Are Coding Bootcamps Worth It?

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The buzz around coding bootcamps is growing louder. Almost deafening.

As the marketability of coding grows, online coding classes are flooding with students and entrepreneurs who are seeing the benefits of coding for the creation of their app startups.

But while these online courses can give students a quick dose of coding education, an introduction to IT management software, and full stack programming skills, many are looking for the immersive and intensive experience coding bootcamps offer. I’m sure that the median salary of $75,000 for computer programmers is also a nice motivator.

In fact, Course Report conducted a survey on the rise of coding bootcamps, finding “a 175% growth rate for the programming bootcamp market in 2014” alone.

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Clearly, students are finding something worthwhile in these camps.

Even the traditional college route is now being bypassed by the bootcamps, whether due to the romanticism of tech startup culture or the belief that attending college delays a programmer from diving into professional waters.

President Obama has even advocated for coding bootcamps, underlining that they’re viable alternatives to a traditional college education.

But the question remains: are these places worth it?

Below, I’ll layout the arguments for and against coding bootcamps, leaving the ultimate decision with you so you can make the choice best for your career.

Cost

For many aspiring coders, these bootcamps are an affordable alternative to traditional college education.

And it’s easy to see why.

The price of attending an American college or university has skyrocketed, with annual costs averaging “$9,139 for an in-state student and $22,598 for out-of-state students,” while private universities peak at $31,231.

Bear in mind these numbers are for one academic year, and that other factors like books and housing are also absent, meaning that $30,000 for a private college is just a base price.

Yikes.

These averages also neglect the rising student loan debt, which has soared to new heights at an average of about $35,000 per college graduate. To put that into perspective, the average college grad makes around $45,478 out the gate.

But we’re not done yet.

It’s well-known that the cost of higher education continues to rise, but what exactly are we looking at in the future?

Troy Onink of Forbes estimates that education costs for an elite universities will reach an unprecedented average of $334,000 by 2019. Public and private colleges already face an assumed annual cost increase of 6.5% and 4.5% each year respectively, meaning the price of attending on your acceptance letter will steadily rise as you journey towards your degree.

How do coding bootcamps compare?

Continuing with Course Report’s study, tuition for these bootcamps ranges widely, “from free to $20,000 for a course, with an average tuition of $9,920” for full-time programs. Full-time programs mean 40 hours per week here.

Now, I know what you’re thinking here: Hundreds of thousands vs. a few thousand? Potentially no student loan debt? Seems like a viable alternative to traditional education.

But the problem with this train of thinking is that it doesn’t address the multitude of benefits a traditional collegiate education offers.

Edward Xiao, a blogger for Topcoder, lists that these coding bootcamps are attractive alternatives for those wishing to avoid “extraneous [college] courses that pull your focus away.”

Still, treating a bootcamp as a direct, comparable alternatives to a collegiate education is problematic, even with the lure of lower prices.

Paying for college is more than just paying the tuition for classes; it’s paying for an experience, and one that has the potential to foster and mold essential leaderships skills, teamwork, and emotional intelligence, all necessary in a successful professional.

Is it possible for a three-month bootcamp to do that?

On the other hand, it’s also possible to network at bootcamp, with Shravan Goli telling TechRepublic advising potential students to look for coding camps with close ties to a business, where you could work on company projects. (And also serve as a pipeline to employment.)

Not to mention, if you’re helping to code a company project, you may also have a chance to grow your teamwork skills and other essential qualities necessary for a standout employee, all within a workplace environment.

Time

In terms of time, coding bootcamps again seem to win out against a traditional college education.

Think: how long does it take to complete a college degree?

Four years strikes many as the obvious number, but you’re in for a surprise.

A majority of undergrads now take up to six years to finish their college education. Some cite class overflow or major change, but some students even take time off to work in attempts to keep student loan debt at bay.

(I know we’re talking about time, but take a second to go back to the average cost of tuition. Were your original calculations based on four years? Be sure to add two more.)

With coding camps, these years go out the door, replaced with intensive 40-hour weeks, enabling students to become certified programmers in as little as one month.

“Courses range from 4 to 30 weeks, [with] most courses… in the 9-12 week range,” says Course Report. Learning the skills needed for your dream job in four weeks vs. four years? That seems like an obvious choice.

Yet the brevity of these courses has opened them to scrutiny.

While many believe that learning the ins and outs of a coding language is possible in this amount of time, especially considering a bootcamp’s singular focus on code, the question of transforming into a full stack engineer in a few months has yet to be answered.

Others see it as a scam, with these full stack bootcamps usually charging on the higher end of the spectrum.

Capterra’s own CTO also sees these camps as too intensive and too quick for a true immersion into full stack engineering, leaving little room for mastery. Or if being a full stack engineer is even truly possible.

Still, there are many full stack bootcamps and many with overwhelmingly positive reviews, like Fullstack Academy of Code or Coding Dojo, the latter of which lists the codes offered and companies that use the codes as a way of enticing techies wishing to work for Google or Microsoft, or entrepreneurs looking to be the next Twitter or LinkedIn.  

So it might be possible to learn that much in such a short period of time, but I would hesitate with the word “master.”

Job Prospects

We’ve broken down coding bootcamps, finding that their lesser costs and time efficiency can be alluring to aspiring programmers.

But the ultimate question remains: will you get hired?

Surprisingly many IT managers and tech companies are less concerned with a college degree. Even Google.

Talent and skill, therefore, say more than a diploma, especially considering that coding can be a self-taught discipline. But then again, we are talking about Google, here. I’m sure just about everyone who applies has a degree from an elite school.

But while these bootcamps teach you how to code well, they still bypass the importance of “thinking like a computer scientist,” a quality of paramount importance when working within teams at an office.

Being a coder isn’t enough. You have to be innovative and be able to tackle problems from a variety of perspectives.

Another hurdle is that coding camps remain unregulated, meaning that its presence on your resume may raise some questions, considering there isn’t a clear way to measure your camp’s legitimacy. It might not carry the same weight as a degree in computer science.

There isn’t necessarily a cut and dry answer here. It depends on who’s hiring you.

In a followup study a year later, Course Survey found that 66% of students in these bootcamps advanced to becoming full-time developers. It’s a number in the majority, but not overwhelmingly convincing.

Thoughts?

Are you for or against coding bootcamps? Do you think the positives outweigh the negatives? Let me know in the comments below.

Looking for IT Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best IT Management software solutions.

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Capterra

Capterra

At Capterra, we believe that software makes the world a better place. Why? Because software can help every organization become a more efficient, effective version of itself.

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