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