Should you attend an online coding bootcamp in 2021?

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Now more than ever, everything is going online. Our shopping is online, our communications are online and our educations are online. And it's for one main reason. Our technology is finally at a place where this is all possible.

We can now have super powerful tablets that cost $300 or less and that can act as our PC's if need be. We have super fast internet in most parts of the country at a reasonable price. And we have millions of people every single day that jump online and create content, most for free.

If you've been thinking about getting into this whole coding thing, and maybe you've checked out a YouTube video or a Udemy course or two and are still interested, then you might be interested in the concept of a coding bootcamp.

So before I get into whether they are a good idea or a money trap, let's get into what a bootcamp actually is.

What's a bootcamp

Coding bootcamps are essentially online (virtual) courses that aim to teach you a full-stack technology framework in as little as 6 months with some form of career guidance at the end helping you to land that much sought after first programming job. Most offer customized online curriculum's, virtual classrooms, and even 1-1 mentors to guide students through the course of the 6 month period.

Several bootcamps have physical campuses, while others are completely online. And some even have live-in dormitories to ensure that you are really immersed with the material and with the coding culture.

As of 2020, pretty much all of these bootcamps have had to be solely online and will probably continue to be so in the foreseeable future. Which isn't a bad thing, particularly if the bootcamps have a decent online experience.

Pretty much every bootcamp these days offers a focus on full-stack JavaScript development and for good reason. Most of the newest companies are transitioning to that technology stack due to overall ease of use and reduced development costs. It's also much easier to locate talent, since companies won't have to wait for college graduating season to start hiring.

Who are they for?

Coding bootcamps are really designed for anyone at any skill level that wants to quickly learn front-end web development skills and land a job within the year. In my experience, I've seen everything from recent college grads to people looking to transition away from their current careers. But more recently, they are becoming more viable to anyone that has faced any kind of career challenges, such as a pandemic.

Having said that, they are bootcamps for a reason. They cover alot of material in a relatively short amount of time. While your traditional college degree can take anywhere from 4 to 5 years, coding bootcamps on average strive for a 6 month graduation timeline. And they can do so because they bypass much of the unrelated material that universities require for graduation.

For example, coding bootcamps won't ask you to take classes in Geology and Sociology. They are designed to narrowly focus on one tech-stack in a given field and make that the primary goal. But because they are running with shorter time frames in mind, they are challenging. In a sense, the college route might be easier since you have years to steer and navigate yourself accordingly and you can even change your mind and pick a different major halfway through. You don't really have that luxury in a coding bootcamp.

And lastly let's talk about costs. Most coding bootcamps that are worth your time, are not free. They range anywhere from $6000 to $30,000. And plenty fall in between. But they still outbid most University tuition fees. And because the price range is so large, you can pick a number and school that you are more comfortable with and lines up with your finances better.

And due to growing popularity, they are not just for web developers and coders. Most bootcamps now offer courses in Data Science, Machine Learning and even UI/UX.

Pros

There's a lot of benefits that a good coding bootcamp brings, particularly a well-designed online (virtual) one. For one, most bootcamps are privately owned, which means that they are companies with employees, managers, course creators, teachers, coaches, etc. And they only succeed if their clients succeed.

This means a few things to students. The most important thing being that the curriculum can be updated constantly to reflect the most recent concepts. This is where universities fall short. Most universities have deals with publishers and book distributors and they rely heavily on requiring students to spend hundreds of dollars on physical textbooks, some of which may be outdated.

Most online bootcamps have their entire curriculum's online in various formats to suit the students needs. This includes text, audio, video, online communities and anything else that might benefit. And as mentioned above, they are kept updated in real-time.

And if you choose to go the online route, the main benefit is of course that you don't have to drive anywhere and spend hours looking for a parking spot so that you don't miss your class for the 5th time that month. I've been there. Universities, while useful, don't make it easy to enjoy the process. There are expensive parking permits to buy, limited parking spaces and giant campuses to walk through on a daily basis. If you are just looking for good content without the noise, online coding bootcamps are a better alternative.

Mentors

There's one more benefit that I'll close out with. One of which doesn't really get discussed often, but that is impactful.

Some bootcamps offer 1-1 mentorship with real programmers who have spent a considerable amount of time working in the field. They have been there and they have done that and they will help guide you along in the process. And that's something that you won't easily find anywhere else unless you go out and look for it.

A mentor can do more than simply check your code. They can guide you in your career choices by pointing out what you should avoid and what you should focus on. They can share real-world stories about the job market and offer advice on getting jobs. And they can take some of the slack off of having to go at it alone. Coding isn't easy, despite what YouTube videos show. It's a job like any other job. You have tasks and you have managers and you get paid well for a reason. A solid mentor can keep you focused and on track long enough for you to land that first job.

I myself work as a mentor for a reputable online bootcamp and I have done so for the past 3 years. Having met with hundreds of students I get to experience first hand what many challenges beginner's face and much of that time, they just need someone to tell them straight up what a concept is without the noise that is found online.

Final words

To answer the question that I started off with, the answer is the following. If you are genuinely interested in a career in web development, data science or UI/UX and are dedicated enough to stay focused for 6 months, then I think you can definitely learn the skills to be employable within that time.

If you think it's an easy ride however, and that you will end up working at Facebook earning 6-figures by next spring, then maybe you aren't quite ready just yet for this level of work.

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