Traditionally in the past, getting into the field of programming required several years of college education, some form of student debt, many physics and calculus classes and alot of patience. 4-6 years worth, depending on the level of education and your level of commitment to the whole thing. There were also technical schools that you could attend as well, though many of those have since been shut down due to accreditation issues and a slow tech market during the big crash.
During the past 4-5 years however coding bootcamps have begun to spread and become a popular method for many folks looking to get into the coding world without the challenges mentioned above. Many offer much quicker timelines, such as 4-6 month programs, and most are considerably more affordable than the university route. But even so, they might not be for everyone or just anyone.
In this post, I'll go over a few of the pros in choosing to attend a coding bootcamp, as well as a couple of cons that you might have not have thought about.
They are cheap (er) - Let's start off with the most obvious reasons. The cost. At least here in America, going to a somewhat formidable university or institution of higher learning is going to cost you a bit. The latest trends show that you will be spending anywhere from $5,400 to $39,400 in order to receive a full college education this year. Whatever you do, don't be an out of state student in Vermont. That number does not compute.
Whereas many of the top bootcamps, range anywhere from free to around $6,000. The free programs normally involve some form of upfront deposit followed by a salary percent share once you are hired and placed, so not technically free but at least free for right now.
Not that this is a cheap alternative mind you. But it is a cheaper alternative than spending $40,000 a year to go to a university in Vermont.
Many are online - Some find this to be beneficial, while others feel that the physical location is key to learning. Personally, I find that the less hindrance there is in learning anything, the better you will be in the long term. If you could count the amount of stress that is on the roads as young drivers attempt to make it to class on time in their pajamas. I know, as I was once one of these folks.
But many of today's bootcamps offer remote curriculum's, with online group chat sessions and weekly or monthly meet-ups with all of the students in various cities. Less stress in driving and parking and more time to focus on learning and your career.
This also opens the doors to those that might not have a reliable form of transportation or that live in parts of the city that might be somewhat remote.
No textbooks required - Purchasing textbooks that are required is something that once you leave a formal college education, you wonder how you were so foolish to fall for that old trick. Good one textbook companies. But seeing as how we are pretty much in the year 2020 already and have made some pretty cool gadgets, such as phones and the internet, textbooks are no longer a requirement. Maybe a nice to have, depending on your major, but not required. And particularly not in the field of programming.
Companies want you to learn their programming languages. Most have abundant documentation online along with forums and support centers in case you have any questions on such things. We also have StackOverflow, something that I personally did not have when I attended university.
My average textbook cost per semester in college ranged somewhere along the lines of 300-500$. During the span of 5 years, that comes down to about $1500-$2500 dollars in books that I no longer have. The bookstore didn't buy them back, as they were outdated, and many public libraries told me to take my box of books elsewhere, as they were full up.
So while the pros sound pretty good, and you might be ready to jump online, and pick your next learning venture, here are a few cons that maybe you have not thought about.
Some employers still require college degrees - There are still many companies that will only hire folks with college level educations and upwards, preferably in the field that is relevant to the job. And while this requirement is slowly transitioning out of existence, we are still some years away from it being a 'nice to have' feature on our resumes.
This of course depends on the company and its policies. Larger organizations with higher paying jobs normally are more difficult to get into. Which makes sense. But with the ever rising popularity of startups during the past few years, college level degrees are becoming so last year.
They are difficult - Sure, coding sounds fun and cool and all and you'll make 6 figures while villages parade you around town as the village hero. At least in your mind before you hit the submit button to sign up for one. But cramming a full-stack course into a 4-6 month period is difficult, even with all of the science, history, math and 1970's programming techniques removed. Do not underestimate the material. Not everyone will be able to finish the courses, which could end up being a costly gamble on your part, both financially and with your time.
They will get you started - But that's it. They won't make you into an Ace programmer that will work for unicorn startups. They just won't. That takes years upon years of experience and thousands of gallons of black coffee (probably). They will teach you enough to get your foot into the door however. After that, it really is up to each person to take it where they will.
So if you are looking to engineer the software for satellites or future Mars missions, maybe shelling out the few extra years at a formal university might be more up your alley. So be sure to have your goals lined up before you begin. Know where it is that you want to aim towards. If you get excited about the idea of working on a website or mobile application and you enjoyed adding CSS to your old MySpace profile, then you can definitely get alot out of a 6 month course.
If you are interested in getting into the field of programming, then coding bootcamps are for sure a buyable alternative. But they are not the perfect futuristic way that learning is going to happen. At least not for right now. Many of the people today building the most advanced technologies do in fact have college educations and in various fields. At the end of the day, science is science and requires much lower level understanding of multiple disciplines than just syntax and design principles in C++.
But if you are looking to become a programmer / web developer, someone that designs and builds web applications and mobile applications and wants to freelance your way through life as you code from coffee shop to coffee shop, then for sure, you might just benefit from checking out a few coding bootcamps and seeing what catches your fancy.
Hopefully you found this post helpful if you have been thinking about considering staring a coding education soon. Happy learning.
- The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now...
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Walter Guevara is a Computer Scientist, software engineer, startup founder and currently mentors for a coding bootcamp. He has been creating software for the past 15 years.