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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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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:34AM (#15889381)
    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.
  • Re:You want advice? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:48PM (#15889902)

    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 millions of software development jobs out there. It's actually a hugely varied field.

Someday somebody has got to decide whether the typewriter is the machine, or the person who operates it.