Are coding bootcamps worth it?
Coding bootcamps are intensive courses designed to turn beginners into pro-coders. But are they worth it?
Private! Pay attention! Ten-hut! Do you want to prove you’ve got what it takes to be a coder? Then get down to your local recruiting office and enlist to join a coding bootcamp — a short-course that will teach you everything you need to know to join the ranks of professional computer programmers.
But are they really worth the toil, tears and sweat? Or are you better off learning to code some other way? That's what we're here to find out and we've done the research to help you figure out if they're the right choice for you.
And if you need something to code on, check out Live Science's guide on the best laptops for coding and programming.
What is a coding bootcamp and what do you learn?
A coding bootcamp is an intensive course — typically between 6 and 12 weeks long — that will take you from beginner to pro-coder. The idea is that instead of taking four years out to study for a computer science degree, you can learn more intensively and learn most of what you need to know.
There are hundreds of bootcamp operators around the world, all of whom offer their own courses, but typically they are tailored to different aspects of computer science. For example, Thinkful, one popular option in the San Francisco Bay Area in California offers three courses: Software engineering, data analytics, and UI/UX design. And similarly, Le Wagon, a popular London choice, splits its courses into web development, data analytics and data science.
Are coding bootcamps online or in person?
There are plenty of online coding courses, but the appeal of a bootcamp to most people is that they often take place in person.
Though this is perhaps less convenient, it does offer a number of advantages including making it easier to collaborate with coursemates, one-on-one mentoring, and it will help you build the all-important professional network that you will need if you want to find a lucrative job in coding.
Are coding bootcamps hard work?
Bootcamps are not for the fainthearted. The point of a bootcamp is to cram as much learning as possible into a short window of time, so you can expect 60-80 hour weeks throughout. This might be a mixture of lectures, seminars, and independent work. And don’t expect to have weekends for the duration of your course, as you’ll have homework too.
How much could I earn after a coding bootcamp?
It’s hard to compare the impact of different courses across different countries, but according to Course Report, in a survey of 3,043 bootcamp graduates, it found that graduates earned an average of $69,079 (around £58,000) in their first job after bootcamp. This marked an increase of 56% on pre-bootcamp salaries.
How do I get into a coding bootcamp?
Bootcamps are not designed for absolute beginners. Depending on the course you are on, you will probably be expected to have some skills going in. Though exactly what skills may vary from, for example, being comfortable with more advanced computing tasks like operating with the command line, to expecting you to already have basic coding skills.
Similarly, entry to a course isn’t guaranteed. Most bootcamps will require you to apply for a place and will select candidates based on their skills, and ability to pay, of course. You may be required to attend an interview, or complete a task so that your skills can be assessed by the tutors who will be running the course.
How much does a coding bootcamp cost?
This is the awkward part. Bootcamps are not cheap. For example, the data science course with Le Wagon in London is around $8,800 (£7,400), and Maker Academy’s 16-week course, also in London, costs more than $10,000 (£8,500). Across the pond, the fees can be even higher. Thinkful’s full-time software engineering course in San Francisco is $16,000 (~£13,200).
In most cases, bootcamps do offer financing options to help you pay. But don’t forget that while you’re doing the course you also won’t be working, so you will need to pay for food, rent, and other household expenses at the same time.
Will a bootcamp help me find a high-paying coding job?
That’s the idea, but it isn’t a guarantee. Bootcamps do make efforts to help graduates find work. This is often in the form of direct connections with companies — inviting recruitment teams to meet students and watch presentations. And many offer alumni networks, where former students can connect with each other and network.
However, perhaps the most effective thing that bootcamps do is that they provide you with the space to develop your portfolio: Your coding assignments completed during your course become the first projects in your portfolio as you apply for jobs and speak to companies about your experience.
What alternatives to coding bootcamps are there?
Bootcamps are not the only way to learn to code. If you have the time and money available, you could take the traditional route of a regular computer science degree. This will take three or four years and cost more, but you’ll ultimately learn more. Plus, you’ll still have access to the network-building aspects of bootcamps, as you can use your time studying to build industry connections with your professional peers.
However, if you want a cheaper alternative, you can always go solo and try to learn as an independent learner. There are plenty of online tools that will teach you such as Code Academy.
Are coding bootcamps worth it?
Ultimately, signing up to a bootcamp is like placing a bet on your future: That the significant upfront investment in learning will pay off by rewarding you with a higher paying job. But each person will have their own set of circumstances to consider and you’ll have to decide for yourself whether a bootcamp is the right choice for you.
If you're a complete newbie to the world of coding, a bootcamp should not be your first step though. Check out some online learning resources and dip your toes into the world of coding and programming before you dive in and spend a lot of money on something that ultimately might not be for you.
We've got a whole host of resources here on Live Science to help you along your coding journey, which you can check out below:
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James O’Malley is a freelance technology writer and data wrangler. He was previously editor of Gizmodo UK, and over the years has written for everywhere from Wired, Engineering & Technology, TechRadar, Which? Computing, and PC Pro. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations and takes every opportunity to flex his coding muscles.