“Coding bootcamp” has become a buzzword, promising to equip would-be software engineers with the skills they need to succeed in today’s competitive job marketplace. You’ve probably heard countless stories about acquaintances and friends of friends who went from knowing virtually nothing about tech to becoming a high-earning software developer.

But at the end of the day, are these crash courses actually worth it? Take a look at the advantages and drawbacks, and decide for yourself.

What’s a coding bootcamp?

A coding bootcamp is a program that essentially teaches participants how to code. Over a short period of time, it will help students with little to no knowledge of programming languages in learning skills for jobs such as web development and app design. A wide range of institutions offer them, be it online or face-to-face.

Pros

Time investment

Coding bootcamps last for as little as one or two days to several months. Still, even if you spend five months honing your knowledge of JavaScript and PHP, that’s a far cry from the four years it will take you to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Instead, you’ll focus on learning real-world, job-ready skills in an abbreviated timeline. You can also do many courses online, meaning you don’t even need to factor in commuting time.

Real-world skills learning

Most people who attend coding bootcamps aren’t necessarily in search of a well-rounded college education. Some of them may already have a degree, while others may not. In either case, these people are looking to increase their earning potential and develop practical skills that are applicable to their careers or future careers.

Given the reduced timeline, it probably comes as no surprise that coding bootcamps focus exclusively on building these skills. You won’t have to worry about other requirements or anything that doesn’t apply to the world of programming.

Job prospects

The 2018 Coding Bootcamp Alumni Outcomes & Demographics Report found that 79.3% of coding bootcamp graduates found employment requiring the technical skills they learned in the program. That’s an incredibly high success rate. The report also indicates that it took most alumni between one and six months to find these jobs, which is a relatively short period of time, similar to the length of the program itself.

Earning potential

The same Course Report survey found that graduates reported an average salary increase of 49% after attending a coding bootcamp, translating to a post-bootcamp salary of $64,528. Of course, previous experience, education, and other factors also play a role in earning potential,

Different positions, such as web development, app development, information technology (IT), and others, offer different salaries as well. In the grand scheme of things, a salary bump of $21,000 isn’t too shabby. The report also notes that low-income students saw a salary increase of 128%.

Cons

Cost

In the United States, coding bootcamps cost $13,584 on average, according to Course Report. That’s higher than the average cost of tuition and fees at a public, in-state college in the U.S. for the 2019–2020 academic year, and it spans a much shorter period of time. Moreover, you can’t get financial aid to attend coding bootcamps, although there are some scholarships and loans available.

Value

The value of coding bootcamps is debatable. Some people argue that, unlike college, these programs teach valuable, real-world skills, while others point to the fact that many attendees already have bachelor’s degrees. It’s not clear whether packing a large amount of information into a compressed timeline actually replaces job experience or higher education.

Variability in quality

As with any course, there’s no guarantee that your coding bootcamp, even an expensive one, is actually a quality investment. In order to help you determine whether the program is worth it per se, make sure to read reviews of both the sponsoring institution and the instructor before spending any money on it. See if you can speak to past students and find information on the average employment rate and salaries of graduates, too.

Pace

While the speedy timeline of coding bootcamps can be an advantage, not everyone is cut out for the rapid pace at which you’ll need to absorb the information. You’ll be expected to learn an enormous amount of technical jargon and specific knowledge extremely quickly, and that’s not always feasible. It may simply be too difficult to really absorb the skills you need to in such a short amount of time.

So, should you attend a coding bootcamp? It really comes down to your career goals, what you want to get out of the experience, and your learning style. Do you grasp complex material quickly, and are you looking to boost your earning potential without having to go back to school full-time? Then this could be the right program for you.

On the other hand, if you need to dive more deeply into concepts before they stick and want a broader education, a coding bootcamp probably isn’t the answer.

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