June 9, 2020

Are Coding Bootcamps Worth It?

Investing in any type of education is a big commitment. Students ask themselves questions like: Is this program worth the time and money? Is this the career track I want? Will it benefit my future? Will I like the jobs in this industry? Are there jobs available?

If you talk to a coder in the field, they’ll tell you it’s a job that requires creativity. It demands problem solving. It’s fun (the majority of the time). Plus, as technology continues to expand, the need for programming skills will continue to be high in-demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 12 percent from 2018 to 2028.”1

With that projection in mind, you might be wondering how you can learn to code. Fortunately, there are numerous coding bootcamps available that are designed to reduce your educational timeline and jumpstart your career. They range in price, length, and potential. The question is: Are coding bootcamps worth it? Once you’ve answered that, the next task is looking at what bootcamps involve and choosing the right one for you.

Are Coding Bootcamps Worth It?

In short: yes. Coding bootcamps are worth it. But why? Here are some fast facts about coding bootcamps:

  • Coding bootcamps reduce the amount of time to learn foundational programming skills
  • Coding bootcamps can give you a taste of the fast pace and work hours of the tech industry
  • Many bootcamps offer additional training and real-world skills, including how to apply and interview for a career in coding
  • Coding bootcamps give you an opportunity to network with others who want to work in the field as well as professionals in the industry
  • Specific coding bootcamps work to get their students employed post program (these programs will often have information about what happened with their students after the bootcamp on their website)
  • Bootcamps have the ability to advance student’s careers and increase their salary potential

However, coding bootcamps are not always idyllic—they pose some challenges as well:

  • It is easy to believe a coding bootcamp will be a game changer, but the reality is that while it may be, there is no guaranteed outcome (i.e. career advancement, employment)
  • Coding bootcamps often demand intense focus, time, and motivation
  • Each bootcamp has its own style (onsite facilities, tools, communication, hours, etc.), and not every bootcamp will fit every student, which is why it’s important to do your research
  • Coding bootcamps often work on the premise that you get out of it what you put into it (which is true for many things worth working for)
  • Although bootcamps can significantly increase your skills, if you want to be a top-level coder when you graduate, you’ll have to put in a lot of work outside of class, including continuing to practice and developing more skills

While there are challenges, you can still create the best outcome for yourself by preparing and making sure you have reasonable expectations.

However, before you decide to sign up or run away from coding bootcamps, here are some other things to consider.

Identifying Your Coding Bootcamp Goals and Which Bootcamp is Right for You

Choosing a bootcamp will depend on a combination of your goals and life situation. Ask yourself why you’re doing it and what you hope to get from a coding bootcamp (job, salary increase, coding skills to start your own business), and what time and financial constraints you may or may not have. If you are an absolute coding beginner, try a prep course or a free online coding course to see if it’s the career direction you’d like to take. Look at your learning style and what has worked for you best in the past and try to find something suited to that style.

What makes a good coding bootcamp program? The answer is going to vary by student. For example, some students will work better in bootcamps that are more self-paced while others thrive in an in-person setting. If you don’t live in an area that has in-person programs, then an online option may be ideal.

How Much Does Coding Bootcamp Cost?

Coding bootcamps cost both time and money. However, for some, the price of a coding bootcamp is more accessible than a 4-year or advanced degree.

That said, students interested in coding bootcamps often wonder if employers view them as valuable, or if it gives them the experience needed for a career. Other students may already have a degree in an unrelated field and want to know if a bootcamp will make them as employable as a student with a degree in computer science.

As they have increased in popularity, many organizations, including ourselves, have conducted surveys about bootcamps over the past five years. Here are some key statistics that show that coding bootcamps can absolutely be worth it:

A 2018 Switchup survey of 1,500 bootcamp graduates found:

  • 73.9% of respondents took a coding bootcamp to advance their career
  • On average, coding bootcamp alumni saw a $19,485 (45.6%) salary increase in their first job after completing a program compared to the job they had pre-bootcamp
  • Upon finishing a bootcamp, 80.9% of alumni were employed, 71.0% of which were working full-time
  • After attending a bootcamp, 47.0% of respondents worked in the computer science and computer engineering industry, compared to 17.0% that worked in this field before starting a bootcamp
  • On average, graduates rated the education of their selected program 4.4 out of 5, and 89.5% of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with their selected program

A 2017 Indeed survey of over 1,000 HR managers and technical recruiters at companies of all sizes found:

  • 72% of respondents consider bootcamp grads to be just as prepared and just as likely to perform at a high level than computer science grads
  • 12% think they are more prepared and more likely to do better
  • 80% of respondents have actually gone ahead and hired a coding bootcamp graduate for a tech role within their company, and 99.8% of those said they’d do it again

With that information in mind, a coding bootcamp still is a major commitment. The average cost for a coding bootcamp ranges between $5,000-$17,000. You can read more about it in our Compare Coding Bootcamp Costs: A Switchup Guide. The average length of a coding bootcamp is 3-6 months, and many bootcamps are full-time.

One nice feature of coding bootcamps is the variety of ways to finance. If you aren’t able to pay upfront, there are often options such as financial aid, scholarships, free coding bootcamps, and ISAs and deferred tuition available.

What Can I Do to Make a Coding Bootcamp Successful?

We talked about some of the coding bootcamp pitfalls above, but you can reduce their impact by taking actions that make your coding bootcamp experience more of a success—and that includes having realistic expectations.

Coding bootcamps like Flatiron and Fullstack Academy have prep programs. Prep programs are an excellent introduction to what you’ll experience in an immersive bootcamp program. In addition, they give you an educational foundation to build from.

Many former students have shared about the intensity of a bootcamp experience, which means motivation, focus, and practice are crucial. When you’re evaluating potential bootcamps, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it online, in-person, or a hybrid?
  • How many weeks is it? How many hours per day?
  • Will you need to do classwork outside of class?
  • Will you have to work?
  • Can you commit to the hours?
  • Are you in a space to give it the effort it requires?
  • Can you afford it, or is there a tuition model that will work for your situation?

Since the bootcamp experience can be intense, you’ll need to evaluate how that fits with your life.

It’s also helpful if you can take advantage of any perks the program offers, such as mentoring or the ability to work onsite with your peers. Some programs provide job placement support. Take the time to read reviews and look carefully over program information before making a decision about which bootcamp to enroll in.

Alumni Opinion: Are Coding Bootcamps Worth It?

It helps to hear about other student experiences before enrolling in a program. Switchup has conducted interviews with bootcamp student alumni to find out their motivation for a bootcamp and how they felt about the experience.

Conrad Montreal was already working in the tech field and had a solid resume that included a degree in Computer Science. He wanted to stay current with his skillset, so he enrolled in an Agile MBA program through The Job Hackers. Conrad told us, “Agile and Scrum are important in today's computer software industry. This bootcamp was important for me to be able to demonstrate to others that I know how to function and be productive.” Read more about Conrad’s experience here.

Nicole Gumina attended General Assembly’s full-time software engineering course. She spoke of the intensity of the 3-month program in addition to the aftermath of searching for a job. However, she is happy with her experience. She wanted to take a different direction than her biology degree and told us, “I wanted to learn new skills and get involved with an ever-changing industry. There is a lot of opportunity in tech, and learning new things is very important to me and I enjoy all of the concepts the industry has to offer!” Find out more about what drove her decision here.

We recently interviewed three other students as well. Find out about their experiences with the Le Wagon, Udacity, and Makers bootcamps.

The Final Consensus

Between the statistics and student experiences, coding bootcamps are considered worth it. The key is making sure both the timing and program works for you.

References

  1. Computer and Information Technology Occupations: Occupational Outlook Handbook. Available at: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm [Accessed 4 June 2020]
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