Meet the Experts
Director of Education,
Software engineering is one of the country’s fastest growing fields, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics
projecting a 22 percent growth between 2012 and 2022. Exploding career potential, average salaries in excess
of $100,000, and
demand for more talented developers make jobs in this field some of the most popular professional options
While a college degree in computer science has long been the traditional educational route to becoming a
software developer or engineer, coding bootcamps have begun disrupting the learning landscape. Through
fast-paced and intensive
courses, bootcamps are marketed as a cost-effective and rewarding way for both tech and non-tech college
graduates to develop real-world skills and land a job in the industry in a relatively short amount of time.
The following guide provides a deep look into coding bootcamps by discussing the types and costs of programs
available alongside their pros and cons. Those who are on the fence can review expert insight on instruction
expectations. Read on to get the information you need before signing up.
The 4 W’s
Coding is what makes modern technology possible. From apps running on Apple’s iWatch to our ability to post
and share a picture on Facebook, all of these applications are made with code. Put simply, coding tells a
computer what to do.
Various types of programming languages exist, with each serving as a set of rules governing how code should
be formatted and written. A list of common programming languages and their uses is given below:
- Python: multi-purpose
- SQL: databases
- PHP: Web pages
- Ruby: Web pages and websites
- C++: hardware programs, Windows operating systems
Coding bootcamps were created to provide short, intensive training in programming languages to prepare
students for careers in the growing software development industry.
what is it?
Coding bootcamp is a type of technical training program offering students with little-to-no coding
experience an opportunity to develop professional level, job-ready skills through accelerated,
intensive, and immersive training
programs. Typically lasting 8-12 weeks, these fast-tracked programs require students dedicate 90 to 100
hours per week studying. Learning takes place onsite in major cities and technical hubs, including San
Francisco and New
York. They focus on real-world, experiential skill building in a variety of program languages. Upon
completion, graduates should be prepared to pursue and land an entry to mid-level job in programming.
Most programs follow a weekly schedule, taking learners from the basics to more complex topics. Through
classroom-based lectures and hands-on coding, students develop an introductory understanding of
programming and gain
when is a good time to go to enroll?
Bootcamps schedule programs throughout the year, allowing greater levels of flexibility for potential
applicants. Time is subjective and dependent on the individual student, but all must wholly commit to
living and breathing
coding for the duration of the program.
where are they?
Bootcamp programs are on-site and require students to attend full-time until completed. They can be
found throughout the country, but most are in major urban areas and technology hubs, including the
who is attending them?
Those interested in bootcamps tend to be adults who have a degree or at least some college education
and are already working. The average participant is 29 years old and has six years of professional
experience, but has never
worked as a programmer. Reasons for attendance vary by student, however, and other common themes and
student profiles include those who want to switch careers, advance in a current position, gain
professional mobility in the
growing technology industry, and compete for higher paying tech positions. Nearly 6,000 individuals
completed a coding program in 2014.
While some bootcamps are being touted as a replacement for a college education, college graduates
comprise the large majority of enrollments. A 2014 survey conducted by Course Report found that 71 percent
of students hold a bachelor’s degree and 15 percent have completed a master’s level program prior to
With some coding bootcamps touting themselves as an alternative to college, students may be tempted to forgo
college altogether in exchange for a bootcamp experience. While it may be tempting, there’s still no foolproof
a well-rounded college education.
College vs. Bootcamp
College degrees are still considered the gold standard for many jobs in programming. Because coding bootcamps
are relatively new, the jury is still out on how they stack up to a college education. According to
Farquharson, “the main
thing college degrees offer is time and immersion. Four years of coursework allows students time to process,
internalize, and apply skills.” She continues, “The major difference between college and bootcamp is that a
provides greater opportunities for exploring software development. This allows students to develop a more
extensive understanding of a broader range of material.”
On the other hand, Shawn Drost feels there is “not much” a coding bootcamp can’t match in terms of what
college programs currently offer. Remarking on his own college experience, he shared four reasons why
attending college is
Broad learning opportunities
“I personally audited over 70 credits of classes in a variety of subjects, in addition to my regular
full-time schedule. I also studied abroad twice. While this didn’t translate into real-world results, I
value education for
education’s sake. College is a thrilling world.”
“There are some disciplines of computer science where the most advanced work is done in academia, such
as computer vision and artificial intelligence. Students with exclusive interest in these fields might
benefit from going
through an undergraduate program.”
“A four-year degree can be an extended course in becoming an adult. It’s pretty great! I really
enjoyed my time at university.”
You’re extremely self-driven
“If you’re the kind of person that learns extremely effectively on your own, instead of at a
full-time job where you learn more about coding by solving hard problems at a company, then you may find
that college is a true
Still not sure? Here’s a side-by-side look at the differences between college and bootcamp programs:
||Associate degrees typically take two years, while a bachelor’s degree in computer
science takes four or more years
||Approximately 8 to 12 weeks
||Well-rounded coursework, including general education classes outside of computer
science. Provides a broader study of theory and programming principles
||No instruction in computer theory, but a greater focus on skill building in Web
development, HTML, CSS, and programming languages
||Lecture-based with some hands-on programming
||Minimal lectures with practical instruction in coding through individual and group
||Typically ranges from $15,000 – $40,000+
||$5,000 to $20,000
||Some career and internship placement assistance post-graduation
||On-site job fairs and access to hiring managers (varies by program)
Pros and Cons of Attending a Coding Bootcamp
Practical, career-focused skill development
Demanding and intensive learning environment
Less expensive than a four-year degree
Likely requires relocation to attend program
Head start on career opportunities
Lack of well-rounded education
Less time to graduate
Lack of deeper understanding of computer science theory
Develop technical skills current in the industry
Less time to explore professional fit
Instruction from professional programmers
Does not result in college degree
No student loans
No financial aid and minimum payment assistance programs
“A coding bootcamp isn’t for a lazy student who’s just trying to get by. It’s for a
student who is willing to be nose down temporarily so they can have a lucrative career
Shana Mysko, We Can Code IT
A Day in the Life at Coding Bootcamp
Intensive. Grueling. Demanding.
These are some of the adjectives used by coding bootcamps to describe their programs. Most operate Monday
through Friday on a set schedule, but students may find themselves working into the evenings and on weekends
projects. Although the instructional delivery format varies by program, most offer a structured method of
instruction. This approach includes a blend of individual and collaborative project, lectures, homework, guest
Shana Mysko of We Can Code IT, Michele Farquharson of Betamore Academy, and Shawn Drost of Hack Reactor
offered brief snapshots of their daily coding bootcamp schedules.
Students meet on campus from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. twice per week for 10-12 weeks. In addition to
classroom-based instruction, students receive assigned readings and homework in the form of Web development
We Can Code IT
The length of a typical day at a coding bootcamp is between six and eight hours, Monday through Friday.
Part of the day is spent in lectures, with the remainder in labs working collaboratively with other
students. Learners are
expected to work on projects for a couple hours each evening.
The program runs 11 hours a day, six days per week for 12 weeks, with the curriculum divided into two
blocks with separate objectives. The first six weeks includes a structured deep-dive into software and web
discipline of software engineering in industry. The second block focuses on completing a personal project,
carrying out a more
ambitious group project, allowing students to work as they would on the job. Throughout the program, Hack
Reactor works with students to keep their job search in mind.
Example of a Daily Schedule
8:00 – 8:40 a.m.
8:40 – 11:30 a.m.
Programming in pairs
11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Lunch & working on side projects
1:00 p.m. – 1:40 PM
1:40 – 3:40 p.m.
3:40 PM – 4:00 p.m.
4:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Individual programming project
5:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Continued on-site work
8:00 p.m. – onwards
Assigned readings, project work
“It is a large time commitment and there is an expectation that students
commit the time and energy that is needed for successful completion of the coursework”
Michele Farquharson, Betamore Academy
The Cost of Attending
While the coding bootcamp industry is still in its formative stages, there are already approximately 50 to 65
full-time programs scattered across America. Each employs a pricing and tuition structure unique to the
program, with most
costing between $3,000 and $20,000. Course Report’s survey of 48 programs found the average cost of tuition as
of 2014 was $9,920. Nearly half of all surveyed programs had tuition between $5,000 and $10,000. The breakdown
structures is shown below:
A number of models for tuition repayment exist within the industry and are detailed below.
Students are accountable for paying the entire tuition amount prior to beginning a program.
Students may attend for no charge in exchange for a percentage of their starting salary. App Academy
charges graduates 18 percent of their first-year earnings after landing a position in the industry.
Students are offered an employment guarantee, meaning the program refunds tuition if a student does not
find a job within a certain timeframe after graduation. If a student does not receive a job offer within
nine months of
completing the program, Code Fellows will refund tuition. Other programs, such as the Nashville Software
School, offer various forms of refunds. The school will refund $3,000 of the $10,500 tuition if a student
secures a job through
the school’s job placement program. It also has a tech apprenticeship program allowing students to only pay
$1,000 in tuition, with the remainder paid by the student’s employer after graduation.
Although some programs regularly cite six figure salaries for their graduates, students
should be realistic about their earning potential after graduation. Shana Mysko of Betamore Academy says the
goal is for
graduates to be comfortable starting in an entry-level position. Those types of positions can pay between
$30,000 and $60,000 in the first year of work.
“As students gain valuable work experience and continue to expand their
skills, there are development positions with two or so years of experience at $80,000 to $120,000.”
What’s the ROI?
According to co-founder Shawn Drost, “Hack Reactor maintains a 99 percent employment rate and a median
graduate salary of $110,000.” He also notes that alumni of Hack Reactor go on to careers at industry leaders
such as Microsoft,
Google, Uber and Facebook. “I would guess the average graduate gets a $50,000 raise after paying $17,780 in
tuition,” he says. “Even half of that amount would be a ridiculously high return-on-investment.” Salary
information within the
industry is as follows:
– $110,00 median salary
– $105,000 (San Francisco); $89,000 (New York) median salary
– $13,000 average salary increase first year after completing the program
– Average salary increase of 62 percent
Coding Bootcamps up Close
Founded by Ned Ruggeri and Kush Patel, App Academy offers 12-week training programs in both San Francisco
and New York. Although focused on Rails, the curriculum covers a full spectrum of software developer
training. These include
PostgreSQL. Instruction is delivered in a laboratory-based environment and almost every day is dedicated
to code writing with a
partner. A competitive program, App Academy has a five percent acceptance rate, but maintains 98 percent
job placement for graduates.
||San Francisco and New York City
||No tuition. $5,000 refundable deposit plus a placement fee of 18 percent of first year salary after
securing a job as a developer
||Prior programming is a plus; college degree is not required
Founded in 2012, Betamore Academy offers two program paths. The 12-week back-end development bootcamp is
for individuals with intermediate programming experience and offers advanced curriculum in creating
applications. The 10-week front-end Web development course is for programming novices and provides a
a talent discovery and
job placement program connecting graduates to local partner employers.
||10 weeks for front-end Web development; 12 weeks for back-end Web development
||Varies by program
||Front-end program: $1,500 refundable deposit; $3,000 total. Back-end program: $1,700 deposit; $3,400
total. Students receive a 10 percent discount if paying for the program in full.
||No experience required for front-end Web development. Back-end Web development candidates should be
familiar with programming concepts, some CSS and HTML, and basic command line.
Aaron Hillegrass and Emily Herman founded big Nerd Ranch in 2001. All-inclusive packages include meals,
lodging and tuition for bootcamps located in Atlanta or Monterey. The school offers a variety of
short-term classes and
training courses that typically range between four to six days in length. Example courses include iOS with
Classes focus solely on app development and individual instruction includes 10 hours of class and
laboratory time each day.
||Atlanta, GA and Monterey, CA
||Varies by class
||$3,700 – $6,000
||Applicants should have intermediate programming experience with knowledge requirements varying by
engineers. Prior to beginning the course, students must complete pre-course material that introduces the
per day studying, six days per week over 12 weeks. The first half of the program is dedicated to an
intensive study of
personal and group projects to prepare graduates for real-world work scenarios. Hack Reactor claims a 99
percent job placement rate
and an average starting salary of $105,000.
||No prior academic or professional experience is required, but successful applicants should have
familiarity and background with coding and programming
Launch Academy in Boston provides students with an end-to-end bootcamp experience, beginning with
Ignition, a pre-learning program that includes 60 to 80 hours of preparatory work. During this phase,
students are introduced to
CSS, HTML, the command line, HTML, Ruby, database fundamentals, and object-oriented programming concepts.
The 10-week intensive program focuses on Ruby on Rails. Upon graduation, students receive six months of
support and career placement opportunities with partner companies.
||10 weeks with 60 to 80 hour preparation program
||$12,500, paid upfront or via a 24-month payment plan
||No previous computer science experience required
“Learn as much as you can on your own first! It’s important to see
whether you like this.”
Shawn Drost, Hack Reactor
Programming for Non-Tech College Graduates
Coding bootcamps present an opportunity for graduates with a non-technical degree to pivot into programming,
a growing and in-demand career field. However, the decision to quit a job, possibly move, and enroll in a
intensive training program is not one to be made lightly. There are numerous reasons why non-tech college
graduates may choose to enroll in a bootcamp. According to Shana Mysko, “Most students are career changers
careers didn’t work out for them due to a lack of employability or have a lack of engagement with their
careers.” Landing a highly lucrative job after graduation is a major reason non-tech graduates choose
bootcamps, she says. Below is
a list of tips for prospective students to consider to ensure they are a good candidate for a coding bootcamp:
You like to code
You are motivated to immerse into a full-time intensive training program
You have an aptitude for technical work
You enjoy solving complex problems
You are able to work with others
You have basic computer proficiency skills
You are able to concentrate for long periods of time
Is coding bootcamp a good fit?
Participating in a coding bootcamp requires a significant investment of time and finances. Although programs
can lead to new employment opportunities, they are expensive, time consuming and difficult. Given the overall
out the best option can be challenging. Below is a series of questions to help decide if coding bootcamp is a
good fit, regardless of prior educational backgrounds.
What are your career goals?
Coding bootcamps are designed to provide graduates with a workable level of knowledge in computer
programming. Students should establish their motivations and goals for attending before enrolling. Is the
goal to start a company?
Develop a skill set to change careers? Prospective attendees should make sure their future aspirations align
with what they will learn and that those skills translate to upcoming opportunities.
Can you afford the tuition?
A full-time program can cost upwards of $20,000. Financial aid and scholarships are not widely available,
although some programs may offer a discount if tuition is fully paid prior to starting the course. Other
programs, such as
Launch Academy, provide various types of payment plans. Programs such as App Academy may allow tuition
deferment until students complete the program and secure a job.
Can you handle the opportunity cost?
Beyond tuition, other costs to consider include relocation and housing expenses. Because programs are
largely concentrated in major cities, prospective students should be prepared to move in order to attend the
program. Can you
afford to relocate to a new city for three months or longer? Can you finance not only tuition, but also
related expenditures such as housing and food while attending the program?
Can you thrive in an intense environment?
The majority of coding bootcamps operate Monday through Friday, with students spending 8 to 12 hours per
day in their studies. Can you deal with a challenging learning curve, dedicating 60 to 100 hours per week to
coding? Because of the accelerated schedule, students that fall behind may struggle to catch up.
What to Consider When Choosing a Bootcamp
Establishing if bootcamp is a good fit professionally is the first step to making a decision. The second step
is figuring out which bootcamp is best tailored to individual interests. Below are three things to review
prior to selecting
1. Programming language focus
Many programs concentrate instruction around a single programming language such as Ruby
the key is
finding a program that provides instruction in the particular programming language best matched to future
2. Quality of instructors
Before enrolling, students should inquire about the program’s instructors. Are they
industry professionals? What type of professional coding experience do they have? Some programs employ
recent grads to teach,
meaning they won’t have the same level of real-world knowledge as seasoned professionals.
3. Career placement services
The ultimate goal for attending a program of this nature is to land a new job.
Prospective students should ask about the program’s career assistance services. Does the school offer resume
support, career placement
services, or job fairs? According to Course Report’s 2014, survey, 60 percent of surveyed bootcamps help
with internship or apprenticeship placements, while 87 percent provide resume assistance.
Hack Reactor designed its program with job placement in mind. “By graduation, students
will have a solid GitHub presence, tons of technical interview experience, a personal site, LinkedIn
profile, and resume,”
says Drost. The school also hosts a hiring day for prospective employers to view student projects.
Insight from Computer Science and Bootcamp Experts
According to a recent survey, over 70 percent of coding bootcamp attendees are college
graduates. Why are they enrolling in these programs?
Farquharson: Students that did not major in computer science are looking for ways to
improve their skill sets without returning to college for another degree. The technology being used in
startups and other
innovative companies changes so rapidly. Instructors are industry-experts who see first-hand what is
needed in the workplace and ensure those skills are reflected in the curriculum.
Drost: We’re in the middle of an unusual historical anomaly: there are one million
more jobs for programmers than programmers to fill them. Most people, college graduates included, are in a
doesn’t excite them or offer opportunities for growth.
Mysko: Students attend coding bootcamps to receive a highly focused education in
technology. Most are career changers whose post-college careers didn’t work out for them due to lack of
employability or engagement
with the work. They attend coding bootcamps to get the training they need to pursue lucrative, fulfilling
careers. Having a highly focused curriculum and not taking unnecessary “filler” courses means students can
get into the
workforce quickly and start being paid higher salaries much sooner than if they went to a tech school or a
four-year college. That’s money in the bank.
Can a college degree set the stage for a successful bootcamp experience?
Farquharson: A college degree lowers barriers to certain positions. Many human resource
departments look for that college experience, even if the degree or concentration is not in a
technology-related field. If
you’ve been successful in college, you have demonstrated a degree of discipline and self-motivation. That
being said, having a college degree does not guarantee a successful bootcamp experience.
Drost: Many students have college degrees, but prior industry or academic experience is
not required. A college degree isn’t an indicator for one’s success in our program. Most
have been introduced to programming by writing code independently, or by working through courses on
What are the major benefits of coding bootcamps?
Farquharson: They are a great way to expand both your skill set and your network. By
interacting and learning from some of the best in the business, students expand their professional
network, lowering some of the
barriers to employment.
Mysko: The major benefits are getting the skills you need to start a new career and
obtaining those skills in such a short amount of time. It saves time and money in the long run.
Drost: Bootcamps provide a foundation for a career in software engineering, an ability
to create amazing and world-changing software, the chance for high paying jobs, opportunities to work with
a peer group full
of brilliant people—all at a dramatically cheaper cost and less time consuming manner than a computer
science degree. You get more effective coding experience and review critical content that computer science
programs don’t cover.
What are the major drawbacks of coding bootcamps?
Farquharson: Coding bootcamps are not a magic pill. They provide a foundation, but upon
completion you are still looking at an entry-level job—and there will still be a lot to learn.
Drost: It’s hard to quit your job and commit to a full-time program. I don’t
think any program has figured out how to successfully offer a part-time program yet.
Alternatives to coding bootcamp Individuals who aspire to become computer programmers
but are unable to complete a four-year degree or attend a coding bootcamp have alternatives, including
paid online services,
free open courses, and community college classes.
Below is a snapshot of resources available to prospective programmers seeking different learning formats:
Bento. An online platform offering both free and paid learning tracks to help aspiring
programmers discover the tools of the trade. Through a variety of guided and self-paced tutorials in areas
ranging from HTML
Leada. Offers a range of paid online courses in areas such as Python to help the
self-learner develop professional-level skills. Students receive lifetime access to course material and
four weeks of instructor
Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). MOOCs are a popular option for self-taught
programmers and are frequently offered by well-regarded universities and for-profit companies, including
Coursera, Udacity, and EdX.
Harvard University has partnered with EdX to offer CS50, an introduction to computer science that provides
credit, but instead
focus on professional skill development.
Stack Overflow. Stack Overflow is a question and answer site run by a community of both
professional and aspiring programmers. Prospective programmers can connect with like-minded individuals,
get support for
their programming questions, and use Stack Overflow as a way to develop new programming skills.
Community College. Community college can be a good option for individuals looking to
enhance their knowledge or acquire a new skill set in order to change careers. Students can select from
associate degree programs in computer science, as well as accelerated computer programming courses
providing competency-based training through topic-focused modules. For example, Austin Community College
certificate and degree-based programs in topic such as in JAVA, C++, and database programming.