Are you too old for a career in web development? If you’re wondering this, you’re not alone. Whether you’ve been comparing yourself to people who you know in tech, or you’ve been doubting your abilities to learn to code and land a job, we’re here to dispel those worries.
Almost everyone has asked this question, from teens to people in their late 50s. The fact that there are individuals in almost every generation asking themselves this question proves that – no, you’re not too old to become a web developer!
According to Stack Overflow’s 2022 survey of developers, the average age of a web developer is 25-34 years old. 46% of developers fall into the 25-34-year-old age bracket. 30% of professional developers are 35-54 years old. 3% of professional developers are 55-65 years old.
How long does it take to learn web development?
For most people who want to change careers with web development, learning to code can take anywhere from 3 months to a year.
Robert Corrado is a successful Scrimba student who learned to code at 33. He puts it better than we could, “The first thing you need to do is just remove the timelines. Stop thinking how long it took another person.”
He learned how to code during the pandemic while running a business and being a dad. He continues, “Focus on the fact that you're going to be on a journey now, you're going to work hard, and you're going to get there when you get there.”
Will web development become obsolete?
Before you have time to learn it and change careers? No. Despite the rise of automation and machine learning, there’s currently no way to replace human developers. Websites and apps are used by human beings. Only humans can truly create a good experience for other human beings.
Mischa from Webflow points out, “Ten years from now, experts in design and coding will still be in high demand. But their actual day-to-day tasks will probably look different as no-code technology advances.”
When I can't sleep because I'm worried robots will take over the world, I remember even the most sophisticated $1000 Roomba with "built-in AI" vacuums over dog poop!
Can I get a job in tech after 40 or 50?
The short answer is, yes, you can get a job in tech after age 30, 40, or even 50. To some, web development is a career choice with no boundaries. But let’s dive deeper and hear from people with first-hand experience.
Sebastian, a Scrimba student who learned to code and changed careers at 39, weighs in, “I found, during several interviews, many companies actually really appreciate the varied background and life experience career changers can bring to a team.”
Jeff Finkelstein says, “I'm the CEO of an eCommerce web development company in Boulder, Colorado, and I've hired many 40+-year-old developers in a junior capacity. Honestly, I enjoy working with older developers. They often have better wisdom and life skills, and are motivated to learn.”
Dan is another Scrimba student who landed a developer job after just six months of learning to code. He taught us that employers aren't always looking for the absolute best or most experienced programmer. Many employers are looking for someone good at communicating, willing to learn, and honest.
Is ageism in tech real?
It depends on where you’re trying to get a job. In some countries, ageism is technically illegal, so we’ll start with that. But then there’s this unspoken understanding that most programmers hired at “elite” tech companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, or Microsoft are young.
Just a few years ago, in 2018, Stack Overflow recorded that 75% of developers fell within the 18-34 age range. Now, the majority of professional developers are 25-34 years old. While ageism used to be rampant in the software industry, it seems like these trends are rapidly changing.
Is it embarrassing to be a junior developer at a senior age?
The reality is, if you’re just starting in web development, you can expect that your first web developer job will be an entry-level or junior-level position. Some students may find that landing an apprenticeship or paid internship for their first job is the easiest way to break into tech. You may also end up reporting to supervisors who are much younger than you.
Scrimba student Theo changed careers at 49. He shares, “I didn't exactly get hired, but I did get interviewed for an apprenticeship. That means that I will be doing a full-stack bootcamp for three months to begin with whilst earning a full salary. The full apprenticeship is around 18 months, and afterward I can decide to stay (if they want me!) or find another job. I never thought I'd be getting back into programming after having left it for so long.”
According to Dan, it can feel a bit demeaning to start as a junior. “I had certain assumptions that I had when I started out as a developer. I don't think that a junior developer is junior in terms of their ability to provide value to an organization or to do work.”
Dan would prefer to reframe the title, “I think they're just new in their career. I don't like to call them junior developers. That feels a little bit demeaning. I call them new developers.”
While it may not be a job title you agree with, it’s not forever. Once you’ve got your first job, each role after that becomes easier to land. Plus, you might actually learn a thing or two!
Are there advantages to starting a web development career later in life?
Yes! There are many advantages to starting a web development career in your 30s, 40s, or 50s. You already have transferable skills that you can use in your web development career.
Learning new things helps your brain stay flexible. Learning how you learn best while staying focused and consistent will make learning new things more manageable.
Technical skills aren’t the only thing hiring managers are looking for in a developer. Just ask Dan! His communication skills from previous customer service experience helped him get his first developer job.
You’ll need to be able to communicate your skills and your willingness to learn during your job interviews. Once you get the job, soft skills help you work well on a team, communicate with collaborators who don’t code, and solve problems.
Justin noticed that communicating clearly helped him land his first job too. “Once I was able to get to the interview phase, it was a lot easier to communicate those soft skills, and also just an attitude towards learning.”
The job hunt wasn’t easy for Justin, though. He shares, “You're just going to have to put in the applications,” he says. “And eventually, someone will see the value in those bullet points you put on there. Try different versions. Eventually, it's going to stick. You've just got to be patient and not give up.”
Discipline and Dedication
You're probably serious if you’re changing careers at this phase in life – especially if you’ve learned to code in less than a year! That takes noticeable discipline and dedication.
Most recent college graduates don’t know what they want or don’t have any serious obligations. The fact that you know what you want and you have responsibilities in your personal life makes you stand out as a candidate.
Rob noticed this during his interview process. He said, “I think sharing that I have kids shows that I'm someone who's about my career and who's going to really care and be dependable.”
Most people in their 30s, 40s, or 50s have an established career. Giving that up, no matter how much you hated it, is a big decision! Many people in this age bracket have a family, kids, or property to pay off. Few passions can match the dedication of supporting a family.
You’d be surprised how many skills you already have will transfer well to web development. Non-technical competencies like teamwork, empathy, communication, discipline, problem-solving, and project management are just as valuable to many hiring managers.
Robert says, “I don't care what your age is. Use that experience you already have. I'm sure you've already learned a lot and have been in plenty of different situations. I don't think you realize the strength you have. Life experience just can't be taught.”
One way to use your previous experience as an asset is to seek out work in that niche. Justin is an excellent example of this! Another developer says, “If you have a solid background in one field, you might focus on becoming a specialized application developer.”
He continues, “For example, if your background is Automotive Engineering, learn about programming ECUs. Focus on dispatch and passenger information systems if your background is in transit. Librarians can look for library-specific software jobs.” You can, essentially, make a lateral move or even take a step up as a “subject matter expert” with development skills rather than starting at the bottom as a newbie this way.
Is it too late to learn coding? No! The world of web development needs people of all skill levels. It needs the diversity you bring with a ‘non-traditional’ background. With dozens of niches and technologies to work in, there’s sure to be one that suits you.
We could point out all of the incredibly talented and famous folks that hit their stride later in life. Among the sarcastic developers on forums, podcasts, and discord communities across the internet, the sentiment seems to be the same. Life is what you make of it, at any age, with any skill. As long as you have passion and, above all, perseverance, you can do this.