Going to Coding Bootcamp: Pros, Cons, and More!

12 weeks to a six-figure job? Five years ago, that would have been nearly impossible. But now, thanks to the emergence of coder boot camps, it’s not only possible but probable.

Since 2011, more than 60 immersive developer programs have risen up around the world. The sector has taken in $73 million in tuition and turned thousands of people into bona fide developers.

However, bootcamp isn’t for everyone. Decide whether or not to enroll by looking at these pros and cons.

Pro: Cheaper and Quicker Than College

It’s not much of a comparison. Course Report says the average programming bootcamp costs $9,900, while a Computer Science degree will run you $75 to $255K (depending on whether you choose a public or private school).

Code academies will save you time, too. Most of them run nine to 12 weeks—whereas most students now takes six years to get their degrees.

Con: (Potentially) Poorer Job Prospects

Dev Bootcamp reports 90% of their grads find positions within six months, so we’re definitely not suggesting you’ll have a hard time getting hired after finishing bootcamp. However, you may find the job offers you receive are fewer or less well-paid than the offers your college-educated peers are receiving.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Entry-level coders earn less than programmers with university degrees who enter the job market. SeedPaths (a coding academy) reported that some major IT companies haven’t been interested in its boot-camp graduates because they usually lack a college degree.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates in six years, there will be 1.4 million computing jobs and just 400,000 computer science students. Even without a degree, you’re in a good place.

Pro: Immediately Applicable Skills

When you go to a dev bootcamp, you’re immediately learning about languages, platforms, and skills you’ll use every day in a coding job. Most camps focus on Ruby, with JavaScript, C, and Python following–but most of them also focus on full-stack web development, spending a lot of time on JavaScript/CSS/HTML. Mobile development courses for both iOS and Android are also available.

“Just because someone has a four-year computer science degree doesn’t mean they’re going to be great coders in the business world,” said Patrick Sarnacke, head of the associate consultant program at Thoughtworks. “A lot of traditional programs aren’t teaching the skills people need.”

In contrast, “bootcamps cut right to the chase.”

Cons: Narrow Focus

Of course, the downfall of such specific curriculum is that you don’t get the well-developed, theoretical understanding Computer Science majors pick up.

Ken Mazaika, a CS grad, code mentor, and web development teacher, says, “You won’t get the value from the individual things they teach you, but you will get the value from the meta-skill of learning how to learn you develop.” Mazaika adds, “Things you’ll learn in a computer science class you won’t necessarily ever use in the real world. Taking a look at the most complicated aspects in computer science, learning how to break them down and understand them is something that will make tackling other problems a heck-of-a-lot simpler.”

In addition, a college education introduces you to different disciplines. Steve Jobs famously got the inspiration for some of Apple’s typography in a calligraphy class.

Pros: The Environment

One of the greatest advantages to coding bootcamps is the hands-on experience. One Makers Academy alumnae (who had zero experience in tech), said, “I’m not a software expert by any means, but Makers definitely prepared me for a number of aspects of my job: diving into the code, learning on the fly, asking the right questions to get myself where I need to be. I was able to dive into the legacy code I’ll be working with and know what I was looking at. Boot camp is incredible because you get to learn by doing.” (http://lifehacker.com/will-a-programming-boot-camp-help-me-get-a-coding-job-1695422265)

She also liked how close-knit her cohort got. They’d eat lunch together, play ping-pong, and grab beers at night—in other words, the camp had a start-up-esque culture. This can make the transition to real start-up life easier.

Cons: The Environment

Before you make the commitment, it’s worth thinking about your working style. Can you spend 10 to 16 hours a day studying and writing code, 6 days a week? If you find it hard to focus on one thing for a long time, or dislike the “total immersion” learning model, code bootcamp probably isn’t for you.

You’ll also need to be self-motivated. “Coding bootcamps call for rigorous, individual action. You will have significant amounts of work assigned to you on your own time,” explains Course Report. (https://www.coursereport.com/blog/accepted-to-a-coding-bootcamp-do-s-don-ts-to-succeed)

At Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco, students keep the kitchen stocked with groceries for their breakfasts, lunches, and dinner. They’re usually working through all three meals.

And as TechCrunch reports, “the curriculum is consistently iterated on based on feedback from employers, so it’s getting more challenging, demanding, and lengthy in real-time. It’s intense. It’s a Bootcamp.”

Final Thoughts

Jesse Farmer, co-founder of CodeUnion, says if you want to attend a programming bootcamp, you should meet four criteria:

  1. Have the desire to change careers and become a full-time (junior) software engineer.
  2. Can afford the opportunity cost, i.e. can quit your job, relocate, etc. (Some employers will let you take an unpaid sabbatical if what you’re doing will help you in your current role.)
  3. Can afford the tuition. (Some employers will also subsidize or even completely cover your tuition!)
  4. Thrive in an intense environment.

If those apply to you, coding bootcamp may just be your 12-week ticket to a six-figure job. Stay tuned for a comprehensive review of all your bootcamp options.

 Syed Ahmed is the co-founder and Chief Technology Office at Tara AI. He graduated in 2014 from Queensland University of Technology with two master degrees and founded Tara Inc. in 2016. Syed specializes in creating applications related to machine learning and data science, as well as process development and business process engineering.