So, you want to be a developer, but you’re not sure which route to take? We’ve got you. There are three main routes people take to get to developing jobs: a computer science degree from a university, a coding bootcamp, or self-teaching. Self-teaching demands a great amount of discipline and, because you don’t have people there to help you when you need it, this route often leads to people feeling discouraged and unmotivated. That’s why we’ve compiled this list to help you figure it out.
How Much Does It Cost?
Coding bootcamps certainly win in terms of cost-effectiveness when compared to a university. The average bootcamp costs slightly under $12,000, but a coding degree can be double or triple the cost for tuition alone–and then take over four years to complete. Many university tuitions can range between $60,000-70,000 a year, and many of the cheapest universities can still run you $20,000 per year.
Living costs are also an important thing to take into account. The longer you study, the longer you have to sustain yourself, and that gets expensive. If you add up living expenses and tuition, a degree in computer science could end up costing you over $500,000. For less than the price of one semester at a university, bootcamp programs include programming skills and prepare students for a career in software development, which could net bootcamp grads $75-85K in their first position.
How Long Does It Take?
Short answer: Enough time to learn, but you’ll have to practice on your own. Some bootcamps run as short as 8-10 weeks and they’ll teach you the basics of a programming language. Many without previous experience freelance for a month or two to accrue experience before applying for full-time positions in the field.
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Computer science degree programs last 4 years. Some people get it done slightly faster, but they take a long time and a lot of work. Built into that, though, comes a lot of practice. Think of bootcamps as a crash-course; they’ll teach you what you need to put you on your feet, but you won’t walk very far unless you use it every day. Computer science degrees have that time built into the program itself.
However, the difference in length may also be an asset. If you need to pick up some skills on the fly to apply them to a new exciting project, bootcamps are for you.
How Much Time Do I Need to Invest Each Week?
Bootcamps are intensive. As mentioned in the previous section, while they give you the knowledge, they also give you less practice than a computer science degree. If you want to make the best of your new knowledge and skills, you’ll need to prepare before the bootcamp, work during, and practice after class. Most bootcamp students won’t be able to work during the program.
To make the best of your bootcamp, you have to do your homework. It sounds silly, but you’d be surprised at how many people do nothing in the course they’ve paid for. You signed up and paid tuition to work hard; doing all the work you’re assigned will help you learn much faster. Computer programming is active learning; you will know better by doing rather than by listening.
Which Do Employers Value More?
It depends on what you’re going for. If your goal is to be one of the big guns (VP of Engineering at a big company), you’re looking at a full degree. CS degrees can also be more impressive to non-technical HR executives, especially from a top school. Bootcamps certainly try their hardest to help you get a job straight after graduation, and it’s definitely possible to get a job at a top business without a computer science degree, but you’ll have to prove yourself.
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, it’ll be taken as a sign of your entrepreneurial drive, which is highly valued. Working at a startup might help you gain the same knowledge and skills that you would get in a computer science degree.
So if what you’re looking at is to launch your own startup, you just need the base skills to build your app, website, or tool. In that case, skip the Computer Science degree and go to a coding bootcamp. If rubbing shoulders with executives at Google, Apple, or Amazon is in your future, plan to earn a computer science degree at some point down the road.
What Does the Curriculum Look Like?
A computer science degree offers a more well-rounded view, and you get a lot of training on the hows and whys of computers, like operating systems and information systems. You’ll also be able to combine computer science with other disciplines more formally than you would at a bootcamp, such as computer engineering. Most degree programs require general education classes, so you’ll also be learning some history, some politics, and some biology. You might also take classes such as the history of computers.
However, you won’t necessarily use the coding languages you’ll get in a typical Computer Science program to build a website or the next mobile app. Instead, they’ll provide a foundation for programming and a deep-dive into the algorithms that help developers scale apps. Bootcamps, however, focus more on coding languages and tools for developers.
There’s also a matter of learning style; if you learn by doing and you like hands-on, project-based learning, you’ll probably learn best at a bootcamp. They don’t often have a lecture portion; rather, you can expect short introductions to concepts and then in-depth assignments. The “I-We-You” method employed by many bootcamps uses a few different steps. First, the class is shown how something works, then, you do it together as a group, and then you work on it on your own.
Many bootcamps, like Fullstack Academy, are starting to add computer science fundamentals into their own curriculum. They have added a whole additional day of instruction to their MEAN Stack bootcamp devoted to computer science theory.
In short, a coding degree will give you a more well-rounded understanding that will also go into the history of the industry and explain how and why things are used. A bootcamp will be more hands-on, and you’re likely to learn the actual practice better.
Is College or a Bootcamp Right for Me?
Bootcamps are increasingly popular; they’re efficient, short, and—by the graduation—you’ll have the skills to kickstart your career. If you’re at a place where you want to make a career leap upwards, a coding bootcamp is the most efficient way to do that.
The flipped classroom approach guarantees you’ll learn current real-world and career-like solutions, and companies know people know so much coming out of boot camps. So, if you feel like you’re between two stages or like you’ve reached a standstill, bootcamps are a great way to help you get ahead.
Having said that, they can also be tough. They’re rigorous and you’re learning a lot of material very quickly. But, if you put in the work to keep up, you really can improve your coding skills by an impressive amount. There are success stories everywhere; the number of students who really apply themselves, graduate, and then find an amazing job or start their own company, is astounding. For a lot of people, it’s a life changing experience.
The mentoring you can get at bootcamps is also incredibly tailored to your needs. The delegates are passionate about coding and teaching, and they’re attentive and very keen on helping you succeed. So all in all, if you have the determination to get ahead in your coding career, a bootcamp will give you what you need to succeed.
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