If you haven’t been living on the side of a mountain, you’ve probably heard of this ‘coding bootcamp’ phenomenon. Over the past decade and a half, bootcamps have emerged as a means of filling an important gap between the paths of learning completely on your own and spending multiple years in a traditional college.
Since the first bootcamps, many thousands of people have received training in web development, data science, software engineering, UX/UI design, and even some more exotic fields like AI and blockchain development.
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But attending a bootcamp is a highly non-trivial decision. You have to consider what field you’d like to enter, what bootcamps are best for that field, how you’ll finance this learning endeavor, and whether you’re up to the difficulty involved.
It’s this last question which we’re going to address in this piece.
It Depends on the Bootcamp
Naturally enough, the difficulty of attending a bootcamp depends on the subject taught and the rigors of the program.
Unless a bootcamp doesn’t take preparing its students seriously, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be hard. High-quality bootcamps are designed so that they can keep tension on both advanced attendees and beginners as well. The Galvanize Data Science Immersive, for example, had individual and paired programming assignments which had many different components. People like me with no technical background would camp out on the first couple of steps, where our modest talents were stretched, while the PhDs could work on completing every part of the assignment.
This way, we were all challenged, and we all kept learning.
I also think there’s an important sense in which some subjects are harder than others. Web development is a rich, rewarding field, but you’re highly unlikely to encounter as much serious math as you will in the machine learning modules in a data science program.
So if math terrifies you, you’ll need to take that into account when choosing a bootcamp.
It Depends on Your Background
As alluded to in the previous section, your background matters. One of the more striking aspects of the bootcamp experience is how diverse the student body is. There are students young and old, from all walks of life and with all manner of career behind them.
Obviously this is going to impact how well you do in a program, all things being equal. If you’ve programmed before, you aren’t likely to struggle with lectures on object-oriented software design as a coding newbie.
The same goes even more for math. It’s genuinely hard to learn new math, especially if it’s been a long time since you’ve tried.
While bootcamps tend to be structured so that even total novices can excel, you need to think carefully about what your previous experiences are like and how well they’ve prepared you for what’s ahead.
It Depends on Your Life Situation
Bootcamps require a huge expenditure of time and energy. If you’re limited in either, you’ll have a harder time doing well.
This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to finish. There were two people in my cohort (myself and another student) with children less than a year old. Several more people had older children. I don’t think it’s possible to work part time during a bootcamp, but I’m given to understand there are people who work the occasional Saturday.
(Obviously this changes somewhat with a program like Thinkful, which has tracts designed for people who also want to work while they study).
As with your background, you need to consider what your life is going to be while you complete your bootcamp. Does your spouse, significant other, or child understand that you’ll be less available for three-six months? Do you know how you’ll prepare your meals, or are you resigned to eating fast food for a while?
If you really want this to work, there’s almost certainly a way to make that happen. It requires only that you understand that bootcamps are hard, and preparing yourself for the steep climb ahead.