Contrary to what you may think – it’s not uncommon for schools and bootcamps to welcome students over 40! Take Practicum alum Carlos Giestas-Gomez, a former seismologist and physicist who repurposed his experience into a successful career in data science. Using languages he learned from his previous experience, he built a prototype of a medical tool that would help doctors to diagnose, classify, and make a prognosis of genome-related diseases such as cancer. While Carlos had studied many programming languages, from Fortran to C++, he wasn’t aware of the potential of Python, the language used for machine learning. With Practicum’s help, Carlos was on a path to machine learning mastery.
His story isn’t an outlier – in fact, 20% of Practicum’s graduates are former specialists looking for a career change!
You, too, have the potential to follow in Carlos’ footsteps. However, we know it can take some in encouragement! First, let’s dispel some of the most common myths surrounding a “late” career change. Then, we’ll break down the best ways to jump into your new career!
Facing the common myths
Myth one: Having to start from scratch
You’re not starting from scratch – rather, a wealth of experience! Studies show 39 is the average age Americans change their career path! Jobs in digital industries are more approachable to real life than one may think. And mindful career advice from a consultant may help shape your way into tech based on your experience.
Life experience counts, as it allows one to focus on tasks of primary importance. Software companies tend to hire employees with solid domain expertise. Software Engineer grad Rebecca Burch shifted from a career in medicine to being a software engineer for an exciting product that provides social-emotional learning to school kids.
Myth two: The threshold for entry positions is too high
A new career takes more guts at 40 than it does at 20. One of the clear reasons is financial responsibility. People in this age range tend to seek the quickest transition possible, even more than career changers from other age groups.
But look at the numbers. The shortage of tech talent is reaching a ratio of five vacant positions to one software engineer in the U.S. And with the so-called “Great Resignation of 2021,” companies had to rethink their hiring strategies. Over the past two years, many companies have committed to hiring and educating entry-level staff.
In October 2022, Dice reported that more than 375,000 job offers were posted in one month. Many of these offers came from non-tech companies: healthcare, aerospace, finance, and consulting. As enterprises extend their online offerings, there is a greater need for professionals with a thorough understanding of the subject matter and practical technical skills.
Myth three: You can't teach an old dog new tricks
Never stop learning! Studies say that age impacts cognitive function, but ongoing work lowers the threat of menta decline. Learning a new skill in your 40s or 50s can have many advantages. (Practicum had a 73-year-old QA Engineer Bootcamp grad!)
Most professions in tech need a set of soft skills to master, like attention to detail, analytical thinking, and curiosity. Think of it this way – these same skills are crucial for Ph.D. candidates, and the average Ph.D. candidate in the U.S. is 44!
How easy can an IT career entry be? Сonsider QA Engineering if you are good at using mobile applications and spotting technical bugs. After five months of intensive training, you can get a job in the most demanding sectors, such as banking and financial SaaS.
Myth four: It takes time to grow in a tech career
How do you progress in tech jobs? Senior software engineers differ from mid-level specialists by experience, knowledge of best practices and libraries, and a combination of soft skills. There are no special exams or certificates to label the level of programming skills. Hands-on experience is what makes you grow in tech.
At the same time, constant learning adds value. IT has many sides, but whatever knowledge you get helps ramp up your expertise!
Benefits of a “late” career change
One of the most common reasons for a career change is higher pay, the aim for more flexibility, and dissatisfaction or burnout at a current job. Few industries have benefits like the tech industry, where net new job positions increase annually.
Getting paid better, even in entry-level
Information technology companies pay an average of $71,744 in the United States. High-tech giants such as Google, Apple, and Cisco reach $170,000-200,000 per year, according to Glassdoor. CompTIA research shows a median tech occupation wage is 125% higher than the median national wage in the U.S.
Being flexible on where and how you work
In the latest survey on the software developer community Stack Overflow, only 14% of almost 60,000 respondents stated they worked on-site, whereas the remaining 86% are split between remote and hybrid work. Time is a valuable asset for those who want a better work-life balance, and a job in tech can give you that.
Advance in your career as you gain experience
Regardless of your age, the tech sector gives a steady pace for progression. There are many roles in a technical team, and as you work, your responsibilities can shift according to your best qualities. When you gain more experience, you can apply for middle positions without the need to certify it in any way.
IT career checklist
A fulfilling, fruitful career is calling you! Selecting the best specialization in one the first steps to a successful tech entry. This checklist will help you start!
- Research, research, research
- Know your strengths
While you don’t need tech background for this industry, knowing your strengths is important. Attention to detail will help in data and business analysis and QA engineering. Communication skills and problem-solving will come in handy for project and product management. An excellent understanding of calculus is the core of data science and coding. Unsure of your best skills? Take a career quiz to highlight your strengths and discover which specialization may be for you!
- Choose the best job for juniors
Some junior positions are challenging to land. This is because of an excess of entry-level candidates or higher requirements for junior applicants. For instance, front end web development is easier to pursue than software development, but compensation is lower. Or an IT role connected to cybersecurity can be in much higher demand than some programming languages, though getting one would take longer. When choosing courses to study, check if they offer an onboarding consultation with a career specialist to know the latest trends. (We do it at Practicum!)
- Check the courses and certificates
Bootcamps are an excellent way to gain the qualifications needed for tech. If you value flexibility, tutors, and practical tips on future employment, a bootcamp may be for you.
There is an impressive variety of courses and platforms to start learning. When choosing one, ensure they have a realistic course length, a fair price, and a high graduate hire rate. Most trusted schools share honest alum reviews, so go ahead and speak to people who have already walked that path.
- Start learning
If a new tech specialty seems like an foreign world to you initially, don’t worry! It’s a new language to master, but persistence and dedication will pay off. Ask as many questions as you want, and always keep the desired goal in mind!
Lean on these tips as you begin your studies:
- Get a mentor. Having a senior mentor you can talk to when you’re stuck can lower your chances of giving up. A potential mentor can be your tutor or a former program alum.
- Find an internship or externship. Internships range from working at a company to offering your services to a friend or colleague. Building a website or analyzing real data is always a valuable contribution to your education and a way to enhance your portfolio. Some companies hire junior roles with experience only! At Practicum, externships are part of every program: you will have work experience as you study.
- Start applying to jobs in the early stages. The sooner you start looking for a job, the better your chances. List all ongoing courses and certifications with a future date. The recruiters will notice your hard work.
Practicum has helped over 1,000 graduates switch to a new tech career and land their dream roles! Speak to our admissions counselor today to discover which program suits you.