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Why you shouldn't do that coding bootcamp and what you should do instead


In the summer of 2017 I attended a coding bootcamp in San Diego. Having done some programming in college I’d thought this was a good advancement for my career, being one year in the workforce post-degree. I’ve given it a few years to reflect on what this point of my career meant to me and the benefits and repercussions of my decision. My experience may be biased, and you should take this with a grain of salt, however I’ll try to be pragmatic with my reasoning.

There are a ton of free (or very cheap) resources out there.

Everybody knows bootcamps aren’t cheap. They average around 10,000andifyouneedtofactorinlivingexpensescanclimbupto10,000 and if you need to factor in living expenses can climb up to 20,000. I paid ~ $16,000 for mine. The thing is, there are a ton of free, or cheap, resources out there that you’ll gain more knowledge from. Code Academy, Udemy, and FreeCodeCamp then I did in my bootcamp for less than 1% of the price. The trade-off here is that you lack the other “benefits” you get from a coding bootcamp (I’ll delve into that further down).

Don’t believe everything you read in their intro packets.

No, everyone graduating is not making $90,000, and arguably if that’s the only thing you’re looking for then you probably aren’t going to make it as a software engineer. No, you probably aren’t going to get hired right after the bootcamp and yes you will have to put in extensive hours if you plan on it. No you won’t be a full stack developer when you’re done, as a matter of fact you’ll barely be able to hang (I’ll get to this later on as well). I think something bootcamps do poorly is set your expectations wrong. One of the worst offenders is your skill level — you aren’t a 9/10 in Javascript. Side note, what even is a 9/10? You aren’t proficient in Javascript, Node, ReactJS, etc. You are barely educated.

You’re going to need to fucking hustle.

There’s no way around that. You’re going to need to put in 18 hours a day for a long time. I’m still going a year and a half later and I’m now pursuing my M.S. in Computer Science. Assuming you join a good company you’re going to need to catch up. You’ll need to learn design patterns, why things are happening and less of “just get it to work”. You’ll need to understand concepts like clean code, refactoring and architecture. These things aren’t taught in bootcamps because you simply don’t have enough time. Post-graduation you’ll have to hustle to keep up. If you expect a 12 week course and then be paid 100k and put in 40 hour weeks, this isn’t for you.

You should probably learn another way — college?

For the price, bootcamps are getting up there. My Masters degree at SDSU will be a little cheaper than my bootcamp and there’s a plethora of reasons why it’s better but the mains ones being

  • It’s an actual, physical, accredited degree.
  • Since it’s accredited, it’s tax deductible.
  • You’ll learn more, you have significantly more time.

Now there are some drawbacks to this approach. The first being time. The Masters I am in is 30 credits so that part time for a year and a half. Second is price, many schools aren’t subsidized like Southern California schools are. This means that they very well could be $40,000 M.S. programs and/or undergrad programs.

When you should do a bootcamp

Now my opinion is biased and I realize that. BUT there are a few spots where I think that a coding bootcamp does make sense. First being you are unemployed or desperately need to change jobs for whatever reasons. Secondly, if you know you won’t put in the work without someone sitting there and pushing you through it. Lastly if you are in a time crunch and can find a bootcamp that places you in internships and/or is a paid per your salary structure, then this may be a good option for you.

My suggestion.

Find a mentor, teach yourself every possible thing you can find on the internet that pertains to Computer Science and learn it diligently. Never be satisfied with where you are in your learning. Find a good internship or associate position job and soak in everything, ask questions and understand. Lastly, if you feel like you’re still missing gaps or feel that need for an accredited piece of paper do a Masters.

Closing notes.

Everyone has a different opinion on bootcamps. Others could have had a great time. Most people I’ve talked to wouldn’t do it over. It’s too short, too expensive and not enough value. That said, talk with the bootcamp counselors, find graduates of the programs and followup via social media. Final note is to set your expectations realistically. You will come out making 40–55k in most scenarios. It’ll be an arduous ladder to climb and if you don’t love software engineering/web development or whatever your niche is you will fail.