Learn to Code Online: Self-Teach or Attend a Bootcamp?
With the sheer number of resources online to learn programming, it can be difficult to decide if you should try and teach yourself to code vs. enroll in a code bootcamp. We've put together a list of pros and cons to help you compare:
Learn Coding Free
One of the biggest benefits of self-taught courses is that you get to pick your own schedule. Non-bootcamp online courses make it easy to balance school, or even keep your day job. You can maintain current lifestyle – coding in the evenings and on the weekends.
Unfortunately, this also comes with a price – distractions that work and school bring. Very quickly, you begin to realize that these online courses can be the easiest thing to cut from your schedule, especially as finals approach!
Free Programs, or Nearly Free
The internet makes learning resources more readily accessible, and you can get started right away. There's a huge spectrum of courses, from free materials to paid courses of every price range. Even the most expensive non-bootcamp online courses are somewhat affordable. Focusing on free online resources may sound attractive, but to a certain extent, you get what you pay for. The quality and consistency of the material can vary quite a bit, and typically it's only enough to get you started.
Pay Only for What You Need
Self-teaching enables you to pick and choose the material you need to know, a more "a la carte" style where you can focus on particular technologies rather than buying into large packages. This makes it a low investment for beginners and lets experienced developers zero in on what they need.
This comes at a price, however. A beginner will have a hard time knowing where to start or which technologies to work with. Without a solid foundation, it's difficult to know what's the right course to pick.
Accelerated Learning in Groups
One advantage of being placed in a bootcamp environment is how collaboration accelerates your learning. Talking about concepts, helping others understand them, and communicating about code is a powerful learning tool. Being able to pair with someone at your own level, and learning with a fellow student is huge.
This creates a more social learning environment, and our students are more successful because of it. Learning solo would make it much harder to learn these concepts quickly.
Cohesive Curriculum, Mentorship and Learning Goals
In a bootcamp, there's more structure to your learning. There are carefully planned out programs that can take months to complete, building up your skills one level of mastery at a time with mentorship by knowledgeable instructors. This learning style also gives you a "big picture" view and keeps you progressing forward – at a pace much faster than you'll be able to achieve by only yourself.
This does come with some caveats. The more rigid a course is, the more difficult it is to learn if you don't keep up with the pace. Move too slowly, you're going to be spending a lot of late nights and long weekends catching up! Move too quickly, and you could be waiting for the rest of the class to catch up.
Full Immersion, No Distractions, Lots of Content
A bootcamp is called a bootcamp for a reason. You eat, drink, sleep, walk, talk, and breathe code for months at a time. You surround yourself in a learning environment, packed with curriculum, and push all other distractions off your schedule. With this intensive focus, you get a lot more done in less time and learn new technologies at a rate you wouldn't think possible.
The flip side is, you'll have a limited time for your social life. Make sure to give your friends and loved ones a heads-up, and make arrangements for your pets ahead of time, because these courses are loaded with things to learn – you'll have very little time for anything else!
When you join a bootcamp, you're surrounded by people with the same goal as you: learn how to code. You immediately set foot into a network of developers-in-training with a similar skill set. This is crucial when making a career switch, as you'll organically create a professional network to leverage for more job opportunities. We've seen countless alumni find jobs through referrals from former alumni.
Of course, you can't stop at just the bootcamp. Networking requires constant maintenance, and to give yourself the most opportunities you'll have to extend your network outside of the bootcamp. Local meetups, hackathons, and online communities are great ways to meet more people who are passionate about tech.
Some of the most important services bootcamps provide are career guidance. Tech is a new industry for a lot of people, and the ground rules for the job search change. What could pass as common wisdom in any other industry might not work when looking for a tech job! Bootcamps help you clear that job search clutter, find your top job prospects, and provide you with the tools to nail the interview.
Keep in mind, as a veteran developer there's only so much job seeking advice you can get. Sometimes these services might be unnecessary for your skill-set. You may be better off tapping into your network for job offers.
Which is right for you?
When it comes to re-inventing your career, it's hard to beat the immersive and collaborative environments you can get at a coding bootcamp – especially for people who don't have a background in code. In just 3 months, the bootcamp experience is able to impart more technical knowledge than 10 months of self-study.
This doesn't mean that non- bootcamp online courses don't have their merits. They're flexible, cheap, and easy to access – there's a large population of developers in the tech industry who are completely self-taught. Even as a bootcamp grad, you'll still probably use non-bootcamp online courses and hunt for free material. Self-teaching is convenient and affordable, works around most schedules, and has more specialized courses or topics.
Whether you're planning your first steps into the programming world, or you're a returning veteran brushing up on old skills, it's important to find a course that works best for you. Research all your options and ask yourself: "What is it that I want and need?"
This piece was sponsored by Coding Dojo.
Want to learn more about Coding Dojo? Check out their page on SwitchUp to read alumni reviews.