Am I Too Old to Be a Software Developer/Engineer?
This question, with many variations of age and position, often pop up on blogs, Quora, Reddit, and other platforms.
What does “Too Old” mean?
In general, when someone says “too old” they are more often than not referring to a person's mental maturity or physical capabilities. For example, adults in their 30’s generally would not participate in a game of tag with each other. That would not only be weird but would call into question the mental maturity of each participant. On the other hand, there are age restrictions that exist on a more mature and professional level.
Although I joined the Marines when I was just barely 17, I wouldn’t be able to join for the first time at my current age. Why? According to federal law, the military has strict guidelines for how old a person can be before they are disqualified for enlisting in the service for the first time, 42 (32 CFR § 66.6 — enlistment, appointment, and induction criteria.). I’ve already exceeded that limit and would now be considered “too old” to enlist (keep in mind there are waivers for everything). There are a few reasons for this and they make perfect sense. For one, as a person ages, their physical capabilities tend to deteriorate. For another, the military has a mandatory retirement age and they want you to have enough time to reach 20 years before you’re forced out due to that age limit (generally 62). This is all fine and dandy but what about professions that rely more on our mind instead of physical abilities?
Am I “too old” for this job?
Computer programming, software development, computer science, and software engineering all have one thing in common (besides pounding a keyboard like an insane monkey), there’s no age limit. I and a few people I went to school with are all living proof of this.
For a real-life example, a few of my fellow Software Engineer majors I had the pleasure of studying with were pushing the 50's envelope and at least one had already landed in his 60's. Now, well into my 40’s myself, I’ve not yet hit the first year anniversary of my Software Engineering job (I’m a developer/computer programmer). I definitely wasn’t too old.
Even though it was on my mind, age never came up in the interview. It seemed my future bosses and colleagues were more concerned with my understanding of the science rather than how many wrinkles and grey hairs I’d collected over the years. They were also concerned about my personality and if I’d be compatible with the current team. Word of advice, have a great story to tell about yourself! Mine was the time I “fell” out of a helicopter during training. They ended up liking me and gave me the job!
Sure, when I finally started working, there were plenty of young new hires as well. However, along with fresh young faces, I became acquainted with others who were around my age that had only been developing code for a few years themselves. Age, it seems, was not really a factor.
To answer the question more directly, are you “too old” to be a programmer, computer scientist, software engineer, etc., the answer is a big NO! Whether you are thinking of computer programming/development, software engineering, or being a computer scientist, the best advice I can give you at this point is to stop worrying about your age and jump in with both feet. If you have the determination and will to learn and apply the science, you most definitely are not too old. You can do it!
Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). 32 CFR § 66.6 — enlistment, appointment, and induction criteria. Legal Information Institute. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/32/66.6