Comparing Coding Bootcamps: The Questions & Tools to Make Your Decision Easier
As a new era of online learning is ushered in, students and adult learners who want to break into tech now have a wide range of options for learning to code.
If you’re here exploring bootcamps, you’ve probably already decided that an online, in-person, or hybrid learning coding program is the best fit for you. Considering the rising costs of travel and textbooks, Many adults who are seeking a new career opt for an online education, which allows them to balance learning with existing jobs and family responsibilities.
If you’ve decided that a coding bootcamp is the best route for you, then the next step is to narrow down that long list to one: the school that best suits your career goals, learning style, budget, and the other needs of your daily life.
Sure, you could shorten the process and choose one based solely on tuition price, or post-graduate salary, but it’s not always that simple. Students who focus on value will make a more informed decision. There are a range of important parameters you should be aware of as you do your research.
So, here’s your guide on how to compare coding bootcamps head-to-head, and ultimately choose the highest-value bootcamp that’s the right one for your skillset.
Self-paced vs instructor-led
First off, you’ll have to choose between two main types of online learning environments: self-paced or instructor-led.
Self-paced programs typically offer more flexibility and a lower cost. Students learn at the times that work best for them, and may not even be held to any steadfast deadline. In this scenario, you’ll be picking up coding skills from recorded videos and written material.
You won’t be obligated to sign in at a certain time every day - and for many adult students, that may sound ideal. you’ll also be on the hook for setting your schedule and sticking to it. And if you get stuck at any point in the curriculum, you’ll probably have less 1:1 support than you would in a live, instructor-led format.
Instructor-led programs, in contrast, have virtual and in-person classrooms. If you decide to enroll in this kind of bootcamp, you’ll have a firm learning schedule. You’ll also benefit from the option to interact with a professor in real-time, and you may feel more connected with your cohort, since others like you will be learning the same subjects, at the same pace.
Instructor-led programs typically cost more than self-directed programs since more resources are available to you. But depending on how you’d like to learn, they may be more effective in helping you master the skills for a career transition. This is because, in many of these types of programs, you’ll be able to dive deeper with live instructors and mentors in a real-time setting
Accreditation status won’t be a factor for bootcamps as they would for universities.
In the world of higher education, accreditation is a signal that a college or university adheres to a certain set of academic standards. If a college doesn’t have this seal of approval, that could raise a red flag for applicants.
But coding bootcamps are a newer entrant to the education model, so things work a little bit differently. Currently, no coding bootcamps have a traditional accreditation.
That doesn’t mean a coding bootcamp won’t help you, but that more of the onus is on you to ensure you’re attending a reputable school. Compared to colleges, coding bootcamps are still incredibly new, and there’s no industry-wide standard for evaluating their quality of instruction or education. Best Coding Bootcamps arms students with the right questions to ask admissions representatives as well as flagging programs that don’t provide first or third-party outcomes data. It’s also important to note that many employers are looking for entry-level bootcamp grads to grow into mid-senior and senior level coders, so you likely won’t need to worry about managing people and coding in your first job. If you can prove your skill level in a professional portfolio and interview, hiring managers seeking bootcamp graduates to begin working on specific projects means not having a CS degree from a major university won’t be a deal-breaker.
University vs non-university
Some coding bootcamps are affiliated with a university, while others aren’t. While there are many reputable bootcamps that are independent of a higher ed institution, this may be one parameter to consider. Hiring managers unfamiliar with your local bootcamps could have more recognition with the “brand” of a university.
If you’re still feeling like you need more brand awareness of the bootcamp, then enrolling in a program that partners with a well-established university may be beneficial if you plan to apply to regional positions following the completion of your coding curriculum.
Recruiting and hiring is always a mixed bag. Employers and recruiters may favor seeing a recognizable college name on your resume. Most bootcamp students are pursuing career transition, so this may be another reason to favor programs associated with a well-regarded school.
Still, that moment when you add your new education bullet point to LinkedIn isn’t everything. Even if you decide to consider this variable in your research, make sure you also base your decision on more meaningful criteria - like what you’ll be learning.
Tech fields like coding now cover a lot of different skills and specialties.
Some programs may include certain languages that others don’t or spend more time emphasizing front-end or back-end skills and languages. If you’re planning to transition into a specific field or title after graduating, then be sure to research which languages and platforms are most important for your chosen path, especially if you want to eventually end up in a FAANG company.
You may have to ask an admissions representative for a copy of the curriculum, but it’s a good idea to take the initiative and see which skills you’ll spend the most time on. The syllabus should give you a pretty detailed preview, so you can make sure your chosen program matches up with your desired career path.
Similar to in-person university courses, the teaching style of your instructor could make a difference in how quickly you pick up the concepts, or how much you enjoy signing in for your lessons every day.
With bootcamps, it could be hard to evaluate the instruction style. There’s likely to be higher turnover than there is with professors at four-year colleges, and you may not always opt to sit in on a class the way you might if you're on campus.
But you can still do some digging. Research how each bootcamp hires instructors, since they may rely on different criteria. Read reviews from previous students, and find out if you can review a sample recording to get a feel for the type of instruction you’ll have once you’re enrolled.
Tuition & payment options
The overall bootcamp cost is going to be a factor for anyone. The price tag is probably one of the first things you researched when you started thinking about enrolling in a coding bootcamp.
But you should also look into payment options for all of the bootcamps you’re considering. Do you have the option to pay month to month? Will you have the option to defer or pause payments if you need to? Is there a job guarantee that allows you to get a refund if you’re not hired?
Put some thought into your savings, your budget, and what you’d owe following the completion of the bootcamp. For many, flexibility and a range of payment options could make a huge difference.
Student support services
When you’re learning in a remote environment, the additional support you receive alongside your lessons could have a huge impact. Many bootcamps offer some combination of additional student support, such as:
- Student messaging channels or forums
- An assigned industry mentor
- Virtual office hours
- Academic advisors
For some students, especially those who are brand new to the skill they’re studying, these types of support help them master the concepts behind their course material.
If one or more of these support systems sound especially helpful for you, then you should prioritize it when choosing a bootcamp. If you’re not sure whether they offer student support, ask about it in your bootcamp admissions interview.
If you’re hoping to land a new job shortly after you complete the program, then find out what type of career prep your top bootcamp contenders offer.
Do they highlight an engaged network of alumni and pool of employers? Is there a portion of the curriculum dedicated to job applications and interview coaching? Or are you expected to graduate with a certificate and then do the heavy lifting all yourself? Whatever your career goals are, decide how much career support you’d like so you can narrow down your options.
We highly recommend peering through online reviews for each of your bootcamps to find out how helpful the career services actually were. Since almost every bootcamp offers some form of career services, you want to find a bootcamp that “feeds'' hiring needs at partner companies in and out of the region.
Since getting employed is important to you, then make sure you’ll have some support in applying to jobs.
You won’t meet people in the dining hall or through club sports when you enroll with a bootcamp. But there are still plenty of opportunities to join a community.
Some online programs actively foster student and alumni communities, whether through virtual events or occasional in-person gatherings. For anyone who’s new to the field of coding, the chance to chat with others who are learning alongside you in Discord, Slack, or Zoom may be a huge plus.
Even more impactful, some bootcamps may take an extra step to connect you with alumni and industry professionals.
Tips for comparing coding bootcamps
Enrolling in any bootcamp is a big decision. Your learning experience could impact how quickly you transition careers, and even how successful you are in your first coding job.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be a guessing game. Here are a few pro tips to make the process a little easier:
- Leverage the power of the Best Coding Bootcamps comparison tool. We built it for our students to make a highly complex decision a bit easier.
- Whip up a spreadsheet to rank your options. You could use this guide as a starting point to come up with the parameters you’ll use to rank your options.
- Set aside time to do your research. Plan the days and times you’ll devote to researching, contacting, and interviewing with bootcamps. This will help you stay on task and actually enroll - so you’re not putting off your career transition indefinitely.
- Reach out to alumni. There’s nothing like hearing someone’s first-hand experience. See if any of your LinkedIn connections are enrolled in a bootcamp. You can even ask friends, family, and others in your professional network if they know anyone who graduated from a coding bootcamp.
Choose the bootcamp that works best for you
The task of sorting through the many bootcamps that are out there may seem intimidating. But it’s actually a great thing that you have options. Not everyone learns in exactly the same way, or has the same career goals. With the wide variety of online learning options available today, you can select a program that meets you where you are.
Best Coding Bootcamps helps you filter what you want from a bootcamp and helps you sort by feature, cost, location, and more. When you’re ready, grab another cup of coffee and jump start your research. We help speed up your search prior to when you enroll, graduate, and launch that new career.