Studying is a lifelong process. At least that’s what many say. There are not so many students older than 25 though. Especially when it comes to the programming field. As it has become more popular over the past few years, people have started studying all the IT intricacies since they were 17-18. But what if you enter your programming career later? What should you know?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Age isn’t a barrier in software engineering; many are entering the field later in life.
  • The tech industry is competitive but full of opportunities for passionate individuals.
  • Dedication and continuous learning are essential to succeed in the field.

Software engineering has become very popular over the past few years. And this industry is nowhere near stopping from growing, with the expected 25% increase in job offers by 2031. Unsurprisingly, many view software development as a career path with high potential and therefore start thinking about studying in the field.

We stumbled upon a story of one Reddit user, who stopped thinking and started doing. Being 27 years old they decided to finally follow their interest and go back to college to become a software engineer:

“I’m 27 and it definitely feels like I’m late to the game. I’m determined to do this though because, for the first time in what feels like forever, I’m going all in on something I’m passionate about. I really feel like I can make programming/CS into a career I’m proud of. I’ve usually just gone with the status quo of the people around me and I’m not very proud of the career I’ve created for myself. Currently in sales and it’s not bad, just not for me.”

However, as the OP is a bit older than the average college student and since this field of study is a total career change for them, they turned to Reddit to get some advice:

“I’m not looking for the bootcamp vs. self-taught vs. college advice, but rather your thoughts on the career field itself and where I should focus. A lot has changed over the past couple of years and I’d appreciate your thoughts!”

We decided to go through the discussion and found some interesting comments that could help those who just started looking at programming as an option for a learning path. 

It’s Never Too Late

Turned out that the author of the post is not the only one who turned back to studying in the adult age. Many Reddit users had similar experiences and voiced encouragement to pursue a career in software engineering as well as gave advice on how to better approach it:

“I started my CS degree at 31. Best decision I ever made. Do all the hard stuff that challenges and scares the crap out of you. OS, networking and software projects were my focus. Once you’ve mastered those things you’ll be employable forever. Good luck.”

“Went back to school myself for CS after the military at 28. Personally, I have found being older to be helpful. You aren’t young, you probably aren’t as focused on the social aspects of college as everyone else will be. Use that to your advantage, study hard, and stand out against your peers. Get to know your professors who you will probably relate with more since you are older. Maybe become a TA to some professors….”

“I returned to school at the beginning of 2022. I had a somewhat scientific/humanities BA I had gotten in 2019. The desk job was not stimulating, and I couldn’t see myself doing it for 30 years. Don’t worry about your age. Do I wish I began at 18? I guess. Did I have the discipline? Heck no, I’d have flunked out. There is a saying that goes, “One day you will be 30 years old regardless, so you might as well be 30 and doing what you love”. I keep this in mind since I went back to school at 25 years old.”

As we can see, age is not a concern one should have when entering software engineering. All you need to succeed is to put in hard work and not be afraid of the challenges, however hard they may seem. 

Practical Advice

What Do You Need to Know If You Are Going Back To College to Study Software Engineering at 27

Many Redditors pitched in a few recommendations as to how the OP could make the journey more successful and up-to-date with current demands in the field:

“When I went back, I had saved and thought I could make it the entire time. I underestimated my cost of living and now only do part-time classes while working(because I have to). Have a plan, and save a lot of money so you can avoid working 40 hours a week as a student. Community College Is a great way to knock out the math and physics courses. I took physics, chemistry, and Calculus I-III, which are usually transferable… If it’s your first degree, you can probably get student loans, but try and pay for the CC classes with cash. There Is a 55k federal undergrad loan limit. Do NOT take private loans. Start NOW! These classes are not easy. I know peers who have been programming since middle school and don’t have to try nearly as hard. Pick a language and start learning the basics now. Create a GitHub and start making a portfolio. There are a lot of areas of CS…Front end(web pages, web apps), backend, firmware, full-stack, data scientist, and many more. Once you have a portfolio, start learning data structures. These are extremely important for interviews. Students can go 4 years of school and graduate, unable to find a job because they can’t pass the live coding interview. Not all companies are like this, but If you avoid whiteboard companies you are severely reducing your opportunities.”

“…Spend some of your free time learning different languages or working on a side project that you won’t learn during your degree program. I personally chose to double major in CS and Mathematics. I recommend picking up at least a minor in Mathematics as the competition is tough for new grads right now. We gotta stand out however we can, and having a strong math background might open up your career options a bit. Also, be honest and realistic with yourself early on. If you are finding you hate math and don’t enjoy the struggles and thrills of problem-solving that comes with programming early on. Seriously consider looking for alternative degrees early. If you hate it early on, it’s most likely not going to get better later in the degree, and it’s only going to get worse when it’s your job”

“Be as consistent as possible, the volume of information is big and the subjects are hard, Don’t take long breaks. Collaborate, if possible, with your peers. Most software engineers are happy to share. Use books if you are stuck, when I was stuck on software architecture a book saved me. Algorithms and data structure are king, learn them very well. Apply as much as you can, be curious and try your wacky ideas they will teach you and make some nice resume

The general advice was to focus on the field you are interested in the most and put a lot of effort into making yourself stand out with both skills and knowledge. Even though programming is a vast industry with many opportunities, it’s still competitive. So if you want to win the race, try to make a unique professional out of yourself. 

Why Go Into Software Engineering?

Even though the field of software development is currently growing, it is a competitive industry. Some Reddit users mentioned that it’s not worth the hassle:

“Seems like you are following the crowd by wanting to go into this field. The field isn’t what it used to be, a few hundred thousand developers are on the job market…during the pandemic, everyone and their dog also wanted to get into tech so entry level is supersaturated. Sad it got to this level but right now even new grads are struggling to find jobs. I know a few. It’s better to try for a field that isn’t so saturated but still growing. Tech is a mess, esp for those who want to break in.”

Nonetheless, this situation widely depends on the area you decide to work in and even your location. The hiring situation varies largely across different states and cities. And being a software engineer offers quite a few benefits. MIT mentions the 5 most obvious reasons to choose a career in this area of tech:

  1. The high demand for knowledgeable experts is nowhere near dying down as these specialists are needed all across different sectors of the economy starting from healthcare and ending with entertainment. 
  2. It is a field of creativity and problem-solving, so, if you are a person who values originality and takes a high interest in finding unique answers to seemingly trivial questions – this is a job for you.
  3. You never stop learning in this career, which means that you will keep growing not only as a professional but also as an individual.
  4. Positions in software engineering usually offer much flexibility as to working hours and settings, allowing you to work whenever and wherever you are.
  5. A job in software development is a high-paying one with an average salary as of May 2020 being around  $91,250.

The Main Point

So, are you thinking of diving into software engineering later in life? You’re not alone! Many folks are jumping into this field even in their late twenties or older, and the consensus is clear: it’s never too late. Yes, the tech world is competitive, but it’s also full of opportunities. The key is passion, hard work, and the will to keep you knowledge fresh, at least in math. So, if you’re considering a switch to software engineering, whether you’re 27 or older, just go for it! There’s always room for dedicated learners in the tech world.


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