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Here’s Why You’re Not Too Old to Learn Programming and Start a Career

Aug 15, 2022 by Florian

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Do you want to switch to a career in programming but wonder if you're too old at 30, 40, 50, or beyond? This blog post will clarify your doubts, show you benefits of starting later in life, and provide helpful tips to become job-ready fast.

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There are many reasons to switch from an existing career to one in programming. Maybe you're unhappy in your old job because you don't enjoy the work or feel like you don't make enough of an impact. Maybe you're on the brink of getting fired and want to switch to a profession with a higher demand and more job security. Maybe you're lured by the flexibility a programming job provides, like flexible hours and work-from-home opportunities.

Or maybe you just want to make more money. When you look at the list of the top 100 high-paying careers on, a lot of programming jobs are up there right next to professions like surgeon and attorney. The difference is that you can teach yourself programming at home and don't even need a degree to work as a programmer. Whereas medical doctors and lawyers need a lengthy and difficult to obtain college degree to even have the possibility of working in these fields.

The internet provides a plethora of resources to learn programming. Probably more than for any other topic. Everything you need to start is right at your fingertips and the job opportunities are numerous.

But the fact that you read this blog post means that you're probably worried about being too old to switch to a career in programming. And indeed, most people who become programmers wrote their first lines of code in their early teens. If you're starting in your late 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, or later, how can you even compete with these folks? And how will you be able to find a job at this high age?

The Bad News First

It's undeniable that there are downsides to switching to a programming career later in life. And I don't want to pretend they don't exist:

  • It's true that you learn more easily before the age of around 25. The younger brain is just more plastic and absorbs new information like a sponge. This means that kids and adolescents can learn more "passively" and don't have to put in as much effort.

  • Ageism in the tech field exists. Technically, it's illegal in many countries to reject a job applicant because of their age. In reality, of course, it's hard to prove. Some employers might be turned off by your lack of experience at a higher age.

  • If you're older, you usually have more commitments and less free time. Learning to code requires long bouts of uninterrupted focus which might be difficult to get with an existing job and a family. There are certain work environments, like some startups, that expect you to put in extra long hours. Those are more suited for people in their early twenties with fewer responsibilities.

  • You have to accept getting interviewed and supervised by people younger than you. Imposter syndrome, the feeling of being incompetent and untalented in one's profession, is already very prevalent in young programmers. Being much older than your colleagues might intensify this effect.

  • You have to be okay with getting paid at junior developer level, even though you have been in the workforce for a while. Also, paying for a computer science degree or expensive bootcamp is more difficult when you have to support a family, pay a mortgage, or have other expenses. (Spoiler: You don't need either a degree or a bootcamp to get a programming job).

Don't get discouraged by the points above. The goal of this post is to show you that you can become a programmer at pretty much any age. If you approach it correctly, none of these objections will hold you back. And there are even benefits to starting out later in life!

You're Not Alone

The truth is, many people don't know what they really want to do until after their twenties. Or they simply "wasted" their early adult years because of bad decisions, excessive partying, depression, or other circumstances. That's life. It's normal.

YouTube commenters sharing their bad early life decisions, depressions, and successive success storiesSource: Youtube comments

Social media mostly only shows you the successes of people, but the reality is more diverse. I myself started programming one month before turning 27 because I hated the work I was doing before. I was also extremely lazy up until my early twenties and had my fair share of personal problems. I have a degree in business economics that I never used for anything. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I don't remember a single thing I learned in university. It was a complete waste of time and I didn't start to get my life together until my mid-twenties. And today, I think that I was still pretty early and I'm very happy where I am.

The internet and social media mostly show you the successes of people. In reality, people make bad decisions, develop bad habits, get stuck in the wrong professions, and have their own personal problems. You're not lacking behind.

There are countless examples of men and women who successfully switched to a programming career later in their lives. You can find a lot of success stories on the learnprogramming subreddit.

Reddit commenters sharing success stories of switching to programming careers later in life

Also, how many of the programmers who "started at 11 years old" spent most of this time just messing around? Most kids don't have the discipline to dig deep into a topic and a lot of this time was probably spent writing the same cool for-loops and little games over and over again. Add puberty and fluctuating interests to that and suddenly it's not that impressive anymore. An adult with a good work ethic can quickly make up for this "experience". Of course, there are geniuses who build operating systems from their cradle but you don't have to compete with them. Plus, the programming landscape is constantly changing and a lot of old knowledge is outdated by now.

The only thing that matters is that you are happy going forward. You don't want to spend your remaining 5-30 years until retirement hating your life, like the majority of people who are stuck in the wrong job. Can switching to a programming career make you happier? You can only find that out for yourself.

The Most Important Requirement

My starting age of 27 was already past the 25-year threshold for young learning I mentioned above. But after only 2.5 years of experience, my programming tutorial Youtube channel, called Coding in Flow, reached 100k subscribers. That's a hundred thousand people listening to the advice and explanations of someone who is still technically a newbie in the field. And many of those followers already had 5 or more years of programming experience.

Of course, 27 is still fairly young. But when it comes to learning, it doesn't make much difference if you're 27, 37, or 47. We all don't have the malleable brains of adolescents anymore. I will provide some important learning tips later in this post. So read all the way to the end!

Here's the most important advice of this post: Before you switch to a career in programming, be absolutely sure that you actually enjoy programming and that it is something you can see yourself doing almost every day for the next decades. Yes, programming is difficult, but this is only a problem if you don't like it. Doing something difficult only really feels bad if we don't want to do this thing. If we have passion for it, solving difficult problems feels much more like a challenging game. Hard, but also fun.

Programming is very difficult. Passion decides if this difficulty feels fun and challenging to you, or if it makes you feel miserable and procrastinate. Not everyone can enjoy programming, and not everyone should become a programmer.

If you're in it just for the money, you will have a hard time keeping up and really putting in the time and mental effort required to solve difficult problems. This doesn't mean that every single second of coding has to be fun. But the thought of returning back to your coding editor shouldn't feel like a punishment.

You should notice fairly quickly if you enjoy programming. Especially in the beginning of your learning phase, programming should feel more fun than tedious. Doing your first little coding tasks should leave you with a feeling of joy and curiosity for more, not with dread.

The Upsides of Starting Late

If you tried out programming and feel like it's something you can see yourself doing for the next years, then there is no reason why you can't pursue a career in it. Even with ageism being reality in some places, the demand for developers is so high that there are plenty of job opportunities. The employment rate for programmers keeps on rising far faster than the average rate. Compared to other occupations, only very few programmers are unemployed.

Software developer employment change in the US, projected 2020-30, compared to all occupations

And believe it or not, there are even benefits to switching to a programming career later in life that you might not have thought of yet:

  • If you already have a stable work history, you prove to your employer that you feel comfortable in a professional environment. This could make you more hirable than a turbulent 20-year-old. Older people are also generally more reliable.

  • You've acquired skills from previous jobs and life in general that can help you in your programming job. Even if you worked at a fast-food store, you might have experience with customer interaction, how to get along with coworkers, and how to maintain a good work ethic. Other skills that could be helpful include project management, sales & marketing, being good with numbers, etc. Maybe you can find a startup where you can use domain-specific knowledge from your previous job as a gardener, construction worker, or upholsterer. If you did anything in your previous life, it could turn out to be useful even in your new career.

  • You might have a more balanced life with hobbies, sports, and family, that makes you easier to work with than younger folks. Older people are often calmer and happier, and thus more stable hires. Your responsibilities make you want to hold a job which means less risk for your employer of losing you once you're well-trained.

  • Older people tend to be more patient, which is an important ingredient for learning programming.

Starting a programming career at a higher age has advantages, like bringing existing skills from previous jobs and being a more reliable hire.

You see, starting out late can totally be viewed from a bright side. You have life experience, that's worth something.

Also, your ability to solve problems doesn't depend as much on your age as you would think. It depends more on things you can control, as you will see later in this post.

What You Should Do Now

Okay, we've clarified that you're not too old to become a programmer. But you still want to use your time effectively. Here are some tips that will help you learn better and find a job faster:

CS degree vs. coding bootcamp vs. self-taught

Should you still get a Computer Science degree when you're starting programming at an older age? I can't answer this question for you. I personally don't have one and I'm not interested in getting one. But I'm also more entrepreneurially inclined and when you build your own startups, no one has to hire you. I know that there are many people who got into high-paying programming jobs without a degree, even at Big Tech companies. And I know many people with CS degrees who told me that they didn't learn anything practical there. Depending on your age and life circumstances, it might not be worth the time and money. Although a degree can definitely help.

Google Careers FAQ stating that no degree is required for their software engineering rolesSource:

Practical experience is what most employers look for in programmers. You have to show that you're able to write and maintain software. The way to do this is by building a portfolio of real projects. As I explained in another blog post, building your own projects is not only the best way to stay motivated while learning to code, it also attracts potential employers. But it's important that you actually release an app or website to the public and not just have projects on GitHub. An app in production requires additional scrutiny that otherwise can be overlooked, and this is what impresses recruiters.

What about joining a coding bootcamp? These are usually more practice-oriented than university, and coach you more directly with mentors doing code reviews and giving feedback on your specific problems. They are also less expensive than getting a college degree and take less time. If you can afford it, it can make sense. But it's definitely not necessary since you can buy terrific online courses for 20 bucks. It depends if you want the extra handholding. Some of these bootcamps also help you find a job afterwards. Just do proper research before you sign up anywhere because there are quite a few bad apples. You can usually find out about them by looking for existing review threads on

At the end of the day, your motivation to learn is what matters most. No amount of money can compensate for that. Read on for learning strategies.

How to learn effectively as an adult

No matter if you choose to get a degree, join a bootcamp, or go the completely self-taught route, how quickly you learn and how long it takes to get your first job, ultimately depends on how much time and effort you put in. No one can do that for you.

The trick to adult learning is that it requires a certain level of discomfort. You have to give your rigid brain a reason to adapt and build new connections. And you do this by making errors and keeping on trying until the errors are resolved. This is learning. Dr. Andrew Huberman explains this brilliantly in this podcast episode (link contains a timestamp to the relevant part).

In other words: Don't give up when a topic becomes difficult. Stick to it and be patient. Again, this is where passion comes into play. If you have a genuine interest in programming, the short phases of discomfort will not leave you miserable, but feeling accomplished and curious for more. If you don't have this natural curiosity, you will always fall behind because programming is difficult.

Of course, the field of programming is divided into many sub-categories, like mobile and web development, frontend and backend development, game development, data engineering, machine learning, and so on. You have to find out which one you like the most so you can become great at it.

Time management

To become good at anything, you have to put in the repetitions. Coding for an hour every day is more effective than coding for many hours only once in a while.

I don't have kids, but I have a lot of hobbies. And what helps me get everything done and waste as little time as possible, is a clear schedule. Even though I'm self-employed, I plan in advance when I will work, when I exercise, when I have free time, and at what time I go to sleep. It all goes into my calendar. The more responsibilities you have, the more important a prepared schedule becomes to not waste any precious time pockets.

But planning your learning hours in advance also helps with procrastination. A time block in your calendar is a clear signal to get started. And knowing in advance how long you have to commit to a task makes it easier to struggle through it.

If you have a job, the highest quality learning time you can get in is probably on the weekends, plus a little bit after work. So maybe code for an hour every day after work and for longer time blocks on the weekends. Just make sure that you have this time for yourself and reduce interruptions and distractions to a minimum. Put your phone away and mute it. Maybe lock the door if you have kids. Solving difficult coding problems requires some time of uninterrupted focus.

Market yourself

To get noticed by recruiters, you have to market yourself properly. Building a portfolio of completed projects is one part of it, but you also need to get your name out there. By writing blog posts, or making Youtube videos, or speaking at events, you establish yourself as someone knowledgeable in your industry and raise your chances of getting noticed. A good-looking internet profile results in more and better job opportunities with higher salaries. You also train your communication skills and give something back to the community at the same time.

The easiest way to get started with your personal marketing is by writing blog posts about the things you've learned. You can set up a beautiful-looking blog in about an hour using WordPress and cheap web hosting. Of course, you can also code a blog from scratch with a more advanced tech stack, if you have the necessary skills, and use the website as an exhibit in your portfolio. But it's definitely not a requirement and WordPress is perfectly fine. I recommend setting up your own domain over writing on a third-party platform like because it looks more professional and you have full control over the content.

Your blog doesn't have to be very fancy. Look at this one by Jake Wharton for example, who is one of the most popular and asked-for Android and Java developers. Notice that he uses his full name as the URL, which is great for branding and makes it easier for people to find his blog. But don't forget to put an About Me page on your site where people can learn more about you and find ways to contact you. And a page where you present the projects you've built.

You should also have a LinkedIn profile because recruiters are actively searching for candidates there. Being active on Twitter is also useful to become more visible in the industry. When writing posts and tweets, always try to be as helpful as possible.

Of course, there are more websites and communities which can be useful, like Reddit and Facebook groups. But don't get overwhelmed, you don't have to be active everywhere.

Stay in shape

Now, don't stop reading just yet! I'll keep it short.

Did you know that your muscle mass and body fat percentage have more impact on your problem-solving skills than your age? Ignoring your body is a good way to become dumber and mentally ill, so don't make this mistake. Learning is also easier when you don't have pain that distracts you.

Eat healthy and in moderation. Sleep enough. Real learning happens the night after you've struggled with a difficult new task, not while you're on the task. I'm a fan of going to sleep early enough so that you wake up before the alarm clock rings.

How Long Until I'm Job-Ready?

How long it will take for you to become job-ready as a programmer depends on how much time you can put in every day. But generally, you can apply to jobs before you feel like you know enough. As mentioned before, imposter syndrome is common for programmers, and you will probably never truly feel ready. Some people applied to their first programming jobs after only 2 months of learning, got accepted, and even if the first few weeks of work were a struggle, they eventually rose to the occasion. Remember, a difficult challenge is often the most effective learning stimulus.


I hope this blog post showed you that you can become a programmer even after 30, 40, or older, and still start a career in this field. The demand for programmers grows year after year, and it's one of the few high-paying professions that don't require a college degree. But first. you should figure out if you actually enjoy coding. If you don't, the challenges and difficulties along the way will demotivate you and you will waste even more time doing something you don't like.

I wish you a lot of fun in your new profession! You got this!

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