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Looking to Switch Careers? Coding May Be Your Answer


Let’s face it: sometimes a career can go stale. When you were 18, you might have been convinced that culinary school was your passion. Or maybe that near-decade of secondary education left you with a PhD that you couldn’t care less about. Now, it seems, you might have an out: the tech industry. For those who have the drive and aptitude, a short training program might be the only thing separating you from an $68,000-a-year, entry-level salary – quite a bit better than the usual barista or waitstaff gigs that await folks who switch careers after leaving school.


(Photo Credit: Luis Llerena/

As Steve Lohr said in The New York Times last year, “people across a spectrum of jobs — poker players, bookkeepers, baristas — are shedding their past for a future in the booming tech industry. The money sloshing around in technology is cascading … into the broader digital work force, especially to those who can write modern code, the language of the digital world.”

Do You Know What You're Worth?

And it’s no joke. According to PayScale data, Software Engineers are making anywhere from $55,238 – $116,704 annually. In fact, median entry-level pay for Software Engineers, Developers & Programmers is $68,000 according to our data. Not a bad place to start.

If you aren’t sure you can afford an expensive coding bootcamp over the next few months, but still want to whet your appetite, dip your toes, or some other non-committal analogy, here are a few online schools where you can start for free. And in fact, according to a recent survey, lots coders these days are self-taught.

Check these places out, and see if you can’t surprise yourself with the change you’ve been craving.


While some “online schools” host courses from real universities and institutions, Udemy hosts upwards of 40,000 courses from individuals, companies, and schools across the world. The advantage is that they tend to be hyper-focused — and even when they do charge a fee, it’s nominal compared to that of a full-fledged college course.

Some of their coding-related coursework includes classes on Python, Java, and even iOS 9.


Unlike some of the other free learning platforms we’ll showcase, Codeacademy — as you may have already inferred — is exclusively dedicated to educating coders. It’s clear even from their homepage that their M.O. is to get students trained and ready for the workforce, no matter what their age.

Whether you’re just starting your first career, or in a mid-life transition, Codeacademy wants to find a path for you.


The genius of Coursera is that it’s simply feeding you college courses — minus the credit. It’s like you’re auditing the best schools in the country, but you don’t have to pay for airfare and commute time. Just open up your computer or mobile device, and you can instantly cruise through a coding course from Stanford, Duke, or Penn.


If you’re looking for the top names in free online learning, EdX may be your final destination. The open source platform was developed in collaboration with both Harvard and MIT, just a few years ago, to bring the best courses right to your computer.

EdX offers not only an array of coursework, but also (if you want to go the premium route) real college credit, and even certifications that you can present in your first interview as a software engineering candidate.

Tell Us What You Think!

Did you make the switch to coding? Are you self-taught or did you pay for a premium bootcamp? Is switching careers the easy way out? Share your stories and strong opinions in the comments below, or join the conversation on Twitter!

Peter Swanson
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Caroline Duggan
Caroline Duggan have a great new series of courses on coding, all are free and self-paced. Check them out here

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