Is Coding Bootcamp Worth It In 2020?
I went to coding bootcamp in the fall of 2018. The program I chose was a fullstack web developer bootcamp at this fancy school called Northwestern University that I could definitely never have afforded to go to for college, so I figured maybe they’d have a clue. I also chose the 6-month, part-time program rather than the 3-month fulltime option because hi 👋, some of us need to work.
The fact that they even offered a part-time version of the program was one reason I chose it. But here’s the crazier part: I interviewed at several other programs and when I asked about financing options, the recruiter literally sat across from me and said “oh yeah, just go ahead and take out a personal loan!” …cool, let me just take out this huge personal loan for $10k-$20k that looks bad for my credit, has an outrageous interest rate, and requires me to start making immediate monthly payments while I’m still in the program. Good plan, Steve. Super accessible. Bravo.
The bootcamp at Northwestern was an accredited program that allowed you to use a student loan for financing. Finally, it was a fully on-site course rather than online, and I specifically wanted something in person just to have that hands-on help and get used to working with other students.
Besides all this, I was actually a teaching assistant for another cohort of the bootcamp after I graduated. So it’s safe to say I’ve been around the block with coding bootcamp.
Here’s the thing. Bootcamps were just starting to get more saturated when I attended in 2018, and they’ve only gotten more so since then. I’ve seen bootcamps that cost more than college degrees now, and that, in my opinion, is a massive waste of money. You should avoid thinking of a bootcamp as a shortcut to getting a job. In fact, it is only the very, very beginning. The certificate itself frankly doesn’t even matter, it’s about the skill you’re able to show and the actual work you can produce. I’ve seen people go through bootcamps and get certificates who will never be able to land a single role as a developer, and I’ve seen people who never set foot in a school or a bootcamp go on to have amazing careers in tech.
Not too long ago, I spoke with a local startup CEO who told me that he recently interviewed a girl who had just graduated from a bootcamp. They noticed that her abilities and project work wasn’t exactly lining up with what she said she could do and her technical question answers. Upon closer inspection, they discovered she had copy-and-pasted her entire solution to the coding challenge. Yikes.
The point of a bootcamp is really just to give you a structured path to help force you to learn what you need to learn for the bare basics of a job in a set amount of time. You can’t stop at the end of a bootcamp, you have to keep learning. The bootcamp is just like a guide for you.
Personally, I knew I needed the kind of structure and hands-on instruction that a bootcamp offers. I had no other credentials and knew nothing about development, and I needed that path and that timeframe or it would have just fallen through the cracks with working multiple jobs and all the other things I was doing. Ultimately, in general I would not recommend most bootcamps in 2020. There are a few that shine above the rest that I think are worthwhile, so if you are going to choose a bootcamp, I cannot stress enough how important it is to do that research. I don’t want to name specific ones here because I haven’t personally researched them all in-depth.
And. If you have the discipline to be self-taught, to be honest I think you can find the vast majority of pretty much any web dev bootcamp’s overall curriculum coverage online for free/very cheap (check out Colt Steele’s Web Developer and Advanced Web Developer Bootcamp courses on Udemy for less than 40 bucks total). It’s more important to focus on building projects than anything else and force yourself to really learn what you’re doing. I think even I was sometimes guilty of leaning on the crutch of instructional staff and other forms of assistance just to get by and get through the program because it was so fast-paced, when I could have benefitted more from taking my time and really learning the concept well on my own at a slower pace. There are many people in the tech community who are very willing to help out or offer feedback if you reach out. If you can leverage that and get some projects built, maybe do a few freebies here and there to get a resume and portfolio going, I think you could really have a great foundation, with or without a coding bootcamp background!