There are two main routes people take to get tech jobs: a computer science degree from a university or a coding bootcamp. It can be difficult to determine which path is best in terms of employer value, career opportunities, and potential pay. Comparing coding bootcamps vs degrees can be difficult, but this guide can help.
When considering a coding bootcamp vs degree, you should think about your career goals and previous experience. It can be hard to see the big picture when you’re just getting your education, whether it’s a CS degree or bootcamp. Read below to learn more about the coding bootcamp vs computer science degree debate and get a breakdown of the main differences.
The 3 Major Benefits of a Coding Bootcamp
Coding bootcamps are educational institutions that help you learn tech skills in a shorter time than a traditional college degree program. The benefits of a coding bootcamp include accessibility and flexibility as well as career services and job search assistance. Read more about the benefits of coding bootcamps below.
The sad truth about education is that not everyone can afford it. However, there are lots of ways to pay for coding bootcamps, which makes them a good choice for people who might not otherwise be able to get an education. Bootcamps are affordable compared to traditional education paths, and they offer installment plans and other payment methods to ease the load.
Many coding bootcamps even offer a form of deferred tuition called an income share agreement (ISA). With an income share agreement, you don’t have to pay back your loan until you find a job. If you don’t get a qualifying job, you don’t have to pay at all. However, when you get a job in tech, you will pay a percentage of your salary for a certain time period.
For example, if you were to agree to an ISA with a 17 percent rate with a repayment term of three years, then you would agree to pay your institution 17 percent of your future salary for three years. This is a good option if you’re committed to a career in tech. Coding bootcamps also offer monthly payments, scholarship opportunities, and access to loans.
It’s no secret that college can be a stressful time. Lots of students pull all-nighters to study while working part-time or raising families. The lack of flexible schedule options in college is what leads many people to conduct a coding bootcamp vs degree comparison. Online, self-paced classes are one of the main benefits of a coding bootcamp.
The average coding bootcamp lasts anywhere from three days to over a year. When selecting a coding bootcamp, it is important to determine whether a part-time vs full-time coding bootcamp is right for your schedule. Most bootcamps now offer online options, which means you can choose your own schedule and study from anywhere.
3. Career-Forward Curriculum
Contrary to the traditional college experience, coding bootcamps are fast-paced and career-oriented. Many coding schools are structured to skip the theoretical topics and only teach hands-on skills that you’ll actually use when you become a software developer.
Coding bootcamps offer great educational value, but they also have career services, job search assistance, and networking opportunities in their curricula. This can include mock interviews, resume workshops, and even meetings with top tech companies. This is arguably the most important benefit of a coding bootcamp.
The 3 Major Benefits of a Computer Science Degree
Although a coding bootcamp is a great choice, there are also many benefits of a computer science degree. Attending college is the traditional and most common educational path to take, which means employers value it highly. The types of college education include undergraduate (associate and bachelor’s degrees) and graduate (master’s or doctoral degrees).
There are advantages that apply to each type of college education. These include your potential future earnings, job security, and the type of education you would receive. The degree program you choose also depends on your educational and work experience. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of studying computer science at a college or university.
1. Increased Income Potential
The first big benefit of a computer science degree is increased income potential. Even when comparing a coding bootcamp vs a degree at the undergraduate level, you are likely to start your career with a higher salary with a degree. A computer science degree costs thousands of dollars more, but you will reap the benefits later on.
This is because many employers see college education as the superior form of learning. Attending a coding bootcamp will still give you the proper education you need to succeed in a tech career, but if you are looking for the highest possible salary, you may want to give college a chance.
2. Well-Rounded Courses
While a coding bootcamp will provide all the technical skills you need to start a tech job, you probably won’t learn about the history or theories behind those skills. If you compare the curriculum of a coding bootcamp vs a computer science degree, for example, you’ll see a much heavier focus on theoretical learning in the degree program.
This isn’t a necessity for most tech jobs, but if you’re the type of person who loves learning and wants to become an expert, college might be a better choice. A degree will teach you more theoretical knowledge in your area of study than a coding bootcamp would. One of the other benefits of studying computer science is that you can take electives and learn about other subjects.
3. More Career Opportunities
Even though the bootcamp route is increasingly more popular than graduate degrees, there are still many tech jobs that require a degree. Some employers don’t understand the educational benefits of a coding bootcamp, and some jobs are still too complex for the bootcamp curriculum. The benefit of a Master’s Degree in Computer Science is that you can land more technical jobs.
You will likely be able to find jobs in web development, software engineering, and even data science if you attend a coding bootcamp. However, if you want to work as, for example, an artificial intelligence (AI) engineer, you’ll probably need to pursue a master’s degree or specialized bachelor’s degree.
Coding Bootcamp vs Computer Science Degree: Head-to-Head Comparison
Below, you will find the five biggest factors to consider when choosing a coding bootcamp vs degree. There are many other things to consider, but the most important aspects are cost, duration, curriculum, employer sentiment, and potential pay. Read below to see a direct comparison of a coding bootcamp vs college.
When it comes to the cost of a computer science degree vs a coding bootcamp, bootcamps are typically much less expensive. According to Career Karma’s 2021 State of the Bootcamp Market Report, the average cost of a bootcamp is slightly under $12,000, but a college degree can be double or triple the cost of one year of tuition alone. Then, it takes over four years to complete. Even the cheapest college education can still run you $20,000 per year.
Living costs are also an important thing to take into account. The longer you study at college, the longer you probably won’t be able to work. However, bootcamps are more flexible, which means you can work while you learn. This can help lessen the cost of coding bootcamps significantly.
The average salary after a coding bootcamp is over $80,000, which means you can make back your tuition money quickly. If finances are an important part of your decision when comparing a computer science degree vs a bootcamp, coding bootcamps are a better choice.
In general, you can plan to spend less time in a coding bootcamp vs college. Some bootcamps run as short as just two or three weeks, and they’ll teach you the basics of a programming language. Many bootcamp grads without previous tech experience will freelance for a month or two to get experience before applying for full-time positions in the field.
Computer science degree programs last two to four years, and sometimes they take even longer. Built into that period, however, is a lot of time for practice. Bootcamps will teach you what you need to get started, but you’ll need to practice your coding skills on your own. Computer science degrees will help you practice during the program itself.
Full-time coding bootcamps are intensive, which means you could be working on coding projects for over 10 hours a day. Though they can be completed in a matter of weeks, bootcamps are difficult and not for everyone. A computer science degree will give you more free time throughout your education.
If you want to make the best of your new knowledge and skills, you’ll need to prepare before the bootcamp, work during the program, and practice after class. Most bootcamp students won’t be able to work while studying unless they’re enrolled in a part-time program.
Because bootcamps are so intense, they can help you learn faster. This can be a pro for some people and a con for others. If your learning style requires more time and practice, then a computer science degree might be a better choice for you.
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The curriculum of a computer science degree vs a coding bootcamp curriculum is very different. A computer science degree offers a more well-rounded education, and you get more training in operating systems and information systems. Most degree programs require general education classes, so you’ll also be learning some history, politics, biology, and more.
Bootcamps, however, focus more on coding languages, tools, and practical skills specifically for developers. Your coding bootcamp will focus on the skills you need for a specific job, like software developer, data analyst, or cyber security expert. This way, you won’t learn anything that isn’t directly useful to you.
If you’re someone who learns by doing and like hands-on, project-based learning, you’ll probably learn best at a coding bootcamp. You can expect short introductions to concepts followed by in-depth assignments rather than long lectures. Many bootcamps use the “I-We-You” method. First, the class is shown how something works. Then, you do it together as a group, and finally, you work on it on your own.
In short, a coding degree will give you a more well-rounded understanding of tech topics that will go into the history of the industry and explain how and why different tools are used. A bootcamp will be more hands-on, and you’re likely to learn more about the actual practice.
Employers can go either way when it comes to education from a coding bootcamp vs college. If your goal is to get a high-ranking job, such as VP of Engineering at a big company, you should get a computer science degree. CS degrees are more impressive to non-technical HR executives, especially when they’re from a top school.
Bootcamps will help you get a job straight after graduation, and it’s possible to get a job at a top business without a computer science degree. If your goals are more in the startup arena, a coding bootcamp is a much better option. Startup culture values your personal projects and self-taught experience. In fact, a bootcamp certificate is a sign of your entrepreneurial drive.
If you want to launch your own startup or work at a smaller, fast-growing company, then a coding bootcamp is a great choice. However, if rubbing shoulders with executives at Google, Apple, or Amazon is in your future, plan to earn a computer science degree from a good college at some point down the road.
Your potential salary may change if you attend a coding bootcamp vs college. While the type of education you receive will impact your salary, your pay is determined by the career options you have. Bootcamp graduates tend to have the upper hand when it comes to finding entry-level jobs with better salaries. This is because many bootcamps offer job guarantees and assistance.
With a four-year degree, you may have difficulty getting into your career right away. However, you will likely find a college degree to be more useful when it comes to climbing your way to the top. As well, those with undergraduate degrees are often paid a higher base salary.
Overall, though, employers in the tech industry tend to be more interested in candidates with the right combination of soft skills and technical skills. Neither a coding bootcamp nor an undergraduate degree can really teach soft skills. This is why it is important to gain as much experience as possible through computer science internships and hands-on practice.
Computer Science Degree vs Coding Bootcamp: Job Prospects
The career options you have will differ depending on whether you are a college student, a computer science graduate, a current bootcamp student, or a coding bootcamp graduate. Before you decide on a computer science degree vs coding bootcamp, you need to look at your career goals.
With just a coding bootcamp education, you can easily find work as a web developer, web designer, or IT manager. If you enroll in a software engineering or data science bootcamp, you can also begin working in those fields. An intensive program will offer a deeper understanding of the careers you can work in as well as the technical skills and soft skills necessary to succeed in the tech industry.
Careers in software engineering and computer science tend to require either a bachelor’s degree or a bootcamp certificate. With a degree, you will start your career with more experience than a bootcamp program affords. This will allow for faster movement to senior and management-level positions. However, coding bootcamp job placement services are usually robust, which means a bootcamp grad might find a job faster.
Best Computer Science Degree Jobs
- IT Project Manager. Project management is arguably the highest-paying job with a computer science degree. In this role, you can combine your hard skills and soft skills to lead new and exciting projects while working on your technical expertise.
- Artificial Intelligence Engineer. Artificial intelligence is a growing field, and the average salary for AI engineers is $156,648, according to ZipRecruiter. It involves coding, machine learning, and quality assurance.
- DevOps Engineer. If you have strong organizational skills, one of the best computer science degree jobs is DevOps engineer. You will work in both development and operations to help software projects run smoothly.
- Data Scientist. As a data scientist, you will collect, analyze, and report on data from various sources. Data scientists have important jobs at top companies like Netflix, Meta, and Amazon.
- Network Administrator. Network administration is one of the best entry-level computer science jobs out there. As a network administrator, you will work with organizations to protect and maintain their computer networks.
Best Coding Bootcamp Jobs
- Web Developer. Web developer is arguably the most popular coding bootcamp job. As long as you have a portfolio and know a few programming languages, you don’t need an advanced degree. Web developers create websites and apps for businesses and organizations.
- Mobile App Developer. Similar to web development, mobile app developers create applications for smartphones, tablets, and other portable hardware. This is another of the most popular jobs after coding bootcamp because it requires strong coding skills.
- Data Analyst. If you enjoy working with numbers, you should become a data analyst. This is a good entry-level coding bootcamp job that involves data collection and analysis.
- Web Designer. You don’t have to know a coding language to become a designer, which makes it a popular choice. You can attend a shorter bootcamp or a more creative program for this job. Web design is also a good place to start if you eventually want to have a web development career.
- Cyber Security Analyst. If you have foundational knowledge of cyber security, you can become a cyber security analyst. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, information security job opportunities will grow by 35 percent over the next decade. Of all coding bootcamp graduate jobs, this one has arguably the highest growth potential.
How to Get a Computer Science Job Without a Degree
To get coding jobs with no degree, you will spend some time teaching yourself or enroll in a CS bootcamp. A bootcamp’s rigorous curriculum will give you a broader knowledge of coding than regular online courses, which makes it a great choice to start a career. See how to get a CS job without a degree with the five steps below.
1. Know the Difference Between Computer Science and Coding
Before you begin preparing for that dream job in computer science, you’ll want to be sure you know the differences between computer science and coding. While they do share certain aspects, CS and coding are different.
Computer science focuses on studying computers and all of their components, including the design and development of computers and their applications. Coding strictly involves the study of various programming languages and learning to write code in them. This is why it’s usually easier to get a coding job with no degree.
2. Learn Basic Programming Languages
You can learn these languages on your own with online coding courses or YouTube videos. However, a short coding bootcamp is the best way to learn quickly because you will have more support. Hands-on learning is often easiest when it comes to coding, and it gives you a bit of experience.
3. Enroll in Online Computer Science Courses
Once you have the basics of coding down, you’ll want to enroll in some online computer science courses. Many of these cover the very basics of computer science. They can be useful in preparing you for a computer science bootcamp, and they often contain info not covered in bootcamps or degree programs.
4. Enroll in a Coding Bootcamp
Enrolling in one of the best coding bootcamps is possibly the best way to get a full-time job without a degree. There are dozens out there, many of which are available both in person and totally online. Take some time to research and find the bootcamp that best suits your personal, financial, and educational needs. Then, you can apply for coding jobs without a degree.
5. Begin Searching for Your Dream Job
After completing a bootcamp, you can begin searching for your dream job. Many CS bootcamps offer career guarantees or career assistance, which you can use to find a good job fast. Otherwise, you can use websites like Indeed or LinkedIn and put your new coding bootcamp certificate on your resume.
Coding Bootcamp vs CS Degrees: Breakdown by Degree Level
Coding Bootcamp vs Associate Degree
Most people think of a four-year bachelor’s degree when they think about college. However, an associate degree is also a popular option. An associate degree is a two-year degree, often earned at community colleges. With this degree, you will have access to many of the same opportunities as a bootcamp certificate.
When comparing a coding bootcamp vs an associate degree, a bootcamp is usually a better option, unless you want to pursue a higher degree later on. An associate degree can also help you get a foot in the door with high-ranking companies, but they generally prefer candidates with more advanced degrees.
You can get a job with an Associate Degree in Computer Science, and you will start your career in about the same place as a bootcamp graduate. The advantage is that an associate degree will make it easier to continue a college education in the future. Attending a coding bootcamp is a better option if you want to save time and money.
Coding Bootcamp vs Bachelor’s Degree
A coding bootcamp vs a bachelor’s degree is a tricky comparison because both have pros and cons. A bachelor’s degree usually takes four years, which is much longer than a bootcamp, but it does offer more education.
If you already have a traditional degree or some work experience, you should opt for a coding bootcamp. However, if you’re starting your education from scratch, you should get a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. Most employers will appreciate your commitment to a four-year degree.
Coding Bootcamp vs Master’s Degree
Master’s degrees are graduate degrees that can help you learn computer science theory and advanced coding topics. Graduate school is a big commitment, which is why many people choose a coding bootcamp instead. Bootcamps can give you the boost you’re looking for without the intense commitment.
When considering a coding bootcamp vs a master’s degree, you’ll need to consider your long-term career goals. Many master’s degree holders go into academia, which is a great option if you love to learn. A coding bootcamp is a better choice if you’re only interested in getting a job or earning a higher salary.
Is a CS Degree or Bootcamp Right for Me?
Whether a CS degree or bootcamp is right for you depends on your career goals. Both options have their pros and cons. Bootcamps are efficient, affordable, and career-oriented. A computer science degree will increase your future income potential and help you learn more advanced topics. When choosing a coding bootcamp or a degree, consider the questions below.
1. What Do You Want to Achieve?
Do you have a dream company that you’d like to work for? Do you have an idea for a world-changing app and want to learn the skills needed to build it? Whatever your motivation for learning how to code, it’s important to consider your goals before deciding where to further your education. Some programs may fit better with your vision than others.
2. What Can You Afford?
It’s important to remember that many coding bootcamps offer both ISAs and traditional loans, and many even give discounts to those who pay the total amount upfront. Regardless of your financial situation, know that there are always options for paying for your education. If you’re having trouble deciding whether a computer science degree or a bootcamp is the better option, consider your finances.
3. Which Program Is Right for You?
Whether you’ve already made your decision to attend a coding school or a community college, make sure to research several different programs. Doing your research before committing can save you a lot of time and money down the road. The coding bootcamp vs degree question is potentially life-changing, so take your time.
Coding Bootcamp vs Degree FAQ
A bootcamp isn’t a type of degree but instead offers a certificate or certification. Coding bootcamps are intensive training programs that are shorter than degrees. Although they don’t offer the same level of education, they can still prepare you for a full-time job in coding.
Is a bootcamp certificate worth it without a degree?
If you don’t already have a degree, a bootcamp certificate might not be worth it. In many cases, employers will look for at least a bachelor’s degree, regardless of whether you have a certificate. However, this depends on the type of job you’re looking for.
Is a computer science degree worth it?
A computer science degree is worth it if you have the time and money to pursue one. You can find a high-paying tech job immediately after college. However, if you’re worried about student loans or the time commitment, a coding bootcamp might be a better choice.
How hard is it to get accepted into a bootcamp?
If you already have some coding experience, it isn’t hard to get accepted into a bootcamp. Many bootcamps have technical interviews and coding tests to make sure you’re committed and competent before they accept you. If you’re completely new to coding and aren’t sure where to start, you might not get in. Try taking some coding courses first.
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.