Coding bootcamps have grown in popularity over the last few years as a viable alternative to college. Bootcamps are short, intensive code schools designed to help people break into a career in tech. These programs can either be part-time, or full-time. Over the last few years, bootcamps have expanded into fields such as user interface design, full stack web development, and data science. There’s now a bootcamp for most top tech careers!
During a bootcamp, you’ll learn everything you need to know to break into a career in tech and become a professional developer. You’ll build a portfolio of projects throughout the bootcamp. This will allow you to refine your skills and gives you something to show employers when you start looking for a job. Toward the end, you’ll receive the career support you need to transition from a bootcamp to employment.
Bootcamps have prepared tens of thousands of people for jobs in tech.
But how do you choose a coding bootcamp? What should you be looking for? How do I know that a bootcamp is right for me? These are the questions we’re going to answer in this guide.
We’ll break down everything you need to know about coding bootcamps so you can choose the right bootcamp for you, based on your unique needs and goals.
Coding Bootcamps vs. College
The first question you may be asking yourself is, “How do bootcamps compare to college?” or, “Can you learn everything you need to break into a career in tech in only a few months?” It’s true that bootcamps have become a viable alternative to college, and here’s how the two options compare:
- Curriculum. Coding bootcamps teach the practical skills you need to break into a career in tech. Computer science (CS) degrees are better if you want to go deep into computer systems and theory.
- Costs. Bootcamps cost an average of $11,000—that’s around the same cost as one semester at a top CS degree program.
- Time. CS degrees take four years to complete, which gives you time to explore many different topics. A bootcamp, on the other hand, takes less than one year. Bootcamps are shorter because they focus on teaching the practical skills you need, rather than theory.
- Career Outlook. CS degrees are almost always required if you want to become an executive in tech. But that’s not to say bootcamps aren’t a good option. If you want to build a startup or get a job in tech, a bootcamp education will usually be enough.
Now that you’ve thought about how bootcamps compare to college, it’s time to think about the skills you need to succeed in a bootcamp.
What Skills Do I Need to Succeed in a Coding Bootcamp?
Bootcamps are more intensive and compact than other training programs. In a bootcamp, you’ll be pushed to your limits, and you’ll have to work hard to graduate on time.
Thus, it’s important that you spend some time upfront to consider if you have the right “soft skills” to succeed in a bootcamp. Here are the top skills you should have:
- Persistence. You’ll have to spend months in a bootcamp to graduate, and so you should be able to dedicate yourself to the program. You must be able to persist in tough situations and be able to thrive in fast-paced environments. You should also be able to work hard for extended periods of time.
- Problem-Solving. Computer science is all about solving problems—the purpose of coding is to solve problems with computers! You should know how to solve problems both as part of a team and by yourself. You’ll have to solve problems every day in a bootcamp—from fixing bugs to coming up with ideas on how to install a feature into a project.
- Teamwork. Depending on the bootcamp, you’ll often have to work in a team. Although bootcamps have a lot of independent work, you’ll also have to do some work on a team.
For example, you may be assigned a project to complete in a week with a group of your peers. You should be able to work well with others and know how to communicate as part of a team.
- Technical Aptitude. Most bootcamps ask that students complete a challenge or bootcamp prep course before they are allowed to enroll. Make sure you have the basic technical skills to complete these tasks, otherwise you may want to consider revising before going to a bootcamp.
What Types of Coding Bootcamps Are There?
Another important factor to consider is what type of bootcamp you want to attend. There are four main types: local bootcamps, university bootcamps, bootcamp chains, and online bootcamps.
Local Coding Bootcamps
Local bootcamps are bootcamps that serve a particular local area. Most bootcamps start as a local campus, then expand if there’s a growing demand for their services.
The advantage of going to local bootcamps is that they should know the ins-and-outs of the local labor market. This means that if you want to work for a local tech company, you’ll be in a great position. Going to a local bootcamp also means you will not have to move elsewhere just to attend a bootcamp.
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University Coding Bootcamps
University bootcamps are bootcamps run by a university. These bootcamps are usually independent of the school’s computer science degree program. They are also developed in partnership with for-profit education providers.
Universities will partner with a coding bootcamp to help operate the program and give the bootcamp the classroom space they need to teach students. The advantage of going to a university bootcamp is that they often have a standardized syllabus. This ensures that you’re going to get a good quality education.
Universities also have to share their brand with the bootcamp. This means the bootcamp has a stronger incentive to teach students well—if they don’t, they won’t be able to work with the university. For you, that means that you are almost guaranteed to get a solid education at a university bootcamp!
Coding Bootcamp Chains
Bootcamp chains are groups of coding bootcamps. These chains are often built as a local bootcamp grows and opens new branches. For the school, opening up more branches helps them spread their costs.
As a student, going to a bootcamp chain is worth considering because the school knows the local job market well. If you want to work for a local company, going to a bootcamp chain with a local branch can be a good investment. And, because the bootcamp has grown into a chain, it is a signal it offers good quality education.
You should be aware that sometimes chains can have inconsistent quality. This is because each branch will have its own instructors, faculty, etc. So, make sure you talk to students of a specific bootcamp—not only the chain—before you enroll in a course at a bootcamp chain.
Online Coding Bootcamps
Online coding bootcamps are coding bootcamps that operate online. The advantage of going to an online coding bootcamp is that you can study from anywhere—you don’t have to travel to one area to learn.
This is great because it means you can still attend a bootcamp, even if you don’t have a local bootcamp nearby. And you’ll also have more flexibility as an online bootcamp student. While online bootcamps usually require a certain amount of time commitment, you’ll still be able to work on your own schedule and learn at your own pace.
Online bootcamps use a variety of technologies to connect students with instructors and mentors. They also have online communities for students to connect and learn together.
Choosing a Coding Bootcamp
There are a couple of questions you should ask yourself when you’re choosing a bootcamp. They will help you figure out which bootcamp is best for you. And, by considering these questions upfront, you’re less likely to end up in a bootcamp that doesn’t meet your unique needs.
Where Should I Attend Coding Bootcamp?
The first question you should ask yourself is where you want to study. There is a growing number of in-person bootcamps which means that if you live in a big city, it’s almost certain that there is a location nearby. There are a few things you should consider when you’re deciding where to attend a bootcamp:
- Do you want to study online for the duration of the program? If you want to study online, you can do so from anywhere. You don’t need to worry about moving if you intend on completing an online bootcamp.
- Where do you want to work after graduation? If you want to work in your current city, there’s no need to move. But if you want to work in another city, you may want to consider moving. Bootcamps in that city will know the local job market well, so they’ll be able to provide better training to help you break into the local tech scene.
- Do you need to stay in your current city? Is there a reason that you need to stay in your current city? If you don’t have any commitments or ties to a specific city, then you may want to consider moving somewhere with a great bootcamp if you’re interested in doing so.
- Are you near a good bootcamp? Most big cities across the country have credible bootcamps. But if you live in a rural area, you may want to consider moving to a city with a good bootcamp that meets your needs.
There are dozens of great cities where you can find coding bootcamps. Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Indianapolis are only a few of the many great cities home to many high-quality bootcamps.
Which Bootcamp Meets My Goals?
After you’ve decided where you want to study, the next step is to consider which bootcamp meets your personal goals. Here are a few questions you should consider before choosing a coding bootcamp:
- What learning environment do you prefer? Do you enjoy self-paced learning, or do you prefer fast-paced and intense programs? Do you like to work alone, or do you prefer to work in a team? Consider what type of culture you want to see in a bootcamp, then go out looking for one that has that type of culture.
- What technologies do you need to learn? Coding bootcamps teach students how to code and thrive in a certain career in tech. If there’s a specific programming language or technology you want to learn, you should go and look for a bootcamp that teaches that technology.
For example, if you want to be an iOS developer, you may want to go to bootcamp with an iOS-only course, rather than a “mobile app development” course.h
- How long can I commit to a bootcamp? You should consider how long you’ll be able to go to a bootcamp. If you only have savings for six months, you may want to consider either going to a shorter bootcamp or saving up more money so you can enroll in a longer, more comprehensive course.
How Much Will a Bootcamp Cost?
The average full-time coding bootcamp costs $11,450. But some bootcamps can charge as much as $20,000 for their courses. Either way, it’s a big financial commitment. So, before you choose, you should think about coding bootcamp costs and whether you can afford to pursue this route.
The main factor you should consider is the Return on Investment—how much more you’ll earn in the future by going to a bootcamp. You should think about the cost of tuition, then consider whether a bootcamp will allow you to earn enough to cover that cost.
You should also think about the opportunity cost of a bootcamp or simply put, what you’ll lose by studying at a bootcamp. When you go to a bootcamp, you may have to quit your job for a few months, which means you’ll not be earning money during that time. Thus, it’s important you plan your finances ahead and save what you need before you attend a bootcamp.
How Do I Pay for a Coding Bootcamp?
Bootcamps are costly. Thus, you need to spend some time thinking about how you’ll pay for your bootcamp. They do not issue degrees, so you’ll not be able to access federal loans or grants to pay for your education.
But don’t worry, there are a lot of options available to those considering going to a bootcamp. Here are the most popular ones:
- Take out a loan. There are many lenders which partner with bootcamps to help students pay for their education. They include the Skills Fund, Pave, and Affirm. If you’re comfortable taking out a loan, there are many options available to you.
- Pay upfront. If you have the money, you can pay for your bootcamp upfront. This means you’ll have no more payment obligations as you have already paid your tuition.
- Income Share Agreements (ISAs). Many bootcamps offer ISAs to their students. Through an ISA, you’ll pay nothing until you graduate and earn over a certain amount.
ISAs are a good option because you’ll only pay when you succeed. If you get nothing out of your bootcamp, you’ll pay nothing.
- Scholarships. Many bootcamps offer scholarships based on merit, gender, service in the military, and/or income status. Research these options before you enroll to make sure you don’t leave money that you could use to help pay for your education.
- GI Bill. If you’re a veteran, you may be eligible for GI bill benefits which will cover part or all your bootcamp tuition.
- Employer sponsorship. Your boss may be willing to pay for your bootcamp if it will help you become a more productive and efficient employee. Always ask your boss if they’re willing to pay for employee education before you enroll in a bootcamp.
Make sure you research all the payment options a bootcamp provides upfront. This will help you make an informed decision about which bootcamp is the most affordable and offers the best payment options for you.
Which Bootcamp Has the Best Outcomes?
After you’ve researched bootcamp’s payment options, you should start thinking about the outcomes. Before you go to a bootcamp, make sure you have read about how students have fared after they have graduated. Do graduates of the bootcamp go on to high-earning jobs? Or do a lot of people fail to graduate?
There are a couple of ways you can verify a bootcamp’s outcomes and determine the quality of a program:
- Talk to graduates. Before you choose a bootcamp, talk to a few graduates of a bootcamp and ask them how they did after graduation.
- Did the school help them find a job? Did they find a job within a reasonable time frame after graduation? What is the graduate earning? Did they graduate on time? How did their fellow students do after graduating?
- Student reviews. There are also a few sites that publish student reviews. These reviews will allow you to hear first-hand how bootcamp alumni feel about their education.
- Bootcamp outcomes. Some bootcamps publish student success rates on their website. Before you enroll in a bootcamp, look for any outcomes the bootcamp has posted on their website. Take a few minutes to read through them and learn how students do after they graduate.
- CIRR. If a bootcamp doesn’t report the outcomes on their website, they may publish them with the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR). The CIRR posts outcomes from over 50 bootcamps including their graduation rate, employment statistics, and average salaries upon graduation.
Bootcamp Accreditation and Outcomes
It’s important that you do your own research about bootcamp outcomes. The reason for this is because bootcamps, unlike colleges and universities, are not accredited. This means that there is no central body that verifies the quality of every bootcamp.
But, there are ways you can verify the quality of a program. By using the techniques we listed above—researching student reviews and reading outcomes—you’ll be able to learn more about the quality of programs you consider. The more research you do, the more confident you’ll be with your choice when you finally commit to a bootcamp.
As we discussed, some bootcamps report their outcomes to the CIRR. This is an independent industry body that verifies the outcomes of over 50 coding bootcamps. The CIRR has its own standardized framework for evaluating bootcamps. This means that their reports give a good sign of the quality of a particular program.
You can read the CIRR’s outcomes reports here. If a bootcamp does not report their outcomes to the CIRR, they may publish them on their own website. If you want to learn more about how a school collects outcomes information, reach out to them, and ask. After all, it’s best to ask upfront before enrolling in a program that doesn’t meet your needs.
What Can I Expect in a Coding Bootcamp Interview?
Now that you’ve chosen a coding bootcamp, you’re ready to apply for your dream bootcamp. The bootcamp application and interview process help schools screen for the students who have the right skills to take part in their programs. But what should you expect? Let’s break down the core parts of a bootcamp screening process.
- Written Application. Most bootcamps ask students to complete a written application. These applications usually last one hour and ask questions about your skills, your background, and why you’re interested in going to a bootcamp.
To prepare, you should talk to former students and ask them for advice. Or you can look online for extra guidance.
- Interview. If your application is successful, you’ll be moved on to the next stage of the application process. During this stage, you’ll take part in an interview with the bootcamp. Expect to be asked about why you want to go to the bootcamp, and whether you have worked on anything that has prepared you for the bootcamp.
- Technical Challenge. Many bootcamps also have a technical take-home challenge students must complete. This challenge usually takes around an hour to complete. The challenge will help the bootcamp ensure you have the skills you need to succeed in a bootcamp.
If you pass through these three stages, you may be accepted into a coding bootcamp. Congrats!
However, don’t worry about the application process. If you’re serious about transitioning into a career in tech and willing to put the effort in, you’ll do fine. You don’t have to be technical to succeed in the interview. The idea is to help a bootcamp understand whether you’re right for the program, not to evaluate whether you already have a vast range of technical skills.
What Can I Expect After Graduation?
“Will a bootcamp help me find a job?” is a common question among prospective students. The answer is… yes! The purpose of a bootcamp is to help you learn the skills you need to break into a career in tech. And the bootcamp will be there to help you find a job, even once you’ve learned the skills you need.
Before and after you graduate, you should be able to access some career services from your bootcamp. This support infrastructure will help you hit the ground running on your new job search. Some bootcamps can make introductions to employers who are hiring, while others provide career workshops to help you write a resume and prepare for a technical interview.
There are plenty of places you can go after you graduate. Here are a few of your potential paths of progression:
- Join a large company like Facebook as an engineer
- Start a company as a technical co-founder
- Become a freelancer or consultant
- Join a small startup as an engineer
- Ask your manager if you can move to a more technical job within the company, where your new skills can be put to use
- Teach other people how to code
If you go to the right bootcamp for you, there’s a very high likelihood that you’ll be able to find your dream job in tech after you graduate.
Coding bootcamps are a great way to learn how to code. While the idea of a bootcamp may only be a decade or so old, tens of thousands of people have used bootcamps to transition into a career in tech.
On top of that, the number of bootcamps and graduates is only expected to grow soon. If you’re thinking about pursuing a career in tech, a coding bootcamp may be the best path forward. From full stack web development to data science, there’s a bootcamp out there for you!