I’m in my mid 30s currently working in health care....is making a move into the tech industry realistic?

So I’m in my mid 30s, currently working as a nurse. I don’t “mind” my job most days, but it’s not realistic long term physically (bedside nursing destroys your body eventually). I’m not really interested in the traditional career path for nursing after bedside (nursing management, education, or nurse practitioner). I’ve alwsys been interested in computers and have recently been thinking about teaching myself programming, especially after finding great resources like this. Maybe it can turn into my next career, but I’m not sure if this is a pipe dream for me.

I already have two bachelors degrees, one in Economics and my 2nd in Nursing. I’m not keen on going back to school unless I already have my foot in the door of a new industry and more schooling is necessary for advancement. I’m also very skecptial of the $20k+ Bootcamps that promise excellent jobs upon graduation. Therefore, my plan is the learn coding on the side while keep my nursing job and solid salary. Maybe if my interest keeps up, job opportunities will arise in the next few years, but I’m not sure how realistic it is to make a career move in my situation.

Am I crazy to think somebody with non technical degrees and job experience in their upper 30s (I will be by the time I’m “ready” to switch careers) could get into this field without more formal education or a Bootcamp?

Hopefully some fellow members can give me a little encouragement that it isn’t all for nothing.

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I don’t think it’s ever too late to make a life changing decisions, especially if they will improve your quality of life. I personally think that anything in the software, marketing, or information technology industry is a very good career path. I know many people that have started over, much later than you, and are doing very well. I mean, we just hired someone at my current company that is over 40 years old, they do have some software experience though.

I wouldn’t worry about schooling. If you’re willing to put in the hustle and grind you don’t need to go to school. To put this into a “real world” example. I am 25. I dropped out of engineering school before I graduated (I was going for Software Engineering) as I realized I didn’t need a degree to work in this industry. I dropped out when I was 21. Since then, I have held multiple contracts and offers from various top companies. I have worked my way from being a Software Project Manager to a Senior Lead Developer to a Marketing Manager and now I am a Data Analyst at a top company working for various web properties. Even though I have moved more towards the marketing and data analytics side of things, I still build the software we use to conduct our work - primarily SEO Automation Tools for the team but I have built more server side applications like log file analysis tools.

To sum things up, work experience trumps college education in my opinion and if you put the time and effort in the sky is the limit. I honestly didn’t even touch programming or anything until engineering school so if you add up my time I have only been “programming” for about 4-5 years now. I wouldn’t spend money on those bootcamps as you can learn ALL of the stuff they teach you for free online, or at least cheaper (Pluralsight, Lynda, etc.). The biggest thing you’re paying for is the networking and connections. I learned all of my skills through free publications, reverse engineering other people’s work, and just building things I think would be cool even if it’s been built 100 times already.

You’ll get there, just hustle and grind.


I don’t see why that wouldn’t be realistic, if you have the motivation. I would be skeptical on the 20k bootcamps, sounds expensive - and the rate that some of those probably go might discourage you. Freecodecamp.org is the perfect place for you to try it out in your spare time and see if you’re really interested. Also, don’t get discouraged when you get stuck, or something doesn’t come easy - that’s just how it is. Push through it

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Desire makes your Dreams come true. If you want it bad enough . . .

One could argue there isn’t another profession with as much free or online material to take you to intermediate / pro than front end development. So to take the leap is much more feasible with programming.

Go get em.


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First things first: I say go for it. At least start learning about computer programming. Even if it’s not right for you, it will make you so much more literate in the computer age.

I have personally known programmers who made a change to programmer as a second career. People do it and are successful.

Now I’m going to be a bit of a Debbie Downer.

  • You would be starting out in an entry-level position. Depending on your area, the type of programming you’re doing, and how much you make as a nurse, this could mean a significant salary hit. You might also ask yourself how comfortable you would be being “junior” to a bunch of people in their early 20s.
  • Ageism is a real problem in the technology industry. It’s stupid and illegal, but it’s real. Again I know more success stories than horror stories, but it’s a known problem.
  • Learning, especially on your own time, gets a lot harder. A lot of us have partners or kids or communities that we would rather give our time to than lock ourselves alone in an office for hours.You also just get used to coming home from work and leaving work (and the work mentality) behind. I didn’t realize how much that downtime and that division of work/home improved my quality of life until I lost it.

There are other campers here, and people in the broader community who can offer support, empathy, and advice on all of these. There are plenty of success stories to inspire you. My point isn’t that you should abandon the idea of changing your career to programming. I’m just saying “If this is what you want, buckle in for some real challenges.”


I’m in a similar situation: mid 30’s, teacher, BA and MA unrelated to tech, well paid job I want to leave.

I’m at the stage where I’ll most likely start my actual tech job search within the next 3-6 months, after many years or messing around with code and about 1 year of taking it seriously (with a half year off due to kiddo #2).

Even if a total transition away from health services isn’t possible straightaway, learning to code will still open up new possibilities for you. You have experience in health that will make you more aware of problems faced by that industry that you can solve with tech. You just might end up making an important app that only someone with the skills at the intersection of health and tech would think up.

Your hands on experience in health will have given you excellent soft skills in dealing both with Joe Public and in having to work with educated professionals in a very technical field (I.e. A bet a bit of technical jargon doesn’t phase you!) This gives you a great headstart in context switching between clients and senior devs on teams :slight_smile:

So, with all @ArielLeslie’s caveats above, go for it!

I’m 38 and doing it. I’m nearly done with the Front End work here on FCC after about 4 months of work. Once I’ve finished with that the plan is to simultaneously look for work and continue learning. The hope is that I’ve grown enough that someone will pay me to continue to learn by helping build up their company.

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The last i know, theirs a shortage of programmers so theirs always a opportunity


Someone technology and programming jobs are very easily shipped over seas. Not trying to water down anyone dreams, but i was told to stay away from some of IT because of this reason.

(Information Technology, not the clown)

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Wow! I am in the exact same situation as you are. I am also a Nurse and have also been thinking about learning to code and making a second career out of it. I am 28 and I also thought I was a bit too old to be getting into this, but the more I talk to people in the computer programming world the more eager I become to actually learning and doing it!

I am on my 2nd month of actually dedicating time and effort to it and I must say, I am surprised as to how much I’ve learned in such a short amount of time.

Although I started out with freecodecamp.org, I did not keep up with it. But NOTHING against it, it is such a great resource and good starting point. I quickly went towards another resource that has a monthly subscription; it kind of gave me an extra push everyday knowing I was actually paying for it. Plus it gave me the freedom to choose what programming language I wanted to learn. So far, so good.

So I say, go for it man!

First, I sense a big part of the question has to do with your age. Believe me, you are not too old.

Second, if you’re at all interested in programming healthcare/medical software, you’ll probably be able to write your own ticket, with your nursing background. You could shift into healthcare IT as a subject matter expert before you even know programming. It wouldn’t be a waste of time to call a few healthcare IT companies or contracting agencies and just sound out some recruiters on what roles you might be able to fill now.

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Do it.

I’m 39, with no background in computers, just a long history of mostly pretty menial jobs (I’ve always focused on making art and music and refused to grow up!).

I started learning front end web development using online resources 18 months ago. As a previously non-technical person who was a late adopter of most things digital, and as an older learner whose brain doesn’t absorb new things as well as it did when I was a young 'un, I have found it pretty difficult. Mostly because other things in life (like making a living, for one) get in the way and slow things down to a snail’s pace.

However. I’m on the cusp of being a success story. Well, a modest success!

I landed an internship at a small local design agency where I get to just turn up when I can, sometimes only one day per week depending on my job schedule. This is going to lead to a full paid position soon, and I’m gaining loads of experience which would set me up for working elsewhere if I wanted to move on.

I’ve done this through dogged persistence. Whenever the going is tough (or just slooooowww) I remind myself that I’m a little smarter than average (going on IQ tests, academic ability back in the 90s, and my perception of how I compare with friends, family, colleagues), so it is inevitable that I will become skilled enough in this field EVENTUALLY, provided I just keep going.

So then, you just keep going.

I have had to reconcile myself to the prospect that ‘eventually’ may be several years, worst-case-scenario. I accepted this because:

  1. I can’t dream up many other jobs that I think would suit my character and abilities as well
  2. I can’t think of many jobs that a regular dude could get that have such good working conditions (freedom, flexibility, a nice warm creative office environment etc)
  3. I can’t think of many jobs that are so well paid considering you don’t need any expensive formal training (just use free online resources plus maybe a cheap subscription to Lynda or Treehouse)
  4. You get to build cool stuff for your mates while you are practising your skills and building a portfolio of projects (make them a website, they’ll love you, spread the word to prospective clients or employers about you, and quite possibly pay you!)
  5. It’s not an easy skillset to attain. This is good. It means that most people (your competition) won’t do it. Because they are too lazy to try. And therefore you can mentally turn every barrier you encounter while learning from a negative to a positive!
  6. There will be paid jobs in programming and other digital fields within my lifetime. How many other industries can you confidently say the same about? Not many, and even fewer that you fancy working in.

Finally, with regard to ageism, I simply kept telling myself that prospective employers are as interested in people than in their skills. They might not always say that (“I just need the job done, the thing made…”) but in practise they will naturally gravitate to candidates they can see themselves working with, someone nice, someone who communicates, who is reliable, has a strong work ethic, is self-motivated, who is a rounded individual.

This is where you and I have an advantage over a techie millennial kid (no offence y’all, we just have different backgrounds). The folks at my internship could have taken on a young person who grew up using computers and already knows way more code than me. Instead they chose to invest in bringing me along because they figured I’m a good person to have around with my relative wealth of soft-skills and life-experience, and my proven track record of showing up to work every day (never mind what the job was) for 25 years straight and giving to the team.

Not that many people would suit getting into programming or web development at 40 years of age. Many people’s sense of self, of identity, kind of calcifies long before then. They protect themselves psychologically by doing and saying the same old things they’ve always done and feeling secure and even authoritative within their own little comfort zone. This zone will become stale and eventually obsolete. If you can pick up something new and forward-thinking like learning to code, and really dive into it, then you’ve proved that you’re the type of open-minded, dynamic character who can thrive in an industry where you need to continually grow, adapt, change… and be a perpetual student.

Confucius — ‘It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.’

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I was in the same situation, previously a nurse, did about 2 yrs of self study of programming on the side. I’ve been working as a web developer now for 3 months but I’m not making as much money as before, I feel less stressed out and happier with my new career though, that’s what I think is important to me, I’m hoping to make more money with passive income like apps in the appstore and/or possibly moving upwards in my job.

If you’re willing to start out with a lower paying job (not saying you can’t get a higher or equivalent paying job though but nursing pays fairly well) and your heart is into it then it might be worth it.


and I’m going for it although I’m in my mid 40s :wink:

I had experience as a graphic designer, but it’s about 20 years ago, so
I started from scratch.

Colonel Sanders changed his career from some operator to a small resraurant owner
about at 40yo, and then started a franchise business at the age of 62, now we see his chain
everywhere in the world!

Although I know it would not easy, WE WILL make it happen!



I just wanted to say that I decided to get out of the restaurant industry at 30 and do something else. Like you I was concerned about price and school, I’m still paying off the BA so I didn’t necessarily want to go back for a masters or anything that would cost money. I started poking around online with programming, and I liked it. I had a friend that recommended a bootcamp to me, since I was trying to learn online. While I can learn online, it takes me a bit longer than someone showing me how to do something- definitely a hands on/visual learner. So I have to say going to a bootcamp really helped solidify what I was learning online and it made me learn faster than I would have just plugging along on the internet by myself. Everyone learns differently so it’s whatever works for you. Bootcamps aren’t for the faint of heart though, they’re super hard and super stressful- so you really have to want it. And you’ll need to research them if you want to go that route, because they all are not the same. As for jobs out of bootcamps- in my cohort, some people got jobs right away, others like me had to job search about 6 months- it really just comes down to luck of the draw with jobs. But I can tell you that 1) Everyone in my cohort found jobs within 6 months and 2) we all make anywhere from $60,000-$80,000 for entry level positions (The average salary for the whole bootcamp was $57,000). So the demand is there. 3) I paid $10,500 for boot camp plus 2500 for a new computer- which you don’t necessarily need. So boot camps can really be worth it, money wise if you find the right one. Happy to answer any questions you may have. But that’s at least my experience. Good luck with everything!


Which bootcamp did you go to, @JoSnow?

Love this discussion!!

I’m a doctor of Podiatry and I stay at home with my daughter. In medicine you have to be there when the patient’s there and there is NO chance for remove work when you work with feet. So, I feel your pain about starting something so new so late. But I feel that the demand is there and here (I live in Silicon Valley) and I’m hoping my zig-zag track into tech offers some upside for me and my future employers.

I’m 36 and I know I don’t want to start looking for work for a couple years so I learn to code in my spare time (not much of it).

It’s a great back up plan, in my case, and honestly it makes me feel a little less stupid when I use my phone or hop online because it’s not magic anymore.

Good Luck and Happy Coding,


Yes, it’s absolutely possible. I am in my mid-thirties. Also, with the exception of a beginner VB.net course in college, I never dealt with code until 2015.

Long story short: In summer 2015 I started teaching myself frontend development from scratch after work. By fall 2016 I got hired by a subsidiary agency of IBM iX. I’m still there, on the frontend engineering team.

I may be a sample of one and perhaps my experience is not typical – but I’m proof it can be done, and it can be done relatively fast, too.