What are some alternative careers for people with a background in programming?
January 9, 2012 8:56 AM   Subscribe

What are some alternative careers for people with a background in programming?

I'm a former compsci student with a background in math/physics as well. I've spent most of my time out of school working in various programming and web jobs but always planned that programming would be a temporary thing I do in my 20s before moving on to something more satisfying and/or relevant to my career ambitions. I'm currently feeling pretty burnt out and contemplating what I might set myself to be doing in a few years.

What are some career paths that someone with this background could reasonably take on?
posted by deathpanels to Work & Money (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Software testing and technical writing are two roles a programmer can usually move into, depending on his or her skillset and abilities. But you'd still be working in the software world.
posted by neushoorn at 9:08 AM on January 9, 2012

Work as a quant?

Maybe take a job at a startup where you can be jack of all trades?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:08 AM on January 9, 2012

It looks like you are about to repeat the pattern of thinking that's gotten you where you are, namely asking:" Starting from here, what could I do?"While that's a perfectly legit way of looking at things, if you have never considered programming satisfying and you have - as you hinted - unspecified career ambitions which you never considered programming to be relevant to, it might be worth asking instead:" Where would I ideally like to get to, and given where I am what is the next move I can make to head in that direction?"

As a twenty-something grad your options are far wider than you imagine. I know people who once did tech jobs who are now archaeologists, park rangers, airline executives and other things entirely unconnected with technology.
posted by philipy at 10:58 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Fill in the blank: I love doing __________________.

It can be several things, but do that first and then ask how to best transition from software into one of the above mentioned things.
posted by dgran at 11:14 AM on January 9, 2012

moving on to something more satisfying and/or relevant to my career ambitions.

What are these more satisfying/relevant fields?
posted by jacalata at 12:36 PM on January 9, 2012

My primary avocation is writing, and I have a strong interest in language, so I'd like a career that allowed me to focus more on that. I have recently considered psychology, a field I once thought about going into (but which someone convinced my 16 year old self there was no future in). I think working as a counseling could be rewarding. What is therapy but debugging for the human mind? And helping patients sort out their thoughts would allow me to apply an analytical method to a human problem, meeting a need I've long felt for a more morally fulfilling job, without sacrificing much on intellectual fulfillment. I've personally found help in CBT but I realize it's probably not the cutting edge anymore.

My pipe dream is to make it as a writer, but there aren't many people that manage to pull that off without also holding down a day job these days.
posted by deathpanels at 9:11 AM on January 10, 2012

Also take a look at the the resources I linked in my answer to this question. Those may help you get a handle on what the process might be for figuring out what you want to do and how to get there.

You might (or might not!) be interested in things like cognitive science and computational linguistics.

And there are a lot of careers that involve understanding and helping people apart from what would be termed therapy. For example teaching, facilitation and many leadership roles.
posted by philipy at 10:22 AM on January 10, 2012

I'm not sure how much opportunity there is, but counseling and therapy seems to one of those businesses that hasn't been much transformed by technology. There may be ways to apply software development to solve problems there.
posted by dgran at 11:03 AM on January 10, 2012

I trained as a programmer but am now an experimental psychologist, after taking another masters and then a PhD. I found the programming gave me a bit of a head-start on the quantitative methods, and helps enormously when running analyses e.g. in Stata. In psychology in particular there is a lot of scope for developing your own techniques using software you've written yourself; many psychologists rely on third-party software which suffers from all the drawbacks you'd imagine in a field with little competition. So there are a few options to consider there. You don't have to go the PhD route unless you want to be an academic, but it's not too bad.
posted by danteGideon at 11:43 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

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