I did a PhD in theoretical computer science (however with a large emphasis on implementing prototypes). However the insecure job prospects and tough competition for permanent positions led me out of academia.
Thus I joined what is basically my countries equivalent of NIST. A government job highly related to technical things, but mainly concerned with standardization and specification rather than actual Software Engineering. Not great but decent pay and very high job security. Something I could easily still do in my 50's or 60's.
I do like code however. During my PhD I did a lot of stuff in Haskell, but aside from that I was involved in some open-source things, a pattern recognition library in C, a website/portal that I run (php) etc.
I am looking for a Software-Engineering job, however I have the following big concerns:
a) is there a career path for Software-Engineers, or do you just turn out in management after all? If the latter is the case, I highly doubt that my position would be so different from what I do now.
b) I do have a lot of coding experience in churning out quick prototypes and hacking, but I simply lack the experience of a professional coder. What I worry about is that I am chasing a dream of wishful thoughts, instead of the real life of a Software-Engineer. How much time is really spent with creating algorithms and solving problems instead of project management and the like?
c) can you be still involved with actual coding if you are getting older? This might seem a stupid question, but while I do feel that I get what is currently going on, if you start having kids, a home etc, I kind of doubt that its possible to consistently compete with that fresh graduate from college. And moreover he might be much cheaper, and managers know that...
I do hear a lot of positive stuff about Google, working on projects, designing, coding, a nice place to be, basically. But then Google is just one company out of the industry, and not necessarily representative.
Apologies in advance in asking questions that might lean more to discussion than answers, but I could not imagine a better place to ask than here.