Becoming an App Programmer, Where to Start?

Hi guys,
I'm in my mid-30s and have been in sales for 10 years. I've finally had enough and want to change career. Years ago I did a short course on Matlab coding and really enjoyed it but didn't pursue it further. I've been thinking and I really want to become an app programmer. Currently I'm doing some online courses on udemy and really enjoy it. I want to take it further and become an app programmer, hopefully in 3 years time. I'm just unsure where to start. Could someone give me some pointers such as what degree should I enrol in TAFE or Uni? And maybe what online courses should I focus on to gain more knowledge?
Thank you in advance for your help :D
P.S. Forgot to mention I live in Sydney


  • +6

    You’ll be competing with uni graduates… that would mean you are likely to not be top of list for candidate selection as you’ll be completely fresh into the field.

    Tell us a bit more about you work experiences and how it could be transferable to programming. Eg domain knowledge or experiences that are gained from working.

    Or maybe internal job opportunities in your existing company, this might be your best chance to get into programming job IMHO.

    • +1

      I would much rather someone who has lived in the real world than a grad personally.

      • Maybe during the year 2000. These days there are plenty of qualified people to replace real world shot guns.

        • +1


        • +1

          plenty of qualified people to replace real world shot guns.


      • +1

        This is literally the plot to The Internship

  • +1

    I have a basic app I need developed if you want some experience. FOC of course.

    • Tried no code tools?

      • +5

        I don't want to do it.

        I want someone else to do it for free.

    • Thanks for the offer but I don’t think I’m there yet. I’ve only started :)

      • +1

        It's very simple, I think.

        • OZB Paint app?

          • +5

            @CityEnd: Yep. To draw car accident scenarios in full hd with a palette of colours, icons and crash symbols.

  • I would think even starting later on in life there would still be opportunities for people who want to do programming. The other side of the coin is that as a mature student, candidate you’re more secure in your life, more mature, more willing to learn and apply yourself. Sure, younger people might be a bit cheaper but I was an idiot when I was early 20’s.

    I would think that Uni’s would be doing mid-year intake for computer science degrees, so might be worth asking the careers advisor folks at the Uni, or the Program Director for Computer Science who can probably give you some advice and direction.

  • +3

    Why not keep doing the udemy stuff? The results from your programming will be much better on your resume than some tafe course.

    • +1

      Finally, someone else who is an app programmer (or hires them, or at least has spoken to one at some point in their life).

      I got my degree but wouldn't recommend it to someone who's already been in sales for 10 years and wants to switch jobs. Online learning, stackoverflow, and just building your own apps for fun will build up a portfolio that can get you contract work or a full time job.

      Save up enough so you can afford to live on a crappy entry-level programmer wage for 6-12 months. After that you can switch jobs and easily double your salary (and again in at about 3-5 years experience).

      Good luck.

  • Do a qualification like this

    Won't take as long as a degree but still a decent qualification to get into a graduate / entry level position. It will be more practical skills and less theory (which is bad as long as you're willing to put outside time into understanding stuff when you're working). If you can prove your talent you can then get into a proper developer job and not worry that you don't have a full degree.

    You're not likely to find a developer job without some kind of qualification. The sorts of people that do it without degree are the sort that are very passionate, have strong natural talent and have been drawn to it since they were teenagers. They'll have amazing portfolios which is how they land their first jobs and work up from there. Not people looking for a career change later as they are bored with what they're doing.

  • +2

    Some people prefer hands-on learning. Try developing a TODO app, email app, tic tac toe app, and other simple apps. Don't start a big app unless you're okay with likely not finishing it! Plus, having several apps, you can use it as a portfolio to get a job! "Here's the first app, look how bad it is? See this latest app where I incorporated notifications, quasar, etc" Employer = :O

    In addition, join stack overflow / discord / etc. So you can ask questions and see responses to other questions.

  • +1

    I'm sorry the post wasn't very detailed.
    I graduated from civil engineering 8 years ago. Worked for a bit but just wasn't for me. Long story short, I quit and took a sale job. I'm financially stable so money isn't my main interest. I'm planning to continue doing the udemy courses to improve my knowledge but I also want to do a degree to get the qualification.
    As I will be starting much later than most competitors, I'm not expecting to get a job in the short term. My plan would be having a degree in 3-4 years time while also improve on my knowledge through online courses and side projects. I'm just not sure what degree I should be enrolling in.
    I'm thinking about doing the Cert IV in Programming ICT40518 (only 18 weeks) and then maybe a Diploma then Bachelor Degree in Computer Science (3 years?). I'm also looking at the but not sure if it would be worth it. I'm unsure if where to start or what my other options are.
    Thank you for the reply guys.

    • +1

      Good on you moving on from engineering. It wasn't really my cup of tea either.

      • What's wrong with engineering?

    • +3

      If you have a degree already, look at a graduate certificate, graduate diploma or masters. A bit expensive (as usually not covered by hecs). But there have been deals going on the recent past for some degrees and graduate degrees in useful fields to be covered by hecs to encourage people into them. Most graduate computer science degrees offered at CSU are suitable for people with limited IT background and can be done by distance.

      Eg Masters of IT which is articulated so if you want to bail early you can still end up with a grad cert or grad dip.

      • Sorry for my ignorance. Isn't graduate certificate for people who already working or have good knowledge in a particular field?

        • +3

          Nope you can do them to retrain for something new.

          Book a conversation with a course adviser, you can explain what your experience is like and they can tell you what would be suitable for you to attain the goals you're after

        • +1

          I completely agree with the above. I've only recently completed my IT degree even though I've been working as a programmer for 20+ years. I was unaware of the grad cert or master's option for me as a mature age student and that would have been a better option. I only did my degree as a thing to do at night rather than waste time gaming, and I'm doing the same now with my masters of IT. Places can also offer you credit for prior learning for masters even if you have a degree in another field, always good to discuss your options with a course advisor.

          • @DSXC: I made same mistake. Company was paying for it, so I chose 4 year degree over 2 year masters. Company went bust beforce I finished - managed to get an Advanced Diploma for my 3 years.

            I'm going to have to do masters. I'm not eligible for too many opportunities requiring a minimum bachelor's degree.Just want to find a company that will finance it.

    • Being an engineer myself and working as civil engineer, one thing I learned that this country is for tradies … maths' not important as long as you can fix pipes and cables and erect wooden frame … that is the real reason why so many new built high rise has problems left right & centre… !

      An engineer get paid 1/2 of the wages that is earned by tradies on building site… really disappointing to be an civil engineer in Australia…. but unlike you I can't change this field as in my fifty's I am now looking more casual jobs like parcel delivery through amazon … !

  • +2

    I can’t recommend Pluralsight enough

    Much better than the mess of courses available on Udemy

    I’m a developer and still use Pluralsight on a weekly basis

    All I can say is that really hang in there. Coding can really wear you down but you just have to watch the videos over and over again until “the penny drops” and you’re on your way

    • Thank you. I’ll go through the udemy courses I bought and then try pluralsight.
      Just a quick question, I’m doing html courses now to get some basic as my friend recommended. What do you recommend I should look into next?

      • I guess I’d like to know more about your plans on being an “APP” programmer

        The term app really relates to smartphone apps however you can build web apps and store apps

        If you’re starting off with HTML then you’re really starting with web development which isn’t bad but it’s not app development

        To be honest I originally started off with udemy courses but then just went to Pluralsight. Pluralsight is pricier but worth every single cent

        Back to your question on starting with HTML.
        W3school is a good start
        If you also learn how to use “bootstrap” (library for building websites) it’ll get you up to speed quickly

        • Ideally I would like to be working on smart phone app. I have always interested in how the app is made and want to be able to make my own. Where do you recommend I should start?

          • +1

            @wayne7190: Sign up to the Pluralsight trial

            They have a great iOS fundamentals program where they create your first app

            Strongly recommend it

            I have dozens of options for you but I think this is the best way to start

            • @YLD1: Thank you. I'm currently doing the HTML course on pluralsight. Will do the iOS one after :)

      • Pluralsight has the free April offer running now: So just 12 days or so left. Not sure if you can stack it with the 10 days free trial, might need to register with a different email.

  • +2

    Do you have in mind what kind of apps (eg Web apps, android/ios, …?). In some ways that will effect what path to take.

    I've recently started a bootcamp in Web development as part of a career pivot (mid 30s here) , early days so it's hard to comment in great detail on the experience and propsects, but my journey so far:

    • always had an interest in and dabbled in html/css, managing Web sites and general digital web technology.
    • signed up for 'automate the boring stuff' python course on udemy (free of course. Seems to get posted on OzB every other month.) Absolutely loved it and realised coding might be a viable opportunity for me.
    • spoke with people in Web development to better understand what they do, got their advice and insights
    • worked my way through (I can't recommend this enough, it is an amazing resource!) . Learned a very solid foundation of the base Web dev technologies (HTML, css, JavaScript, frameworks like react, etc)
    • joined a bootcamp.

    So far I feel like what I've been taught in the course hasn't been 'better' than what I learned on my own, in free self study. A lot of people people online said courses are a waste of money for this reason. They're not completely wrong, but I also found it hard to find sufficient time and sometimes also the discipline to sit down and get through study after a full regular work week. It's also harder to get quick feedback on minor issues you get stuck on or have difficulty understanding.

    That, for me, is where the course comes in. I've cut my work to part time and I now have dedicated time (course days) to focus on study. With the added benefit that the course forces you to develop at least a basic and structured portfolio via assignments, as well as networking benefits. That for me is where the value is, even though on paper it seems like throwing money away

    As for prospects post-course, they're offering assistance to get us into (unpaid) internships that may lead to actual employment. I'm conflicted about the idea tbh, but it's an opportunity that may open doors if you have nothing else. I'm in a lucky position where I already work with developers in my current line of work, so I may be able to transfer internally, and failing that I've built enough connections over the years that I'm confident someone in my network could get my CV in front of the right person. That said, I fully expect I'll be grinding it at junior level for a good chunk of time.

    Hope that helps, and good luck!

    • Great to see that's I'm not alone in this situation. I'm really committed to this as I already put in my request to drop my full time to part time so I have more free time to learn. I'm also looking at bootcamp but was recommended to start off with some online self study and maybe a quick TAFE course so I have some base knowledge first before I take the bootcamp

      • Tafe before a bootcamp is possibly unnecessary, unless you're completely green with zero knowledge. Even then, at least with the bootcamp I'm at, no prior knowledge is necessary (though some of my classmates without absolutely zero prior experience are finding it challenging). There will be some pre-course work they give you to help get you up to speed before starting, so if you're committed and fairly technically adept, you'll have no problems.

        There's many paths you can take, no real right or wrong… Just what works for your personal circumstances. If you have any questions, feel free to DM me 👍

        EDIT: to be clear, I agree with advice you've received to get some base knowledge before a bootcamp. Some udemy courses or spending some time learning from freecodecamp should give you a really solid base to start your journey.

    • In my experience you’re better off learning on your own and then doing some courses so you can understand the theoretical part of programming

      Anyone can get up and code but to truly understand how to structure code and become an engineer is how you make your career

  • +2

    If you've already got an engineering degree, and some experience in Matlab, then have you considered data science as a profession? It's one of the fastest growing/highest demand fields right now due to the focus on AI/Big Data. However, there's dozens of other adjacent career opportunities that may suit you more, ranging from business analyst, reporting/dashboards, to game programming.

    There's a misconception that this profession requires intense math knowledge too. Sure, someone in the team should be a fully fledged statistician, but a general data scientist just needs a good logical grip on the theories and good pattern recognition.

    If this is an area you would be interested in, I'd strongly recommend learning Python as your language of choice. It's incredibly flexible, powerful, and used across many different fields. And once you know one language, it's very easy to get a basic grasp of any other language (except the more low level languages, but most of the terminology still applies).

    I strongly believe that you shouldn't strive to be/learn an "App Developer", but should instead learn general development then apply that knowledge to apps. The problem with app development is that you need an idea more than skills. Then you need to keep having ideas. So successful app developers are more just successful business developers. See a need, develop a solution. So the app career isn't even remotely stable. However, if you're a proficient developer in general and come up with a good app idea, it's not hard at all to pivot and make an app (even in your spare time).

    My personal journey took me down this path. I initially learned multimedia design at Uni with some basic SQL/HTML, then floated around various industries. Now I manage a team of customer insights analysts for a large specialist retailer. Similar to you too, this career change didn't happen until I was 30. Now I've been happily at the one company for 8 years.

    • Thank you for your advice. I've been recommended to learn Python a lot. I planned to learn it but I'm not sure if I should start with Python straight away or learn some basic html/sql before jumping into Python

      • SQL will be very important to almost any job in development. Even apps tend to store their information in some form of database. It's also one of the easiest languages to learn quickly, as it's almost natural language structure. The thing I found most useful for staying engaged with learning SQL, was to use real world data/examples. Take a look at the /r/dataisbeautiful subreddit for some great inspiration. Coincidentally, most of the visualisations on there are developed using Python.

        How I started learning Python was actually through a completely unrelated hobby of mine - home automation. The platform that I use for it is built using Python, so you can extend it fairly easily with some basic Python knowledge.

      • Html and sql are not programming languages. You'll need to learn at least one programming language to do anything. If you want to write apps you'll need Java, JavaScript, and objective C. Python is more for scripting

        • They are not. They are structured languages however that offer a great gateway to actual programming. This is especially true for HTML as it very quickly branches to JS, and server-side scripting.

          And saying that Python is more of a scripting language is fairly accurate, but you can do a HECK of a lot with scripting

          • @trankillity: I wouldn't say html branches to JavaScript anymore than it branches to PHP

    • I've seen the business analyst role pop up much more frequently lately, usually in the context of BI, is the role having something of a renaissance?

      • In my experience it's always been in high demand. Not sure why you've anecdotally been seeing it more lately. Perhaps just related to your search history?

    • The problem with app development is that you need an idea more than skills. Then you need to keep having ideas. So successful app developers are more just successful business developers. See a need, develop a solution. So the app career isn't even remotely stable. However, if you're a proficient developer in general and come up with a good app idea, it's not hard at all to pivot and make an app (even in your spare time).

      You don't need to start your own app business… just get a job for a normal company and work on their app's like most app developers do.

  • +1

    Start by doing personal learning through Udemy, online courses, videos.

    Do a boot camp through Coder Academy, General Assembly, etc.

    Go for internships, graduate roles.

    1. I am a development manager who manages several teams of developers etc
    2. My partner did the above last year during Covid. He quit a job that he hated, did some personal learning then completed a 3-month coding bootcamp through General Assembly. He joined a consultancy company in Feb as an Associate Consultant.

    • +1

      I had a friend who also did General Assembly (after she got her degree though). Good to know that it works for people in similar situation like me. I'll certainly look into taking it after some learning

    • How much does your partner get charged out at?

      • My friend did it over 2 years ago. Was 15k from memory

    • Your partner was very lucky. I am a career changer who just graduated with a computer science degree (HD avg), internships at faang and a 3-month bootcamp as well. I have not been able to find a job.

      • Isn't there like a major shortage?

  • +1

    For iOS start with Stanford Uni CS193P - all online for free

  • As I know you need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in a computer science major, understand system design, data structuring, and programming. When my brother was applying for a job in as a mobile app developer, they required knowing of computer-programming languages such as C++, HTML, and Java, and a master’s degree was preferable. They also asked if he knows Adobe Flash Lite, Objective C, and Python.

  • look up OSSU maybe

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