A version of this article was originally posted on Minaal.com, with permission to repurpose on SwitchUp.
Ten years ago when Ryan, my partner and co-founder, got started coding, he wanted to learn technical skills to work remotely and travel the world. After gaining experience as a software engineer and teacher in San Francisco, our passion for travel returned us to working from the road. This is why we started CodingNomads international coding bootcamps – to help other travelers like us learn software engineering skills while traveling the world, and secure work from anywhere.
Software engineers (aka software developers, developers, programmers, coders) are in high demand, and command high salaries. Average entry level salaries start around $60,000. That jumps to ~$100K with just a few years’ experience. Companies worldwide need software engineers, and because developers only need a laptop and wifi, many can work remotely while living (or traveling) wherever they choose.
Hiring managers can’t fill software engineering jobs fast enough. As a result, coding bootcamps have sprung up to address the software engineering talent gap.
While a university degree requires years of general education, most coding bootcamps last less than 3 months and focus solely on practical coding skills. Money-wise, the sky’s the limit for a 4-year college degree, but the average bootcamp costs $12,800. By lowering the time and financial barriers to entry, coding bootcamps help students learn to code and join the lucrative software industry fast.
Anyone with a strong work ethic and persistence can learn to code – you don’t have to have the brain of Bill Gates. Just like learning to write well or public speaking, with the right amount of persistence, anyone can practice and improve their coding skills to boost their careers. Many bootcamps require no previous experience, but an aptitude for STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and basic algebra skills will work to your advantage.
Since 2012 more than 500 coding bootcamps have sprung up around the world. Each bootcamp varies in terms of cost, programming languages taught, class size, location and more. In considering a bootcamp, it’s important to understand your goals as an aspiring developer, and the elements that constitute the right bootcamp for you.
Before jumping into any new career, it’s important to consider whether the day-to-day tasks and work environment align with your skills and interests.
Software development, at its core, is problem solving. Solving computer problems requires an acute attention to detail and oftentimes, a tedious process for finding solutions. If solving problems gets your wheels turning in the right direction, a coding bootcamp and software development career could be perfect for you. If you’re not sure whether you’d enjoy coding, try taking a few free online classes to help you determine if investing in a bootcamp is the right move for you. More on this below.
Software engineers must also have the intrinsic determination to learn, learn, learn. The industry is constantly changing with new technologies, languages and platforms. A bootcamp will teach you how to learn – what to research, where to look, how to arrive at the solution for the task at hand. Whether it’s after a bootcamp or a CS degree, engineers have to keep learning to make sure their skills stay relevant in the rapidly changing market.
When deciding which language to learn, think about how you want to use your skills. Do you see yourself as a trendy mobile app developer? A website developer with lots of clients? Or are you more of a server side engineer who’s keen to build infrastructure? Would a small-shop startup be the best fit? Or do you prefer the structure and stability of an enterprise firm? Hundreds of programming languages exist for countless applications, so it’s important to consider the type of work you want to do. You can also think about the type of company you want to work for, and research which technologies they use.
Client side bootcamps may be a good fit if those languages fit with your goals, but for prospective students that want to gain a competitive edge, we believe learning a core compiled programming language like Java or C will help you stand out. This is why CodingNomads trains our students with a combination of:
From our years in the field (and based on the graph above), we feel this is a well-rounded trifecta of skills that is in high demand, and differentiates our students from the pack. 
No matter what language a student chooses, a coding bootcamp will provide a solid foundation to more easily learn new languages in the future.
Are you the type of person that enjoys learning with a team? Or are you a headphones-on, lock-in-and-go type of learner? Are you a motivated self-starter with the focus of a yoga guru? Or do you need a little more discipline to stay on track? Your personal learning style can help you decide whether to pursue an online or in-person bootcamp.
In-person environments provide the structure of a classroom setting and face-to-face communication with your teacher and peers. For some, this helps minimize distractions to fully dedicate yourself to learning. In-person bootcamp classes typically run Monday-Friday. Part of that time is spent in a lecture format, but the majority is practical work on labs, homework and projects. Most in-person bootcamps are located in major cities worldwide with the highest concentration in the US. If you need to relocate for the bootcamp, make sure you consider the cost of living and available short-term apartment rentals to ensure it’s a viable option.
While CodingNomads was inspired by our love for travel, we host bootcamps in locations that are also affordable to lower costs for students. Our bootcamps completely remove students from their daily routines to focus on learning fast (and having fun doing it). We partner with coworking spaces to provide a private dedicated classroom setting, as well as a community of new friends during the bootcamp.
Although there is plenty of time to explore during an international coding bootcamp, our students are definitely working hard. They are learning technical information at warp speed, with hours of homework every night. Most reputable bootcamps advertise 60-100 hour work weeks. All prospective bootcamp students should be prepared for late nights and weekend hack sessions. After all, you are studying to become an engineer in just a few months. The more you put in, the more you get out.
There are also endless opportunities to learn online, including free programs like Codecademy and Udemy.
Just remember that taking an online course might save money, but you most likely won’t get the same level of personalized mentorship and team motivation/support as an onsite course.
Coding bootcamps have risen to popularity over just the last few years. But many have also come under fire for the lack of qualified teachers, poor instructor-student ratios, and unethical job placement advertising tactics. While more than 80% of surveyed bootcamp grads said they were satisfied with their bootcamp education, the last thing you’d want is to spend a ton of money on a bootcamp that over-promises and under-delivers. 
Start by setting up a phone call with the bootcamp – preferably with your actual instructor, so you can get a feel for his/her communication style, experience, etc. The best coding bootcamps will take the time to speak with you – be wary of one that won’t.Here are a few things you should ask:
What is your experience in the field? What is your experience as a teacher?
Make sure your bootcamp instructor has experience working as a professional software engineer. A software engineering savant may not be an effective teacher, and an academic may lack the real-world skills that you’ll need for the workforce. A Google or LinkedIn search can go a long way. Sometimes bootcamps hire their own graduates to become instructors. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure that your instructors have real-world experience to impart on the class.
What is the instructor-to-student ratio?
This is to understand how much personalized time and mentorship you’ll receive. Make sure there are no more than 10-12 students per instructor. Otherwise, you may not get the quality attention you need to succeed both during, and after the course.
What does the typical day/week look like during the course?
This is for you to gauge whether their work style fits your learning style.
How will this program prepare me for my job search, and my job?
For example, CodingNomads forms teams out of the cohort to work on projects together. Teams use the same collaboration and technological tools professional software engineers use daily. The projects worked on in class become the students’ portfolio projects. They can be demonstrated (through super sexy source code) upon request.
We also help students update their resumes and social media profiles. And we have guest lectures from professionals who conduct real-world job interviews to teach students how to prepare. We also conduct multiple mock interviews, provide a wealth of resources for finding work, and offer ongoing mentorship after the course.
A note of caution: Be wary of super duper job placement rates advertised by bootcamps. As mentioned, many bootcamps hire their own graduates which can boost job placement statistics. Some bootcamps boast placement rates of up to 95%. However, more rigorous third-party screening found that 68% of bootcamp grads were actually employed in their field by 6 months after graduation. 
Becoming a software engineer has the ability to improve your life through greater job security, career opportunities, earning potential, and geographic flexibility. Coding bootcamps offer aspiring software engineers the chance to get up and running without spending years at a university, or hours after work every night trying to learn on your own.
Learning to code won’t be easy. As a bootcamp graduate, don’t expect a wave of recruiters to knock down your door. Landing your first job will take significant determination on your part, and like any job search, can take months. We encourage our bootcamp grads to pick up project work as soon as possible, even for free. It’s a great way to continue building their portfolios and demonstrating the motivation and initiative employers like to see.
You may need to start with an internship or gigs that are over your head and under your desired income until you’ve got the experience to land a full-time job. Creating a profile on AngelList or offering services up on LinkedIn and other job boards will get you started. Don’t forget that on top of the software fundamentals taught in bootcamps, these intensive courses also prepare you to be persistent, approach challenges head-on, and hack your way to success – invaluable skills in your job search and career thereafter.
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