Are Coding Bootcamps Worth It?

Coding bootcamps come with a sizable price tag that can discourage some students from pursuing this educational opportunity. However, the benefits – both financial and personal – can be just as great. So is the trade-off worth it? How do you decide whether to take the plunge and enroll? We'll guide you through this decision-making process.
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Maybe you’re at a crossroads of a career pivot. Or maybe you’re taking a close look at the true benefits and drawbacks of attending a University. Either way, completing a coding or other technical bootcamp program might have crossed your mind.

In the past several years, coding bootcamps have emerged as an increasingly popular and viable alternative to the traditional path of breaking into the tech industry. The versatile options these programs offer when it comes to time commitment, online or in-person options, and areas of specialization make them a great choice for many types of learners. On the other hand, the fast-paced and career-focused nature of bootcamps means they can’t match the needs of all students.

So, how to decide? We’ve broken down all the major pros and cons you should consider when deciding if a bootcamp is not only worth it, but also aligns with your educational and professional goals. Plus, we’ve compiled data to help you calculate the return on investment you might see from completing your program. Here’s everything you need to know about bootcamps and starting a career in tech! 

What is a Coding Bootcamp?

A bootcamp is an intensive course for adults that usually takes 10 to 36 weeks to complete. The end goal of the program is to launch students into a career in tech, so the curriculum heavily focuses on job-critical technical skills, industry standard tools, and building a real-world portfolio of projects. While coding bootcamps that prepare students for web development roles might be the most popular, bootcamps also offer instruction in technical subject areas like:

These programs are often designed with working adults in mind looking to level up their skills and career prospects, or make a professional pivot into something different altogether. For this reason, programs are often offered on a part-time basis, on evenings and weekends. Some can be completed completely online, through a mix of asynchronous and live instruction, while other providers offer in-person locations. Still other programs are full-time, and complete their instruction even quicker by offering 8 hours/day of instruction. 

Ready to break into tech quickly? A bootcamp might be for you. But before you dive in, here are some pros and cons to consider before completing that application. 

Pros and Cons of taking a Coding Bootcamp

Curriculum

The goal a bootcamp has for its students is to find a tech job, so the predominant curriculum focus is on “on-the-job” skills. In the case of a coding bootcamp, participants might explore a narrow yet deep breadth of widely-used languages such as HTML/CSS, Python or Java. What gets left out here in contrast to computer science degree programs are theoretical and advanced topics, covered in depth, or the “how” and “why” of foundational concepts. 

On the other hand, bootcamps place additional emphasis on real-world case studies and applications, often allowing students to walk away with a portfolio of projects; a critical aspect of the tech hiring process. This streamlined instruction is worth it for students who need to learn a specific skill quickly. Think about the type of learner you are when deciding on a program. Consider a program that leans more towards an asynchronous project-based model versus one that offers more live instructional lectures. The one that is more “worth it” will depend on the individual learner and the value they derive from that type of environment. 

 

Time Commitment

If speed is the most important factor in your job search, bootcamps have got you covered. In eight weeks to six months, you could go from total beginner to fully employed. From start to finish, a bootcamp will almost always take less time than a degree program, but might require more hours per day of work, as well as an increased amount of independent coursework. Taking an accelerated program might mean only spending days or even hours on subjects, before moving on to the next learning module. However, part-time and online options, as well as the self-paced nature of many programs make this a great match for those balancing multiple family and/or work obligations. 

 

Acceptance Rate/Background Experience 

Bootcamps often do have an admission process, but the bottom line is that they are unlikely to turn away students with a demonstrated commitment to the program. Providrs design their curriculums with beginners to the tech industry in mind, leading students to come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds. Questionnaires asking about students’ experience in coding or other key tech skills are often followed by 1:1 phone interviews to gauge if the program is the right fit for a given applicant. In some cases, advanced programs do require a bachelor’s level background and/or tech work experience, in order to keep up with the demands of the course. Oftentimes a pre-bootcamp prep course is offered to help beginners get up to speed with knowledge-heavy subject areas like coding or data science before the course begins. Keep in mind that you might have to research or even apply to several programs before finding the right match with your skill level and what you hope to learn. 

 

Cost and Paying for a Bootcamp

On a purely financial basis, the cost of coding and other bootcamps might make this a more “worth it” option for you than other traditional education routes. In 2020, the average cost of a bootcamp was $11,727, according to a report from Career Karma, making it significantly more affordable than the average four-year degree. A private institution on average will cost you up to $35,087, with public schools costing anywhere from around $9,000-$21,000 according to USNews.com.

Since education can be a major life investment, bootcamps also offer a multitude of payment options. On the con side, most coding bootcamps are not accredited and therefore not eligible for federal financial aid. However, nearly 50 providers offer income-share agreements, which don’t see students pay until they’re on the job. Also available to students are numerous scholarships and grants, awarded on a needs-based basis, or reserved for underrepresented groups, including women, veterans, LGBTQ people and people of color. Some non-profit programs even operate on a tuition-free model. 

Ultimately, the true financial cost of a bootcamp is determined by what, if any, earnings potential increase you see from completing the program. In the next sections, we break down typical student outcome data and the professional outlook for bootcamp participants. 

 

What’s the Career Outlook for Coding and Other Bootcamps? 

Let’s start with the numbers. According to the most recent findings from Course Report, coding bootcamp program participants reported a median $25,000 salary increase after completing their program. That represents a 63 percent positive increase. In addition, 78 percent of grads landed full time employment within six months, a more than 20 percent increase from pre-bootcamp. It’s clear for the average participant that bootcamps can lead to significantly higher career earnings. 

While, the typical attendee has never worked as a programmer, they did have some work experience and a bachelor’s degree, so your mileage might vary based on your background. Seek out programs specifically that offer a job guarantee, the ability to look at past cohort outcome data or even connect with former students who are now in the industry. 

Bootcamps often differentiate themselves with their focus on career tracks, and for many providers this includes a full suite of career services. Mock interviews and resume review, the ability to network with industry professionals and corporate training might be a few additional perks that move a program into the “worth it” column for you. 

Outside of coding, other facets of the tech industry have struggled to meet demand, which is where bootcamp graduates have the opportunity to come in and fill highly-skilled, yet highly-paid positions. Businesses of all sizes are always in the market for UX and UI professionals to perfect their vital web and mobile presence. On the more cutting-edge side of things, demand is rapidly ramping up for professionals well-versed in the fintech and artificial intelligence spaces. According to CIRR data, bootcamp grads in 2018 reported a median salary of $72,000 with a high of $117,500, so there’s no cap on what a lucrative tech career can achieve. 

 

How Do Employers Perceive Bootcamps? 

For those examining the pros and cons of bootcamps, the question still remains if corporate recruiters recognize the value of the educational path, or “look down” upon those who didn’t obtain a more traditional tech-oriented degree in college. Ineed set out to answer that very question, and it’s good news for bootcamp grads. Out of more than 1000 HR managers surveyed, 72 percent indicated that bootcamp graduates are “just as prepared and likely to be high performers as candidates with computer science degrees.” They also indicated that applications from bootcamp grads are on the rise, a promising sign for the long-term success of these programs.

Career Karma’s 2021 Bootcamp Market Report further examined where graduates end up professionally. You might recognize some of the names of the companies that comprise the top bootcamp graduate employers. They include Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, JPMorgan and Apple in the top ten alone, accounting for hundreds of jobs. As you can see, leaders across the industry recognize the value of bootcamp credentials.

One caveat to keep in mind is that there is no widely-known third party group that accredits individual bootcamp providers. This means applicants have to do the legwork in determining that their chosen program will provide the experience they are looking for and have been promised. A good rule of thumb is to look for publicly available student outcome data or the ability to connect with student alumni. Many bootcamps hire industry veterans to serve as instructors with expertise in the marketplace; another sure sign the program will lead to employment. 

 

Conclusion: Is a Bootcamp Right for You?  

We hope this article serves as a starting point for your technical education and professional journey! Finding the exact right bootcamp or alternative program that aligns with your specific needs can be challenging, but completing a course has the potential to kickstart a rewarding lifelong career! Here are some additional resources to check out if you are still considering if a bootcamp is right for you:

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