The Truth About Coding Bootcamps
Okay, so I’m going to try to answer one question here. Are coding bootcamps worth it?
You probably already know that a bootcamp program costs thousands and thousands of dollars. The one I did was part-time and cost $15,680. The full-time program at the same school cost $17,610. Those numbers are on par with what you can expect to attend a bootcamp program. That’s a lot of money.
I finished my program toward the end of June 2018, and the one thing you’re probably wondering about the most is how the job search went. Well, I landed a job! It was after around 1.5 months from graduating. First of all, this is really fast and not the norm. Most people don’t get jobs that quickly. You can check out CIRR for data on how bootcamp graduates fare in getting employed and how much they get paid.
For me, doing the bootcamp was an investment that absolutely did pay off. I got my start in tech because of it, and the earning potential of my working career has now skyrocketed. However, I want to say that this may not be the case for everyone.
You probably have seen advertisements about learning how to code in 3 months and come out making 6 figures at big companies like Google. That is totally unrealistic, and I hate that bootcamps use this kind of marketing. I see plenty of bootcamp grads taking 3-6 months to land a job, and very few end up at Google. Please keep realistic expectations and think twice before dropping everything for a bootcamp. Thankfully, I did a ton of research before I made my decision.
Let me stress again that bootcamps do not guarantee a job. This isn’t to say that you won’t learn a lot from attending one. You will most likely come out knowing how to build some really cool stuff, but that may not be enough to land a job. The fact of the matter is that the market is quite saturated. There are so many of these bootcamps nowadays, and they’re churning out fresh grads just about every month. You’ll still be competing against graduates from traditional CS college programs as well.
With all this saturation though, there always will be demand for software developers. Save for the case of an apocalypse, tech is not going away. Just about every company needs some kind of software these days, and there are opportunities worldwide. How do you take advantage of one of those opportunities then? Like college, you can’t expect to walk away from a bootcamp with a job in hand. You have to work for it.
Knowing how to code and knowing how to get a job are two very distinct skill sets. I’d like to think that I’m just good enough with either, but I’m not particularly great either. I always hear from fellow bootcamp grads that everything that comes after the bootcamp program is harder than the actual bootcamp itself, and I certainly agree with that sentiment. Stuff like resume writing, researching, networking, interviewing, etc. doesn’t come naturally. Thankfully, I already had quite a bit of experience with all that in my life pre-bootcamp. I think a lot of bootcamp grads don’t, and this holds them back a lot in their job search. Just like with coding, it takes time and practice to get better.
Going back to job market for software development, some places are more saturated than others. San Francisco and New York City may have the most tech jobs, but they also probably have the most people trying to work there. I know for NYC, there are so many well-regarded bootcamps in just that city. I went to one of them, and I was hoping to stay in NYC for my first job as a developer. I’ve lived in the area my whole life, so leaving was a sacrifice for me. Pittsburgh seems to be easier to get a job, and that’s where I landed mine. There are other cities like this. I wanted to start getting professional experience rather than waiting for the perfect opportunity to come around. Experience opens exponentially more options. This is something for bootcamp graduates to think about. The path on becoming a developer or the path of life in general is not a straightforward one. Being willing to adjust and adapt can go a very long way.
So going to a bootcamp definitely worked out for me. Does it work for anyone? It really, really depends. There’s so much that goes into becoming a professional developer than just knowing how to code. That’s why doing a bootcamp is not a guarantee at all, and bootcamps make this clear in the fine print. Personally, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend paying all this money upfront for a bootcamp due to the uncertainty of landing a job. What I do recommend is going with a bootcamp program with a deferred tuition model, meaning you don’t pay tuition until you get that job. Some examples are Grace Hopper from Fullstack Academy and Access Labs from Flatiron School. There is even the option of going to bootcamp with no tuition at all. In NYC, there’s C4Q and the Web Development Fellowship. If you currently have a job, you could do a part-time program like I did. I discuss all about how I decided on my bootcamp program here. Otherwise, there are so many resources online besides a bootcamp to learn how to code. I think any of these options are very reasonable, because they mitigate the risk. A lot of commitment is still required though. Of course, you don’t have to listen to me. If you’re dedicated, don’t let me stop you from doing what you think is right. If you’re not though, you probably shouldn’t even do a bootcamp at all. Whichever path you take, I wish you the best of luck.