Learning how to code has become easier than ever, especially with the emergence of coding bootcamps designed to help people acquire the skills they need to work in the technology sector, as well as various resources available for students who prefer self-learning. But, in the coding bootcamp vs self-taught debate, which is the better option?
It is absolutely possible to self-learn coding. In this guide, we will outline and discuss the self-taught coding route, the coding bootcamp route, and provide you with the insights you need to settle the bootcamp vs self-taught debate so you can choose the option that works best for your needs and career goals. Let’s dive in.
What Is a Coding Bootcamp?
A coding bootcamp is an intensive program that focuses on one subject area, such as full stack development or UX/UI design, and offers hands-on training designed to prepare you for a job in technology over a short period.
Coding bootcamps have become increasingly popular among people who are interested in transitioning into a role in technology quickly. Unlike colleges, which teach students about the theory of computer science and how computers work, bootcamps primarily focus on practical skills valued by employers such as learning how to code in a particular language.
What Is Self-Taught Coding?
Self-taught coding is, in essence, teaching yourself to code by using various resources, either paid or free, according to your own interests, schedule, and career goals. Self-teaching coding is becoming more popular among aspiring tech professionals who are willing to make the most of the many resources available online and offline. It is a viable way to kickstart a career in tech.
Coding Bootcamp vs Self-Taught: Structure
When you are acquiring any new skill, having a set structure to help guide you through your educational journey can be critical. Having no structure can make staying on track difficult for you when times get tough and you are stuck on a problem. This is one of the main differences when comparing a coding bootcamp vs self-taught coding.
While it might be easier to follow along with a structure laid out by a school or program, there is also great freedom in being able to follow your own path when you are self-learning coding. Keep reading as we further discuss the differences between learning to code through a bootcamp vs self-taught learning.
Coding bootcamps provide their students with a set curriculum that will help guide them as they continue to learn. This curriculum will consist of a series of skills you need to know and tasks you need to complete. It is also developed based on the expertise of coding veterans.
When you teach yourself how to code, you will have to rely on your own structure. You will need to develop your own curriculum and figure out what you need to know and research how you can effectively practice your skills.
With no prior technical experience, it can be difficult to curate the best resources available, whereas coding bootcamps often already have these resources available, and have organized them so they build on each other progressively to facilitate your learning experience.
On the other hand, when you are a self-taught coder, it can be tricky to decide which resources to use. Vetting the quality of the resources can also be a challenge if you have zero experience. However, if you are already familiar with the concepts are focused on self-learning coding, you can have a lot of fun exploring options and selecting what best fits your needs.
Answering the Demands of the Labor Market
Bootcamps organize their courses based on the current needs of the tech labor market. They make great efforts to ensure that their curricula align with the needs of the companies where their graduates will be seeking employment upon graduation.
It can be difficult to develop your own curriculum when you do not know the specific expectations of the labor market. Indeed, if you develop your own curriculum, you may miss out on an important skill that employers are currently expecting their employees to know.
An important aspect to consider is the coding bootcamp schedule. Coding bootcamps are typically short-term, intensive programs that run full-time and last between three and nine months. If you work full time, a part-time bootcamp may be a better option. If you have the time, a full-time coding bootcamp will get you into your dream job faster.
If you are not under pressure to complete your training within a specific timeframe, self-taught coding can be great. By using resources at your own pace, you can fit your learning into your schedule with maximum flexibility, taking advantage of any free time you have without sacrificing other activities. Just make sure to study and practice with some consistency so you can ensure you move forward.
Self-Teaching Coding vs Coding Bootcamp: Learning Styles
Coding bootcamps and self-teaching coding involve different learning styles. Are you able to keep yourself motivated, even when things are not going your way? Are you a good independent learner? If you have a good source of intrinsic motivation, then teaching yourself how to code may be a good path. If you prefer to work independently, teaching yourself is also the way to go.
Coding bootcamps can provide stronger sources of motivation and accountability for students. If you do not meet a deadline, a fellow student or a staff member will be there to check in and assist. If you feel unmotivated, you will have a community of students to talk to for motivation. Bootcamps often foster a sense of community that can help people stay on track when they encounter problems.
Bootcamp vs Self-Taught: Technical Experience
One important question you should ask yourself when evaluating the difference between a coding bootcamp vs self-taught coding is your level of technical experience. Keep reading to learn more about the impact this can have on your learning journey.
People With Programming Experience
People who already know a programming language often find learning another one much easier. For example, many people who learn Python go on to learn languages like Ruby later in their careers. This is because the core concepts of programming often apply to other coding languages.
When you start learning Ruby, you can draw on some of the knowledge you have learned about Python to help you. Because so many concepts will transfer over, it will be easier for you to master Ruby in a shorter period.
Why Self-Study Is Better for Experienced Coders
People who already know a programming language will have experience working in a coding environment and be more comfortable with writing code. Thus, teaching yourself a new skill or a programming language may be a wise decision. You will be more likely to understand the material you cover quickly and less likely to need the accountability associated with a bootcamp.
People New to Coding
In contrast, people who are new to coding will have a lot to learn. They will first have to work toward learning the fundamentals of programming, then learn their first language. This can be an uphill battle for many people and doing it alone can be incredibly difficult.
New programmers often encounter many problems while setting up their development environment, learning their first language, and doing other tasks that new programmers often do.
Why a Coding Bootcamp Is Better for New Coders
If you are completely new to coding, attending a coding bootcamp may be a better option. You will be surrounded by people who are in the same position as you and who can help you along the way. If you get stuck on a basic concept, a fellow student or an instructor will be able to help.
Additionally, you will also be able to learn about programming fundamentals through a structured curriculum, which will ensure you will not miss any important knowledge you will need before you start coding. And if you don’t feel like you have the time for a full bootcamp program, you can go the hybrid route and join a self-paced coding bootcamp.
Coding Bootcamp vs Self-Taught: Learning Community
A key benefit of attending a coding bootcamp is the community of students and instructors available to you. You will be able to share experiences and stories, and reach out if you encounter a problem. This community will be there to help you when you are struggling and also to celebrate your wins.
This form of motivation and peer support is commonplace in bootcamps, whereas self-learners usually do not have this type of community. When you teach yourself how to code, you’ll spend a lot of time on your own. In that case, you should spend time participating in technical communities in person and online, as they will often be your only source of advice and support.
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Coding Bootcamps vs Self-Learning: Finding Employment
Many people learn coding in order to launch a new career in tech. However, finding employment as a bootcamp graduate or a self-taught web developer can be very different. Keep reading to find out about the factors that affect employment and whether self-taught programmer jobs will be available to you if you choose this path.
Work Environment Experience
Studying in a group environment at a coding bootcamp will prepare you for the workforce by helping you refine your soft skills. Soft skills are interpersonal skills such as communication and teamwork. Most employers, especially those hiring for technical roles, look for people who have prior experience working as part of a team.
If you are teaching yourself how to code, it may be more difficult for you to give examples of when you have effectively worked on a coding team. Bootcamp graduates, on the other hand, will have worked in that type of environment for the duration of their education.
Career Services and Preparation
If you are interested in changing careers, a bootcamp will be available to help you acquire the technical and personal skills you need to find a new job. Coding bootcamps often prepare students for a career through interview practice, counseling sessions, and employer networking opportunities. This increases the likelihood that you will be able to find a job after graduation.
Those who teach themselves how to code will have to do this alone, as they will have no support from an institution. If you are a self-taught software developer, you may also have never been in a technical interview environment, which may affect your ability to showcase your skills to employers.
Showcasing a Portfolio of Work
If you attend a bootcamp, you will work toward building a portfolio to help showcase your skills to employers and this will further increase the chance of you finding a good job. Teaching yourself how to code will allow you to acquire a new skill.
However, it can be difficult for you to find a job if you have nothing to show for your work. Unless you have developed a portfolio, employers may find it difficult to evaluate your technical skills.
Coding bootcamps are also more expensive than teaching yourself how to code. Learning how to code alone is free, whereas tuition at coding bootcamps is often between $10,000 and $20,000. You should consider whether or not you can afford to invest money into a coding bootcamp and whether a bootcamp would result in a good return on your investment.
Do some research about coding bootcamp outcomes and talk to current and former students to learn about their experiences. This will help you make a more informed decision about whether the cost of attending a bootcamp is justified.
Coding Bootcamp vs Self-Learning Coding: Personal Goals
Before you decide whether to attend a coding bootcamp or teach yourself how to code, first consider your goals. Why are you interested in self-learning coding? Do you want to find a new job? Work at a startup? Get a promotion? Have a new skill?
Many bootcamps are relatively selective, which means that they often only accept students who can stay committed for the duration of the program. If you are looking to upgrade your existing skillset, then self-learning may be a better option.
If you are only looking to acquire a new skill and you have no interest in moving to a technical job, coding bootcamps may not be the best option. Instead, independently learning how to code may be a better way to acquire technical skills, and doing so will be cheaper than attending a coding bootcamp.
Coding bootcamps often have extensive hiring networks that students can access as they approach graduation. These networks will help students develop connections with hiring managers and software engineers who are already employed in the field.
If you are looking for a new job, a coding bootcamp can help guide you down that path and introduce you to the people you need to know. Indeed, this network is often one of the main reasons people favor going to a coding bootcamp. There is already a community of employers they can speak to when they graduate, so they do not have to spend as much time scouring job boards.
Coding Bootcamps of Self-Teaching: Which Is Right for You?
Whether a coding bootcamp vs self-taught coding is the right choice is ultimately up to you. Both are viable ways to teach yourself how to code, and both offer advantages and disadvantages. If you have prior programming experience or want to learn how to code as a hobby to build personal projects, then teaching yourself how to code is a great option.
However, if you do not have any prior technical experience, or if you are looking to find a job in tech sooner rather than later, a bootcamp can be a better option. Coding bootcamps teach their students the exact skills they need to thrive in the modern labor market and have crafted their curriculum based on the needs of employers. Coding bootcamps can also introduce students to employers and provide many opportunities for career mentorship to current students.
Coding Bootcamps vs Self-Learning FAQ
Python is a good first coding language to self-learn. This general-purpose programming language reads like English and is much simpler to understand than other languages that rely on more complicated syntax. It is a great, friendly, and even fun option for complete beginners.
How long will it take me to learn to code by myself?
How long it takes you to learn to code by yourself can vary greatly depending on how much time you invest in learning weekly, your proficiency with technology in general, and your learning style. If you are consistent and organized, it can take you between three and six months. However, it might take up to a year or longer if you go at a slower pace.
What topics should I learn for self-taught programming?
There are various topics you should learn as a self-taught programmer. You should become familiar with computer architecture and data basics, learn how programming languages work, understand the basics of how the Internet works, and master some command line basics. With this foundation, you can start moving into more specific programming knowledge and languages.
How hard is coding bootcamp?
How hard a coding bootcamp is will depend greatly on your inherent technical and critical thinking skills. However, in general, bootcamps are not hard. They are designed to help complete beginners learn to code from scratch, and they help students jump over the typical hurdles one encounters when learning to code. They also offer support systems to help you succeed.
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