Learning to code traditionally has been a path reserved for those willing to pursue a degree in the field of Computer Science. At least within the past few decades that has been the case. You can look at many of the greatest scientist and engineers at the beginning of the century and realize that many of them did not have any sort of formal training. Thomas Edison himself was self-taught and Nikola Tesla did not complete his formal education, as many of the latest CEO's and innovators tend to do. But somewhere along the line, we pretty much made it mandatory in order to get a job interview.
Traditions are meant to be broken however, at least, if we plan to evolve a bit then they must be broken. So say hello to the concept of coding bootcamps. While online learning resources have been around for some time now, they have never been structured formally in any way that would help a person land a job in the tech world. Coding bootcamps offer many new features and benefits that aim to keep a non-programmer (or non web developers) on course to learning to code. They do this with both text based learning materials and video lectures. Most courses offer some type of human interaction where students can ask questions and explore more complex topics. And best of all, they do so around your time, which is of course uncharted territory.
As someone who went with the more traditional college route, but who knows fine folk participating in coding bootcamps, I get a glimpse into both worlds and can see both the benefit and some potential drawbacks in this new form of digital education. So today I'll break down the benefits that are present and some drawbacks that we will inevitably have to work out as time progresses.
The price is right (sometimes)
While coding bootcamps can still be somewhat expensive, they are many times cheaper than a formal college education. And for good reason. They teach you the basics to get your foot into the development world with the least amount of friction as possible. Much of the science will be trimmed off or taken away completely and you won't be taking any elective courses or taking summer breaks. Also, most, if not all coding bootcamps, are completely online, which means that those organizations save on real-estate costs which allows the savings to (hopefully) trickle down to you.
Having said that, a few still range from 8k to 10k and even higher for a few months worth of curriculum and course material. When weighing in your potential salary increase however, this could definitely be an investment that is well worth your time. The average entry-level web developer salary in Los Angeles, is currently around 55k to 65k. And that's for a standard company. If you are lucky enough to get into the more well-known companies, you are looking at a much higher take away in compensation.
The whole idea behind bootcamps are that they aim to quickly get you where you need to be technologically in order for you to land your very first coding job. In order to do this, many offer short deadlines and short time-spans for completion. Anywhere from 3 months to 6 months is what it will take to get you to completion. But you can do so on your own schedule for the most part. Which means that you can keep your current 9-5 while strengthening your coding skills at night.
Some bootcamps, such as Thinkful are completely online, which means that you can work from anywhere you are comfortable working. You take the course at your own pace, being guided the whole way by your own personal mentor and program manager to make sure that you are on course to finish in time.
Meeting other coders
Some of the larger bootcamps have monthly social gatherings for their students and instructors. This is a great time to get to know the people that you talk to daily over email and Slack. And because you are learning the same material on a similar timeline, you will all be on a relatively equal level playing field. This is huge for both building up your encouragement in what you are learning and in general just meeting like minded people as well.
I'll say this, this is one component that is hugely lacking in college level education. The continuous stress that daily homework, quizzes and exams cause leave little to no room to socialize and to discuss topics in a more non-serious fashion. This leads to burnout and to a dissatisfaction with what you are learning, which isn't beneficial in any way to anyone.
Help finding a job
Once you have completed your training, your real test begins. Landing your first programming job can be a time-consuming and daunting task, particularly if you are going at it alone and have no clue where to look or how to go about selling yourself. Which is some bootcamps have added career services to their list of features. Once you have completed your coursework and have shown that you can navigate your way around an IDE relatively well, then you will get help creating your resume, your work portfolio and setting up your professional online identity, which many people coming fresh out of college lack.
We are currently in a new era in which technology is a dominant force in our day to day lives. It might be difficult to remember, but just a decade ago we couldn't browse through hundreds of restaurants on our phones and order lunch or hail a cab in under 5 minutes using our neighbors as the drivers. And each and every day we slowly push towards a more automated and connected reality.
And as the demand for skilled workers increases, bootcamps will begin to make more of an impact in the workforce. Companies will begin to hire more and more individuals that didn't take the traditional route due to high demand. And at some point it will become the new norm to begin to hire based on skill level, and not on some certification based hierarchy where those with more expensive degrees have a higher outlook in the job market.
If you are looking to become a web developer or programmer in some way, then skipping the traditional 4-5 year college curriculum for something more streamlined and cost-effective might just be the right choice for you. If you are looking for the more scientific based learning methodology however, than this is something that can not be achieved in such a short amount of time. See which type of person you are and either way, always keep your best foot forward. Happy coding.
Walter Guevara is a software engineer, startup founder and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He is currently building things that don't yet exist.
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