If you have had the education, got a college degree, maybe been an intern during summer vacations then you've taken the traditional way into the business. It's not quite as easy these days as many jobs have flown overseas but there are still a lot of jobs out there.
New to programming or thinking about it? It might surprise you to know that there are many programmers who program just for fun and it can lead to a job. It isn't just a profession, but a very enjoyable hobby.
Recreational Programming - the No Job Route to a Job
Recreational programming can be a path to a programming career without having to gain experience in the job. Not with large companies though. They often recruit through agencies so track experience is essential but smaller outfits may consider you if you can demonstrate aptitude and ability. Build up experience with small companies or freelance and concentrate on building a resume that any employer is going to want.
Different Industry- Different Approach
As the computing business matures, even games programmers can get a degree in developing games these days.
So you haven't got the grades, the degree or the experience. Get your own showcase website and write about software, document your experiences and even give away software you've written. Find a niche where you are the expert that everyone respects. Linus Torvalds (the first four letters in Linux) was a nobody until he started Linux off. There are new technologies coming along every few weeks or months so pick one of those.
Show off your programming skills that you've learnt. It will cost you no more than $20 a year (and your time) to give yourself a boost in your job seeking career.
Job Agents know Enough but...
They aren't technical and have to recruit according to what their client tells them. If you have spent the last year learning version X of a hot programming language and your rsesume is up against a ten year veteran who only knows version X-1, it's the veteran whose resume will be chucked in the bin.
Freelance or Wage Slave?
The Web has made it possible to escape the college route to a job. You can be a freelancer or find a need and write software to fill it. There are many one man outfits selling software on the web.
Programmers tend to specialize by industry sector. Games programmers don't write aviation control software or valuation software for financial trades. Each industry sector has its own specialist knowledge, and you should expect it to take a year full-time to get up to speed.ImportantThese days you are expected to have business knowledge as well as technical. In many jobs, that edge will get you the job.
There are niche skills that cross sectors - knowing how to write artificial intelligence (AI)) software could have you writing software to fight war-games, to buy or sell trades without human intervention or even fly unmanned aircraft.
Will I Need to Keep Learning?
Always!Expect to be learning new skills throughout your career. In programming, everything changes every five to seven years. There are always new versions of operating systems coming along every few years, bringing new features, even new languages like C#. Its a career long learning curve. Even older languages like C and C++ are changing with new features and there will always be new languages to learn.
Am I too Old?
You're never too old to learn. One of the best programmers I ever interviewed for a job was 60!
In case you're wondering what is the difference between a programmer and a software developer? The answer is none. It just means the same! Now a software engineer is similar but not the same. Want to know the difference? Read about software engineering.