Want to switch careers, but can't afford a pay cut

A couple months ago I started a new job in something not programming-related. I think I would strongly prefer being a programmer instead (I’m already not a fan of this job), but this job pays well for my area at $72k per year. As far as I’m aware, companies don’t like to pay entry-level programmers that well. It doesn’t help that I have a high amount of debt so I couldn’t afford to take a job offer that pays lower than this anyway. So is there a way to make that career transition while skipping the entry-level stage, or at least without taking a pay cut? Or is a pay cut inevitable, and I should focus on paying down this debt instead so I CAN afford to switch careers?

Yes, starting your own web dev/design business. That’s what I did 17+ yrs ago. Depending on how well you do, skill level, marketing, networking/contacts, your income level might even go up vs. your day job.

But you don’t just quit your day job, and announce you’re starting a web dev business the next day. The journey can be long (takes some years) as you build up skills, practice, learn new things, practice some more, work with pro-bono, non-profit orgs/clients, practice some more and build up a portfolio of real-world projects/clients, network, market, and hopefully you get to a level where you have enough clients, established working relationship with regular clients, so you can afford to quit your day job and focus 100% full time on your web dev/design business.

** It’s easier making a living when house and cars are paid for, and unsecured debt is manageable. The biggest stress factor is meeting house mortgage payments, so if you can get rid of that asap, it will be easy to maintain same standard of living even at reduced pay.

By the time you finish being a programmer, it will be almost a year. By that time, try to pay of the most of any and all debts. I did that and now I do not have a mortgage.
Do what @owel said; start your own business.
I did that about 10 years ago. I had my website business, but ALL the business I worked with went bankrupt, and the churches I had sites for closed their schools and churches. (I used templates)
By that time I had no debt. I did not start the business anew because I only knew HTML and a bit of CSS. Then other DIY websites came along and the economy was not so good so I never started it again.
Now I see FCC, and I’m going to try it again.
But I will still keep my job until I finish.

So… not that I’m NOT going to take this idea of starting up my own business into consideration, but I was hoping someone would’ve answered “[CompanyName] is known for hiring developers who are recent college grads or self-taught, and they pay well.” Of course, if there’s a gap between the salary offered and the amount I need to pay my bills, that’s where paying off debt comes in. But are there really no companies out there who are willing to give newbies a chance (for more than minimum wage)? Thanks again.

Give newbies a chance? Sure.
Pay more than minimum wage?
Programmers have always received more than minimum wage vs. fastfood workers.
I think $50K is the typical entry level salary.

Some places like San Fran may offer $75K starting… but then again, rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in San Fran is averaging $3500/mo. So right there, it’s $42K cost annually. That $75K starting salary, leaving you with less than $2800/month for all other expenses doesn’t look so big anymore (doable if you’re single).