I got bitten by the computer bug when I was 16 and aside from a few odd jobs to get me through college my career has been spent as a programmer/analyst at a handful of small companies, with a few years as a hired gun (consultant) at a fortune 50 company.
I can say without equivocation I will be in this until I retire (which is sooner than I like to think about :hehe:).
As far as recommending this career to others?
Well, yes, but with a ton of caveats.
If you follow the kind of path I did you will work alone, with minimal support, expected to handle all kinds of oddball fires while still doing development.
No one will ever understand or value what you do, so you have to love the work and do it for your own satisfaction, not the plaudits of others. While you will be reporting to others and have to develop good communication skills (written and verbal) the majority of your time will be spent alone, deep in your own mind, where you live and work inside a world of your own creation.
The money's good, but if that's all you're in it for you'll burn out within 5 years and move on--assuming you still can.
First, last, and always it's the love of the craft and nothing else that keeps you waking up in the morning eager to get to work. Because if you lose that, the day to day crap, the lack of recognition, the constant demands on your time when you *JUST WANT TO GET THIS PROGRAM FINISHED, DAMN IT!* will drive you out--or drive you postal.
And when you retire and look back on your career, your victories will be yours, your failures will be yours, and no one else will ever know what you truly did.
Still tempted by that great salary? 😀