Another look at middle-aged career changers

I have read many form posts from older people (those in their 40s, 50s, 60s…) asking if it is too late for them to make a career change into the software field. The responses usually fall into 2 categories:

Either they receive a big pat on the back and are encouraged to move forward…

(“It’s never too late!” “If not now, when?” “You can do anything you put your mind to!” “Age is just a number”…)

Or they are given slightly more sober advice along the lines of: “Well, it’s never too late to learn programming (for your own personal reasons/satisfaction), but you will have a hell of a time finding paid work!”

And almost all of these posts boil down to the same message(s).

But here is a slightly different way of asking…

  1. Sure, in theory, anyone at any age could learn to write software. And…

  2. Sure, it is possible that someone who switches careers into software development after the age of 40 could find some sort of employment in the industry. But…

  3. I don’t recall reading any posts where anyone has asked or reported from their own experience about the “QUALITY” of the kind of work they have been able to secure in their new career.

That is, I’m guessing most middle-aged, middle-class individuals who may be burned out in their current line of work (but are perhaps earning at least a somewhat decent middle-class salary) and are fantasizing about transitioning into a decently paid new career in software… would not be super keen to discover after 1-2 years of retraining that they only qualified for $35,000 a year entry level position with no clear path or timeline ahead to a better paying position.

This is more or less what happened to me. Six years ago, during what you might call the height of the “code school bubble”, I quit my job and attended a full-time bootcamp (not freeCodeCamp). This bootcamp did not leave me job ready… and I was shocked to discover that I didn’t even really qualify for the lowest paying entry-level positions (and could hardly get an interview). I’ve often thought this was perhaps the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my life. :wink:

That said, from time to time, I do still wonder about giving it another go. I am now 40 years old. After realizing what a mess I’d made of my life (going to a full-time bootcamp followed by the lengthy period of unemployment/underemployment that followed), I eventually returned to my previous career and was able to stabilize my life. But the grass really is always greener.

I do not harbor grandiose fantasies of being a star/lead developer for Google or Facebook earning hundreds of thousands per year. I want to know what a realistic path for a 40+ year old career changer looks like. What kind of roles are they likely to get at what sort of organizations and for what level of starting pay?

Or… if one is not willing to take the risk that they may be cobbling together a part-time income doing WordPress sites or something like that for an indefinite period of time upon embarking on said career change… is it best that they just avoid the risk altogether?

Any feedback welcome and appreciated.

Thank you.

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Well, in a way I think a lot of programming communities for beginners are too optimistic; often creating unrealistic expectations.

Bootcamps are difficult because you need to learn a ton of information in 3 months. This is why some of them even interview you before accepting you into their program (so they have good employment rates).

Question for you, did any others in your cohort end up getting dev jobs?

Devs are generally paid well even at the entry level. This is why people of various ages/experiences want to become devs; it would rarely mean a pay-cut.

Wordpress is fine if you’re freelancing but wordpress at a company will be low paid.

Regarding your points about quality, I think it’s not asked because it doesn’t matter to them after they get a job. At the end of the day, I think most people just want the job - very few actually care about the quality. I’ll be honest, it’s hard for companies to decipher a juniors skill because so many people copy/paste or do tutorial projects and call it their work though I think this is more of a hiring flaw.

Lastly, I think it’s important to know a GOOD dev is worth at least 70k+ (at least in the states).

I suspect a/the problem is with your choice of bootcamp… There are dozens of examples on this forum alone of people making mid life career changes, but not all paid boot camps are going to get you somewhere good skill-wise.

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Hi @rw2022 !

Welcome to the forum!

From my experience, a lot of these types of conversations happen in other mediums like smaller dev communities with their own slacks and discord.
I belong to a couple of these communities where the majority of members are working devs so the conversation is geared around the type of work they do and challenges they face.
In these communities, there are developers who started later in life but were able to find good jobs.
Yes, they did face adversity on the job hunt and were faced with ageism which does suck.
But they were able to land a good job with good quality work.

Bootcamp quality varies so much that it is crazy.
I have friends who did bootcamps and it went well for them while others regretted their decision.

Here are my general impressions based on what happened to my friends who started in their 40’s.

Most of them work in frontend or mobile dev.
Starting salaries in the States would be $60-70k.
Most of them work for mid level companies that have support for juniors and are open minded to hiring for diverse backgrounds.

Also, it is important to note that you will find way more success in the job hunt by getting job leads from your network then just applying online.
If you go through your network, then they can help you find companies that will hire older devs and give you good pay and quality work.
If you just apply online, then unfortunately you will have to deal with more companies that won’t give you a shot or want to take advantage of you by offering lower pay.

Those are my thoughts :grinning:
Good luck!

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Thank you. This is encouraging!

Some senior devs I know are also encouraging me to pursue the career shift. Hense I am here studying every day and trying to help in the forum haha😊

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Hi @rw2022 I appreciate your post and hope more ‘senior’ members of the community will contribute with their experiences! I’ve just turned 35 and gotten back into web development after taking a couple years off. I did learn a hell of a lot during 2018/19 including JS, Node.js and Express…but unfortunately life got in the way and I had to take a break.

Getting back into all this now at 35 I do wonder of my chances of getting a job, I do wonder the quality of the job afterwards and if I’ll actually enjoy doing a ‘real’ dev job…But I love to code and therefore will just go for it, not much to lose, not really any other options out there I fancy…

But I have seen my fair share of YouTube videos of devs in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s that have ended up getting jobs and really enjoying their roles!

How He Became a Developer at 45

My process this time is to document my learning and all my projects on YouTube with the intention of building a video library of all my skills and projects. I would hope to show this to an employer as part of my resume, thereby highlighting my dedication and regular work ethic…other than this I plan to network a lot on Twitter, LinkedIn etc to put myself out there.

Keep going with your journey @rw2022 if this is your passion!

your experience is raw and honest, and does strike as more realistic compared to the general examples you gave regarding encouragement and actual potential, but one thing that strike me as wrong, is the way you look at programming. Too pragmatic, as a tool to establish a career, get some good numbers check. I bring back the cheesy bits. For me and i think for people who take anything as a path in their life, it should be something they truly like and not choose from sheer pragmatism, but also as a choice of heart, something they would truly enjoy establishing and doing and numbers and granted success not be the core drive. Especially programming, setting up for a bit different style of life, requiring a certain type of skills acquirement and being able to shape your way of thinking into computer logic.
I do appreciate your experience, as im in slightly similar situation. It does bring me more to the ground and see things as they are and to be prepared for more investment on my part and not expecting fast realization.

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Most of your appraisal of the situation seems fairly spot on to be honest. Out of interest why are you still considering it? What do you think a programming job would give you that would be worth a financial sacrifice?

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