For decades, earning a college degree in computer science was seen as the best entry path to a career in technology. However, college degrees are not for everyone. What if you can’t or don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a degree? Or what if you are not willing to commit to four years of college with no guarantee that you will find a satisfying and well-paying job after graduation?
That’s where coding bootcamps come in. Coding bootcamps are short training programs with a strong focus on employment that are designed to help people break into a specific career or careers in the technology industry.
Coding bootcamps became popular in the early 2010s as an alternative to college. Bootcamps, unlike college, had one specific value proposition: to help people find a job in a specific technical field. Over 130,000 students have enrolled in these bootcamps. Today, coding bootcamps offer courses in subjects such as UX design, cybersecurity, and web development. They have become crucial hiring funnels for many tech companies.
According to Career Karma’s recent report on the bootcamp market, the average student at an in-person coding bootcamp paid $13,293 for their course. While that is probably less than what you’d pay for a four-year degree, it’s still a big investment.
It’s reasonable and wise to do some background research into whether a coding bootcamp is worth it. In this article, we aim to analyse whether enrolling in a coding bootcamp is a good investment of time and money for people who want to break into a career in tech.
A coding bootcamp can be an intense experience. After all, coding bootcamps did not get their name for being easy. You will be better able to maximize the benefits of attending if you prepare. Also, to make the most of coding bootcamp, there are a few personal qualities we think you should have. We will discuss these below. In short, you should be: (1) ready for a challenge, (2) able to work on a team, and (3) looking to start a job in tech in the near future.
First, you should be ready for a challenge. The average coding bootcamp course lasts a few months, and most bootcamps cover a lot of material during that time. In coding bootcamp, you’ll spend months in an intense learning environment focused on acquiring the practical skills you need to pursue a job in tech. People who are able to commit to this mentally rigorous challenge are more likely to benefit from the experience.
Second, you should be able to work on a team but also be comfortable with independent learning. If you prefer to learn everything by yourself, bootcamp may not be for you. One of the most important components of bootcamp is that you will be surrounded by dozens of other people who are in the same shoes as you—who want to become software engineers, web developers, data scientists, or other types of tech workers. If you’re able to work well on a team—and also enjoy independent tasks—coding bootcamp could be for you.
Third, you should be looking to start a job in tech in the near future. If you want to learn to code for fun or to build some cool projects on the side, coding bootcamp may not be for you. On the other hand, if you’re committed to switching to a job in tech within the next few months, coding bootcamp can be a good investment. Many bootcamps provide career support to help you find employment in your field of study/interest.
There are many advantages of attending a coding bootcamp. Below, we break down the two main advantages that attending coding bootcamp can give you as you transition to a career in tech.
1. You’ll learn the practical skills you need
College degrees in computer science are a good investment for people who are looking to explore the fundamentals of computer science. CS curricula may discuss subjects like algorithms, the anatomy of computers, and similar theory-based topics more than they do other, sometimes more practical ideas and skills.
Coding bootcamps take the opposite approach. Coding bootcamps are focused on helping their students get a job in tech as soon as they graduate. This means bootcamps need to keep their offerings up to date and teach the practical skills graduates are likely to use in the job market. At a web development coding bootcamp, for example, you’re more likely to learn skills like React.js and Node.js—two in-demand web development frameworks—than you are to learn much about the science of the web.
2. Coding bootcamps offer job placement support
Prospective bootcamp students want to know that graduates of the program they choose to attend fare well in the job market. Coding bootcamps, in turn, often invest heavily into their job placement services.
According to Career Karma’s 2020 State of the Bootcamp Market Report, top coding bootcamps have been able to work with a number of companies at the top of their industry who are looking to hire qualified technical talent. For instance, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, JPMorgan Chase & Co, IBM, American Express, and Uber have all hired upwards of 100 coding bootcamp graduates.
And that’s not all! A 2017 report by Indeed which surveyed 1000 technical recruiters and HR managers found that “80% of respondents have actually gone ahead and hired a coding bootcamp graduate for a tech role within their company.” In addition, Hired.com’s 2020 State of Software Engineers report found that "10% of survey respondents participated in a bootcamp and 72% of those said it helped prepare them for an engineering job."
With these statistics in mind, it is clear that many coding bootcamp graduates find work in technology, including at large tech companies.
It’s clear that coding bootcamps can help people break into jobs in tech. But not all coding bootcamps are created the same. In truth, some coding bootcamps are not worth your time and money, but other bootcamps can add significantly more value to a career in tech.
When you’re evaluating coding bootcamps, you should make sure that you optimize your search for bootcamps with strong outcomes. You may want to read reviews from coding bootcamp students and graduates or talk with graduates to try and gain a better sense of which coding bootcamps are best.
With that said, graduates may be incentivized to talk positively about their experiences, given the fact they are likely part of a broader student community to which they feel attached. Thus, it’s often best to talk with a number of bootcamp graduates, to help you get a more representative view of the average experience at any given bootcamp.
In addition, you may also want to look out for verified outcomes data from the bootcamp or an organization like the Council for Integrity in Results Reporting. This will allow you to learn more about a coding bootcamp from a more objective and data-based perspective.
Once you’ve found a top coding bootcamp—one that offers strong technical instruction and career support—then you should find it easier to seek out the final information you need to evaluate whether a coding bootcamp is right for you. This information may include the learning approaches used by a particular bootcamp and the financing options they can offer to you.
If you are committed to learning how to code, are able to work both independently and as part of a team and want to find a job in tech within the next several months, then coding bootcamp may be a great investment.
That being said, coding bootcamps are not for everyone. If you’re not looking to transition to a career in tech in the near future, if you prefer to learn at your own pace, or if you’re not up for the challenge, coding bootcamp may not be for you. Coding bootcamps can be difficult, and there may be moments where you feel overwhelmed or like you are underperforming.
Before you enrol in coding bootcamp, you should do your homework. Research bootcamps and look for a program that aligns with your personal goals. And, if you do decide to enrol in bootcamp, make sure you do some preparation before the program begins so you can hit the ground running and start on a good footing from day one.
Ultimately, coding bootcamp may be one of the best investments you ever make. Over 130,000 people have attended coding bootcamp, and it is clear that, for the right person, coding bootcamp can add a lot of value to their career. The only question is: do you think you are right for coding bootcamp?
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