I was reading Reddit the other day and came across a post that was basically asking the above question. The poster wanted to change careers to software development without going back to get their degree. They wondered whether coding bootcamps were a good way to do that or if they would be better to self-teach.
In short, yes, bootcamps can be a good way to get into development if you attend a good one and work your ass off. A lot of professionals who want to become developers don’t want to spend the time or money going back for a college degree. They still want to learn as fast as possible, though. Bootcamps fill this need.
That’s not to say bootcamps are cheap or easy. Most bootcamps cost $5,000-$20,000 for 3-6 months full-time. Because they aren’t accredited, though, you usually can’t get financial aid unless the bootcamp itself provides it. Some bootcamps take a percentage of your salary from your first job instead of up-front payment.
Following that, there’s the challenge of finding which bootcamp you should attend.
What bootcamps are there?
You can get a starting list from Google and Course Report provides ways to find bootcamps that fit your needs. There are a lot of “Top-X Bootcamps of 2016” or similar results. With these, make sure you understand how the site compiled and compared the bootcamps to narrow it down for their list.
How can I tell if it’s a bootcamp is good?
This is tricky. There are a lot of bootcamps out there now and a lot of reports of scammy ones. Since there’s no accreditation there’s no standard way to judge and compare bootcamps.
The typical method people use to compare schools is the hire rate for graduates. One problem with this is that
1. They could be lying (ruh roh)
1. The graduates could be getting non-development jobs. Some bootcamps hire their own graduates.
Some standardized reporting does exist
The Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR) is standardizing results reporting from coding programs. As more programs join it will make it easier to compare. Right now, CIRR reports that 15 schools have signed on to use their standards. The results for each member is under Published Data.
How to find the best reviews and avoid survivorship bias
You can also see student reviews at Course Report. Take these with a grain of salt, though. Many people have reported that some reviews appear fake or could be paid for.
A better option is to talk to graduates and people who are attending. You can sometimes find them on LinkedIn or Facebook, or through Course Report or other review sites. You can also ask on Reddit, in r/learnprogramming or r/cscareerquestions or Quora.
The program’s admission’s office should also be able to connect you with alumni. Those alumni can then refer you to other alumni, or classmates.
I would also suggest talking to people who dropped out, if you can find them. This helps you to avoid survivorship bias where you only see the point of view of the people who succeeded. This way you can find out why some people feel the bootcamp is weak, if it was too difficult for them, or the teaching method wasn’t a good fit, etc.
What you should know before you start a bootcamp
Expectations are everything. Before you start this path, you should understand and accept
- development might not be for you. Start learning to program on your own with Free Code Camp, Udacity, Codecademy to make sure you enjoy it.
- it’s not going to be easy. This is not a cake walk. There’s a lot to learn and not a lot of time to learn it.
- how you learn. Some people learn better with videos than with books. Know yourself so you can supplement with the right materials if you need to.
- you’re not going to make huge amounts of money at first. It will still take time to build your career.
- you’re going to get behind and feel like burning out. Make sure you build in some down time to your schedule so you don’t self-destruct.
At this point you should have a better idea if a bootcamp is the right path for you. When you have 1-3 programs you’re considering, send me an email with the info at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll give you my honest feedback on which is best for you. As always, I read every, single email.