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How Old is Too Old? 223

NewtonEatPalm! asks: "I started college back when I was too young to carefully weigh options about my future. I entered a prominent art school at age 17, coasted through, and was spit out at age 22 with a film degree that I don't really want nor do I feel qualified to use as the basis for a career. Three years on, I'm still working at my mundane college job, though one thing has never changed in all this time- my love of and devotion to technology, keeping up with hardware news and the intricacies of powerful software through daily reading of sites like Slashdot and lots of home-brew system building and amateur web development. I've decided that I'd like to pursue a second degree in Software Engineering at one of the major Cal State U's, but that would place me in the tech job market at nearly 30. My question is, how old is too old? Are severe changes in career direction in this sector commonplace/successful? Or have I truly already let my best chance for entry pass me by?"
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How Old is Too Old?

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  • Thinking Radically (Score:3, Insightful)

    by (1+-sqrt(5))*(2**-1) ( 868173 ) <> on Thursday August 10, 2006 @11:46PM (#15886665) Homepage
    From TFQ:
    Are severe changes in career direction in this sector commonplace/successful? Or have I truly already let my best chance for entry pass me by?
    It's true that the neurons harden as your mind differentiates itself (much like a fetus' maturing organs); on the other hand, if you're violent enough to pursue something as “worthless” as art, you're much more likely to shake up the software world with radical ideas.

    If your radical ideas happened to be annealed in post-hoc math, you may just carve out a niche for yourself; feral engineers are too goddamn down-to-earth for my taste, anyway.

    • Thinking Experience (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 10, 2006 @11:54PM (#15886706)
      "It's true that the neurons harden as your mind differentiates itself (much like a fetus' maturing organs); "

      And yet some of the best work has been produced by men and women well past 30.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        And yet some of the best work has been produced by men and women well past 30.

        Indeed. Pamela Anderson was thirty-five years old when she highlighted Playboy's Sexy 100 special issue, back in 2003.
      • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @02:16AM (#15887257) Homepage

        In the majority of companies your CEO is not interested in your best work. Just read old slashdot article [] and the discussion on it

        He is interested in you "not doing it for the money" so he can underpay you and provide fake perks instead of a salary.

        He is interested in you "burning in your job" so he can make you work a 60+ hour week without paying you overtime.

        He is interested in you applying for the job without reading all of the small print, asking all the relevant questions about the salary, possible career progression, stock, options, benefits and all the rest so he can fire you or underpay you anytime he likes

        If you have an unhealthy interest in the small print he will know that he will have a much more difficult time screwing you left, right and center. Frankly, if you are 30, if you are smart enough to consider your career wrong and think of a career change you will be asking these questions. Why change the career if you would not. This will make finding any jobs very hard. You will not fit the prototype which the currently popular management sociopaths love to mind-rape.

        I am speaking this out of experience by the way - I have had quite a few interviews ended and offers dropped the moment I start looking through the small print. Which I will continue doing anyway. I have changed career twice (the second time at the age of 28) for a reason. And it is the old cat motoL "I do it for the money, if you want "loyalty", get a dog".

    • There's a book that has tons of interviews with people about how they answered this very question...

      What Should I Do with My Life? (Hardcover) []

      It explores this question from different angles to see how people answered it for themselves.

      The short answer: You're never too old to start living your dream.

      When Hiliary was president in 2012, it sounded like a good idea at the time, but unfortunately she was not prepared to handle the 1st wave of the collapse of America via the Civil War.
  • You want advice? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Thursday August 10, 2006 @11:46PM (#15886667) Homepage Journal
    Carpe Momento
    • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:07AM (#15886765) Homepage Journal
      *sigh* It's not supposed to be funny. It's a philosphy: SEIZE THE MOMENT! Don't sit around waiting for the next thing to happen. Take stock of what you want to do, what you know you already can accomplish, and the possible paths of reaching your goals.

      For example, you've already got a degree. About 90% of the people I have met have their degree in something other than the field they ended up working in! So get off your thumbs, and see if that degree plus your personal coding experience can get you a Junior level programming position. You'll need to supplement your personal experience with some good learning materials (you can never go wrong with the classics like Richie, Knuth, and Tanenbaum!), and you'll need to apply yourself to improving your analytical abilities.

      But at the end of the day, if it's something you love doing, DO IT! Don't poke around with 10 more years of college. If college has drilled anything into your brain, it should be, "Never stop learning!" After all, college is just a resource that provides the materials and contacts you need. To actually get anything useful out of it, you should be pulling the information yourself! And with such a wealth of awesome written information on Computer Science, how could you not be learning if it's what you're interested in?

      Again, SEIZE THE MOMENT! Do whatever it is that excites you the most. If you're driven in your love for it, others will take notice.
      • Don't poke around with 10 more years of college

        At least not if you want to work in the industry afterwards. If you want to spend your time in scientific institutions anp perform research there, it might be an option, although they tend to be more interested in early starters...
      • I agree with the parent. Having a college education specifically in the field you want to enter can help, but it's not everything. All my hard work in school really didn't get me into a career developing software, as it was the middle of the tech bust. But, I just sat down and started writing software anyway, whatever interested me. I figured that even if I couldn't get a job, they certainly couldn't stop me from programming. Eventually a company noticed me, and it's been totally tits since then.


      • Carpe Diem... (Score:3, Insightful)

        But at the end of the day, if it's something you love doing, DO IT! Don't poke around with 10 more years of college. If college has drilled anything into your brain, it should be, "Never stop learning!" After all, college is just a resource that provides the materials and contacts you need. To actually get anything useful out of it, you should be pulling the information yourself! And with such a wealth of awesome written information on Computer Science, how could you not be learning if it's what you're inte
      • Best answer I've seen yet. You've got experience, even if it's minimal. That's worth more than a lot of college degrees. Get into a company with a healthy IT department (at any position) and keep expressing your interest in the IT department, and developing your skills. Do relevant night school courses. Eventually you'll get to IT. And you can always keep learning throughout your life.
      • Re:You want advice? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Angst Badger ( 8636 )

        At most of the places I have worked, the majority of the developers had degrees in other fields. Oddly or perhaps not so oddly, the largest chunk were English majors.

        One of the things I have noticed about career discussions on Slashdot is that they bear little or no resemblance to the real world, at least as I have experienced it. If anything, they are centered exclusively around the very highest tiers of corporate IT in Silicon Valley, which represents a vanishingly small percentage of the millio
    • Inch Time Foot Gem (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      A lord asked Takuan, a Zen Teacher, to suggest how he might pass the time. He felt his days very long attending his office & sitting stiffly to receive the homage of others.

      Takuan wrote eight Chinese characters & gave them to the man:

      Not twice this day
      Inch time foot gem.

      (This day will not come again; each minute is worth a priceless gem)
    • Carpe Momento

      Yeah, I had those at my Jewish grandmother's house all the time, although she changed the word so we wouldn't know we were just eating carp.

      Guy at the tackle shop looked at me funny when I asked what sort of lure I needed for gelfilte fish too. Damn Bubby.

    • Sapre Aude
    • Carpe takes the accusative, not the dative. Carpe momentum!
  • by suso ( 153703 ) * on Thursday August 10, 2006 @11:50PM (#15886686) Homepage Journal
    Everybody's life and goals are unique. You shouldn't try to judge your progress based on what you think others are doing and have accomplished. Sometimes that can be useful. But you should just ask yourself one question. What do YOU want to do with your life and what do you think you need to do to accomplish that.

    Some people "start" their life at 15 and burn out when they are 30, some start at 30 and continue on until they die. Everyone is different.
    • by Antony-Kyre ( 807195 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:19AM (#15886822)
      I happen to agree about the comment you made regarding when someone starts their life. In my opinion, "Age is nothing more than just the number of times you traveled around the Sun."
    • by spineboy ( 22918 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @01:51AM (#15887185) Journal
      And I couldn't be happier, even after 4 years med school, 5 years residency and 2 years fellowship. I certainly don't regret the time I spent working in research(Human genome proj) for several years before I got into med school. Usually the people who start something when they're older have made a more rational, wise choice then the people who went straight thru the mill.

      If you want to stop your life and start a new phase of it, then probably you really want to do it and therefore you should.
      Just don't do anything half assed -if you're going to do it, then go all the way - be dedicated. What you get out of life is what you put into it.
  • by KingK ( 148438 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:00AM (#15886724)
    Ok now that I got that out of the way...

    I finished my EE degree and entered the engineering workforce at 28. If anything I found my age may have helped me. Most of the people you end up working with won't know when you finished your degree, so they end up looking at you as someone who is probably more experienced. Throw in the fact that in a technology job you have to stay current and not everyone does. Coming fresh from university you'll most likely be current.

    Age doesn't matter it's your skills and drive, boy. (And stop asking questions that make me feel old)
    • 45 and back in school because I enjoy learning, will I succeed in my new carreer, if not, well then my old one is still there. You know when you're too old, 24 hours past dead, 48 if your willful.
    • <nodding in agreement>

      I got my first programming job when I was about 21, with a small company that didn't really want me to finish community college. 11 years later, I thought that maybe I was tired of programming, so I finally got my degree in mechanical engineering... just in time for a big slump in the engineering field.

      However, since I had the magic piece of paper, I was able to get a temporary programming job at a manufacturing company that wanted someone familiar with 3-D geometry, and I still
  • by Psykechan ( 255694 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:00AM (#15886728)
    I just turned 33 today. Way to remind me that I am old. :P
  • In a word, No. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ezratrumpet ( 937206 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:01AM (#15886734) Journal
    You're never too old to retool or change. Every day, someone your age (and someone 2-3x your age) leaves a successful career for a completely different field.

    You only get One Life - and one chance to be whatever age you are. There's no dress rehearsal. Figure out how to "do" your passion for enough money to maintain a lifestyle sufficiency, and then go do it.

    Remember, this is a one-life game. Use it up.
  • 30 worked for me (Score:4, Informative)

    by Duhavid ( 677874 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:02AM (#15886741)
    I didnt graduate college till 30, started
    my second ( third? ) career as a programmer then.

    Had to work my way thru college. Tisnt easy, but

    You are here, it is now. Start.
  • Hmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Reality Master 101 ( 179095 ) <RealityMaster101 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:03AM (#15886744) Homepage Journal

    Three years on, I'm still working at my mundane college job, though one thing has never changed in all this time- my love of and devotion to technology, keeping up with hardware news and the intricacies of powerful software through daily reading of sites like Slashdot and lots of home-brew system building and amateur web development.

    I'm a little suspicious of this. If you have a "love and devotion" to technology, then what's stopped you so far from learning programming? You say you've done some amateur web development, so that's a gateway that normally might've led you to it.

    I'm assuming you haven't learned any programming to speak of. If that's the case, then I suspect you have some romantic notion of what programming is all about that probably won't live up to your expectations. Coding is not all hot tubs full of babes. :) I'd say that people with a passion for programming already know that's what they want to do and don't need to "ask Slashdot", especially when you're looking at a career change for a job you think is boring.

    I could be wrong, of course, but I think you need to consider that the career grass isn't greener on the other side.

    • I have every sympathy for the guy - I feel he has every reason to pursue his goal, and that your comments (while clearly an honest attempt to inject some sobriety) may be a little too discouraging.

      I say I have every sympathy because I'm in the exact same position, save that I'm in my mid-twenties. I coasted through school, college, uni just doing what seemed easiest because, basically, I was very intelligent and immature, and just wanted my adolescence to continue indefinitely.

      It's only over the last couple
    • Re:Hmmm (Score:3, Funny)

      by cerberusss ( 660701 )
      Coding is not all hot tubs full of babes
      Well, that depends on the industry you're coding for, doesn't it? :)
  • Never too old (Score:4, Interesting)

    by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:08AM (#15886766)
    I changed jobs and started programming for money at 37. I may change again later on if it suits me. Do what YOU want to do, and screw the norm.
  • by maynard ( 3337 ) <> on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:09AM (#15886773) Journal
    • that depends. Does the Flying Spagetti Monsters realm of the afterlife have colleges? Perhaps we should call that place Spageaven.
    • In all seriousness, most of the really happy old people I know are still learning things, still finding interesting uses of their time, and getting out into the world for as long as they physically can. For example, one guy I knew was playing and teaching violin up until the month before he died, despite arthritis. Another who falls pretty thoroughly into the "little old lady" category is still giving talks, doing research, and travelling the world well into her 80's. Another interesting thing I noticed sev
      • "Another interesting thing I noticed several years back is that something like half of the people hiking the Appalachian Trail (Georgia to Maine) are retirees in their late 60's or early 70's."

        Yes, but how old were they when they started the trip?

        But seriously, I've been to Isle Royale (a wilderness preserve in Lake Superior) a couple times, and was surprised by the number of over-60s visiting. Granted, most of them weren't out hiking the Minong Ridge, but they weren't just sitting around the dock ar
  • That isn't old (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EZLeeAmused ( 869996 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:10AM (#15886774)
    I finally went back to school and got my bachelors in Computer Science in 1999 a month before my 38th birthday. I immediately got a job with a major corporation in the industry. It certainly helped that I look a good 10-15 years younger than my real age, but if you can do the course work and prove in an interview that you have what it takes, mid to late 20s is certainly not too old to change careers.

    You should however be certain of where you are going. Building PCs and doing light web development are not what most software engineers do in their day jobs. Teach yourself Java or Python or something and try your hand at some more substantial software development. And that is good practice - in most software engineering classes, the focus of the class is more about basic concepts and you are expected to teach yourself whatever you need of the language du jour to implement projects.

  • by TTK Ciar ( 698795 ) * on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:11AM (#15886780) Homepage Journal

    You're too old to do it when you personally cannot do it.

    A friend of mine is in his early 50's, and he recently landed his first "real" (paid) linux system administration job. Prior to this he had worked in construction his entire life. If he can do it at fifty-plus, you can do it at thirty. If you can't, there's a reason for it other than age.

    People generally have more power than they think they do, and are limited not by what they can do, but by what they allow themselves to accomplish. So, be bold! Thrust your trepidations aside and throw yourself in the direction you want to go. You may surprise yourself.

    -- TTK

    • I strongly agree. And further:

      "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." -- Mark Twain
    • Yep. I'm 56. My first computer was a four-fridge SDS 930 with discrete transistors. That's **old**. Hah! You young whippersnappers with yer mice and potatoes and whatnot don't know what a real computer is. 8K is enough for anyone if you just code it right!! Fortran II R0xor3Z!! Still in the industry too and I have two toons on Xegony at L70 besides. Don't give up the ship. Never give in! Never surrender!! Never quit until He with His Noodly Appendage puts you to bed with a back hoe!!!

      Uhh, sorry, wh

  • Never too old... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jhon ( 241832 ) * on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:13AM (#15886789) Homepage Journal
    Or have I truly already let my best chance for entry pass me by"
    While my career timing in life seems to mirror yours, my circumstances were quite different. Long story short: I entered my "current" field at age 28. (Homeless for a while, and taking 8 years to get a 4-year degree -- switched majors a few times. Phil, math, CS)

    I decided to I worked as a private contractor and took sub-contract jobs for minor network installs (Doctors offices, dental offices, law and accounting offices). I did that for about 5 years. One of my clients, a smallish lab, offered me a full time job. Over the years, that smallish lab has grown to around 200 workstations, 5 servers, 3 remote offices, etc. I went from a department of one to being a manager of 8 (both IT and Data processing departments).

    Advice: Find a small or medium sized privately owned company. Learn to do a lot... SQL, networking, admin, support, word, excel (show some pivot table magic), etc. Forget working for anyone or anything with stock-holders. You'll enjoy the work, probably like the owner/boss and add a few years to your life.
    • Re:Never too old... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by JBL2 ( 994604 )
      That sounds sensible. Like some other respondents here, I got into the field around age 30. I picked up an MS in Computer Science, which I recommend (night school), while working in the industry. I had some CS training in college and worked as a programmer in a field I was well acquainted with, both of which helped. Getting some broad experience looks good on a resume and will inform and help direct your career search later. (And btw, a LOT of people use Excel, so it pays to have a good feel for it.)

    • Advice: Find a small or medium sized privately owned company. Learn to do a lot... SQL, networking, admin, support, word, excel (show some pivot table magic), etc. Forget working for anyone or anything with stock-holders. You'll enjoy the work, probably like the owner/boss and add a few years to your life.

      I agree with that completely. The addendum I would add that there is no reason that you need to really 'start' at 30. Unless you are somehow able to pay for your degree outright, you'll likely be working

  • I also got into this field fairly lately, compounded by completing my Computer Science degree part-time.

    To cut a long story short, life experience counts a hell of a lot more than people think, and being older when coming out of uni can be a distinct advantage.

    The right employer will value life experience. Additionally, most of the people I kow of that finished uni later tend to be more focused, as well as progressing towards a senior level far more rapidly. I know this is kind of a blanket statement,
  • by BunnyClaws ( 753889 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:15AM (#15886798) Homepage
    If you choose to make this type of career switch you better make sure you really love this field. The starting pay probably won't be good. The work hours will be demanding and the respect from business management will never shine down on you. More than likely you will not be able to pursue a project that you are passionate about only one that management wants done. Just make sure you really love this field before you make the change. Enjoying technology as a hobby is one thing doing it for a career is whole different story.
  • I'd think you would be in the catbird seat guy, the film industry is using shit piles of CGI FX eating up tons of storeage and using unimagineable amounts of processor resources, lots of custom written shaders, tweeked renders and specialty programs, and you'll not only be able to work on all those cool technologies, but you actually be able to comunicate with the artsy types using it! A freind of mine is doing the 3D animation in collge, he does his homework on a two processor opteron with RAID 5 running L
  • I don't think 30 is too old. If you have the passion and determination to guide you through, I think you'll do just fine. Not everyone knows what they want to do in life at a early age. Hell, some people just coast through life not ever knowing their calling. It's not uncommon for some people to change careers several times throughout their lifetime with some going back to school to start all over again.
  • Not trying to be insulting, but this seems like a really off the wall question. Ask yourself which you'd rather be at age 30: a) somebody who's about to start the career you discovered you really like; or b) somebody who's muddling along doing what you've been doing and dissatisfied with it. Given that you're going to be 30 in either case, I hope the answer is obvious.

    I worked for six years after college, and decided to go back for a PhD when the small company I had joined was bought out by a fortune 5

  • by yagu ( 721525 ) * <> on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:20AM (#15886827) Journal

    I'm 50, and I think I'm as creative and sharp as ever in coding. Since being laid off after twenty one years, I have written two major applications on my own, and hope to market them successfully.

    But, as for companies, they're interested in how much you cost, not how old you are. Unfortunately for those over forty who have accrued knowledge, experience, and expertise, that usually comes at a premium. A premium on paper many companies are willing to forego for the "cheap" labor.

    A more correct question would be: how little are you willing to work for, and how many benefits are you willing to waive compared to the competition? Competence? Expertise? Pshaw. That's not the most important part of the equation for most companies. It should be.

  • by CaptainPuppydog ( 516199 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:25AM (#15886851)
    Look at it this way: how old will you be in 4 years if you don't do this? What will you be doing then? (nb. the answer better not be "posting another 'Ask Slashdot'... ;-) )

    Too many people use the excuse that they will be 'x' years old when they get out of the schooling they need to pursue the job they really want instead of the fry-slinging they are presently doing. Do yourself a favour: get the buy-in of the significant people in your life, take a deep breath, and pay the first year tuition all at once. Then instead of having an excuse not to go to school, you will have an excuse not to skip/stop.

  • it's about your desire.
  • The existing market is dominated by a few major players whose file formats don't play so well together. There is a slow but steady rumbling that CAD data should be easily-readable without having to spend piles of cash. This notion is being largely driven by smaller municipalities who think that the data they generate belongs to them and not the software vendor. BRL-CAD was released for Windows recently and I foresee this forcing the hand of the big guys after smaller, dedicated teams of programmers start cu
  • by freeweed ( 309734 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:45AM (#15886936)
    but that would place me in the tech job market at nearly 30

    Wow. Your story (other than the art school) just about parallels mine. High school, then post-secondary, then a crappy job for a bunch of years. Been there, did that, got the t-shirt.

    A few years back I realized people would actually pay me money to do what I enjoy doing in my spare time (that is, mess with computers), but the big cash was in the degree'd jobs. Like it or not, that's the way in these days. So, I left the job, swallowed my pride and moved back in with the family, lived like a starving student otherwise for 4 years, and graduated with a B.C.Sc. when I was 29.

    I got a job right out of school (actually, while I was still in school - internships RULE), and one day I got bored and did the math: it will have taken me only 3 years since graduation before I break even financially. That's including all the income lost over those 4 years, and tuition. I more than doubled my take-home as a result of the career change, and love every minute of the job so far.

    Oh, the other nice thing: going to university/college as a mature student is FUN. People are very friendly to you (even though we're only talking 5-8 year age differences they think of you as the "old fogey"). You don't do the stupid things (frat parties every night during finals). It's also FAR easier to study, do homework, whatever - because you know damn well what awaits you if you don't get this degree finished, and with good marks. Personally, I found doing university the second time around to be just about the most fun I've ever had in my life. Only problem is, at an older age it seems to go by FAST.

    If I won the lottery and didn't need to work for my rent, I'd do it a third time.

    Best decision I ever made in my life.
  • I quit engineering at 19, hung out with rock bands for a few years, then went back to EE school at almost 25. Had to take a few mre courses because some previous ones were deprecated as prerequisites, but the new ones were _way_ more interesting anyway. I figured my touring days were over when I graduated at 28 -- was I wrong! My first engineering gig was Application Engineering for a Montreal company, which sent me all over the US and Europe in grand style instead of the dive hotels where I'd stayed as
  • by Colonel Panic ( 15235 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:55AM (#15886975)
    If 40 is the new 30, then 30 is the new 20.

    Seriously, 30 is not too old. Given the current economic trends (global capitalism) we're all going to need to reinvent ourselves every 10 years or so anyway - yes, that probably means going back to school in your 40's and again in your 50's... maybe even later.
  • Your homebrew system building and web development is great seat-of-the-pants training for what works. I can tell when a system's been designed by engineers who've gotten their hands dirty, as opposed to straight book-learnin' types who never soldered a wire in their lives. The difference is not subtle.
  • Do you have any idea how stupid this entire article reads to someone who is 34? Old at 30? You're in for a shock.
  • Software Engineering is the nice way of saying Computer Science which is not the best industry to try hitting at 30. While it IS and industry and a great one, you may find that pursuing a Computer Engineering degree will place you apart from the dime-a-dozen computer science guys. Software Engineering is NOT an engineering degree any more than Forest Engineering is (and it isn't at all). Computer Engineering IS an engineering degree, even if it's for the tech geeks more so than lab science geeks.

    Just my
  • The only time you're too old is when you're dead.
  • I got my first degree in Microbio back in the early 80's. Later on, I decided to go back to school for a master in CS. I never finished it due to money ( which was a mistake ) but I did complete the bachelors (but without the paper). Since I got out at age 32, I have found lots of good jobs. The trick is make sure that you are at a decent school, get good grades, and learn. You are more mature now, and know what you want. Chances are, that on your first degree you did skate by and really did not learn it. N
  • Switching careers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Starker_Kull ( 896770 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @01:12AM (#15887050)
    I was a math major in college, because I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a programmer, a physicist, or a vulcanologist. In the end, I became an airline pilot. It was, at the beginning, thrilling, exciting, interesting, different, and I used to look forward to going to work.

    Fast forward about 15 years, and I'll tell you that the things I thought little of, like career stability, retirement funding, long term mental stimulation, etc., are a lot more important to me now then they were in my teens.

    I just earned more this past month, in doing network consulting and database development than from my "career". It was exciting all over again, that I had a mental challenge, people appreciated my work, and I had some independence from the Mother Company.

    I'm 35, and slowly building up what used to be a hobby fiddling with computers into a side business. And if (or, as I suspect, when) the airline industry really tanks, I can just pick up the pace a bit on my second career. Perhaps I wouldn't enjoy it so much if I didn't have career A to start with, and perhaps I would have advanced far more in career B if I had started there, but who cares? I DID do career A, and I am now really ENJOYING career B.

    I have an aunt who just retired from senior management one of the largest corporations in the world after 38 years. She scratched through college with a 2.01 GPA. The secret to her success? Don't let yourself get faked out by people who seem to know what they are doing. Ask questions until you understand, or research on your own until you understand, and you will be surprised how many people get by on 90% air and 10% knowledge. If you want to understand and learn, you will get far.

    Go for it - good luck!
  • ... we're all dead

    Credit Guy Kawasaki for that, maybe someone before him, but anyway dead is definitely too old. If you're not dead yet, you're not too old.

  • I really screwed up on my original degree. I was already quite late doing it since I messed up my O levels so had to do some of them again which put me a year behind. When I got my degree it wasn't a high grade so I ended up doing various unrelated jobs. Eventually, I learned I wanted more from life so I got a loan and paid my way through a Masters, got a good job and then started my PhD at age 27. When I finished it three years later I was 30 which was quite old to do a postdoc as most other PhDs were
  • by Pinback ( 80041 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @02:03AM (#15887213) Homepage Journal
    In ten years, you'll be 40. When you look back, what you did for a living may not be as big a deal as you think. Your relationship(s) may be a bigger solace.

    If your parents are still living, see them at least once a year for the next 10 years.

    After 28, you can't rely on your metabolism to keep you in shape. If you don't already have one, pick a physical activity you won't get bored with, preferably something not too dangerous.

    Do you play any instruments? If you start practicing now, you should be able to play by the time you're 40, and even better by the time you're 50.

    Sometimes the best job is one that lots of people aren't after. Yes there are lots of jobs for coders, but there is lots of supply too.

    If you don't keep a journal, start. Some things in life are cyclic, and you won't notice them unless you can review what happened in past years.
  • At 30 I still had not really chosen my career - had played with electronics and even computers from pre-teens to university - but took 10+ years "walkabout" (New Zealand, Australia, and back to Canada) at many different jobs to decide that the computer industry was my wide focus. As for a narrow focus - sorry, can't say I've had one - except maybe the Internet - but that was kind of a timely thing. What I've learned is that if I'm doing things I enjoy, it really doesn't matter what they are - I'm where I
  • Just do it (Score:2, Interesting)

    I'm just about to take early retirement (55).

    Sometime in the next two weeks I'll be enrolling in a DipEd (one year full time) so that I can start teaching at high school level after a lot of time working (mostly as) a chemist.

    If I can do it so can you.

    Dunno about you young people.

    When I was your age we had to walk 10 miles to go to school - uphill - after the early shift at the salt mines, then walk 15 miles - uphill again - to go home to eat last week's leftovers before 2 minutes' sleep before
  • My mom got a CS degree in her mid 40's, and found a good job soon after.
  • Just get a job. I've got a degree from a prestigious European artschool (painting + photography), and I'm working as a full time programmer. However, I'd also been programming as a hobby since I was twelve, so.. if you're in a similar situation, just get a job and do your tuition on the way - from the web. It'll save you money (make you money, in fact), and you've already proven your creativity, so there shouldn't be a problem. One note for creative people, though: don't get started in a really big comp
  • by W. Justice Black ( 11445 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @03:18AM (#15887433) Homepage
    I'm a 31-year-old student and finishing up in 12-18 months at the rate I'm going.

    I'll mirror what most other folks here have said, namely that you're not too old for college or to enter one of many CS-type careers and that you should go for it. I will make one small detour from the norm, however, and suggest you might want to make a small adjustment to your major--and not for the reasons you may suspect.

    The only CSUs that appear to have actual SoftE programs are San Jose State and CSU Fullerton. Since the Fullerton program is a Master's-only program, I'll assume that you're probably looking at SJSU.

    And I just happen to be an SJSU student.

    While the SJSU SoftE program is terrific, there are a LOT of very specific courses in the program. It is simply not well laid-out for folks looking to transfer in from other schools (or for those looking for a second bachelor's) IMHO. When I transferred over, I initially applied for SoftE, but changed my mind once I worked it out on a spreadsheet. It turned out that, even though I had previously earned an Associate's in Engineering (and therefore had taken a bunch of engineering classes), SoftE was 9 credit hours (or about 1.5 part-time semesters) more than plain old CS. The problem is that SoftE in particular is a fairly inflexible program with a lot of boxes to check off.

    Then again, SJSU has one of the best CompE programs anywhere, and many of the SoftE classes correspond directly with CS classes, especially at the start (so you can change your mind later if you want).

    The moral of the story (regardless of where you go) is that you should scour your requirements and see what will suit you best. For someone who's coming in as a freshman, it probably doesn't matter too much, but it's huge for a returning/transferring/second bachelor's student.
  • I'd say a career change is certainly possible and not such a big deal, but I don't think you should go to college for a second time.

    The most important things you get from college (some maturity, the ability to digest hard books on your own, to finish a large project) are things you hopefully already have after the first time. College is good, but it's not the most efficient way to get specific knowledge on a subject; if your first degree was decent, it'd be a waste of time.

    So learn to program, get into th

  • by simonfunk ( 592887 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @03:51AM (#15887529) Homepage
    My mother decided she wanted to be a doctor in her mid 30's and got into NYU when she was maybe 38? She did fine, and became a great doctor. Before that she worked as a lab tech for a few years. Before that she was a waitress. A lot of my friends in college were "returning students" in their 30's getting CS degrees and went on to do good stuff. I've never personally witnessed anybody being "too old" to pull it off.
  • Career change at 38 (Score:3, Informative)

    by GomezAdams ( 679726 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @04:51AM (#15887662)
    I went to college at 38 while making a major career change into IT. And this was mostly to get credits for what I had already taught myself. Now as a silver back I am a very well paid SW architect.
    The short answer is that you will be as successful in a career change to the extent of your motivation, natural talent, and some amount of luck. Choose an evolving area of interest and stay current, aggressively so. I got to where I am by being a generalist - knowing and doing a little something with everything in computers from building boards with wirewrap, designing and wiring networks,to hacking in a couple dozen langauges from 8080/Z80 ASM to mainframe COBOL. Some of my peers are specialists and are just as successful. That is the luck part.
    So pick something you really like and attack it like a tasmanian devil.
  • My story (Score:3, Informative)

    by clickclickdrone ( 964164 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @04:52AM (#15887666)
    I left school at 16 with a fistfull of exams at not particularly stunning grades and started working in a bank. At 18 I got my first computer (atari 400 :-) ) and learned to program and everything about what made it tick. By 25 it was clear I didn't get on with banking so I asked if I could move in to IT which I did although initially it was just logging tapes in and out. I'm now 42 and have used VMS, various Unix (including scripting, sed/awk etc), raw x-windows coding, Windows/DOS, C, VB/VBA, C#, asp, html and a whole bunch of odd stuff. I've done analysis, design, build, test, debugging, documentation, warranty, support, training, writing for various magazines, beta testing for games companies, building/fixing hardware and God knows what else.
    IT is a constant learning process so age has its uses although I do feel my ability to work long hours has diminished, both physically and as a result of marriage/kids. Age does have a bearing on some aspects, if a company wants someone who can cut code fast and late at night, they want youngsters. When they want something a bit bigger/more complex that requires experience, they go for the older types.
  • I'm looking at doing something similar. Ditching IT (there are no good IT jobs in the UK any more it seems) and learning a language, moving overseas etc. I hope to spend a year full time studying the language.

    For me, there are two issues: cost and employability. Cost, well I'll just have to save up. Employability... I'll be 29-30 with two years work experience in my entire life (was unemployed for 2.5 years after finishing my degree in CS). That could be an issue, especially if looking to work overseas. But
  • I'm 'old' (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Inda ( 580031 ) <> on Friday August 11, 2006 @05:58AM (#15887810) Journal
    I always remember a careers evening I went to with my father 16 years ago. The careers adviser stood at the front of a large hall and asked all the parents "How many of you are still doing the same job that you did when you left school?". Out of 200 parents only a small handful of them raised their hands.

    I left school at 16, took an engineering apprenticeship and slaved away at that for another 8 years. When redundancy called at the age of 25 I decided a change was needed. Many people told me that my 4-year apprenticeship would be wasted if I left the industry; I ignored them.

    I too have always been interested in computer and suchlike. I had some HTML knowledge under my belt. I also had some knowledge of the core MS Office applications. An office life for me this time!

    Once in a low-skilled role I learnt some Javascript to complement my HTML. I spoke to people and they said "learn how to store and retrieve data from databases and you're laughing" so I did. My manager learned of my new skills and asked me to build a few simple business applications. "What about VBA?" he said. "No" I said. He then sent me on some courses to learn that.

    These days I write small browser based applications that help the business no end, crappy Excel spreadsheets, crappy Access databases - someone's got to do it. If I had the motivation to learn more then I could progress more.

    I am 32 and I have another 38 years left of my working life.
  • by smchris ( 464899 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @07:20AM (#15887995)
    Some time ago I took an evening extension with graduate credit at a Big 10 in Norwegian painting from 1750 through Munch. (And who wouldn't?) One evening the professor came in and with some exasperation in his voice said, "I've got to tell you a story. I haven't been distinguishing between the evening class and the day class. I just put all your papers in a pile and grade them together. Today, a self-appointed committee of my graduate students came into my office and complained that I wasn't being fair. The evening students were raising the curve and hurting their record. They said the evening students were just there because they were interested in the subject and we are here to train for a career! And I said, 'Yes, I can see that there is a problem. And if any of you come into my office and bring this up again, you will be in trouble with me.'"

    The moral? Don't knock maturity. Don't knock motivation. You can probably build a better relationship with your professors and forge better contacts for internships and jobs.
  • Companies my use your age to your advantage especially smaller companies where your job needs to deal with people. It is not about technology if you have a Tech Degree they expect a level of competence in technology. But what a lot of companies need are people who can deal with other people. (A lot people on Slashdot are either to young to realize this, or are to Anal about their lives to allow themselves to grow socially). Tech workers who can't deal with people well are often the ones that are made to w
  • A lot of people did it during the first high-tech bubble, survived its burst and still working successfully. The only drawback is, that you salary is based on your current proffesion expirience, so if you enetring the tech job market in your 30's prepare to be paid as much as a fresh worker out of college/universety. Severe career changes in the later age (up to 50's) is a common place in tech job market both to and out of it. I know several engeneers and scientists who switched to software development in
  • While it has been my experience that a degree is helpful, it doesn't matter much what that degree is in. What you've done is sometimes more important. First, figure out what you want to do, system admin, web programming, application development, etc... Once you narrow that down, pick a specialty. If you go the system admin route choose Windows, Linux, OS X, etc... if you go the web programming route, choose php, perl, python, etc... see where I'm going with this? Choose something that interests you and get
  • I am in a similar, and yet worse, situation than the submitter of this Ask Slashdot. While he has already obtained one undergraduate degree and is considering another, I am still working on my first. I will thankfully be graduating at the end of this October, but I will then be turning 30 two weeks later.

    First off, I would argue that you're never too old to go back to school. I too thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do straight out of high school and went to a prestigious school in Florida to do just w
  • Sounds like you and I got switched at birth (or something). Without much soul-searching, I got a comp sci degree after high school, but got bored with just bits and gigabytes, so I went to art school part-time and graduated with a second bachelor's degree in illustration/digital media at the ripe age of 39. Kind of blows to hell any chance of ever being the next "hot young talent", eh?

    I won't shine sunshine up your skirt. There are people who'll look at your late-20s razor stubble and the hint of crea
  • Thirty is too old. []

    Actually if that was the first thing you think of when someone asks how old is too old, you're too old.

  • by real gumby ( 11516 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:26PM (#15889765)
    Surprisingly, lots of good advice so far. As someone who's started five companies and generated almost 1000 jobs, let me give you my perspective:
    • Some companies, generally big ones, will rule you out. Cynicism aside ("all companies are evil"), they, or rather the HR departments, use age as a shorthand for value, even though it's illegal. At 30 you'll be in the sweet spot for many of them, but without the necessary experience. Conclusion: most large companies will probably not be right for you (though exceptions exist, but they are few).
    • When I hire, I look for people with drive and the ability to control their lives. E.g. completing a degree is not crucial (some of the best never did) but shows that you can complete a long task. If you go back to school, especially after a hiatus, it shows either that you don't know what you want to do when you grow up and are aimless, or that you know how to pick yourself up and take control over your life. I don't expect 20 year olds to have that kind of understanding; hence doing it at 24 is actually a positive sign to me.
    • As another poster said: make sure you will be doing what you want and that you're not going back to school as a tool for decision avoidance (see previous point!). Try some somple programming out -- get a book, poke at your computer, take a short course at the local community college (need not go on your resume if you don't want). javascript, surprisingly, is a good introductory interactive tool since you can just press reload in your browser to see what happened.
    Finally: from your post, you might find being a sysadmin fun. That's good because with a small amount of skill you can get a simple sysadmin job, even if it's just flipping backup tapes or babysitting servers at night. Once you're in the job you can go to school at night and you can also work your way up -- the "age thing" won't matter anyway. And the best sysadmins are programmers, but the vast majority are not, so again you can slide in and decide how much you want to have. Oh yeah: to contradict myself: these super-entry-level sysadmin jobs only exist at big companies, and are the kind they are least likely to worry about age at. Though again, they might worry about pointless certifications.

    Anyway: seize the moment and go for it. The longer you dither the longer you will answer the question by default.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"