I need some career advice. Any genuinely informed advice that anyone can give would be greatly appreciated.

I'm 55 years old. I was a DOS programmer 20 years ago for @ 4 years. I retired from an unrelated field about 5 years ago, but now I need to go back to work. If I can get my skills up to that of today's entry-level Windows programmers, is there any real chance that anyone will hire me in the U.S., especially considering today's job market? Be honest - I need to make a decision about what to do. Thanks.

If I were you I would go to a real career advisor. I know they exist in my contry, hopefully you can find one in yours:)

If I were you I would go to a real career advisor. I know they exist in my contry, hopefully you can find one in yours:)

That's precisely why I posted the question here. I went to SIX "real career advisors", and they did me the good service of educating me that "real career advisors" are charlatans that know nothing. Think about it - a field that has no accreditation, no formal education available, less qualification to judge someone's programming skills than "human resources" workers, and no salary (they act as consultants, and all 6 I spoke to seemed to be less than successful). Now that doesn't PROVE anything - but my interviews with them came close enough.

Don't get me wrong - thanks for taking the time to answer. But I'm hoping some people can offer their impressions about hiring practices in the companies in which they work.

Have you done any programming recently?

And I don't mean necessarily in anything up-to-date: I just mean ANY programming. If so, then you're still possibly pretty sharp with your analytical skills, so you could pick up another programming language fairly quickly.

Most work you're going to find these days is in web development and in web service development. That's going to be either Java or .NET. You already have the fundamentals down regarding programming itself, so picking up the concepts and the languages are going to be where you'd need to get your start. Start by picking up some books (I actually like the C# for Dummies books, and the O'Reilly Learning C# 2010 ones), and read through them. Do the examples. Then, start checking out online tutorials on things you didn't quite catch from the books.

At least in my area, your programming experience would be considered "junior" in C#, but you'd probably get credit for the years of programming experience overall. You're not going to make huge bank starting off, but it will be something you can build on.

Yeah, I've been teaching myself Visual C# for about 6 months, but I haven't done anything for pay.

I feel I can probably get myself up to a contemporary "junior" Windows programming level in maybe another few months, but what I'm concerned about is that no-one will consider me as a hire at my age. Maybe just as a consultant at first? And is anyone even hiring in this economic meltdown?

Lots of people are hiring from what I see but at unusually low rates. It is an employers market right now and they are taking advantage of it.

I'm an old programmer myself (not quite as old as you, but close :)) and am currently unemployed. I am getting interviews so it isn't hopeless :)

people are hiring younger people right now ... belive me, i know ...

but when it comes to programming, i really doubt theres an age limit, as long as you're sane, and you are talented in programming, then its you and your luck ...

C# is a very good language and alot of people are looking into it, but C# isnt like knowing C++ or C!, C++ and C are the classics, and knowing any one of those + C# will get you a GREAT job (hopfully). i know a little of C and some of C++, but im hoping to learn more.
even when applying to microsoft, C, C++ or C# is require and the more languages you know the better!

Java is getting quite famous too.
but web apps and anything go to do with the internet is whats HOT! AJAX, ASP.NET, PHP, things like that.

If I can come with a little prediction:

Html5 and javascript "programmers" will be the next big thing. It might be useful to learn some of that, and maybe get some nice tech demos of some html5 stuff up. I guarantee that almost any big firm is going to convert their web page to this standard pretty soon, so there will probably be many jobs in this sector. This might not be the sort of programming you are used to, but I doubt anyone would regard any of these skills as something negative.

I might be wrong in this of course, but my best guess would be as mentioned above. At my university there are several companies that have workshops and lectures in many fields strongly (if not directly) related to html5 and javascript. Certain companies gives out internships based on the best results in javascript-workshops and so forth, so it is a very hot field.

Hope this can help you a little:)

Here's my experience:

Granted, I'm 28, but I've got 6 years of .NET development (Web, Winforms, Web Services) under my belt. I just got a new job, and I get 3-4 calls a week from recruiters looking for someone with my skills.

From my perspective, the market's open in my area. If you're willing to work on contract, you can get a pretty decent hourly rate-- a "Junior" level dev in my area is getting around $28 an hour.