Could a Coding Bootcamp Change your Life?

Image source: http://blog.hackerrank.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Bootcamp.jpg

Image source: http://blog.hackerrank.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Bootcamp.jpg

Coding bootcamps are all the rage today, offering prospective students the opportunity to earn six-figure salaries after just a few months of intensive study. To many, this sounds too good to be true. In this article, we investigate the strengths and drawbacks of coding bootcamps to uncover whether or not they fulfill these impressive promises.

First, what exactly is a coding bootcamp? Lots of courses are using the name nowadays, but it’s sometimes hard to tell what exactly “counts” as a bootcamp. Coding bootcamps are essentially short, intensive coding courses intended for people intending to become programmers or developers. Courses last anywhere from 4 to 16 weeks on average and generally require 40+ hours of work class time each week, with additional home assignments. They tend to focus on hands-on learning in languages such as Javascript, Ruby, and others, though course content varies.

In its Definitive Guide to Choosing a Coding Bootcamp, the bootcamp Firehose Project defines a coding bootcamp as “a technical training program that teaches the parts of programming with the biggest impact and relevance to current market needs. It enables students with very little coding proficiency to focus on the most important aspects of coding and immediately apply their new coding skills to solve real-world problems.”

Many bootcamps say graduates will earn a six-figure salary as a junior developer or programmer within a short period of time after completing the course, which is clearly a strength of this model. What takes university graduates of computer science courses four years to perfect, coding bootcamps claim to teach in a much shorter amount of time, meaning a lucrative career change could be a just a few months away. In fact, some schools, like Viking Code School, offer job-placement money-back guarantees.

Women also seem to thrive in coding bootcamp situations, and the gender balance in enrollment tends to be more equal. Furthermore, all women bootcamps such as Hackbright Academy may offer a more comfortable environment for women than the traditional university route.

There are countless coding bootcamp success stories. In a video from course report, Liz Eggleston highlight five such cases of alumni from Thinkful, Bloc, Firehose Project, Skillcrush, CodeUnion, and Tealeaf Academy who are now either employed in the sector or who are successful freelancers . Comments on similar articles such as this one share similar such successes. It seems clear that full-time employment is a high possibility following these courses, although Stephanie Shupe, an App Academy alumna, recommends opting for contract-style jobs just after graduation to get a feel for the industry. Networking seems almost more crucial than the course content itself in unlocking such opportunities.

However, some are more critical of the coding bootcamp model. For example, one article accuses bootcamps of churning out “code monkeys” who may know how to write code, but lack the analytical and problem solving skills programming requires and that a traditional four-year course might better teach. However, some bootcamps, like LearnTech Labs now offer courses that merge theory and practice for a more holistic and sustainable learning experience.

Bootcamps also tend to require completely putting one’s life on hold to complete. This could mean quitting a job and devoting virtually all of one’s waking time to learning to code. Lifehacker mentions one coding bootcamp experience that requires participants to spend the hours between 9AM and 10PM coding for months on end–a surefire recipe for burnout for many people.

The courses themselves are highly selective and if they do not suit one’s learning style they may not be an effective way to quickly become a programmer. There is further competition when it comes to job searches, with few people being hired for the highest paying jobs at the top firms.

There are also tons of coding bootcamps on the market these days and some are certainly better than others. Blogger Laurence Bradford compared the skills taught in coding bootcamps with some entry level job ads and found that many curricula simply did not match up to the skills employers demanded. It is important to choose wisely before paying the often high costs of these programs.

Finally, coding bootcamps are expensive, often in the range of US$10,000 or more. However, there are some free or cheap options such as Founders and Coders in London or Code 42 in Paris and many offer partial or full scholarships, particularly for minority applicants. Course Report also has a list of some additional options.

So, are coding bootcamps worth it? For many people, despite these drawbacks, the answer is yes. However, in choosing this route into the tech sector, one must ensure he/she is fully committed. It is also important to read online reviews about bootcamps before making a final choice. Many bootcamps recommend trying free online resources such as Codecademy before enrolling to ensure one is actually interested in programming.

To find out about free coding bootcamps and other resources for learning tech skills visit our Resources for Youth Database.

Source: The Firehose Project; Laurence Bradford, Learn to Code with Me; Melanie Pinola, Lifehacker; Liz Eggleston, Course Report; Techendo; Sarah Kessler, Fast Company; Gwen Moran, Fortune