Is a Coding Bootcamp Right for You?

by Modis on November 7, 2016

tech pros at a coding bootcampYou see them walking around in their hoodies and sneakers and you think “money.” The mystique of elite coders – and the rewards they reap – is a central meme of pop culture, so it’s not surprising that coding bootcamps have taken off. They promise a fast track into the glamorous life of a software developer. But do they pay off?

Coding bootcamps run for a few weeks up to a few months, in-person or online. This speedy and targeted approach claims to let would-be coders avoid years of college while focusing on job-specific tech skills most likely to be attractive to employers.

Coding bootcamps appeal to two different segments, according to Fusion: people with no coding background who want to get a high-paying development job and professional developers who want to stay up-to-speed on the latest programming languages.

They’re expensive, but students see them as an investment in their future and are betting that they’ll nab a high-paying job to offset the fees.

Uncertain Payoff

The majority of coding bootcamps are privately run, so it can be difficult for prospective students to compare them or decide which one is right for them.

One thing that makes comparisons difficult, according to the International Business Times, is that while some schools tout their job placement rates, which can be as high as 98 percent for graduates, they don’t reveal other factors, such as what percentage of students actually complete the course or how long it takes them to find employment. Also, the definition of related employment may be fuzzy and include internships or temp jobs.

In early 2015, a consortium of ten top boot camps pledged to release standardized outcome reports, but a year later, few had done so.

Another potential issue with these schools is that the expectations of employers may not match the promises of bootcamp operators, according to CNN Money. Some employers don’t believe that a multi-week program can really prepare people to be developers the way that four-year colleges can.

Positive Outlook

Caveats aside, there have recently been attempts at transparency and some encouraging stats.

Coding Dojo recently released an analysis of its graduates that showed:

  • 34.7 percent had no previous coding experience
  • 97 percent of graduates get a tech-related job within 180 days
  • Graduates have an average starting salary of $72,221

Course Report, a site that posts student reviews of bootcamps, surveyed 1,143 graduates from 52 coding schools and found that 73 percent were employed in a full-time job requiring the skills learned at bootcamp, with an average salary increase of 64 percent. People who had been employed at lower salaries before the classes saw the greatest increase in compensation.

Credibility – and Student Loans

In August, the U.S. Department of Education announced a program that will let bootcamps accept Federal student aid, according to Inc. Under the Educational Quality through Innovation Partnerships initiative (EQUIP), low-income students will be able to use Federal aid at four coding bootcamps.

In order to be part of EQUIP, the bootcamps had to show rigorous quality and strong protections for students.

Intangible Benefits of Coding Bootcamps

In addition to learning to code, the right bootcamp can offer more value in terms of personal connections, mentoring and job placement, according to Learn to Code With Me. In the pressure-cooker environment, some forge intense friendships and enjoy feeling part of a community. Bootcamps vary in how much career development they offer. The best have relationships with local employers and make sure you have a strong portfolio.

Freebie Camps

If you think a coding bootcamp is right for you, you may not need to cough up a few months’ rent to pay for it. A new trend is universities offering free programs to their graduates. The University of Missouri’s Revature at Mizzou will teach graduates of any major front-end development languages and then place students at companies. The City University of New York, also working with Revature, aims to teach 2,000 graduates to code.

Before you lay down big bucks, check out free resources to make sure that coding is for you.

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