Note: the top Stanford mba just got a offer to work for 535,000 a year. Yeehah!
With talent, street smarts and keen networking skills, you might still get good work in your 50s. Moving up to management is also a possibility, but as Microsoft’s Vaskevitch pointed out, these jobs are limited in number. Qualifications include being “verbally aggressive,” as one manager put it to me, and often a willingness to make late- night calls to those programmers in India you have offshored the work to.

Finally, those high programmer salaries are actually low, because the same talents (analytical and problem-solving ability, attention to detail) command much more money in other fields, such as law and finance. A large technology company might typically pay new law-school graduates and MBAs salaries and compensation approaching double what they give new master’s degree grads in computer science.

If you choose a software-engineering career, just keep in mind that you could end up working for one of those lowly humanities majors someday.

(Norman Matloff is a professor of computer science at the University of California, Davis. The opinions expressed are his own.)