What To Look For In A Coding Bootcamp
The number of bootcamps you can sign up for has exploded recently. This means if you want to kick-start a new career as a coder, data scientist, or anything else that’s computer-related, there are plenty of options to choose from.
But if you don’t have much experience with the world of coding and bootcamps, it can be tricky finding the one that’s right for you. Similar to educational institutions like colleges and universities, each coding bootcamp will have its unique curriculum, time frame, instructors, and fees.
Before investing in your future, let’s look at 7 vital things to look for in a coding bootcamp so you can make the best decision.
Are Coding Bootcamps Even Worth It?
If you’re still on the fence about coding bootcamps, let’s look at some of the significant benefits you can gain from attending one.
Practical Skills & Time
Bootcamps are often intensive programs lasting no more than 3-5 months. One of the ways they’re able to teach so much in such a short time is by removing all the fluff. Whereas college curriculums take their time, bootcamps know that time is money. They know that time spent learning is time you’re not earning. You may not gain the same depth of knowledge in computer science as someone with a 4 year degree. But you will gain everything you need to know to land a job as a coder or data scientist.
Tuition Fees & Job Hunting
Studying at college isn’t cheap – especially if you live in the United States. It gets even more expensive once you factor in all the extra costs, like book fees, room and board, etc. According to a 2018 report from HSBC, students say they spent $99,417 over the course of getting a degree. Even worse, after receiving your degree, you don’t get any help finding a job.
Bootcamps are much cheaper than university programs, costing around $13,500 on average. After finishing a bootcamp, many people find jobs in tech companies starting from $50,000+. The salaries can even reach as high as 6 digits.
Also, most coding bootcamps prepare you for the job search and interview process. They also have contacts in the industry to help you find a job.
Study a Specific Field
Taking everything into consideration, bootcamps are definitely worth it. They take much less time to complete than a 4-year degree and cost a fraction of the price. That being said you still learn the skills you need to find good-paying jobs after.
Some people might enjoy the experience of college. Or they might want to learn computer science in depth. A 4-year degree might be practical for people in this situation.
However, if time, age, and money is a critical factor for you, then coding bootcamps make all the sense in the world. With coding bootcamps you can learn all the skills you need to land a high-paying job at a great company. All of this in a few months for much less than a degree would cost you. It’s no wonder that several universities are opening their own coding bootcamps to compete with this new reality.
Now that we’ve given you all the reasons coding bootcamps are totally worth it, let’s examine what to look for when choosing a coding bootcamp.
Coding Bootcamps For Beginners vs. Experienced
In your search, you’ll find that coding bootcamps offer a wide range of courses aimed at either newcomers with little to no experience or knowledgeable coders who are looking to learn new skills. It’s important to join a track that suits your knowledge and ability level. Otherwise, you won’t get the most out of your experience.
For newcomers, entry-level bootcamps ensure you learn the fundamentals, which are vital if you want to tackle the more advanced topics. Most bootcamps use a wide range of techniques to help you learn, especially during the beginning stages.
For example, many bootcamps use a project-based approach. This means after learning something, such as variables and constants, you’ll put this knowledge into practice by completing projects alone or as a group. This also has the benefit of helping you learn to work together as a team to complete tasks.
Another important point is that you don’t need a college degree to sign up for a coding bootcamp. Instead, you need to prove that you can grasp new ideas, and have the persistence to see the course through to the end.
Finally, it’s important to note that some bootcamps will require 40-80 hours of preparation learning before the course even starts. This is an excellent opportunity to ensure all students start the course with the same level of knowledge. It also means you can hit the ground running and save precious time. Some people might like this, while some might prefer instruction from the very beginning. Not all bootcamps have these prep courses, so it’s a good idea to check before signing up.
For Experienced Coders
If you already have some experience with coding and want to learn a new language, or transition from front end to full stack, then beginner bootcamps might not be the best fit. Instead, you’ll probably want to attend an advanced bootcamp which is more suitable for your level of knowledge. Learning a new skill will increase your chances of earning a promotion and maybe even a raise.
Bear in mind, bootcamps aimed at experienced coders may require you to pass a short test to first prove your ability and understanding.
Whether your goal is to break into tech or level up your skills, be sure to choose a coding bootcamp that matches your skill level and outcome.
How Long Are Coding Bootcamps
Full-time coding bootcamps are often intensive. You need to invest 40-50 hours a week and the courses take between 3-5 months from start to finish. But there are also part-time programs that operate at a slower pace and over a longer time period.
If you have other commitments, like a full-time job, or family to take care of, part-time tracks may be a better fit. They usually take place 2-3 times per week, require about 10-20 hours a week to complete, and take anywhere from 6 months up to a year to complete.
If you want even more flexibility than a part time bootcamp, there are also bootcamps that are completely self-paced.
Before committing to a coding bootcamp, first check if the track you want to join is available, how many hours per week you’ll need to dedicate, and how long the course is expected to last.
Online vs. In-person
Do you prefer to sit in a classroom alongside your fellow cohort members? Or do you enjoy the freedom of remote learning? Both online and in-person bootcamps have their advantages and disadvantages.
Attending a bootcamp in-person lets you meet your fellow students and instructor(s), develop relationships, have face-to-face conversations, and sit in a classroom while learning. If this approach works for you, you’ll need to look for a bootcamp that offers this service in your area or be willing to move closer to the class. You’ll be spending anywhere from 40-80 hours per week in the classroom, taking part in lectures and working on your projects. It’s a big commitment, so be sure you have the time available for it.
Online learning is ideal if you don’t like the idea of commuting to the classroom, enjoy remote learning, or don’t live near a bootcamp that offers an in-person learning track. This type of learning is also a better fit if you want to balance your non-learning demands with your studies. Online bootcamps typically learn using live streaming, pre-recorded videos, online projects, and one-on-one mentorship.
One of the COVID pandemic outcomes has been that many bootcamps have shifted all or most of their learning to the online environment.
Before committing to a bootcamp it would be a good idea to check which kind of classes they offer.
How Much Do Coding Bootcamps Cost?
While coding bootcamps are cheaper than college degrees, they’re not free. They can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000, and even slightly higher. To help students pay tuition fees, most bootcamps offer a range of financing options. It’s a good idea to compare the tuition fee and the payment plans.
With a bit of research you may find an option that allows you to take part in a more expensive bootcamp than you originally planned.
The most common payment options are:
Deferred tuition & income share agreements:
Deferred tuition means that as a student, you only need to begin paying tuition once you graduate from the course.
Income share agreements (ISA) allow students to start paying a percentage of their earnings AFTER they’ve landed their first job. There may be further requirements on when you start paying back tuition, such as a minimum salary and a minimum contract of one year. Once the requirements are fulfilled, you’ll start to make monthly payments to your bootcamp for a fixed time frame.
Many bootcamps partner with financing companies like Climb Credit and Skills Fund, which students can use to fund their bootcamp. Skills Fund only partners with schools that they’ve vetted for quality and student outcomes. Even though these companies provide loans with competitive interest rates, always read the terms and conditions before signing any agreements
There are all kinds of scholarships available for students who want to pursue a tech career. There are scholarships for veterans, women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and even from businesses in your area who contribute towards the bootcamp.
If you’re a veteran and eligible for the GI Bill, it’s worth ensuring the bootcamp accepts GI Bill benefits. As a bonus, many bootcamps now accept a new VET TEC initiative, which provides funds for veterans to learn new tech skills and won’t use up the GI Benefits either.
Going To A Coding Bootcamp vs. Getting Technical Certificates
Coding bootcamps and technical certificates offered by colleges are similar because they both teach the fundamentals of the topic. This includes theory and practical skills. But that’s where the similarities end.
Technical certificates typically last longer than bootcamps, often up to 1 year. While they’re non-degree programs, they’re still often more expensive than bootcamps. They don’t have the wide range of funding options available either. Certificate programs also place much less focus on teaching employable skills and aren’t as flexible as bootcamps. Bootcamps can change their curriculum to keep it as relevant as possible.
One significant advantage a certificate has over a bootcamp is the accreditation from the college or university. Many bootcamps don’t have any kind of universal accreditation unless they’re affiliated with a learning institution of some kind.
Most bootcamps aim to help you secure entry-level positions. This is why they emphasize giving you the skills needed right now in the industry and place more focus on real-world applications than theory.
Bootcamps focus much more on the practical elements and less on the theory. Many employers won’t care about the theory, or about not having a degree, however some do. For that reason, when job searching, it’s a good idea to reach out to their recruiters and ask them if the bootcamp fulfils their requirements.
Coding Bootcamp vs. Self-learning
It’s no big secret that much of the knowledge you need to become a coder already exists on the internet for free. But it takes a lot of perseverance and self-discipline to follow the self-learning path. If you already have a lot of experience coding, you may find self-learning isn’t so hard. After all, they say once you’ve learned one language, it’s easier to pick up another. Here are some important points to think about when weighing self learning vs. a coding bootcamp:
Do you enjoy learning in a group environment? Helping each other understand challenging concepts? Working together on projects? You won’t experience any of that while self-learning unless you find like-minded people on the same path.
When the going gets tough, it’s up to you to motivate yourself. For self learning, you need to set and stick to your own deadlines. You need a healthy dose of resolve. Otherwise, you can spend months stuck on one subject because you lack the willpower to move forward. It’s vital to set goals each step of the way if you want to make meaningful improvements. There’s no substitute for learning in a structured environment with real consequences for not keeping up with the lessons. But the downside is you’re forced to study topics you might not think are relevant or you find boring.
If you struggle to understand a concept or run into a tricky bug, you’ll need to work it out yourself. This is probably one of the toughest parts of self-learning. Tackling abstract concepts can be tricky. If you continue or bypass it without fully understanding it, you will only make it harder for yourself in the future. Bootcamps provide mentors to help coach students through difficult concepts. Talking to fellow students is also a great way to unpack and understand the subject matter.
Self-learning can take a year or more. Can you afford it? It may take up to 12 months of studying full time to teach yourself how to code successfully. If you’re employed or have other obligations, you may find yourself fighting for time to learn each day. You can choose to study part-time or full-time at a bootcamp, and there are different intensity levels. On the other hand, you can enjoy greater flexibility in self-learning, setting your own schedule, and increase or decrease the amount of time you spend studying as required.
Navigating the tricky world of employment: Learning to code is only half the battle. Finding your first coding job can be tough, but it’s even harder if you don’t have any real-world experience or connections to help you out. This is one factor where bootcamps really shine.
Coding Bootcamps Job Placements
Coding bootcamps take great pride in helping graduates find their first job. After all, it’s one of their biggest and most unique selling points. The successful employment rate is represented by a percentage, and you can compare the rate between bootcamps.
It’s vital to choose a bootcamp that provides resume preparation, interview training, access to recruiters, and a network of companies looking for entry-level employees. Keep an eye out for bootcamps that partner with local businesses or have other kinds of partnerships. This is often a good indicator that potential employers are often impressed by the graduates, and would like the first pick from each cohort.
Some bootcamps will go even further and guarantee a job. This means they won’t stop helping you until you’ve signed a contract with a company. If the bootcamp you’re looking at doesn’t have a dedicated careers team, it could mean they’re not as dedicated to your success once you’ve graduated.
Reading real reviews is a great way to understand the bootcamp from a student’s perspective, especially if they talk about the level of instruction and level of career support they received.
The best way to uncover all the details, such as hiring rates, is to check out the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR) website. A collection of bootcamps formed this organization to ensure that all published data like job placement percentages and average starting salary are correct and legitimate. The organization has members from both bootcamps and outside stakeholder organizations who report, document, and audit each reported outcome.
When looking to join a coding bootcamp, keep in mind these 7 factors. Starting a coding bootcamp is a big commitment on your time and finances, but it could have a big payoff if you land your dream job or dream salary.
Also, check out the bootcamp’s reputation among graduates via reviews and forums. Always check the bootcamp’s job placement percentage and if you have access to career counseling.
Only pay for a bootcamp if you’re comfortable spending the money on it, and will commit 100% of your energy to. It’s a substantial investment, even with the wide range of funding options and deferred payment options.
Remember that many bootcamps require online preparation work beforehand. Make sure you’re comfortable doing that work that you have a working computer and access to the internet before classes start.
Good luck on your coding bootcamp adventure!