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As you prepare for a tech career, you may be comparing bootcamp and degree programs. While both help you pursue computer science careers, some people might benefit from one option over the other.
Application requirements vary between degree programs and bootcamps. Since bootcamps offer tech training and not a degree, they require fewer prerequisites. Bootcamps may require students to have some experience with coding languages, while colleges may require minimum standardized test scores and certain courses.
This was an important element for Maria Lazaro — a sociology graduate and association management professional. A bootcamp also offered her the opportunity to change careers without the same level of commitment as a degree.
In this guide, explore the main reasons why students like Lazaro choose bootcamps and figure out if these programs might be right for you.
Who Typically Chooses a Bootcamp?
Those seeking a career switch might find that a bootcamp offers a quicker transition into the tech industry. While this reason attracted Lazaro to a software engineering bootcamp, it didn't make it any less intimidating.
"Years ago, the topic alone may have terrified me," she says. But it wasn't long until Lazaro felt right at home in the field. "Today," she says proudly, "I am a software engineering student who aims to join a strong team of developers and provide support and a voice for the bootcamp community."
Along with career changers, bootcamps appeal to tech industry professionals looking to expand their skill sets. In a bootcamp, they can level up their coding knowledge or learn emerging methods and technologies.
Coding bootcamps could also meet the needs of students who prefer out-of-the-box educational experiences rather than conventional classroom learning. The practical, hands-on instruction and career-focused curricula of coding bootcamps can provide an optimal learning environment for these students.
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Top Reasons Why Coding Bootcamps Are Worth It
Coding bootcamps can offer excellent career and skill development opportunities, flexibility, and return on investment (ROI).
Another attractive quality of bootcamps is their affordability compared to earning a college degree. Many bootcamps feature multiple payment options, including deferred tuition or installment plans, to help make education more accessible. Be sure to carefully review the terms of any financial agreement before signing it.
Bootcamps also require less of a time commitment than a traditional degree. Parents, current professionals, and other learners who want an accelerated route to coding skill development might prefer bootcamps over degrees. Explore other reasons coding bootcamps are worth it below.
Potential for Great ROI
Bootcamps focus on building career-based skills. Unlike college degrees, bootcamps rarely have general education courses.
"Not to mention the cost," Lazaro adds. "I thought about going back to school [for a degree], but I looked at [the cost] and thought I would never get out of debt."
Compared to traditional degree programs, bootcamps typically cost less than bachelor's degrees. A 2017 RTI Press report lists the median cost of a full-time bootcamp as $13,500. Comparatively, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that the average tuition for a four-year degree in 2020-2021 was $37,500.
According to Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR) research, coding bootcamp graduates average a median salary of $67,270 with their first job after graduation.
Students can also pay for coding bootcamps in various ways. For example, some programs feature installment loans, deferred tuition, or tuition guarantees to help students cover bootcamp costs.
However, it's important to note that a tech degree can lead to longer-term job benefits, including more career advancement opportunities and higher pay than a bootcamp alone.
Learn On Your Own Time
Some coding bootcamps feature flexible learning options. Convenient schedules and delivery formats allow learners to choose a program that aligns with their needs.
For example, some programs feature in-person classes while providing hybrid or online learning environments. In addition, asynchronous classes let online students balance their studies without meeting online at specific times.
Students can also decide between self-paced, part-time, or full-time programs. Learners might choose full-time programs to finish their bootcamps in the shortest time. In contrast, self-paced and part-time bootcamps offer some flexibility around personal and work schedules, but they often take longer to complete.
This is the road Lazaro took, and there were some bumps along the way. "I had limited prior experience, and there are a lot of topics coming at you really quickly," she says. "And you're learning pretty much alone. So, yeah, there was definitely a learning curve."
But learning alone doesn't mean you don't have support. "There was a great community that offered help," Lazaro explains. "That made a substantial difference for me. Also, the mentorship really got me through, especially in the beginning."
Focus On a Specific Skill
Coding schools design their bootcamps to help students develop targeted skills for the tech industry's most in-demand jobs. The program structure often differs from traditional college and university degrees. Rather than classes, you may encounter sections and subsections.
"[The sections] are outlined in such a way that you're developing upon each skill, which is helpful to someone like me who isn't coming from a lot of experience," Lazaro says.
Bootcamps also offer optional sections, similar to electives. "I would look to see if [a subsection] was still mentioned in the job market and on job descriptions to see that it was still relevant and, if it was, then I would definitely try to take it," Lazaro says.
"I also saved some [subsections] for post-graduation, because I'll probably have some time between finishing [the bootcamp] and getting a job where I can still acquire additional skills," she explains.
Bootcamp students can expect an intense curriculum focused on developing specific programming languages and skills, such as:
A bootcamp's narrow focus differs from traditional degrees, which offer a more comprehensive education in computer science. Learners might find a bootcamp hands-on teaching approach more appealing as they prepare to pursue specific tech careers.
Get Help Landing a Job in Tech
When deciding if a coding bootcamp is worth it, consider each program's career resources available to students. Bootcamps typically provide career assistance through networking events, mentorships, and career preparation.
Lazaro's bootcamp offers students a six-month job guarantee or their money back. "That really stood out because it shows me that they are promising their education to you," Lazaro says. "We're giving you all these skills and we're reinforcing how you can go about networking and getting a job."
"All of that is really important to me, especially since I'm coming from a different industry," she adds.
According to Council on Integrity Results Reporting (CIRR), an average of 73% of graduates from CIRR-affiliated bootcamps find a computer science job within 180 days of graduating. Learners searching for direct pathways to pursuing tech careers may find that bootcamps meet their needs.
When a Coding Bootcamp Is Not the Best Choice
Coding bootcamps and computer science degrees offer different benefits to learners. A bootcamp could be right for you if you feel ready to pursue employment within the next few months. It might also provide a more affordable solution to students with strict budgets.
However, a degree might be the best option if your ideal job requires candidates with degrees from accredited institutions. Additionally, degrees can open the door to more job opportunities and higher pay.
"Really take the time to understand your learning style because not every learning style is going to work with the bootcamp [format], and that's okay," Lazaro assures. "That's really okay."
"If you are okay with a fast-paced, remote or in person [style of learning], a bootcamp may work for you," she suggests. "But if you [prefer] a more traditional, [structured] route, that's okay, too."
"It really comes down to you."
Explore the following resources for additional information as you decide whether to choose a bootcamp or degree.
FAQ About Why You Should Choose a Bootcamp
How much should I know before a coding bootcamp?
Although some coding bootcamps do not require prior coding experience, having some familiarity with coding is helpful. These intensive programs can move fast, so students with foundational knowledge may have an advantage.
Are bootcamps for beginners?
Many coding bootcamps are open to beginners with little to no coding experience. However, some programs require students to complete prerequisite courses to ensure that their skills meet minimum requirements.
What is the point of a coding bootcamp?
A coding bootcamp helps prepare students to pursue entry-level roles in the tech industry. These programs build in-demand coding skills that graduates can apply to their jobs. In addition, the career services included in many bootcamps can assist students in landing jobs after graduation.
Is a bootcamp better than a degree?
A bootcamp can offer a quick and direct path to a tech career. However, some employers require candidates to hold a degree, certification, or experience. Learn the typical requirements for your ideal tech job and talk to those in the industry to decide whether a bootcamp is worth it to you.
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