Coding bootcamps. A buzzword that frequents the circles of startups, futurists, and aspiring techies alike. But what are coding boot camps?
Coding bootcamps are condensed software development trade schools that teach you all the tools of the trade without the extensive theory or unrelated fluff. Their duration is usually between 10-to-24 weeks depending on the concentration and their cost runs between $8,000 to $28,000, with the average cost being $13,000 — a fraction of the time and cost of a traditional university or college.
The best part? Some of these bootcamps do not require you to pay anything until you get a job! Ok, maybe that wasn’t the best part. There’s a better part. And that’s your salary, which depending on your experience can be upwards to $65,000/year with no previous work experience.
Another great perk of these programs is that most of them do not require a bachelor’s degree or previous experience in software development. Usually, an interview to determine if you’re a good fit and truly want to transition to a career in tech will suffice. Most of these bootcamps are privately-owned companies but despite this fact, the majority of them offer scholarships, especially for women and minorities.
This gold-rush era of bootcamps, which seem to be springing up in every corner came about from the technological boom we are all experiencing on a global level. Technology-wise we evolving at a faster pace than we can keep up and therefore the demand for coders is outpacing their availability.
The Coding Bootcamp Experience
The Good Parts
During a bootcamp you might learn a little bit of theory, for example how to create an algorithm or how to write CSS, followed by exercises or a project so that you may immediately apply what you learned. This method works very well since you only learn what you need and then put it into action, so you can absorb and understand the information a lot better.
With the completion of each section or topic (sometimes called a stack), the cohort is split into teams. Each team is assigned a big project they have about a week to complete and present to the class. This is to teach students how to work with other developers since this tends to be the case for bigger applications or at companies. These projects are invaluable and they teach you how to be a team player and how to build an effective and efficient workflow.
In addition, a dedicated team of teachers will mentor each cohort along the way and is there to answer all your questions and issues you might be having. Not to mention other classmates are often more than willing to offer a helping hand as well. It is truly mind blowing how just a few weeks ago you had never seen code in your life and now you just created a virtual clock that counts down the time until Halloween, for example. Nothing can beat that feeling.
Coding bootcamps however, do not only teach you coding but also teach you about life. They teach you patience, working with others, and discipline. They make you realize you’re stronger than you think and that you are much more capable than you ever imagined. They bring out parts of yourself you never knew you had and give you the type of confidence no one can take away from you. Moreover, you learn how to effectively problem solve by breaking things into smaller steps and by approaching a problem from a different angle.
The Bad and the Ugly Side of Coding Bootcamps
The whole experience is very intense and fast-paced hence the name bootcamps. As a coding bootcamp graduate myself, I have to say even though you come out stronger on the other side, it can sometimes also break you with people dropping out not being that uncommon.
At times the feeling of being fully immersed in the world of code gives you a rush and at other times, it feels like chunks of information are missing and that you don’t belong there (Impostor Syndrome). Not to mention the stress levels, which are at an all-time high since there’s little time to complete tasks and you are worried about falling behind because there is no time to catch up.
In addition, most of these programs claim that you need no previous experience, but in my view, a foundational background is a must if you want to keep up with the pace.
To make things worse, coding is no easy undertaking. It is a very challenging field that one must have a genuine interest and love for. These bootcamps make a lot of promises on how they will change your life and help you get a job with a 6-figure salary. And the truth is they can, but at what cost? The last thing you need is another job you hate just with a higher salary. So my advice is as lucrative as this career sounds, it’s best to do your research and maybe even take some short online courses to make sure this option is for you.
Another important factor in determining the type of boot camp you should attend and which is often overlooked is the type of developer you want to be.
Some developers mainly focus on the frontend development of an application aka what your user sees. While developers mainly work on backend functionality — how the platform works and some do both, the so-called full-stack engineers.
Which one do you want to be?
Who Should Attend Coding Bootcamps?
Having said all that leads us to our next question: Who should attend these coding bootcamps?
Well, I thought you’d never ask.
Are you tired of your current career or job and need an out?
Have you explored traditional schooling and just not into the idea of attending a four-year college?
Are you the tech-savvy person in your family everyone asks help from when it comes to setting up a computer or your WiFi?
Do you have a thirst for knowledge and excel in intense fast-paced environments?
Do you ideally have a little bit of background with coding languages and frameworks?
Are you detail-oriented and do you love solving puzzles and problems?
Do technology and the idea of building something completely from scratch excite you?
Are you patient, self-motivated and do you love taking on challenges?
Though these questions are there to help get your gears turning, they are by no means hard-fast requirements. Anyone with a determined, go-getter attitude who is ready to succeed will be able to be successful whether they are tech-savvy or not.
The beautiful thing about these programs is that you find people from all walks of life from recent high school graduates to individuals ages 60+.
At the end of the day, it’s about finding the right program for you. For instance, if you’re new to coding, you could attend a bootcamp like General Assembly, which only teaches you one to coding languages.
If you’ve dabbled your feet before, you can attend a more challenging one like Coding Dojo, which teaches you three coding languages in 12 weeks. It all depends on your skill level, your interest, and your career goals.
Online Coding Bootcamps
Now you might say, this all sounds great but I don’t have three months to put my life on pause. I’m a single parent supporting my family so I have to work full-time.
No problem, you can still attend!
Well, how could this be?
Remember the thing I mentioned earlier about how these boot camps are not a one size fits all? Not only is it important to evaluate a program that suits your interests and goals but it’s also important to pick one that can accommodate your lifestyle.
The Three Coding Bootcamp Attendance Models
Before I delve into this, keep in mind most boot camps offer all four options, though there are some, which solely reside online, like Springboard or Thinkful, and some that may offer only a couple of the options.
1. Full-Time/In-Person Coding Bootcamps
Are you a recent high school graduate who is disappointed by your traditional schooling system and is ready for the workforce? Or a young adult ready for a career shift? Or is your spouse willing to support your career goals by taking on the household for a few months?
This model is mainly catered to individuals ready for a drastic career change. For those who want to become fully immersed in their new field of expertise while taking advantage of all the best features a bootcamp has to offer from easily accessible mentors to a full blown simulation of a development cycle.
In this scenario, students attend class at a physical location, 40-80 hours per week, and have given up their full-time jobs and most outside activities apart from the program. This is known to be the best model resulting in the highest paying salaries and the shortest amount of time it takes to get a full-time position.
2. Full-Time/Online Coding Bootcamps
Are you dying to become a developer but you happen to be in some part of the US where bootcamps are not an option? Or maybe your favorite boot camp is thousands of miles away and you’re unable to physically attend.
Do not despair! Thanks to the very reason your new profession exists in the first place, the internet, you can now attend from the comfort of your living room. These days and especially now with COVID-19, everything has moved to the cloud with full-time online boot camps simulating a real classroom. Instructors, classmates, lectures, and projects appear in front of your very eyes with the click of a button without you ever having to take off your walrus slippers.
For those of you ADHD or kinesthetic learners, standing in front of a computer with a camera all day might be a stretch. However, apart from an occasional round of ping pong, you’re not doing anything different than what you would be doing at an in-person bootcamp aka staring in front of your screen for endless hours as a time.
3. Part-Time/In-Person or Online Coding Bootcamps
Are you unable to quit your current job? Too many people depending on you to pay the bills? No problem! You can still jump ship and get the job and salary of your dreams…
Part-time curriculum whether online or in-person were created exactly for people with busy lives. Another reason a lot of individuals pick this route is when they already work in the industry but are looking for a salary increase. These programs are fewer hours per week but their duration is longer with some of them also being self-paced. The average time per week these programs require is 10-to-20 hours with their duration being about 9 months.
For the online programs, you usually get to meet with a mentor once or twice a week and have access to an online community. With in-person, you usually attend class for three hours, two to three times per week in the evenings (since most students in these programs keep their jobs) and then have outside classwork as well.
Best Coding Bootcamp Options
If you just do a simple google search along the lines of “best coding boot camps in the US” you will find a myriad of sites giving out ratings and suggestions. So instead of boring you with an exhausting list of them, I will just present three to you, which are believed to be the best for reasons you will soon understand.
So let’s start with…
General Assembly (GA): General Assembly is one of the most recognized brand names in the industry, mainly because it’s one of the oldest and has many branches across the world. The reason this one made the list is that it’s perfect for beginners with no prior coding experience. It only teaches you 1-2 stacks (coding language + framework + database) and their career development center is one of the most robust. GA offers all 4 attendance models so you can pick one that caters to your lifestyle.
Coding Dojo: This one comes with a biased review since it is the one I attended. One of the highest reviewed, but also one of the most difficult in terms of curriculum, it is not for the faint of heart. This school packs 3 full language stacks because their philosophy is to teach you how to think like a programmer rather than learn one language so as not to limit your potential. So even though they claim no prior coding experience is required, I would only recommend it if you do have a bit of coding background.
Moreover, this school is perfect for you if you’re more interested in becoming a backend or full-stack engineer since they don’t spend much time teaching CSS or JS for the front end unless it pertains to a framework or functionality. What is more, their graduates’ salaries tend to be higher than those of GA. Finally, just like in GA, Coding Dojo offers both online and in-person boot camps with a variety of attendance flexibilities.
Thinkful: This boot camp made my top three because it is one of the best online boot camps. Though Coding Dojo & GA are mainly known for their in-person boot camps, this one is the popular kid on the block when it comes to studying with your cat on your lap. Known for having a wide range of career tracks you can choose from and a choice between full and part-time, it also provides mentorship and career placement post graduation. According to them, 90% of their development graduates find placement with the median salary being $66,000. Some of the cons of this boot camp are that it comes with a high price tag for being online and some of the mentors may not be properly trained for their position. However, overall, Thinkful is highly recommended across the internet.
Coding Bootcamps and Job Placement
According to statistics in the US, 79 percent of individuals find employment in the field of technology and development upon graduation. This is a very high number, that matches the likes of the traditional schooling system. Therefore, if we put opinions aside, just by looking at the numbers, one would consider coding boot camps a relatively safe route.
Now I know you’re curious to find out how you can get a job after attending one of these boot camps so here we go…
The majority of boot camps have a job placement or career department that awaits you once you complete the program to groom you for your future job. The demand for developers doesn’t seem to be slowing down (especially the good ones and even during a pandemic) so it’s more about getting you a job that best fits your skill set and goals.
Students get assigned a career mentor, who meets with them one-on-one and who helps them write their resumes and build their online portfolio to show to potential employers. But that’s not all career mentors do. The meat of their job lies in them being your personal cheerleader when things get rough and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
The truth is it takes an average of about three months for students to find employment and those months (which are almost as long as the boot camp itself) can get pretty discouraging. Looking for a job is often a rigorous and exhausting endeavor where rejections can make you begin to question yourself, especially when your funds are depleted and you’re already forgetting all the coding you learned.
But do not get discouraged! Because just when you’re about to give up, you get that sweet phone call promising you free lunches and a salary to help you move out of that stuffy studio you’ve been living in.
You might be wondering, that’s all great but what kind of jobs will I be getting and how much will be I be getting paid?
Based on once again to our most trusted friend, statistics, the average salary of a boot camp graduate is $69,000. That number ends up being significantly higher if you have prior coding knowledge or if you attend a longer boot camp (16+ weeks to be exact). People in the last two scenarios can see an $8,000 increase in their pay.
Pretty much any position you get after graduating will have the title junior in front of it unless you attend a boot camp like Codesmith, which is catered for developers looking to up their skills. Therefore, depending on the boot camp track you attend, your job title might be something like Jr. Front-End Developer or Jr. Full-Stack Engineer. However, a lot of these boot camps have expanded their repertoire these days to include cybersecurity, UX/UI, Product Management, Project Management, AI & Data Engineering programs. This means you might find yourself being pulled into one of these roles instead. Some of these fields require zero coding so if you find out coding is not for you, the road to a six-figure salary is still accessible.
Coding Bootcamp Recap
In short, coding bootcamps are the best option if you’re looking to get into the field of technology in a short amount of time and without spending a fortune. However, there is a catch. Coding is not for everyone. It’s a very challenging profession that requires constant problem-solving and the patience of a buddha as sometimes you might be stuck on a bug for days. You have to be truly passionate about coding and have the motivation and perseverance to keep going even when things get tough. They are called boot camps for a reason. Everything in life comes with a price but the reward on the other side can be immense.
Therefore, if you’re completely new to coding, first take a couple of short online courses to see if this route is right for you and if you see yourself doing this in the long run, then the world’s your oyster. At the end of the day, technology is the future and there is no other field more lucrative than this.
And even if you find out coding is not exactly your cup of tea, don’t give up because you have other options. For instance, if you’re a creative, you can take a UX/UI bootcamp, or if you love managing people a tech project manager position might be just for you. As a boot camp graduate myself, I have to attest that coding boot camps did not only teach me how to code but also how to be disciplined and work under stressful conditions building the character required to be successful in all areas of life.