CS Degree or Coding Boot Camp?
We're all familiar with the constant news coverage of the ongoing "tech boom", and the constant growth of the job market within that field. Employment within the technology field is growing at a rate about three times faster than employment in other fields, leading many people to start careers in tech.
Those looking to join the industry, specifically as software developers, often find themselves faced with this question: should I get a computer science degree or attend a coding bootcamp?
Obtaining a computer science degree from a university and attending a coding boot camp are the two main educational paths to becoming a developer. While a third option could be to "self-train" or learn from mentors, many employers are looking for some form of degree or certification. So for the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on the two most common options.
Attending a university or a bootcamp both come with their own pros and cons. This guide lays out the benefits and drawbacks of each option, and was created to help you decide which path is right for you!
Coding bootcamp cons:
- There hundreds of possible bootcamp options that each operate differently and cover different topics. Without a little knowledge of the industry, it can be a challenge finding the right boot camp to fit your needs.
- Some coding bootcamps focus on only one language or skill, leaving graduates pigeon-holed into a particular skill set which may or may not last into the future.
- There are many job listings that require years of experience or degrees – neither of which are obtained through coding boot camps.
- As coding bootcamps are a relatively new industry, it is up to the student to do research to find a well-established bootcamp with a reliable and competent.
Coding bootcamp pros:
- Bootcamps are more affordable than college, with the average tuition around $12,000.
- Coding bootcamps offer rapid, accelerated training, allowing graduates to enter the workforce much sooner than those attending universities.
- Bootcamps focus on technical skills that one will actually use on the job. The emphasis is on practical application, not theory.
- Many coding boot camps were founded by working software developers who have first-hand experience of working in the industry and know what needs to be covered.
- Coding bootcamps tend to cover the newest technologies, and update their curricula to meet the demands of the job market.
Computer Science Degrees
Computer science degree cons:
- Because curriculum has to undergo various approval processes, what's being taught is not always relevant to what is actually being used in the field. In some universities, students learn programming languages and technologies that are largely obsolete.
- Computer science degrees tend to focus less on coding than boot camps – covering topics ranging from mathematics to psychology. This can be a pro for some people who are interested in learning more than just computer programming.
- It takes 2-4 years to obtain a computer science degree - much longer than it takes to complete a bootcamp.
- College degrees can be expensive, costing an average of $8,000-$30,000 per year($16,000-$120,000 total over the course of 2 to 4 years).
Computer science degree pros:
- Students gain a much greater understanding of the theory behind computers, logic, algorithms, and other fundamental computer science topics than bootcamp graduates do.
- Hardware is usually covered in more depth than at bootcamps.
- Students graduate with a degree, which can give them a leg up when applying for jobs.
- The programs are accredited, meaning they passed a rigorous review process, are more likely to be comprehensive, and are transferable to other universities.
Which option is right for you?
So, how do you figure out which route is the best option? For one, listing out the pros and cons of your situation can be helpful.
Another factor that can help in your decision process is to look at outcomes associated with each option. For example: the average starting salary for software developers who graduated from college in 2018 was $67,236, whereas boot camp graduates reported an average of $62,178 a year. the average starting salary for software developers who graduated from college in 2018 was $67,236
None of this is to say that "coding bootcamps are better than universities". There are many benefits in obtaining a CS degree. For example: Larry Page and Sergey Brin (co-founders of Google) and Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) all have computer science degrees.
The short answer to all of this is: do your own research. With the number of schools and bootcamps around, there is no "one size fits all" solution. Review websites, speak with admissions staff, read reviews, and trust your gut.
Good luck in your search!