Attending a professional training program is an excellent way to build skills in a technical role such as UX/UI designer or software engineer. Under the guidance of a professional, you will learn the theory, practical knowledge, and best practices that will position you well for a job in a particular area.
Two popular ways of acquiring knowledge in the technology industry are bootcamps and certifications. Because both of these training programs are similar in their intent (training people in technical skills), it can be difficult to distinguish them. However, bootcamps and certifications do have their own advantages and disadvantages.
In this guide, we are going to answer the question: how do bootcamps and certifications compare? Without any further ado, let’s dive into this topic.
What Is a Bootcamp?
A bootcamp is a short-term training program that teaches skills in a particular area. Bootcamps are particularly common for technical roles that involve programming and design. For instance, you can find many bootcamps that train people in data science, UX design, and web development. Not all bootcamps are related to programming, however.
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Bootcamps are known for taking a practical approach to learning, featuring interactive exercises, challenging projects, and peer collaboration opportunities. Bootcamps are often described as “immersive” because you are expected to do hands-on work. While there is always theory, practical assignments will take up a large percentage of your time. In other words, you can expect to learn by doing.
Bootcamps are also known for being intense as they aim to teach skills in a short period of time. The average coding bootcamp, for instance, usually lasts between three and six months, after which point students will have learned what they need to start a job in tech.
What Is a Certification Program?
A certification program is a training where you work toward a certificate in a particular area, such as systems administration or building accessible web pages. Certification programs are developed on top of a set of standards, typically written by industry leaders.
For instance, Amazon Web Services has developed a range of certifications for people who want to build skills using their cloud platform. Microsoft has certifications for topics like Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Azure, or Microsoft Office.
Certifications are often specialized, covering niche areas where there is a lot of knowledge to be acquired. However, there are broader certifications for areas like web development and databases. Unlike bootcamps, certifications are mainly for people who already have some knowledge in an area and want to go deeper.
Many certifications culminate in exams meant to test your knowledge of a particular area. These exams and other practical deliverables required to complete a certification program are usually evaluated by an independent auditor. This auditor uses a set of standards to verify that a participant has successfully met the criteria to obtain a certification.
Some colleges run certification programs in various areas, too. The certificates awarded in these programs are usually not accredited like traditional degrees. This is because certification programs are developed using different standards to regular degree programs.
Bootcamps vs. Certifications: Compared
How do bootcamps and certifications compare? That’s a great question.
Certifications and bootcamps will bolster your career, no matter what program you enroll in. Having a certification in web development, for instance, sends a positive signal to any prospective employer if you are after a job that involves the web. Completing a web development bootcamp program will send a similar signal about your skills.
With that said, there are differences between certifications and bootcamps. The three main differences you should keep in mind when evaluating whether to enroll in a bootcamp or a certification program are:
- Learning approach
- Audience and cost
- Career services
Let’s discuss each of these factors individually.
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Bootcamps and certifications are both designed to train people in particular skills. However, the ways in which these programs train students differ.
Bootcamps are known for their focus on teaching practical skills and promise that students will be “job-ready” upon graduation. At the average bootcamp, students are regularly asked to participate in interactive learning sessions, assignments, and other practical tasks.
Most bootcamp curricula are oriented around helping students build a “portfolio” of skills that they can show to employers. With this portfolio, students can demonstrate they have mastered particular skills. Certification programs are less focused on portfolio projects and thus you are less likely to graduate with tangible projects that showcase your skills.
Certifications place an emphasis on theory, backed up by practical assignments. You can expect to spend more time taking notes and participating in discussions than doing practical assignments. You may also be asked to do more written assignments. With that in mind, you will still be expected to do practical challenges, which are often requirements in certification courses.
Because certification programs generally contain more theory, students graduate with a more well-rounded view of the subject matter, rather than a snapshot of what they need to know to pursue a particular job. Having a grasp of fundamental theory can make students more effective problem solvers in their careers. However, there is a trade-off: the jump between training and actually using your skills may be less smooth because you will have less practical experience.
Both bootcamps and certification programs are administered with strict adherence to a set of standards. However, the origin of these standards and how they were developed is different in bootcamps compared to certifications.
Audience and Cost
Bootcamps and certification programs are viable choices for anyone who wants to pick up some skills in a technical role. However, both forms of training have slightly different audiences.
Many certifications are for people who already have some experience working in a role and who are looking to become an expert in a particular technique, niche, or technology. For instance, there are certifications for cloud computing infrastructure, help desk tools, and Microsoft SQL Server.
Bootcamps are a better alternative for people who have little to no industry experience and who are just starting their careers in technology. They focus on entire jobs, like data scientist or iOS developer, and aim to teach the skills you need to start a job in a particular field. If you already have some industry experience under your belt, a certification program may be a better way to advance your career.
Some bootcamps offer corporate training for employers. These courses are suitable for people who already have some industry experience and want to upskill. But these programs, unlike certifications, are rarely accredited in any way, so they are less likely to be recognized than an official industry certification.
Because most bootcamps target people who want to retrain and enter a new industry, they typically place great emphasis on career services. Coding bootcamps, for instance, train people who want to do a job that involves technology.
Most bootcamps offer extensive career services. For instance, many bootcamps offer resume review workshops, interview coaching, and advice on how to start looking for a job. Many also have a network of employers that you can contact when you start looking for a job. The career support bootcamps offer makes it easy to transition from training to having a job.
Certifications, on the other hand, place less emphasis on finding a job and more on skills development. A lot of certifications are for people who are upskilling and thus already have some experience in technology. In other words, certification programs may be able to help you get started on your job search, but not to the extent that a coding bootcamp would.
Should You Choose a Bootcamp or a Certification Program?
Your choice to enroll in a bootcamp or a certification program depends on your needs. If you are after your first job in tech and want access to a wide range of career services to support you after you have learned some skills, bootcamps are the way to go. If you are looking for an industry-recognized certification in a particular area, certification programs are a good investment.
It is worth noting that some jobs require particular certifications. In these situations, a bootcamp would not an adequate substitute. However, such requirements are more common among senior or highly specialized roles, like cloud computing.
Both certification and bootcamp programs are good ways to learn a particular skill. These forms of training are particularly common in technical roles such as web development, web design, and data science. Certification programs are heavier on theory, backed up by some practice, whereas bootcamps take a more practical approach to learning.
Spend some time researching both forms of training. Talk with representatives from bootcamps and certification programs that you find interesting and evaluate which one meets your particular needs. Whatever your choice, the time you invest in training will massively benefit your short- and long-term career prospects.
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