Learning how to code can be difficult, especially if you have no prior technical skills, but it doesn’t have to be. Coding bootcamps emerged to help people who are interested in learning to code acquire the skills they need to work in the technology sector.
Bootcamps focus on one subject area, like full-stack development, for example, and offer a hands-on, intensive course designed to prepare someone for a job in technology in a short period. Coding bootcamps typically last between three and nine months, during which graduates will learn practical skills in demand by employers.
Bootcamp students will also learn how to navigate the evolving labor market and how to succeed in a technical interview which will help them effectively search for a job.
Coding bootcamps are becoming 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.
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The career support provided by many bootcamps is also a major bonus for students and helps them quickly find a job after graduation.
However, coding bootcamps are not the only option available for those who are interested in learning how to code. One other popular option is teaching yourself, which can be more cost-effective and gives you more autonomy over your work. In this guide, we will explore the differences between attending a bootcamp and teaching yourself how to code, and outline the benefits of each method.
When you are acquiring any new skill, having a strict structure to help guide you through your educational journey is critical. 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.
On the other hand, 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.
Having no structure can make staying on-track difficult for you when times get tough and you are stuck on a problem. It is easier to give up when you do not have a learning guide than when you have a curriculum with deadlines to meet.
With no prior technical experience, it can be difficult to curate the best resources available, whereas coding bootcamps often already have these resources available. In addition, 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 which employers are currently looking for their employees to know. Bootcamps, on the other hand, structure their curriculums with the labor market in mind and often work with employers to understand their needs. Thus, bootcamp students are more likely to cover all of the knowledge they need to know.
Coding bootcamps and self-learning both employ the use of 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 do have a good source of intrinsic motivation, then teaching yourself how to code may be a good path.
If you also prefer to work independently, teaching yourself is a good way to do so. However, coding bootcamps 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 who you can talk with for motivation. Bootcamps often foster a great sense of community which can help people stay on-track when they encounter problems.
Before you decide whether to attend a bootcamp or teach yourself how to code, you should think about your ability to hold yourself to account. Take some time to honestly assess this quality, and think about which path would best fit in with your unique learning style.
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Past Technical Experience
People who already know a programming language often find learning another easier. For example, many people who learn Python go on to learn languages like Ruby later in their career. 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.
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.
In contrast, people who have never used a programming language will have a lot to learn. They will first have to work their way 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 which new programmers often do. In this case, attending a coding bootcamp may be a good 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.
What is the Return on Investment?
Teaching yourself how to code will allow you to acquire a new skill. This may help you in your employment search as you will be able to showcase your knowledge about a certain programming language or technology.
However, it can be difficult for you to realize any return in the labor market 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.
Also, if you have taught yourself how to code you may also have never been in a technical interview environment, which may affect your ability to showcase your skills to employers. Although learning a new technology may help you get a job as a programmer – there are plenty of self-taught programmers who are employed – the value of your skills may be limited.
Coding bootcamps, on the other hand, have a more tangible return on investment. 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 practices, counseling sessions, and employer networking opportunities. This increases the likelihood you will be able to find a job after graduation.
In contrast, those who teach themselves how to code will have to do this alone – they will have no support from an institution. In addition, 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. Coding bootcamp graduates report an average salary of $64,500 in their first year, which can be attributed in large part due to their experience at a bootcamp.
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.
Do some research about coding bootcamp outcomes and talk to current and former students to learn about their experience. This will help you make a more informed decision about whether the cost of attending a bootcamp is justified.
CIRR publishes outcome data for dozens of bootcamps, which includes placement rates and average salaries. You can also download the free Career Karma app to learn more about the potential return on investment for a coding bootcamp.
Learning how to code by yourself can be lonely. You may participate in technical communities in-person and online, but there will be very few places you can go for advice.
One of the most important factors of attending a coding bootcamp is the community of students available to you. You will be able to talk with fellow students about your experience, share stories, and reach out to one of many people if you encounter a problem. This community will be there to help you when you are struggling and also to celebrate your wins.
As you continue to refine your skills, fellow students and instructors will be there to provide motivational support and congratulate you. This form of motivation and peer support is commonplace in bootcamps; self-learners usually do not have this type of community.
Working in a student community will also help you prepare 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 in 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. In addition, because most bootcamps have a high job placement rate, you will also be able to benefit from the employer network the bootcamp has built.
Help in the Job Market
One of the most common reasons people do not attend a coding bootcamp is the cost. The average coding bootcamp tuition is approximately $13,500, according to Course Report. However, more than one-third of the highest paying jobs in the United States require some experience in computer programming. Coding bootcamps allow students to gain experience in a professional learning environment, which will help them unlock these higher salaries.
In addition, coding bootcamp graduates will be able to cite where they graduated from, which may improve their hiring prospects. Self-taught programmers can still find good jobs in the labor market, but it is easier to do so when you have professional experience, whether that be through a past job or through learning how to code at a school.
Why are you interested in learning how to code? 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 accept students who are willing to stay committed for the duration of the program.
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. However, for those who are interested in finding a new job, a coding bootcamp can be a great option.
Coding bootcamps often have extensive hiring networks which 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-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 looking through job boards.
Attending a coding bootcamp and self-learning are viable ways to teach yourself how to code. If you want to learn how to code as a hobby so you can build some personal projects, then teaching yourself how to code is a great option. In addition, if you already have prior programming experience, self-learning may be the best course of action as it is easier to learn another programming language when you already know one. However, if you do not have any prior technical experience, or if you are looking to find a job in the technology sector, a coding 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 – if you teach yourself how to code, this is not available to you.
Before you decide whether to attend a coding bootcamp or teach yourself how to code, first consider your goals. Why are you learning how to code? Then, think about whether or not your learning style fits in with the coding bootcamp environment.
You also do not need to choose one option. Instead, you could go to a bootcamp, then teach yourself a new programming language. Or you could teach yourself the basics of coding, then enroll in a bootcamp to reinforce your knowledge and prepare to enter into a career in the technology sector.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.