in one school (I introduced and taught Scratch to staff and pupils) so I am not unfamiliar with what coding is or uncomfortable around computers.

So, what is the point in this post? I guess the main things I would like advice on are:

  • What is the best way to maximise my time? Should I be learning as many languages as possible or just focus on one or two so I can specialise in them? I am guessing the timeframe to be job-ready will be heavily dependent on the individual.

  • Can this even be achieved? Or will my age + lack of formal education (I have a degree in teaching but nothing relating to computer sciences) and certification mean I will have no chance getting a job. Do I need to find a way of going back to college/university? Or taking a paid course/bootcamp? I have seen many advertised Boolian.co.uk for example but they cost and are usually full time. I don’t want to waste time or money on something that is a scam or wont help me.

  • The job I get now, while self-teaching, would it be best if it was at least remotely related to IT? I have applied for post-person jobs as that would free up my afternoons and evenings for studying but would it be better to find a job in data entry, or software tester etc?

Really hope you can help. I am so very excited about the future…but at the same time it is incredibly overwhelming the amount of information out there and a fair amount of conflicting advice.

Thanks x

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I do want to be able to learn to code - just not sure which language I will end up focusing on or if that matters yet, maybe I just need to get a feel for a few different ones at first?

Don’t worry about the language. Any modern language will do for now. When you start, the struggle is learning the language. But really, the hard part is learning how to program, learning the concepts, how to think. Once you learn that, picking up knew languages is much easier. FCC is mostly focussed on web development (which I think is a relatively easier to break into if you do not have a coding degree). As such, it focusses on JavaScript. That is a very versatile language that is hugely popular. It is as good of a place to start as any other. But there are other options.

Due to my age (40 years old) and financial commitments, I can’t afford to go back to college/university full time…

When I started FCC I was 48. I’d had a little bit of coding experience, but it was decades prior and not very applicable. After a few years of hard work, I got a great coding job. #ymmv

I was planning on getting a part time or flexible job (something that isn’t too demanding) that allows me time to study and self-teach everything I need to be able to get a job in the industry.

You definitely want to keep food on the table. Getting that first coding job will be hard work and will take longer than you hope.

I have always had an interest in IT and computers in general …

That’s definitely a good start.

What is the best way to maximise my time?

Learn things and build things. Building things will be hard in the beginning, but it is part of the formula.

Should I be learning as many languages as possible or just focus on one or two so I can specialise in them?

I think specialization is better, especially in the beginning. It is better to learn one language well than three “kind of”. Web development is a little different as you need a few things to have a complete package, a tech “stack”. FCC gears you towards learning a MERN stack, a popular option. With that you have what you need to build full-stack web apps, a marketable skill. Even if you end up working in another stack, learning one well makes the others much easier to learn.

Can this even be achieved? Or will my age + lack of formal education (I have a degree in teaching but nothing relating to computer sciences)

As I said, I was 48. I studied electrical engineering but never finished. I eventually got a degree … in music. It’s not as good as a CS degree, but it is still not nothing. There are a lot of professional programmers without CS degrees. There are plenty without any degrees - but having something helps - it shows you can think and accomplish something.

would it be better to find a job in data entry, or software tester etc?

Sure, if you can find something.


Can this be done? Yes. Does your age and background make it more difficult? Yes. There will be jobs for which you won’t qualify. But who cares? You don’t need to get every job, you need to get one job. And there are companies out there that even value having a mix of people with different backgrounds. It’s a hard path for anyone and will be a harder path for you, but it is possible. There are more coding jobs than there are coders. I’m sure they’d all like CS degrees and years of experience, but of course that isn’t there so skill speaks loudly.

It is definitely possible. Difficult, time consuming, but definitely possible.

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I think the best way is to take it like a marathon.
Build up the habit of daily coding.
The specific language doesn’t matter that much.
I’d start with the FCC curriculum and see what happens.
10-20h/w for 6 month should be a good starting point to see if you are interested enough and good enough to make this a career.

If you’ve got a skill that is high in demand and low in supply, you’ll find a job without a degree.
If it’s the other way around, the demanding side has to filter out candidates, that is what degrees are for.

But degrees are only one single part of the equation.

It seems you have a lot of experience in your field, you should leverage this already existing career capital, e.g. by looking at opportunities in the e-learning field.