Considering Coding Bootcamp? 9 Things You Should Know

Considering Coding Bootcamp? 9 Things You Should Know

Coding bootcamps can take your career to the next level – if you choose wisely.

Learning to code is an undeniably great way to broaden your career prospects. Almost every company needs coders in some capacity. Professional coders might work as developers in tech companies, or they can serve multiple companies on a freelance basis. Best of all, coding gigs pay well.

In most career paths, there are no shortcuts. However, many tech education startups argue that coding is different. The demand for coders is very high, coders can work from anywhere, and in theory, anyone can learn the skill through immersion. Hence: coding bootcamps.

In the past few years, coding bootcamps have popped up all over the world. Their promise: to take non-tech types and transform them into tomorrow’s developers and engineers, often in as little as a few months or weeks.

 There are a lot of encouraging, albeit Cinderella-esque stories out there, such as the 2015 New York Times profile of the $20,000-a-year waiter who transformed himself into a $100,000-a-year data scientist after a three-month course.

 But this is not the norm. Results vary, and so do bootcamps themselves. While there are clear benefits to a high-quality bootcamp, some have argued that they are not the career panacea they purport to be.

 9 Tips for Deciding if a Coding Bootcamp is Worth Your Investment

If you’re considering a coding bootcamp, it’s important to do your research and manage your expectations. Here are some tips for your coding bootcamp search.

 1. Test the waters first

Before you even consider a bootcamp, the most important information to acquire is a bit of self-knowledge. What, exactly, are you hoping to get out of the program – a better job, an entirely new career, new opportunities?

 This is all the more important if you’ve never held a technical role before. Many skilled programmers are self-taught; others have degrees in their field. But what they all have in common is passion for their job. If you’re not sure whether you’ll love being a developer, engineer, data scientist, etc., it may be better to start off by taking one class, to get your feet wet, before jumping into a bigger commitment.

 Remember: finding the right career isn’t just about occupational outlook and pay. Fit is the most important part. Does that mean that you can’t make the leap from, say, former English major or retail worker to web developer? Not at all. But it does mean that you should pay careful attention to some practical aspects of bootcamps before making your decision.

If you’ve done your soul-searching and determined that a tech career is right for you, a bootcamp might be the perfect way to break into your chosen field.

2. Check your budget

While less expensive than most two- and four-year degrees, bootcamp programs will often run thousands of dollars. App Academy, a top-rated bootcamp, charges $3,795 for its 4-week online program. Their higher-level programs can set you back $20,000. The good news: if you earn income coding in the same year as your bootcamp, you may be able to deduct tuition costs on your taxes. Many reputable bootcamps such as Grace Hopper offer scholarships or waived tuition.

 In the end, your bootcamp should not be more expensive than your prospective coding salary, so calculate your rate of return.

 3. Vet your bootcamp

Unfortunately, anyone can start a coding bootcamp and advertise online. There is no specific accreditation process. While many bootcamps offer a top-notch coding curriculum, others offer empty promises in exchange for your cash.

Students should thoroughly vet every prospective coding boot camp. Seek out reputable, qualified teachers and established programs. For example, you might trust a bootcamp that’s aligned with a respected university and staffed by professors before you’d trust a brand new coding start up staffed by developers with no teaching background. However, the latter might suit your needs just fine if they’re running a tight ship and value their students above all.

Read reviews and Better Business Bureau complaints. Call the company and ask questions about their curriculum and success rates. Talk to the instructors about your goals. Ask if you can audit a class for an hour – why not? A good boot camp will answer your questions in a transparent, timely fashion. If you are having trouble getting clear answers to your questions, that’s an instant red flag.

4. Check your schedule

Some coding bootcamps last for four weeks. Others for 24 weeks. Typically, the shorter the program, the more intense and rigorous the days. Choose a program that suits your needs.

5.  Study their career services component

If you’re going to pay top dollar for a career-changing program, you better make sure it provides you with an on-ramp to employment post-graduation. Some bootcamps offer alumni networks, mentoring programs, even job guarantees.

Just be sure to read the fine print. The last feature often comes in the form of partial tuition reimbursement if you don’t get a job in the field. That’s better than being out the full price, of course, but it won’t buy back your time.

 6. Scope out their job placement rates

A reputable program will be willing to share job placement rates with you, as well as specifics on what kinds of jobs graduates tend to land after participating. That last bit is important, because you’re presumably not shelling out $10,000 or more to get a job that pays the same or less than your current gig.

 Several bootcamps have joined together to create the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting, which verifies graduate outcomes like employment rate, frequent job titles, median annual salary, and pre-bootcamp job title.

Other programs participate in an evaluation model from Entangled Solutions, a consulting firm, or post their own stats.

Again, buyer beware. If the success rates sound too good to be true, they probably are.

7.  You are still not guaranteed a job

Most coding bootcamps can’t 100 percent guarantee you a job, and while coding is a unique, burgeoning field, some experts recommend going a more traditional route instead: that is, earning a computer science degree and/or networking your way up with low-level jobs first.

While many bootcampers have found success right out of the gate, it may not replace real-world experience. Consider every option before you depend on a bootcamp to transform your life. Perhaps it’s healthier to treat a bootcamp as a challenging educational experience rather than an inevitable life-changer.

 8. Remember, coding bootcamps are not easy

A coding bootcamp is not for the faint of heart. It may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life. Make sure you’re carving out the time and preparing for a high-stress experience. You don’t want to enroll if you have a ton of additional commitments or if you’re in the middle of a crisis or transition.

 9.  Learning code isn’t a one-and-done deal

Technology changes, and you will be competing with coders who have advanced degrees and a ton of experience. A great bootcamp can get you to the next level. But if you’re truly serious about coding, you should expect your education to be a lifelong journey.

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  • January 13, 2023