Am I too old to learn programming? Do I need a degree? Absolutely not!!

Posted by Marta on December 18, 2020 Viewed 1777 times

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Hey there! My name is Marta,  software developer for the last 10 years. I realise how foggy and intimidating the path to become a developer can be for someone with no previous experience. My goal is to help as many people as possible to become software developer. The focus of this article is clarifying the questions that I get asked more often about programming. Am I tool old to learn programming? Do I need a computer science degree?How to prove you are a good programmer without a degree?

Do I need a computer science degree to start with programming?

Absolutely not. In my experience, a computer science degree has a lot of math, and many subjects that you will never used. I did 2 subjects in my degree that have something to do with programming. The rest I learned using online courses, documentation and building my own websites and programs. And that is the case today. When a new technology comes up, I will follow an online courses and read books to get up to date. And actually that is the case for most of the developers I know. So no, you don’t need a degree, just determination, patience and willingness to learn.

A degree is an initial proof for a company that you are familiar with some computer science concepts, things like data structures, time complexity, object oriented programming, design patterns, etc. However having a degree doesn’t get you a job. Most companies will require you to make a technical test to make sure you know the necessary concepts. If you are able to pass this test, even without having a computer science degree, you will become a valid candidate.

In software engineering is all about skills. If you are able to prove your skills, creating a website, creating a login page, understanding and knowing how to implement authentication and authorisation mechanism, make an API, adding new logic to a program, this will make a viable employee. At that point, the degree become irrelevant.

How do you prove you are a good programmer without a degree?

Having a degree prove very little to a company. Building a portfolio, and with portfolio I mean a website, for instance, that solve a business or practical problem. Building a website and being able to talk about all aspects of your site: how you implement authentication and authorisation, how you ensure the quality and accurate of your code as you develop, where you host your website and how you deploy it, what libraries you choose, etc. They expect you are able to explain the decision you made and why.

Therefore while you are building your website, every time you include something new, a library for instance, make a little research, check out a few libraries that do the same, read about pros and cons, write small snippet of code to check which of the libraries is easier to use and then make a decision and include the chosen library in your project.

Am I too old to learn programming?

Another frequent question. I am in my thirties or forties, or older,  Am I too old to learn programming? I am a big believer in life-long learning. Being open to learning new skills no matter what age is a great and a really healthy aptitude. Therefore my answer is you are never too old. Learning a new skill is much more about aptitude than about age.

To give you an example, when I started my degree in computer science, most people said being a woman, a computer science degree would be too difficult for me. Because apparently most women don’t have skills to code. And now I have been a programmer in the UK for 10 years making double and triple salary than all people that told me I couldn’t do it.

So here is my advice. Don’t let people reflect their own insecurities on you. Plus sometimes people will provide opinions which most of the time are not based on any real solid evidences or data, so why would you allow some random opinion to define your future? If you want to learn programming, and you are determined you can do it, don’t listen to anything else. Define a roadmap and follow it.

Don’t take me wrong, I am not saying that programming is easy. It takes work, but it is all doable, no need to be a genius. Plus there is so much courses and good resources online. Anyone can learn with some dedication, patience and the right guidance.

Why you should start programming?

Your age or your degree should not be factors on your decision of start programming. So…how would you know if you are making the right decision? My opinion is “try it out”. You can read all about cycling, however you wouldn’t know whether you like it or not until you try it. Programming is exactly the same.

Pick a course of any high level language, python, java, javascript. Follow along the lessons, install the stuff you need in your computer, and try to do some of the exercises. You will find errors, try to fix them. Trial and error, trial and error. And then think about the experience, was it something you enjoyed?

I usually advice starting with python because is concise, meaning you can so the same thing with less code. Java and Javascript are also great languages, however due to their syntax, they usually require few more lines of code to achieve the same thing. Plus there is so much you can do with python. You could build a website, data cleaning and machine learning, infrastructure and devops. It always a good idea, specially at the beginning to quick your options open 🙂

I hope by now you feel a lot more confident and motivated about your decision of learning programming. 

What’s next?

Practice all the basics working on a projects

Something a bit more advanced: Object Oriented Programming

Would you like another opinion?

Check out a few more opinions from other developers in the freecodecamp site

If you like the article, please feel free to subscribe or follow me on youtube or facebook. That way I can let you know when I upload more tips and tutorials. Thank you so much for your time!! 🙂

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