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Are Coding Bootcamps Worth It?

September 5, 2021

2020 saw an explosion of coding bootcamp enrollment. Due to the success of these companies at turning a new bootcamp graduate into a software engineer and the median salary of a software developer rising to $107,000 in the United States, interest in learning to code shows no signs of stopping. Technavio is reporting that between 2020-2024, the coding bootcamp market is set to grow by a staggering $453.6 million. More and more education companies are seeing the value that teaching coding at scale can provide their students and the global economy at large. These companies are introducing credible alternatives to the traditional computer science degree, offering full-time courses, part-time courses, and asynchronous courses to the masses.

For obvious and unfortunate reasons, demand’s never been higher. The global pandemic introduced a new way of working, living, and learning across the globe. Not only are we seeing monumental shifts in healthcare application and a reimagination of the office, but we're also seeing a migration toward remote learning. The competition from coding bootcamps and the unfortunate pandemic forced us to think about the state of higher education. In the United States, the culture is paying attention to learning environments that allow students to learn at their own pace from seasoned coding professionals.

As these coding bootcamps become widely adopted (and should you decide to pursue one of the courses), it’s important to note that education is always an investment. With every investment we make there's an associated cost. Time and money are a consideration in deciding how you would like to move forward with a career shift. This article will explore one of the biggest questions we routinely get asked: “Is attending a coding bootcamp worth my time?"

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Advantages Of Attending a Coding Bootcamp

There are several distinct advantages to attending a coding bootcamp. Some coders are looking to build on their existing skill-set. Others are looking to build an entirely new set of coding skills that they may not have had experience with previously in their career. Coding bootcamps lower the barrier to learning popular languages like Ruby, SQL, and PHP and help meet the demand for web development jobs in the United States (projected to see an impressive 8% growth between now and 2029). There's a significant financial upside to pursuing new coding skills, data analytics, and skills in software development.

  • Ability to learn a highly marketable skill and career. The BLS reports that many jobs will be available to professionals going into the field of software development. Not enough students are pursuing early careers in STEM programs which led to limited supply and growing demand for these professions. Companies with some of the largest market caps in the world are looking for these types of web development professionals to grow, build, and lead product development.
  • The market for web developers is hot. As of this article’s publication, there were 232,000 open developer jobs listed in the United States on LinkedIn. To put this into perspective, that’s nearly three times the amount of open positions versus the number of teaching vacancies in the country (80,000).
  • Meeting other interested developers looking to learn or improve on existing skills. Learning alongside smart people makes you better. Many coding bootcamps are highly selective or selective based on the interests of those applying, so the process acts as a natural filter to connect you with other aspiring web developers. While the earlier weeks of a bootcamp feature solo projects and ramp up your knowledge of programming languages, the later weeks feature group projects that build a tighter relationship with your cohort.
  • Building a network of professionals in the field. It's not a surprise that a personal network is a gateway to career opportunities. CNBC reports that nearly 80% of jobs are filled through personal or professional connections. Coding bootcamps facilitate a network of not only those in your bootcamp course but also the alumni network of those who completed the program before and after you do. Alumni networks are only as strong as your ability to tap into them, so make sure you build friendly, professional relationships with your team in the classroom.
  • Job placement. Many coding bootcamps offer guaranteed job placement following graduation from the program. Though this is a highly attractive marketing tactic, be sure to review the Council on Integrity and Results Reporting (CIRR) data to get a closer look at the length of time it took students to land a job as well as if it was in the cyber security, computer engineering, or web development space. Realizing a good return-on-investment (ROI) for your coding bootcamp should be top of mind before applying.

How to ensure your coding bootcamp experience is successful

The first step to attending a coding bootcamp is also the first step to doing anything the right way: preparation. Learning to code doesn’t require a computer science degree, but you do need a basic understanding of how the software works and how to code basic functions. Before enrolling in a coding bootcamp, many of these programs will make sure students are fluent in the foundational aspects of coding before full immersion into Javascript-based frameworks. Students usually complete an assessment or a prep course to ensure they’re prepared and making a sound investment in their future with their coding education.

Brushing up on your previous knowledge of Javascript, Python, and HTML using free tools like Coursera, Codeacademy, and Khan Academy will help prepare less experienced or aspiring programmers for the assessment.

  • Coursera. The University of Michigan sponsors a free course for learning Python. Students will learn to install Python, be able to describe the purpose of the Python language and what it does and understand functions and loops. Coursera is a massive open online course (MOOC) with modules that can help aspiring programming, data science, and UI/UX practice the basics before applying to a bootcamp.
  • Codecademy. Perhaps the most famous of the online coding courses, Codeacademy offers free coding language courses (e.g. Java, HTML, CSS) as well as a professional option for Python 3, front-end engineering, full-stack engineering, and more.
  • Khan Academy. Sal Khan’s famous video courses evolved into a full suite of free learning courses that include Javascript, SQL, HTML, jQuery, and more.

Free courses and practice modules are both good ways to refresh coding skills and software engineering basics to students. Take advantage of these tools if you’re confident you want to apply to a bootcamp.

There are several other steps you should take before committing to a bootcamp:

Know the coding skills you want to gain. It's important to have an idea of what you want to concentrate on learning in a coding bootcamp. Start with the job you plan to land after you complete the bootcamp. If you want to be a data scientist, you want to ensure that the coding bootcamp you're committing to has significant exposure to Python, SQL programming, and statistics. If you're looking to be a web developer, you can decide whether you want to be front-end, back-end, or a full stack. The sounds a lot like common sense, but perform your boot camp research with the role you want to land in mind.

Perform an honest self-assessment. Consider your internal motivations for joining a boot camp. What are some of the strengths you bring to your current team? Perhaps you're a highly motivated front-end developer and want to learn a bit more about the server-side. Maybe you’re a cyber security professional that wants to learn a bit more about data science. Building competency in a secondary skill takes significant commitment, so take inventory of the available time you have, how quickly you learn new programming languages, and how much you're willing to invest in developing a new skill. Don’t forget to factor in the other personal investments you’re responsible for outside of the workplace.

Also consider your work style. Are you someone that is better equipped to work as an individual contributor or on a team? Many people who have spent careers predominantly as individual contributors find coding bootcamps valuable because they get more exposure to team collaboration and building software. Soft skills are taught as much as hard skills.

Determine your available time. NerdWallet reported that a full-time bootcamp can take 15 weeks to complete on average but varies depending on the school. If a part-time boot camp is also something you’re considering, you’ll need to weigh the benefits of completing a course sooner vs. spreading the classwork out a bit more.

Being able to take inventory of your availability, strengths, and learning challenges will help prepare you for the coding bootcamp and be a huge help to your decision what bootcamps to choose and what disciplines to specialize in.

Earning potential for coding bootcamp grads

One of the most important reasons for investing in a coding bootcamp is increasing your personal value and realizing a return on the investment in your education. Course Report estimates a salary increase of 56% for bootcamp graduates.

There are also programming languages that are so in demand that the earning potential for them is often much higher than the more popular languages today. Engineers or developers fluent in Go, for example, make a median salary of $112,000 a year. ($8,000 higher than the next highest programming language on the list, Ruby). Depending on where you want to work, this may be advantageous to your long-term earning potential.

As a bootcamp grad, there are several ways to increase your chances of achieving the salary you want after a coding bootcamp. The first is to make sure that your portfolio reflects the type of work, coding skill, and coding quality that software engineering hiring managers are looking for. The second, is to apply to companies in areas of the country that have a huge demand and not enough programmers to meet that demand. You'd be surprised how many companies and startups exist outside of the traditional development communities in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, and the huge quality of life experienced by skilled professionals living in these areas of the country.

How do employers view coding bootcamp students?

In an encouraging study from Indeed, 72% of 1,000+ employers said that those candidates who graduate from a coding bootcamp were just as prepared and likely to be high performers as candidates with computer science degrees. This is an impressive sign, as not only are employers seeing bootcamp grads as capable as those with traditional four-year backgrounds, but in their report they noted that candidates with bootcamp education doubled from the year before.

Still, bootcamp graduates face formidable candidates when they are head-to-head with traditional candidates with CS backgrounds. While Fullstack Academy features a bootcamp student that went on to work at Google, the subject graduated from an Ivy League institution with a background in mathematics. Having an impressive coding portfolio from your bootcamp and/or an existing CS background could help differentiate you from a host of other applicants. The good news for learners everywhere: More and more traditional colleges and universities are partnering with bootcamps to bring their students coding education. Universities are investing in partnerships with companies like Trilogy (e.g. Columbia University, University of Denver, Vanderbilt, and more), Fullstack Academy (Cal Poly, University of San Diego), and Quickstart (James Madison University) to bolster their coding curriculum. As coding bootcamps continue to scale and mature, there are no signs that these partnerships will slow down.

Will a coding bootcamp get you a job?

Coding bootcamps are an important step in landing your next gig, but simply completing a course doesn't make you an automatic shoo-in for a web developer job. After you become a bootcamp grad, you’ll need to continue to work on coding projects that allow you to hone your skill as well as show future prospective employers that you are continuing to learn.

Showing that you not only completed your coding projects in a bootcamp but also remain committed is important. Different employers have different hiring ideologies when it comes to staffing up teams. Some prefer traditional candidates who have computer science degrees and even computer science master's degrees. However, many successful startups look for the “self-starter” who learned to code and showed a material understanding of software development.

Big Tech employers, traditional corporations, Fortune 500’s as well as early-stage and seed startups are increasingly looking to coding bootcamp graduates to fill out their engineering and coding teams. They see the high selectivity and caliber of the graduates produced by some of the better coding bootcamp companies as a good option for sourcing their web development and diversifying their talent pool beyond the traditional CS grad.

If you're looking to deepen your coding skill, become a bootcamp graduate, click here to get matched with a coding boot camp tailored to your interest.