Coding Bootcamp

Benefits and Popular Programs

Written by Holland Webb

A coding bootcamp provides intense, short-term, hands-on education in the skills employers look for in aspiring tech professionals. Many bootcamp attendees hold some prior experience in coding and are familiar with programming languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. At bootcamp, students go deeper into the frameworks, methodologies, and bundles relevant to the professional life of a coding professional.

Coders create and implement computer programs directly from the source code. Unlike software engineers, they do not create computer languages or design software. Instead, they convert the directions that engineers provide into code that computers can understand. Coders typically hold a deep interest in technology and experience working with computer languages.

Future coders can enter the profession either by earning an academic degree in computer science or by attending a coding bootcamp. An associate, bachelor's, or master's degree can launch a coding career, but these programs often take 2-4 years to complete, cost a significant amount, and require extensive coursework unrelated to coding.

A coding bootcamp, on the other hand, usually lasts about 3-4 months and costs less than $15,000.

Many people who choose a bootcamp over college already hold an academic degree. They may be unable to attend a college program because they have to maintain family and community responsibilities or cannot afford to take years away from the workforce for study. Other participants in coding bootcamps may want to brush up on their skills, network with other professionals, or learn a new coding language.

Coding Bootcamp Overview

Coding bootcamps provide an intensive, career-focused experience that can launch students into a new profession in a matter of weeks. Unlike college or university programs, which typically provide a broad-based educational experience, bootcamps focus on a single goal -- to learn to code. Bootcamps offer in-person and online options that make learning accessible for most people interested in the profession.

Each bootcamp can last anywhere from six weeks to six months. On average, a coding bootcamp requires about 3-4 months from start to finish. That's roughly 15-20% of the time necessary to complete an associate degree or a master's degree in computer science, and 8-10% of the time necessary to complete a bachelor's degree.

Overview of a Typical Coding Bootcamp Program

Foundational Curriculum

In general, a bootcamp curriculum includes essential programming languages and frameworks such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, Django, Ruby on Rails, and PHP stacks. Each coding bootcamp curriculum varies depending on its focus, resources, and mission. Typically, the first weeks of camp lay the program's foundation. During this time, students learn the fundamentals of jQuery, the basics of building a web page from scratch, and techniques for parsing JSON to extract meaningful data.

Technical Phase

A technical phase follows the foundational one. During this phase, students often focus on working with databases and servers to connect back end technologies to the front end. Learners may study how to query large amounts of data from a MySQL database.

Performance Component

The performance component of the bootcamp is where students focus on the transition between learning and a career in coding. Topics may include improving performance applications, using MongoDB as an alternative to MySQL, and converting traditional applications into progressive web applications.

Most coding bootcamps provide a certificate of completion after students finish the program. Although a university may operate the bootcamp, this certificate rarely holds academic value. The certificate also does not qualify the graduate to teach in a K-12 or postsecondary setting. It does, however, hold sway with employers. A survey from Indeed found that 84% of employers believed bootcamp graduates were just as prepared or better prepared than college graduates for coding jobs.

Coding bootcamps prepare students for high-demand careers in technology. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that computer and information technology occupations will grow 12% from 2018 to 2028, adding 546,200 new jobs. A bootcamp provides these future professionals with the training needed to land entry-level positions in the field. Unlike a college degree, bootcamps take only a few weeks or months to complete and cost a fraction of the price.

Coding Bootcamp Costs

The overall cost of a coding bootcamp varies based on a wide variety of factors. Some camps cost a few thousand dollars, while others cost more than $20,000. Here's an in-depth look at the cost of a coding bootcamp, how the charges break down, and what additional fees students can expect to pay.


According to research from CourseReport, coding bootcamp tuition generally falls between $9,000-$21,000, with a $13,584 average for a full-time experience. Those numbers, however, apply only to a full-stack, immersive, in-person bootcamp. Programs with different content, online courses, or a non-U.S. campus may cost more or less than these figures imply. Longer camps may counterintuitively charge less tuition than shorter ones, and the same program may advertise different prices based on location.

Additional Fees and Material Costs

In addition to tuition, prospective learners should consider costs such as application fees and materials such as computers and software. These vary from camp to camp and can significantly alter the cost of the experience.

Discounts and Scholarships

Prospective students should consider more than a bootcamp's sticker price when budgeting their coding education. Some camps offer discounts or scholarships. Typically, these financial benefits go to students from underrepresented groups such as women and racial minorities. An expensive bootcamp offering a scholarship may prove more affordable than a cheaper camp with no aid options.

Additionally, when taking a part-time, online bootcamp, learners may continue to work and earn an income, while studying at a full-time, on-site camp will likely prohibit any opportunity to regularly work. Some on-site camps do offer a living stipend that can help offset costs while the student is learning.

Nevertheless, coding bootcamps do not offer traditional financial aid packages such as Pell Grants, federal student loans, work study programs, or military and veterans educational benefits. Bootcamps are not higher education programs and therefore do not qualify for federal funding earmarked for colleges, universities, and trade schools.

Consequently, students will need to pay the costs out of pocket, set up a payment plan, defer payment until they have a job, or take out a personal loan to cover the costs of the camp. These options may also affect bottom line costs. A deferred payment, for example, might come with a small interest rate, but a personal loan will likely prove very expensive.

When doing a cost comparison between several potential coding bootcamp options, prospective coders should consider several variables. Regardless of which options initially appear cheapest or most cost effective, students should carefully compare numbers before committing to the camp of their choice.

Coding Bootcamp Job Opportunities

The best coding bootcamps help graduates prepare for jobs in software development. Coding jobs vary widely in scope, pay, and requirements. Broadly, coders use programming languages to build websites, develop apps, or create new software. These professionals can work in virtually all industries, including healthcare, finance, education, insurance, technology, and manufacturing. The field continues to grow rapidly, as the BLS projects a 13% increase in web developer jobs and a 21% increase in software developer jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Coding bootcamps prepare graduates for many different jobs. Graduates can become web developers, developer advocates, software engineers, tech help desk managers, product architects, or devops engineers. Because coding bootcamps focus on developing practical skills, their curricula are highly applicable to real-world careers.

In 2017, Wired magazine called coding the "next big blue collar job" because most coders work with basic programming languages in order to support a mid-level business. While this image of a coder differs from the media-driven image of Silicon Valley, it better reflects the majority of the industry's work. Coders earn upper middle-class salaries and enjoy an above-average level of job security.

Coding bootcamps can certainly launch new coders into the industry, but can they advance a current coder's career? The short answer is: it depends. People currently working in lower-level IT careers or freelancing part-time as coders may find a bootcamp gives them the qualifications they need to compete for full-time jobs. Some bootcamps equip learners with new skills or help them brush up on existing knowledge. When considering going to bootcamp, current coders should carefully consider if the camp will advance their knowledge or simply repeat what they already know.

Certainly, bootcamps can help launch a career in coding. However, no educational experience can guarantee job placement upon graduation. Brand-new coders may spend weeks or even months looking for work after graduating from bootcamp. Many people spend this time doing freelance jobs, volunteering, or otherwise gaining the real-world coding experience that employers look for.

As in any career, coding job placement requires networking, support, and connection, in addition to education. While bootcamp can't guarantee a job, it can provide the first step toward a fulfilling career as a coder in nearly any industry.

Coding Bootcamp vs. College Degree

Which is better: coding bootcamp or a college degree? The two options offer widely divergent experiences and vastly different price tags. Each person, camp, college, and company is unique, so the best choice for one may not apply to another.

Time Commitment

Earning a degree takes longer than going to bootcamp. An associate degree generally requires two years of full-time study. A bachelor's degree takes four years, and a master's degree typically requires 1-3 years. These time frames can vary based on the individual student and school, but nearly all degrees require several years of study. Coding bootcamps, on the other hand, generally last about 3-4 months.

Individual Program Costs

The price tag also sets camps apart from colleges. Coding bootcamps average about $13,000 in total, while colleges generally cost $10,000-$25,000 for a single year. A bachelor's degree may run between $40,000-$100,000 in tuition alone. Using these round numbers, bootcamp can save students between $25,000 and $90,000. Of course, some colleges cost much less. Community colleges may offer free tuition, for example, and students may receive a large financial aid package to attend a specific academic program. In general, however, bootcamps run about 10-25% of the total cost of a bachelor's degree.

Student Outcomes and Personal Goals

Do colleges offer graduates a leg up on people who finish bootcamps? It depends. A bachelor's degree still holds a lot of credibility for many employers. The college experience also includes coursework in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences, which can provide personal and intellectual enrichment. Additionally, holding a college degree allows students to pursue graduate studies later, which can open up management or educational jobs. In general, specialized roles and leadership positions often go to the candidate with a degree over the candidate with a certificate from a bootcamp.

Admission Requirements

Finally, there's the question of admission. Acceptance into a reputable computer science program at a top-shelf college or university can prove challenging. Even mid-tier schools often set very high barriers to entry for these degrees. By contrast, coding bootcamps tend to accept a broader range of applicants.

Determining whether a bootcamp or a college degree is better comes down to outcomes. Students who want a traditional college experience, have management goals, and are able and willing to spend the money may choose a degree. Those with less experience, who want to save money, or who need to complete a job-training program quickly may find a bootcamp is the best choice.

Coding Bootcamp ROI

Individuals considering coding programs often wonder if coding bootcamp is worth the investment. Coding bootcamps can lead to lucrative jobs and typically cost far less than college degrees. Students typically spend $10,000-$15,000 on a coding bootcamp, with many borrowing money or using savings to cover the cost. But is it worth it to attend a coding bootcamp? To answer that question, students can look into three areas: time, financial costs, and expected gains.

Time Commitment
Coding bootcamp requires a limited investment of time. Unlike academic programs, which take years to finish, bootcamps require just a few weeks or months. Even when compared to other vocational training programs, coding bootcamps can offer a short pathway into a new career. Becoming an airline pilot, for instance, takes 1,500 hours of flight time or about two years. Becoming an electrician takes nine months of training followed by 4-5 years of an internship. Becoming a truck driver licensure takes about seven weeks of full time study, but can require another 1-2 years of experience before earning an over-the-road post. Comparatively, coding bootcamps allow learners to gain skills and enter the workforce at a rapid pace. This allows graduates to begin earning a high-salary position relatively quickly.
Financial Costs

According to a study from Course Report, the average bootcamp graduate earned a starting annual salary of $64,528 in 2018, and alumni earnings increased by a median of 49%. For low-income students, that salary increase amounted to 128%. For women, salary growth was even higher.

Based on these numbers, the average bootcamp graduate earned their tuition costs back within six months of getting a job. For most of those graduates, their salaries eventually rose another 25% to more than $80,000 per year. That's about the same as a physical therapist, a career that requires about seven years of study and can easily run more than $150,000 in tuition.

The traditional formula to calculate ROI (return on investment) is net return on investment, divided by cost of investment, multiplied by 100%. For a coding bootcamp, the initial ROI in the first year is 1.61, not accounting for taxes, living expenses, or raises. That's a very high ROI for a job training course.

Job Placement Rates
Finally, there's the matter of job placement post-graduation. According to Course Report's research, 57% of responders held full-time employment before going to bootcamp and 16% said they were unemployed. After the camp, 76% said they held full-time employment, with just 12% unemployed. Within 120 days of graduation, 85% of graduates held full-time, part-time, or freelance employment.

Choosing the Right Coding Bootcamp for You

Students should consider several factors when looking for a coding bootcamp, including cost, time to completion, delivery method, software needs, and outcomes.

Tuition Costs

Bootcamps can cost as much as $20,000 for tuition alone. That does not include the cost of books, software, time away from work, living expenses, insurance, or possible relocation. Camps may also require students to purchase specific technology or software. Students need to figure all these costs into the overall budget when deciding which bootcamp to attend.

Living Expenses

Some camps offer on-site housing as part of their package deal, while others provide scholarships or discounts for women, minorities, or veterans. All these cost-saving factors can radically change the expense of attending bootcamp. Prospective students should make sure to add up all the costs, including opportunity costs, when comparing different bootcamp options.

Timeline to Complete Program

A bootcamp typically takes 18-45 month less to complete than a traditional degree. Nevertheless, some bootcamps require more time than others to finish. Full-time bootcamps typically move faster than part-time programs. Full-time camps often last about 13 weeks, while part-time camps can take 6-9 months to finish. Self-paced programs allow learners to move forward on their own timeline.

Student Expectations

In a full-time, immersive camp, students may spend 40-80 hours per week learning to code. A remote camp may require 40-60 hours, while a part-time program could demand just 20-40 hours. Most self-paced camps require students to put in at least 10-20 hours a week. Part-time options can make working during camp possible, but they lengthen the time between enrollment and launching a new career.

Instruction Formats

Bootcamps can offer their programs in person, online, or both. In general, in-person camps take less time and cost more money than their online counterparts. They also offer more teamwork opportunities, face-to-face time with instructors, and regularly scheduled classes and labs. Online options can benefit students who do not live near a bootcamp's physical site. Students with a strong work ethic, a disciplined approach to study, and an affinity for working alone may also enjoy remote camps. Remote camps may also offer self-paced options so learners can control their own schedule.

Personal Career Goals

Prospective students should ask what they hope to achieve from their camp experience and compare those expectations with their top camp choices. Different camps have different focus areas. For instance, many camps teach full-stack JavaScript. Others may teach Python or PHP. In addition, some camps provide more career services than others. For example, some may offer resume assistance and interview coaching. Others provide career days, apprenticeships, and networking events.

Determining the right camp means deciding between full-time and part-time, on-site or remote options, along with comparing total costs and desired outcomes.

Coding Bootcamps of the Future

The first coding bootcamps launched in 2012, and within a year they had graduated about 2,000 students. Since that time, the industry has grown from a handful of locations to more than 100 full-time camps and more than 500 total bootcamp programs across the U.S. In 2019, approximately 23,000 people graduated from coding bootcamps, and the camps themselves brought in roughly $309 million in gross revenue, according to research from Course Report.

The rapid growth of coding bootcamps shows that these career training programs are rising in popularity. In the immediate future, bootcamps show great promise as an alternative to college, a viable option for career changers, and a valuable credential for employment. Several current trends could help shape the future of coding bootcamps.