Whenever I talk to a teenager who isn’t sure what classes to take in college, I get excited and I tell them to get a career in computers. And if you are old like me and in your 50s, a career in computers is still a great choice. There are tons of computer jobs out there, and the future looks bright for those of us who have a career in computers. You will always be learning something new, you will never be bored, and you will be making a really good salary.
You don’t need a 4 year college degree
I have been working in the computer field for over 25 years, and I rarely see anyone in my field with a 4 year college degree. Just about all of the best network administrators and programmers I have worked with have no degree at all. Honestly, a 2 year degree at a community college will get you a job interview at most places. And once you get your first 2 to 5 years of job experience, you have a golden ticket to your next employer.
My advice – go to a community college. Take classes in network administration and some C++ programming. You could even take some free programming classes at Code Academy. I learned mostly how to write code by reading a few books and doing google searches.
A long time ago, when I was going to college, I got hired before I finished my degree. That’s the way it was 25 years ago, and that’s even true even today. You won’t start at the top making six figures. That comes later with experience. Your first job will probably be as an entry level help desk administrator. And a year or 2 later, you can become a programmer or network administrator. It’s great to start at the bottom, and that’s where most people start. You won’t be at the bottom for very long if you are any good at your job.
It’s crazy how many computer jobs out there for the taking
Today, I decided to browse through the number of the technical support jobs on Craigslist as I was writing this article. And even in my small little town with a population of 12,000 – there are 8 openings within a 1/2 hour drive of where I live. If I were to move 2 hours further south down to Seattle, there are a whopping 300 technical support jobs listed and over 70 new positions created every week. It’s crazy how much work is out there.
And those were just the technical support positions I found. Technical support positions are mostly entry level help desk jobs and they do not include the higher level positions which include programmers, DBAs, or network administrators. In Seattle, there is an equal amount of these higher level positions as there are technical support jobs.
To give you an example of how easy it is to find work – I lost my network administrator job 3 years ago to an outsourcing company. It took me less than 3 months to find another job. I would have found a new job faster, but I decided to take a 2 week trip over to Thailand while I had the time off. And the new job I landed pays better than the job I lost. Like I said, it’s crazy how many jobs are out there.
You can start a career in computers at any age – Age doesn’t matter
There is a very interesting article by Tech Republic which describes that older workers are just as tech savvy as younger ones. It’s true and I have agreed with this statement my entire career.
Right now, I am working at a small hospital in a computer department of just 10 people. I am over 50, and I am the third oldest person in our department. As a matter of fact, just last year, one of our co-workers retired at the age of 65. This older employee was really fun to work with and was sharp as a tack. He also had no problem keeping his skills sharp like the rest of us. For this reason, whenever we look for a new employee, age is simply not a factor.
In every place that I have worked, whenever I help in the interview process – I look at 2 qualities. Does this candidate have the skills to do the job, and does this candidate have a fun personality. Both of these qualities carry equal weight. I don’t look at a person’s age, and I don’t look for a college degree.
How do I get my first computer job?
Lot’s of places offer internships, even if they are not looking to hire somebody. Just find out who the IS manager is, and tell them you are taking some computer classes and you’d like to intern for free. Most IS departments are buried in work, and would love to have some help. At the hospital where I work now, we have a department of 10 people, and 3 of them started as interns.
And even if the employer you interned with doesn’t hire you, being an intern looks great on a resume. Two of our last interns last year quickly found their first jobs working as desktop support technicians after their internship ended. One of those guys was in his twenties, and the other was in his late 50’s.
So weather you are fresh out of high school or and older person looking to switch careers – getting a career in computers is easier than you think.