Liz Beigle-Bryant knew she had to make a career change. When she was laid off in 2012 from her job doing administrative work in finance and sales, she was earning $15 an hour, the exact same wage she made 30 years earlier as a technical illustrator.
So at the age of 55, the Seattle resident decided to reinvent herself by learning the computer languages that create websites and software programs, a skill known as coding. After just one month of taking free online courses, Beigle-Bryant started getting temporary coding positions.
Five years later, after a steady stream of contract jobs and continued online studies, she nabbed her dream job: as a web developer for Seattle’s Sound Transit transportation system. “It’s great to get the skills, and this feeling of empowerment is fantastic,” says Beigle-Bryant. “Learning to code helped me take control and be proactive. It’s important to keep learning.”
For older workers who are looking to add skills to their résumés or jump into new careers altogether, learning how to code can be a pathway. Most people who learn how to code pursue jobs helping businesses and organizations build and maintain websites, from the creative aspects of shaping how they look to the more technical side of making sure they work.
“It’s not just about coding as a career field that you enter, but how these coding skills might work in a field that you’re already in,” says Zach Sims, CEO of Codecademy. “Technology is a skill that is applicable in every field, so learning more about new technologies will make you more marketable no matter what field you’re in.”
Coding skills are in demand: The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 15 percent increase in the number of web developer jobs available between 2016 and 2026.
There are several ways to learn how to code. Some websites such as Codecademy — the one Beigle-Bryant used—offer free courses that you can try out at your pace, as well as paid courses. Another route is an immersive boot camp that requires 40 to 80 hours per week of in-person courses that can last up to 15 weeks.
Approximately 10 percent of boot camp graduates are over the age of 40, according to data from Course Report, a website that offers research and reviews of coding education options.
“We talk to people who were working for 20 years but had to take off for health or family,” says Liz Eggleston, cofounder of Course Report. “When they come back in they want to try something different. Other people don’t take any time off. They’ve been in book publishing or music or retail and then decide that they want to change careers. So, everyone kind of has a different motivation.”