Coding Bootcamp Pros and Cons: Is It Right For You?
Maybe you’ve grown tired of your current career. Or, you’re looking to expand your skill set. Whatever it is, you know you don’t want to (or can’t) go back to “traditional” school. In many cases, you might be out of luck. But, if you’re considering a switch to computer programming, consider attending coding bootcamp.
Coding bootcamps are an alternative to traditional computer science degree programs. They are generally less expensive and faster than returning to school and could help you take the first steps to a new career. If you’re already a programmer, a coding bootcamp could help you learn new skills that help advance your career.
But coding bootcamps aren’t for everyone. And, though they sound like the perfect alternative to school, that’s not always the case. There are pros and cons you should be aware of before you enroll in any coding bootcamp.
What Is Coding Bootcamp?
When you think of bootcamp, you probably think of army bootcamp. However, unlike the army, coding bootcamp doesn’t involve 5 a.m. wake-up calls or cleaning anything with your toothbrush. Just like army bootcamp, coding bootcamp is short and intensive. However, instead of learning how to be a soldier, you learn how to be a programmer.
Most coding bootcamps are between four and six months long. In addition to attending class, there is outside homework, too. While some programs let you attend class when it’s convenient for you (like online bootcamps), many require frequent in-person attendance and expect you to stay in class for eight hours a day.
While coding bootcamp is more like a trade school, you do have to apply and interview for acceptance. Most bootcamp programs focus on a “specialty.” For example, some bootcamps may only teach you Ruby on Rails, while others may focus on user experience and design.
Who Are Coding Bootcamps For?
Coding bootcamps are for anyone that wants to learn how to code. In general, people in coding bootcamps are career changers and have a college degree in a different field. However, some participants don’t have any degree.
It is also worth noting that some bootcamp participants already have a computer science degree or come from a technical background.
The Pros and Cons of Coding Bootcamp
Before you sign up for any coding bootcamp, you should understand not only the pros and cons of coding bootcamp but also what you can expect—and should not expect—from your coding bootcamp experience.
Pro: Coding Bootcamps Are Short(er)
Given that it takes approximately four years to get a traditional college degree in computer science, 14 or so weeks is a drop in the bucket in terms of time spent in school. In fact, 14 weeks is less time than it takes to earn a degree from a community college or to complete a graduate degree.
Pro: Coding Bootcamps are Less Expensive Than a Degree
Even a four-year degree from a public university at the in-state tuition rate costs, on average, twice what you pay for coding bootcamp ($25,290). While you can’t get a student loan to cover your bootcamp costs, you’ll still pay far less than you might for college.
Pro: Coding Bootcamp Can Help with the Fundamentals
You may not learn everything you need to know to become a programmer and have to do additional work beyond bootcamp to improve your coding skills. But, at a coding bootcamp, you’ll learn some of the fundamentals of programming.
Even though some employers feel that some bootcamps don’t prepare graduates for work in the programming field, one study found that 72% of employers thought that bootcamp graduates were just as prepared as people who completed a four-year computer science degree.
Con: Job Placement Rates Aren’t Great
Many coding bootcamps report eye-popping job placement rates (for example, that 98.5% of graduates get full-time jobs within six months of finishing the program). However, critics point out that there is no independent audit of these results.
For example, a bootcamp may say that program graduates were employed within six months of graduating, but “employed” doesn’t have a standard definition. “Employed” could include freelancers, apprenticeships, or even temporary employees who work less than 12 weeks.
And, in the cases where graduates had full-time jobs before entering the program, those jobs often count in the employment figures, even if the bootcamp did nothing to help the graduate find a job. The key here is that a coding bootcamp doesn’t guarantee gainful employment, and that you should look beyond the surface when analyzing these claims
Con: Preparation Varies
One reason job placement rates are questionable may be due, in part, to the fact that some employers feel that coding bootcamp graduates are not adequately prepared for programming jobs. Companies have complained that coding bootcamps don’t do enough to teach participants the fundamentals of programming, instead focusing on teaching them how to work with a specific tool. This can leave bootcamp graduates unprepared to deal with novel situations because they don’t have a solid coding foundation to stand on, and can only solve problems “one way.” Many graduates (but not all) lack real world experience in a coding job, too.
Con: Coding Bootcamps Are Long
The average coding bootcamp is 16 weeks long, though some can stretch as long as 24 weeks. While that may not sound like a long time compared to a traditional degree, most bootcamp programs are full-time. You have to attend class Monday through Friday between nine and five. That makes it nearly impossible to hold a full-time job — or even a part-time job — while you complete bootcamp.
And while there are part-time bootcamps, you will likely have to sacrifice a lot of night and weekend time as all programs require extensive work outside the classroom — including time to complete homework before the classes start.
Con: Coding Bootcamps Can Be Expensive
While bootcamps are not as expensive as a traditional degree, you cannot take out a student loan to cover the cost. And you generally have to pay the entire fee upfront. Given that bootcamps costs an average of $11,906 (2018) without student loans, bootcamp may still be out of reach for many.
That said, some programs offer scholarships and payment plans for those in need. Other programs are experimenting with income sharing agreements or deferred tuition models to assist students with the cost.
How to Pick a Coding Bootcamp
If you’ve decided that coding bootcamp is the way to go, make sure you do your homework first.
That means more than choosing a reputable bootcamp. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure a coding bootcamp will help you achieve your professional goals.
What Does It Teach
Coding bootcamps tend to focus on a particular language. Depending on your career goals, you may be better off in one program versus another. Make sure you choose a program that will teach you the things you need for your specific career path.
What Is the Job Placement Program Like?
Some bootcamps offer job placement assistance. They may host interview fairs, help you retool your resume, or even conduct mock interviews. Other coding bootcamps have extensive professional networks that you can leverage before you graduate.
However, not every bootcamp offers job placement assistance. Some programs have a list of companies where graduates have found work, and that’s it. While a bootcamp program can’t guarantee you a job, supportive job placement services may be essential.
What Is the Graduate Success Rate?
Don’t take all the job placement statistics at face value. Ask deeper questions and find out what’s behind those numbers. Ask how long it takes for graduates to find jobs. Then, ask what their job titles are and how long they worked in that job. Find out if the job was temporary or even an unpaid internship. Are graduates freelancing? How does the program define “employed?” Are graduates working in unrelated fields? If someone finds full-time work selling cable in a big box retail store, does that count?
Coding Bootcamp May Be the Right Choice
Coding bootcamp has its pros and cons, and you may decide that one outweighs the other. If you decide that coding bootcamp is right for you, make sure you do your homework to match yourself with the right program that will help you accomplish your career goals.
Whether you’ve just finished a coding bootcamp, are already a computer programmer, or are just wondering what kinds of programming jobs are out there, we’ve got programmer job listings for you. FlexJobs members get full access to these listings every day. Not a member? Join now and find out what a career in computer programming could look like for you.
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