What is a Coding Bootcamp?

Coding Bootcamps Explained

Since enrolling in Launch Academy I have had a similar conversation with dozens of people. That conversation is trying to explain what exactly a coding bootcamp is. It has since become something of a personal challenge to see if I can explain in a way people can understand the first time. So what is a coding bootcamp anyways?

Coding Bootcamps are intensive, typically 10-15 week, programs that teach students practical skills needed to be hired as Web Developers and Software Engineers. They are not accredited, regulated or otherwise time-tested. Coding Bootcamps are new and are in many ways a direct response to the growing belief that a traditional 4-year degree has become a poor investment of both time and money.

For those who feel that a degree is not worth the trouble but recognize the value that a formal education can offer, coding bootcamps may seem like the perfect fit. In just 3-6 months and 10-15k you could see yourself in an entirely new career path. For many, the prospect of career hoping, or starting for those like myself, is very appealing. To this end, many feel that 6 months and 15k is a solid investment – an investment in one’s own well being.

Curriculum

No two bootcamps will teach the same curriculum. Why? Because bootcamps often tend to tailor their curriculum to the request of their hiring partners and the job market in their area.

For instance, one part of the country may see a growing need for Python developers while another part of the country may be in need of iOS developers. Based on the needs of the tech community, a bootcamp will often offer a curriculum that will appeal to employers in your area.

It is important to know the key terms used by bootcamps as a way of filtering our based on your needs.

  • Full-Stack: This will give you a solid foundation of the Front-End (Design, Javascript, React) and the Back-End (Rails, Java, PHP, Python) as well as Databases (mySQL, PostgresQL)
  • Front-End: This will focus more on Design and Client-side operations like Javascript, React, HTML and CSS
  • Back-End: This will focus mostly on building the Codebase for your front-end to work with. Anything done back here will not be seen by the client. This is what is typically thought of as programming.
  • Mobile-Development: This is going to obviously cover more of a focus on building mobile apps. It will also cover UX and UI.

There are so many different kinds of boot camps out there, I really can’t do them justice in this one blog post. You should do your own research to determine what type of programmer you want to be, or at least what type you think you would be best at or enjoy the most.

Bootcamps vs. CS Degree

Bootcamps were created with the express purpose of streamlining the education process. To this end, they have had to, by necessity, strip key aspects of programming and web development. Things like algorithms and theory which are given more attention in truly academic institutions like 4-year CS programs.

You will be learning, and only learning, those key concepts, languages and ideas that are necessary to actually building an application from scratch. Now, I do not need to understand algorithms and advanced computer theory to build a web app but they may actually be useful. If you want to have a more theoretical understanding of computers and coding you will not get it from a boot camp. Period.

There is a flipside to that though. If you go the route of getting a CS degree there is a strong likelihood that you will graduate unable to actually code in any kind of meaningful way. This is something that I have read countless times, CS majors who don’t know how to print to the console, write a simple loop or a basic program to calculate all integers from 0-100.

Think of it like this, bootcamps will give you functional knowledge whereas CS degrees will give you the background knowledge needed to know why that simple loop works. You don’t need the background knowledge, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt but you definitely do need the functional knowledge that you would get from a boot camp experience.

Job Placement

This is something I am about to grapple with myself. I am currently 6 weeks away from graduating from Launch Academy. At Launch, and likely most bootcamps across the country, they have a 2-pronged approach to your education. The first is teaching you the skills needed to land a job and the second is helping you increase your odds of landing a job, post-grad.

Most boot camps will have a small team, solely devoted to connecting you with hiring partners. They will give you tips on making your LinkedIn profile look it’s best and help you build your resume from scratch. As your time in the cohort progresses they will stay in touch with you to update your resume and LinkedIn to accurately reflect your newly acquired skills and ambitions. It may be that by week 4 you suddenly realize Front-End work is your calling, they will help you tailor your outreach to employers to focus on your interest in this field.

Now, there are two major points that need to be laid out here.

  1. If a bootcamp does not offer career services, DO NOT APPLY
  2. If you do not put in the work, career services will be useless

As to the first point, if a boot camp does not market themselves as having career services, I would recommend staying away from them. In my personal experience, I have been so consumed with learning the avalanche of material thrown at me and then on top of it maintaining this blog that I would not be able to otherwise build a proper looking resume and LinkedIn without advice from experienced professionals.

As to the second point, these career services people are not miracle workers. They can only help you as much as you allow them to help you. If you are not taking an active interest in your own success, you will fail. Plain and simple.

The career services department will give you tips along the way but if you do not implement them you will be at a distinct disadvantage. Additionally, they will set up meetings with hiring partners. Most bootcamps have a similar system where the final 2 weeks are spent on a personal project and then they host a Career Day and have you present your project to potential employers.

When meeting with potential employers, always put your best foot forward. Be personable, show interest, do not act like you deserve anything, engage them in conversation and work towards striking a connection. It may be video games, movies or music but once you find a common interest use it break the ice and get to more meaningful conversation.

There were two reasons why I began this blog, the first was that I was unable to find this very information on the web when I was considering applying to a bootcamp and the second was to increase my chances of landing a job, post-grad. I am actively building my brand and increasing my exposure to the tech-community at large.

You may think that blogging is silly or futile, but people respect those willing to go the extra mile in life in order to succeed. That is what this blog is all about, giving you all the knowledge you need to maximize your chance of success.

Cost

Boot camps are growing in popularity. I am no expert but I would probably say that their usefulness will likely plateau by the year 2020 or slightly thereafter. I am basing this on the simple premise of supply and demand. The more boot camp grads that are out there looking for jobs, the harder it will be to stand out.

Coupled with this idea that the market will likely be flooded with Junior Dev’s in the near future is the fact that many boot camps will see this as an opportunity to capitalize on the trend and as a result the quality of the education they are offering will suffer as will the abilities of their graduates.

I have noticed many bootcamps having overlapping cohorts, a new one starting every month. I would recommend staying away from these boot camps, I feel like they are simply trying to churn out as many grads a possible and are less concerned with equipping you with the skills you need to enter the workforce. Stick to Bootcamps that have around 4-6 cohorts a year, this is a safe bet.

As for cost, as we have discussed, bootcamps are a growing trend in America right now. With that will come rising tuition rates. If you do not already live in the city where the boot camp is located, you need to budget for housing and transportation on top of tuition.

In the last few years the average rate for a really good bootcamp was around 10k-12k. By the time I had applied to Launch Academy, the tuition was increased to $15,500 – a hefty fee. Shortly after being accepted and paying my tuition I learned that they increased the tuition to $17,500!

Personally, this is a little steep for me but not completely out of the ballpark. As for you, if you are interested in attending a bootcamp, do it now and apply quick because it is only going to get more expensive moving forward.

I would recommend paying somewhere between $12,500 and $15,500. If nothing in that range suits your needs or interests then expand out to $17,500 but anything higher than that would require a program that went above and beyond – longer (weeks) curriculum, better job placement rates etc.

Summary

I hope that after reading this you have a better idea of what to expect from a boot camp experience. It is my intention, through this blog, to help people get a better understanding from the inside out. If you have any tips yourself or comments leave them in the comment section at the bottom! Happy Coding!

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