Are Coding Bootcamps or Degree Programs Better?


Updated October 11, 2023

check mark Reviewed by

Our Integrity Network is committed to delivering content that is objective and actionable. To that end, we have built a network of industry professionals across higher education to review our content and ensure we are providing the most helpful information to our readers.

Drawing on their firsthand industry expertise, our Integrity Network members serve as an additional step in our editing process, helping us confirm our content is accurate and up to date. These contributors:

  • Suggest changes to inaccurate or misleading information.
  • Provide specific, corrective feedback.
  • Identify critical information that writers may have missed.

Integrity Network members typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for as a side project. All Integrity Network members are paid members of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Explore our full list of Integrity Network members.

Bootcamps and traditional college programs both offer pros and cons for students who want a computer science career. Use our guide to decide if a coding bootcamp or degree is best for you. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Credit: AndreyPopov / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Students may have a hard time deciding whether to pursue a coding bootcamp vs. college. Both educational paths offer potential advantages and disadvantages. Learners must weigh the pros and cons and consider their career goals to make an informed decision.

Learners who choose traditional college degrees can pursue associate degrees or bachelor's programs. An associate degree takes less time and money to complete than a bachelor's program, offering a pathway for learners to explore the field without committing to a full degree.

Associate degree-holders can often transfer to four-year programs. A bachelor's takes around four years to complete and requires a significant financial investment. However, many employers in the tech field prefer or require job applicants with bachelor's degrees.

For an insider comparison, we spoke to Kate Crawford, a writer with experience in undergraduate, graduate, and bootcamp programs. Learn from her valuable insight on how these programs stack up with each other.

We discuss typical admission requirements, costs, and curriculums. We also compare salary outlooks and available careers among individuals who complete coding bootcamps vs. college degrees.

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Coding Bootcamp vs. Degree: Before You Enroll

Before applying, research different admission requirements, costs, and financing for coding bootcamps vs. college programs.

Admissions Process

Often, neither bootcamps nor college degree programs require previous coding experience.

Beyond that, admission requirements vary significantly.

Applying to a traditional college can be a longer and more difficult process. Common university requirements for an associate and bachelor's programs include a high school diploma or equivalent with a minimum GPA, letters of recommendation, and admission essays. Additionally, many bachelor's programs require SAT or ACT scores.

Coding bootcamps allow people with little or no relevant experience to quickly get the training and education necessary to pursue entry-level computer science jobs.

Getting into coding bootcamps is intentionally easier than receiving admission to a degree program. Typical bootcamp requirements include a skills test, resume, and admission interview.

Below, review the chart of common admission requirements for bootcamps, associate degree programs, and bachelor's degree programs.

Admission Requirements
Commonly Required Bootcamp Associate Degree Bachelor's Degree
Admission Essays
Admission Interview
Letters of Recommendation
Minimum GPA
Prior Coding Experience
Skills Testing
Standardized Testing

Cost and Financing

What you pay can vary significantly depending on if you choose a coding bootcamp or degree.

Students can often complete a bootcamp for less than what it takes to earn a bachelor's degree. However, the average cost of a coding bootcamp exceeds the average tuition for a two-year associate degree at a public college.

For students like Crawford, bootcamp costs can be a motivating factor. "We spend so much money on this program," she says. "I could not quit." When the program was at its most difficult, the cost helped push her forward.

"This is really hard, but that's another $1,000," she would tell herself. "That's $3,000 that I'm losing. That's … in the back of your mind. I wouldn't have thought that if I was in college. But here, no. It's happening too fast."

College degrees from private, out-of-state universities cost the most. Attending a public, in-state institution often can make a degree more affordable. The table below compares average program costs for a bootcamp, associate degree, or bachelor's degree.

Source: NCES; Course Report

Financing Options for Bootcamps and Degrees
Financing Options Bootcamp Degree
Deferred Tuition
Income Share Agreements
Payable Upfront
Private Loans

The table above compares financing options for coding bootcamps vs. degree programs.

Available funding methods include grants, scholarships, and public and private loans. Other options to fund a degree include the work-study program, employer assistance, and college payment plans.

Students may find other options for paying for bootcamps, including upfront payment, private loans, and deferred tuition. Learners can also find grants, scholarships, and income-share agreements to fund bootcamps.

While there may be other financing options for coding bootcamps, participants often cannot use federal financial aid to pay for these programs.

Coding Bootcamp vs. Degree: During the Program

Bootcamps and computer science degrees share many similar educational goals for their enrollees. However, course content, delivery format, and schedules vary.


Coding bootcamps and computer science degrees often cover some of the same educational content. However, bootcamps often take a more narrow focus and emphasize intensive skills development.

This intensive focus prepare graduates to pursue employment more quickly. Bootcamps explore many technical disciplines, including:

A student may benefit more from a bootcamp when they want to focus on one technical discipline and enter the job market as soon as possible.

According to Crawford, however, bootcamps can better contextualize the material, so students understand how and where their lessons will apply. "I think [that's] where they're really missing out in these camps," she says. "A lot of us are career-changers or … we don't have a lot of business experience."

Computer science degrees take a broader, more general scope and cover more topics. Because degree programs take longer than bootcamps, they can also delve deeper into some topics. A typical computer science curriculum explores the theories and practices of computing with an emphasis on math and logic.

Common areas include computer architecture, algorithms, databases, and information security. Degrees tend to require general education classes unrelated to computer science. A student interested in a more general but in-depth curriculum may benefit from pursuing a degree.

Program Format

Coding bootcamps and degrees offer online, hybrid, and in-person learning options. Online programs occur synchronously in real-time and asynchronously without any set meetings.

Students who want the most flexibility and convenience may prefer fully online programs, while those who need more structure and face-to-face interactions may benefit from in-person learning. Some learners find that a hybrid option offers an ideal mix of online and in-person experiences.

While many students thrive in an independent learning structure, it can come with challenges.

"I think a lot of my co-workers — my cohort — wanted more group projects and guidance," Crawford says. At times, she could have benefitted from better instructions in her bootcamp. "I don't know what I'm good at because I don't even know how all of this works yet," she remembers thinking during a group project.

When deciding what program format to choose, consider how your learning style and needs align with these program types. Think about how the programs may affect access to extracurriculars, networking opportunities, and housing and commuting costs.

Program Length

Your timeline to graduation can vary significantly based on your choice of a coding bootcamp or degree program. Degrees take much longer to complete than bootcamps. It takes around two full-time years to complete an associate degree, and four full-time years to earn a bachelor's degree.

The time to finish a bootcamp varies depending on the provider, program format, technical discipline, and participant enrollment status (part time or full time). However, the average bootcamp takes 2-6 months to complete.

Bootcamps require a period of very intensive focus and study in a condensed timeline. In some cases, bootcamps simply get students started on an educational path. "I think that what I learned is [part of] a progressing education," says Crawford. "It's not something that just stopped when I finished."

With a direction and purpose in mind, bootcamp graduates can continue their learning and training, adding to their skill set and adapting to industry changes.

Degrees do not require the intensity of a bootcamp, but cover more material and give students much more time to absorb and make sense of the material.

Bootcamps and degrees both offer full-time and part-time learning options.

Typical Program Lengths
Program Length
Bootcamp 2-6 months
Associate Degree Two years
Bachelor's Degree Four years

Coding Bootcamp vs. Degree: After Graduation

Coding bootcamps and degrees prepare graduates to pursue technical careers. However, students may find differences in job placement and salary potential depending on their chosen pathway.

Job Opportunities

Career opportunities can vary. A degree can offer broader employment opportunities, but some bootcamps have employer partner programs for bootcamp graduates.

Many employers prefer or require applicants to hold bachelor's degrees to qualify for the best positions. Professional roles that may require a bachelor's degree include software engineer and information security analyst.

A degree may also make sense for someone who wants to continue their education in an academic program in the future.

In Crawford's experience, bootcamps provided superior career support compared to colleges and universities. "I think it's better than a college career service," she says of her bootcamp support team. "They're like career coaches or technical recruiters, and all of them have pretty diverse backgrounds."

Every program and school varies in the type of career services they offer. Research your specific program to find out what to expect.

Salary Potential

Graduates of coding bootcamps or degree programs can both earn high salaries. Occupation often affects salary potential more than whether or not you complete a bootcamp or a degree.

Software developers, one potential career, made a median annual salary of $109,020 as of 2021. Another job that bootcamp and college graduates can apply for includes information security analyst, with median earnings of $102,600 as of 2021.

Other factors that can affect salary potential include education level, experience, professional certifications, and location.

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Should You Choose a Coding Bootcamp or Degree?

To decide about choosing a coding bootcamp or degree, consider your priorities, interests, and career goals. Think about your education and work experience and what makes sense for where you are in your life right now.

People who already hold degrees in non-technical fields who want to switch careers can consider bootcamps rather than pursuing more degrees. They can likely save time and money and still qualify for jobs that require a degree.

For students looking for practical training, bootcamps can be hard to match. While the studies can be intensive, the practical education helps ground the studies in real-world scenarios. It also helps students retain knowledge and information.

"I wish I would have known — how much reading you have to do and how much applying you have to do," Crawford says of her bootcamp education. "People [in the program] say implement, implement, implement, [and] they're not saying it for no reason. You have to implement and keep on moving, even if you feel like you don't know what's going on."

A degree may make sense for students who want the traditional college experience and have the time and money it takes to complete degree programs.

Ask yourself the following questions to help decide whether a coding bootcamp or degree is right for you.

  • Which program's admission requirements do you meet?
  • Are you starting your career or switching careers?
  • Do you already have a college degree in a non-technical field?
  • Do you want to learn career-ready skills or develop a broader knowledge of computer science?
  • Do your career goals require a graduate degree?
  • Does the traditional college experience matter to you?
  • How long do you want to spend studying?
  • What is your budget?

Explore Degrees and Coding Bootcamps

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

More Questions About Coding Bootcamps vs. College

Is a computer science degree better than a coding bootcamp?

Coding bootcamps and degrees both offer potential pros and cons. Your choice should depend on your personal interests, career goals, and life circumstances. Generally, earning a degree can help you qualify for the best job opportunities.

Should I go to a coding bootcamp or get a degree?

Choosing a coding bootcamp or degree depends on your career goals, previous education and experience, and personal priorities. If you want to pursue a coding job as quickly as possible, consider a bootcamp.

Are coding bootcamps cheaper than degree programs?

A coding bootcamp can be more cost effective than a degree. However, prices vary considerably among schools, so research coding bootcamp vs. degree costs carefully before applying.

Do employers prefer degree or coding bootcamp graduates?

Employer preferences vary by organization. Some employers require degrees as a minimum. Others like the practical training provided by bootcamps.

In most cases, employers prefer a combination of the two programs. Degrees provide a comprehensive foundation that the more specialized and technical bootcamps pair nicely with.

Recommended Reading

Take the next step toward your future.

Discover programs you’re interested in and take charge of your education.