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Coding Bootcamp vs Certification: Which Is the Right Choice for Your Career? 

Coding bootcamps and certifications are great ways to upgrade your skills and gain access to better job opportunities. However, when you compare a coding bootcamp vs a certification, you’ll realize that they offer different benefits and one might be better suited than the other depending on where you are in your career. If you’re wondering which one to choose, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we will explore the differences between coding bootcamps and certifications, the pros and cons of each, and how each one can impact your career. This will help you make an informed decision to kickstart or advance your career. Let’s dive in.

What Is a Coding Bootcamp?

A coding bootcamp is an intensive training program designed to prepare you for entering the tech workforce in a short period ranging from a few weeks to a few months. These programs are focused on hands-on learning and equip you with the skills that are currently in demand in the tech industry. 

When you graduate, you’ll typically receive a coding bootcamp certificate that will serve as proof of your training. Bootcamps usually offer career services to help students secure a job after graduation, including support with creating a portfolio, interview prep, and career coaching. They offer various payment options to help students from all financial backgrounds get the training they need.

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What Is a Certification?

A certification is a credential that verifies your knowledge, skills, or qualifications in a particular area of expertise. A certification is typically obtained as a result of a formal evaluation process, which can include examinations, practical assessments, and even interviews. The best coding certifications serve as proof that your skillset matches current industry standards.

A certification can greatly boost your chances of securing a position at a top tech company, but to obtain it you usually need some work experience in your field, and sometimes even specific forms of training. In order to keep your certification valid over time, you usually need to go through periodic examinations.

Main Differences Between a Coding Bootcamp vs Certification

Coding Bootcamp Certification
The average cost of a bootcamp is usually in the $10,000 to $20,000 range Getting a certification typically costs under $1000
Aimed at people looking to break into tech or switch careers Aimed at professionals looking to obtain credentials related to a particular skill or technology
Not accredited and not always recognized as a valid form of training by employers and industry bodies Recognized and sometimes required by employers as evidence of an individual’s proficiency
No additional requirements once you complete the program and graduate Typically requires you to sit for periodic examinations to maintain certification

Coding bootcamps and certification have different features and offer different benefits to help advance your career. Keep reading to learn more about these differences and understand which option is right for you.

Average Cost

Coding bootcamps usually involve a strong investment of several thousand dollars. For instance, the software engineering bootcamp by Thinkful costs $16,000 upfront. Fortunately, bootcamps also tend to offer a wide variety of payment options, from deferred tuition to installment plans, to help students offset these costs.

On the other hand, certifications are typically cheaper to obtain. For instance, the AWS Certified Developer – Associate certification costs $150. The most expensive option among our picks for the top coding certifications is the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), which costs $749.

Target Audience

Coding bootcamps target beginners and people who want to switch careers and pivot into tech roles. They offer comprehensive and up to date curricula to cater to students regardless of their experience level. This means that if you’re a complete beginner, a bootcamp can equip you to start searching for tech jobs after a few months.

Certifications, on the other hand, are typically targeted at people in the industry who already have some experience and who want to advance their careers. Rather than provide you with the foundations of a topic, a certification exam will help demonstrate skills that you already have and you could leverage in a potential new role. 

Recognition and Credentials Obtained

Once you graduate from a bootcamp, a certificate will be awarded to you to demonstrate that you successfully finished the program and are ready for the job hunt. However, coding bootcamps are not recognized by accrediting bodies like degrees or certifications are. While more and more employers are opening up to the possibility of accepting bootcamp graduates into their ranks, a bootcamp education won’t necessarily open all doors.

In contrast, when you successfully pass a certification exam, you will receive a formal credential backed up by an organization that usually holds authority in their field, which is the case with CISCO or AWS certifications. In fact, some organizations will require candidates to have a specific certification to be considered for certain specialized roles. 

Requirements for Maintenance

Once you complete a coding bootcamp, you’re done. Some schools will provide you with career services and even some coaching after graduating so you can get a job after a bootcamp, but once you’re out, you’re deemed ready for the workforce and no more is needed from you as a student.

Certifications, on the other hand, typically require you to sit for periodic examinations in order to maintain your credential, or have a predetermined duration, such as the CISCO CCNP Security certification, which is valid for 3 years. The tech world is constantly evolving, and this is one way to ensure certified professionals are keeping up with industry standards and staying up to date with new trends in their chosen field.

Pros and Cons of Coding Bootcamps

Now that you’ve learned about the features of coding bootcamps and certifications, you might have a clearer idea of which one is right for you. Keep reading to see a list of the pros and cons of coding bootcamps to help you further understand the ways they can impact your career and life.

Pros of Coding Bootcamps

  • Intensive and short-term. One of the main benefits of bootcamps is that they can teach you about a particular programming language or tech field over a short period of time relative to a college degree. With a bootcamp, you can start applying for jobs in a few months.
  • Cheaper than college. If you want to set off on a tech career path without having to invest years and thousands of dollars in a traditional degree program, a bootcamp is a great alternative. While they do require an investment, they are still more affordable than a bachelor’s degree and usually offer various payment options.
  • Practical, hands-on learning. Unlike a degree program that might focus on both theory and practice, when you enroll in a bootcamp you’ll get mostly hands-on experience in your chosen topic. This means you’ll be ready to tackle real life projects as soon as you graduate.   

Cons of Coding Bootcamps

  • Can be stressful. If you have a slower learning style and prefer to move through a program one slow step at a time, a bootcamp might not be right. Even part-time bootcamps will require you to stay on top of your classes and projects over a fixed period, which can lead to a stressful experience if you’re not used to it.
  • Requires a strong financial investment. While many options exist to help you cover your bootcamp tuition, they still require a strong investment. There are also downsides to some of these options, such as Income Share Agreements, where you typically end up paying for more than the original tuition would’ve cost.
  • Limited depth. In-person and online bootcamps were created to get you job ready quickly. This means that they sacrifice depth for brevity, which means that while you will be equipped with in demand skills, you will not graduate with deep knowledge of the theory that is usually covered in a four-year degree program.

Pros and Cons of Certifications

Below is a list of the pros and cons of certification programs. This information will help you understand how certifications can impact your career and help you make an informed decision regarding bootcamps vs certifications.

Pros of Certifications

  • Industry recognition. A top advantage of IT certifications is that most of them come from providers with a solid reputation in the tech industry. A certification from AWS, CISCO or Google will have industry recognition and be accepted by most organizations.
  • A chance to upskill. If you’re hoping to update your technical skills while advancing your career, a certification can give you the chance to do both. You’ll either have to brush up on your topic or learn about new trends in order to pass your examination, which can give you a renewed sense of competence in your field.
  • Career advancement. If you’re hoping to get access to a higher average salary, a certification can be your ticket to success. As a certified professional, you’ll gain access to better roles and will be able to move forward in your career.

Cons of Certifications

  • Constant need to update. A downside to certifications is that you need to update them constantly. This means that you’ll have to invest time and money periodically to keep your credential valid and continue to use it to boost your career.
  • Can be time consuming. While certification examinations are not usually long, you might need to invest a serious amount of time preparing for them. How much time you need to invest to pass an examination can vary widely depending on your expertise and familiarity with your chosen topic.
  • Limited value and practical application. Because of their limited scope, some critics have accused certifications of being of limited value and practical application. Some options might only be useful for particular niches and jobs, so make sure to do your research before you commit to a specific certification.

Should You Pick a Coding Bootcamp or a Certification?

On the matter of a coding bootcamp vs certification, the right choice will depend greatly on where you are in your tech career. Are you just getting started or just considering a career in this industry? Then a coding bootcamp might be the right choice to help you break into tech.

On the other hand, if you’re an experienced professional looking to earn a credential and prove your knowledge of a particular topic or field, a certification might be a better choice. This is also the case if you’re applying for a specific job that requires a particular certification. Ultimately, either option can help you learn new skills, boost your standing in the job market, and help you move your career forward.

Coding Bootcamp vs Certification FAQ

Can coding bootcamps or IT certifications guarantee a job in the tech industry?

No, no form of training can guarantee a job in the tech industry. Your success as an applicant will depend on a variety of factors, including any relevant training, your previous experience, your portfolio, and your ability to succeed during an application process.

What is the difference between certification vs certificate?

A certification is a credential awarded by a governing body after passing an examination. It is regulated and responds to current industry standards. A certificate, on the other hand, is usually awarded as proof you’ve completed some form of training, but they are typically not regulated.

Are bootcamp certificates worth it?

Yes, earning a bootcamp certificate is worth it, especially if you are a beginner or thinking of pivoting into tech from a different field. A bootcamp education can provide you with the knowledge and practical experience you need to start applying for jobs in your choosing field.

Can a coding certification help me land a job in tech?

Yes, a coding certification can help you land a job in tech. It can serve as proof that you are competent in a particular area of tech, help you stand out from the competition, and give you access to specific job roles in the industry.

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