Is it possible to successfully switch to a software development career later in life, even with no technical background? The answer might surprise you.
In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know for making a career change to an in-demand software development role - especially in today’s booming remote work economy. Let us start by examining why software jobs remain top destinations for career changers.
What Makes Software Development So Appealing?
Here's a staggering stat - an estimated 22 million software development jobs will need filling globally by 2025 according to Forbes. Meanwhile, universities continue graduating far fewer qualified developers than this massive demand requires. These dynamics create the prime conditions for mid-career professionals to step in and claim these abundant, high-paying jobs. But what exactly makes software development so appealing for career switchers?
Remote Work Opportunities Are Exploding
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the tech industry’s shift to remote work practically overnight. Suddenly companies got comfortable hiring developers located anywhere with an internet connection. This preference for flexible, global remote teams shows no signs of reversing even as pandemic restrictions fade. Taking a remote software job lets you work from exotic overseas locales or closer to home in lower cost areas. Forget struggling with long commutes and outrageous city rents that eat your paycheck alive.
Ageism Impacts Fewer Tech Roles
Sadly, age discrimination runs rampant across many traditional white-collar fields. Seasoned professionals often get passed up for leadership roles and promotions purely due to arbitrary age cutoffs rather than abilities or contributions. But software remains comparatively more meritocratic, especially in fast-moving startups trying to ship code under tight deadlines. If you can consistently deliver features that delight users, age takes a backseat. And by specializing in modern languages and frame works, you signal keeping pace with the latest industry advancements regardless of years working.
Coding Becomes Your Competitive Advantage
While digital skills get requested across nearly all business roles nowadays, pure software development talents remain quite rare. Learning to expertly translate user stories into executables gives you the keys to magically manifest product visions that positively impact millions of lives. Very few disciplines offer this level of creative power and ownership. And the prolific open-source ecosystem makes launching a portfolio of professional grade apps easier than ever to demo your abilities.
Compensation Grows Alongside Experience
Software developer income also typically rises in later career stages rather than suddenly plateauing. This Stack Overflow survey chart nicely shows compensation increasing well in to respondents' 50s and 60s. While exceptions certainly exist depending on role and employer, software generally rewards seasoned mastery. And contractors can earn even higher rates. This career growth model makes investing the time to reskill feel more “worth it” long term versus options offering less financial upside over time. Clearly the table looks set for fulfilling second acts in software development. But raw motivation is not enough to guarantee a successful career change. Let us explore specialized paths offering potentially faster transitions.
3 Emerging Software Roles Requiring Less Technical Depth
While some developers certainly dive deep into low level computer science and advanced programming theory, many roles exist lever aging higher level languages and frameworks without needing a ton of nitty gritty expertise. Options like these may better suit career changers through ramping more quickly:
Low Code / No Code Development
Rather than hand coding everything from scratch, “low code” and “no code” platforms provide drag-and-drop interfaces for building fully functional apps faster with less manual programming involved. For example, Salesforce offers several low code app building options atop its platforms like Lightning App Builder and Flow Builder. Platform slike Appian and Mendix take the concept even further allowing full custom web and mobile apps synthesized entirely through clicks rather than typing raw code. Specializing here allows focusing more on user experience design and business logic while offloading nitpicky coding tasks to the platform.
Web/Mobile App Hybridization Specialists
Another emerging role involves helping companies translate their legacy desktop and on-premises applications to responsive web and mobile experiences. Platforms like Progress Kinvey or Outsystems simplify “wrapping” complex backend logic with modern cross-platform UIs. Specialist developers on these platforms handle things like:
- Converting old frontend codebases to web standards like HTML5, CSS3 etc.
- Connecting legacy datastores and APIs to new presentation layers
- Ensuring critical business rules properly migrate during transformation.
- Building reusable components, templates etc. to speed future development
Demand looks strong as more companies prioritize extending desktop systems to mobile and web access.
Frontend Web Developers
You also cannot overlook classic front-end web developmentas an accessible starting point. Most websites still get built using somecombination of:
- HTML - Content structure
- CSS - Presentation and styling
Add popular frameworks like React, Vue, and Angular and you can build incredibly powerful and responsive browser-based applications accessed from anywhere. Focusing your expertise here avoids lots of advanced backend infrastructure or machine learning complexity upfront. Specialize in visualizing data in clever ways and building delightful user interfaces. Of course, this just scratches the surface of potential software niches. But hopefully these “less coding intensive” examples illustrate easier paths to start. Now let us jump into the detailed career change game plan.
9 Key Steps for Switching to Software Development
Transitioning into an entirely new field like software can feel overwhelming. But breaking things down into clear milestones helps immensely.
Here are nine key steps to set your career change inmotion:
1. Choose Your Language(s)and Focus Area
2. Start Building Things ASAP
Beyond intro tutorials, bridge to actively creating personal projects for cementing new concepts plus demonstrating applied coding abilities later. Free resources like CodeSandbox and CodePen allow building sharable apps without installing anything locally. Do not overthink building an entire production app at first. Focus mini projects on sharpening particular skills like API integration, data visualization, design implementation etc. Tracking project code on Github also shows progress over time as you tackle new features.
3. Develop Both Left Brain and Right Brain
While software development leans technical, do not over look the creative aspects. Great engineers meld analytical precision with imagination for dreaming up solutions. So read on design principles, UX psychology, UI patterns etc. Explore how the world’s top consumer and enterprise apps engage people under the hood. Developing this blended mindset prepares you for better discussing product requirements with less technical teammates down the road.
4. Strengthen Your Foundation
Self-initiated learning is awesome but reaches its limits over time. Enrolling in structured programs (even free ones) ensures building a solid base before reinforcing the basics ad nauseam. For example, Harvard's massively popular CS50 course covers essential computer science topics like data structures, algorithms etc. with enough hand holding for total newcomers. Many dedicated code training bootcamps also exist helping pivot beginners in to junior developer roles in months. Programs from providers like Springboard, Thinkful, Flatiron School etc. focus on teaching web and software fundamentals then directly placing graduates with partner employers.
5. Keep Sharpening Your Skills
Programming evolves incredibly fast. What is hot today feels dated tomorrow. Set aside consistent time for learning new languages, frameworks, and best practices.
Great ways to stay sharp include:
- Taking interactive courses on platforms like Udemy, Coursera, and edX.
- Reading programming books and blogs like Smashing Magazine.
- Listening to developer podcasts like Syntax, CodeNewbie, and Full Stack Radio.
- Building side projects trying new concepts.
- Attending local Meetup events and coding workshops.
- Participating in online communities on Slack, Discord etc.
Positioning yourself as a lifelong learner keeps your skills marketable for the long haul.
6. Develop Professional Etiquette
Beyond technical aptitude, cultivating “soft skills” for inter facing with colleagues and stakeholders becomes crucial when joining development teams. Take time strengthening abilities like:
- Written and verbal communication
- Business analysis
- Requirements gathering
- Team collaboration
- Project management basics
These talents demonstrate capacity to understand business needs and technical constraints for converting ideas into working software.
7. Build an Online Presence
Creating an online personal brand highlights skills and proficiencies for prospective employers. Ways to amplify visibility include:
- Launching a portfolio website showcasing coding projects and apps.
- Creating a GitHub profile openly sharing code repos.
- Posting projects and insights on LinkedIn.
- Authoring technical blog posts and tutorials.
- Participating in forums and Q&A sites like StackOverflow.
This exposure captures recruiter attention even without formally applying to roles yet.
8. Expand Your Professional Network
Referrals statistically drive better job-hunting results than blind applications through company sites. Expand connections by:
- Reaching out for informational interviews.
- Attending local tech Meetups.
- Messaging developers on LinkedIn, Twitter etc.
- Participating in coding Slack groups and Discord servers.
Discussing work, projects, and challenges with peers builds authentic relationships leading to new opportunities.
9. Consider Transitional Roles
Rather than directly chasing pure software engineering jobs from the start, explore transitional roles leveraging existing expertise while integrating light coding responsibilities:
- Solutions Architect
- Technical Program Manager
- Customer Success Manager
- Sales Engineer
- Technical Writer
- QA Automation Engineer
These “hybrid” options offer simpler breaking in points to gain experience and credibility before fully committing to a developer career switch. By working methodically through foundational training, skill building, and networking steps rather than rushing haphazardly, you set yourself up for a fulfilling second chapter developing software professionally. Now let us explore typical salaries and job prospects awaiting in your new career.
Software Developer Pay: Salaries and Job Growth Outlook
Salaries for software developers cover a wide spectrum based on experience, tech stack, company type, and geographical location. But across the board, developer incomes out earn most other professions requiring similar education levels. Here are typical software developer salary ranges:
- Entry Level Software Engineer: $65,000 to $95,000
- Software Engineer (5+ years): $105,000 to $140,000
- Senior Software Engineer: $130,000 to $185,000
And specialized roles and skills like machine learning engineers or Salesforce developers can expect even higher potential earnings plus equity offers at technology firms and lucrative contracting gigs. Long term prospects also look stellar according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting 22% growth for software developers through 2030, which is much faster than average for all occupations.
Ready For Your New Career?
Hopefully, this gives you renewed confidence that successfully transitioning into software, even from a completely unrelated field, remains quite achievable for ambitious mid-career professionals. Remember to focus initial training around simpler languages and niche skills offering faster ramp up before branching into advanced computer science topics. Maintaining this momentum step-by-step culminates in fulfilling new developer career horizons opening ahead.
Visit RemoteHub to browse open remote software development jobs with incredible companies and take that first step towards positive change today!