What Is a Coding Bootcamp?: Cost, Length, and Pros and Cons
A coding bootcamp is a short-term, project-based, and immersive form of higher education for people interested in launching or advancing their careers in the tech industry. As a fast-paced and affordable alternative to traditional college, bootcamps are laser-focused on providing students with the coding skills they need to be qualified for high-paying tech jobs.
But this just scratches the surface of how coding bootcamps work. In this article, we answer all of your burning questions about this exciting educational model. How long are coding bootcamps? How much do they cost? What kinds of career support do they offer? And to help you identify the best coding bootcamps, we also break down how to choose a coding bootcamp.
How Do Coding Bootcamps Work?
Coding bootcamps work by bringing the tools and technologies that tech companies want directly to their students. Bootcamp instructors are tech professionals with insider knowledge about the skills needed to get hired, and bootcamp curricula are structured around real-world applications. In this way, bootcamp training is much more practical than theoretical.
The learning process at a coding bootcamp doesn’t end with hard skills. Students also refine the soft skills needed for their job search, from practicing answers to software development interview questions to finding ways to package their bootcamp projects in their professional portfolios. Indeed, many bootcamps continue to offer career coaching after you graduate.
How Long Are Coding Bootcamps?
Coding bootcamps range in length from a few weeks to a year, with most full-time programs lasting between 12 to 16 weeks. For students unable to make a full-time commitment, there are part-time programs that cut the weekly workload in half, which makes them take twice as long to complete. Either way, you can expect to be job-ready in a few short months.
What Is the Day-to-Day Bootcamp Experience Like?
The daily grind varies from program to program, but full-time bootcamps usually hold class every day from 9am to 5pm, dividing the time between a morning and an afternoon session. In a typical morning session, the instructor gives a lesson on the coding topics of the day and goes through exercises. In the afternoon, students team up and work on problems on their own.
A part-time bootcamp, meanwhile, usually convenes a few nights per week, or a couple of weeknights and one weekend day, for a few hours at a time. Keep in mind that both full-time and part-time coding bootcamps expect students to spend several hours per week outside of class on homework and class projects.
How Much Do Coding Bootcamps Cost?
Immersive coding bootcamps cost between $10,000 and $20,000, with a few outliers on either side of that range. A 2019 study by RTI International found that the median cost across all bootcamps was $11,900. Since then, inflation has brought up the average price a little. To take one example of a top-rated bootcamp, App Academy charges $17,000 for its flagship program.
While this may seem expensive, coding bootcamp tuition is much lower than the cost of a college degree. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average tuition for a single year of college is $13,677. Additionally, coding bootcamps usually offer a wide range of payment options to relieve the financial burden.
How to Pay for a Coding Bootcamp
- Upfront Payment. If you have the money lying around, you can always choose to pay the full amount upfront. Students who have the means to select this option are often rewarded with a tuition discount.
- Monthly Installments. One of the most popular ways to pay for a coding bootcamp is to break it up into smaller chunks, with the bill coming due once a month for the duration of the program.
- Deferred Tuition. Some bootcamps let students defer payment until after they graduate, an option that usually comes with some kind of job guarantee. One such scheme is an income share agreement (ISA). Under an ISA, a bootcamp graduate pays a fixed percentage of their tech industry salary for a set period of time until the debt is paid off.
- Private Loans. No list of financing options would be complete without traditional student loans. While federal student loans cannot be used to finance coding bootcamp education, many bootcamps have loan partnerships with private lenders, such as Ascent Funding and Climb Credit, that offer favorable terms to bootcamp students.
- GI Bill. If you’re a military veteran, you may be eligible to use your GI Bill benefits on coding bootcamp tuition and living expenses. Not all bootcamps accept the GI Bill, though, so if you’re looking to transition to civilian life, make sure to check out the best coding bootcamps for veterans.
- Scholarships. Prospective students should always check a bootcamp’s website for scholarship opportunities. Bootcamp scholarship funds tend to be geared towards students from a demographic group underrepresented in the tech industry. If this applies to you, you may be eligible for a significant discount.
- Employer Sponsorship. Many bootcamp providers specialize in workforce retraining, and modern companies have a vested interest in keeping their employees’ skills aligned with changing technology. If you can convince your employer that a bootcamp makes good economic sense for your department, they may be willing to foot the bill.
Types of Coding Bootcamps
We’ve already discussed full-time and part-time bootcamps, which is just one example of the flexibility on offer in the coding bootcamp industry. But there are also three different ways to attend a bootcamp. Some programs are in-person, some are online and synchronous, and some are online and asynchronous. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
An in-person bootcamp has a physical campus where students go to attend class, work on projects, and network with their peers and instructors. Many of these in-person programs are held in major tech hubs. Flatiron School, for example, has two campuses, one in New York City and the other in Denver.
Remote learning is more popular than ever, and online coding bootcamps are part of the trend. They have seen tremendous growth during the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced education providers to iterate rapidly. Thanks to technologies like Zoom and Slack, online bootcamps can simulate the immersive experience of in-person bootcamps without sacrificing quality.
A self-paced bootcamp is an online bootcamp where students, instead of learning in a virtual classroom at designated times, get a prepackaged curriculum and set their own hours. This asynchronous learning experience isn’t for everyone, but it affords unmatched flexibility. Some of these online programs personalize the experience by assigning a mentor to each student.
What Tech Subjects Do Coding Bootcamps Teach?
Coding bootcamps have always taught traditional coding subjects like software engineering and web development, and in recent years they have expanded into tech fields that don’t necessarily require advanced coding skills. Here’s a full rundown of coding bootcamp subjects:
- Computer programming. Using coding to build computer programs is still the main focus of most tech bootcamps. This category includes immersive courses in full stack web development and intensive programs in software development. Some of the best full stack coding bootcamps are General Assembly, App Academy, and BrainStation.
- Data science and data analytics. Some programming languages are used to manipulate, manage, and analyze large amounts of data. Coding Temple’s Data Analytics program, for instance, covers Python, SQL, and R.
- Cyber security. As hacking methods have become more sophisticated, the need for cyber security professionals has increased. In a cyber security bootcamp, you’ll learn how to keep computer programs safe from malicious attackers.
- Digital marketing. To become a digital marketer, you’ll need a solid enough tech foundation to be able to grasp topics like search engine optimization (SEO) and digital advertising. University bootcamps, such as Berkeley Boot Camps, often offer a digital marketing course.
Job Prospects for Coding Bootcamp Graduates
Preparing students for full-time jobs is the main value proposition of coding bootcamps. Graduates who do the work and take advantage of their bootcamps’ career services teams stand to earn a high annual salary. Below is a list of top coding bootcamp jobs, along with salary information from PayScale and job growth data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
|Job||Average Entry-Level Salary||Average Salary||Projected Job Growth|
|Cyber security analyst||$66,724||$78,790||35%|
|Digital marketing specialist||$44,250||$52,301||19%|
Data Scientist | Average Starting Salary: $86,411
Data science is a high-paying field that combines knowledge of computer science and statistics with analytical and critical thinking skills. Data scientists collect and model large amounts of data using algorithms and an ever-changing assortment of high-powered tools. Full-time coding bootcamp courses are a great way to learn the techniques used by industry professionals.
Software Developer | Average Starting Salary: $66,556
A software developer uses programming languages to design, build, test, and maintain software applications. The most successful developers know many coding languages and can pick up new languages easily. BLS expects jobs for software developers to grow by 26 percent between 2021 and 2031, and software development bootcamps are designed to meet the demand.
Cyber Security Analyst | Average Starting Salary: $66,724
Sometimes called an information security analyst, a cyber security analyst is an IT professional who looks for vulnerabilities in a company’s computer systems and recommends ways to make them more secure. By studying cyber security at a bootcamp like Kenzie Academy or Evolve Security Academy, you will meet the minimum skill requirements for this occupation.
Data Analyst | Average Starting Salary: $59,621
A data analyst is someone who combs through datasets, extracts insights from them, and figures out the best way to visualize and communicate their findings to relevant stakeholders. The differences between data analytics and data science are not always clear-cut, but in general, the coding that a data analyst does is more straightforward.
Web Developer | Average Starting Salary: $52,284
A web developer is a software developer who specializes in applications that run on the web. A front end web developer focuses on the user-facing part of the program, while a backend web developer works on everything that goes on behind the scenes. The median salary for backend developers is slightly higher, but you can find a dev bootcamp for either of these career tracks.
Web Designer | Average Starting Salary: $45,725
Behind every web developer is a talented web designer, someone who decides what the website is going to look like. Some designers focus on the user interface (UI), and others focus on the user experience (UE). A good UX/UI bootcamp will teach you how to create dynamic web pages like a pro.
Digital Marketing Specialist | Average Starting Salary: $44,250
A digital marketing specialist is the brains behind online ad revenue, which is the engine that drives Internet commerce. They are responsible for coming up with different kinds of online marketing campaigns to reach potential customers. By joining a digital marketing bootcamp, you can earn your place in this industry without a college degree.
How to Choose a Coding Bootcamp: 3 Factors to Consider
The rapid expansion of the bootcamp industry over the last decade means there is no shortage of choices. But with so many options to consider, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. To make your selection process a little less stressful, here are three things to keep in mind.
Curriculum and Projects
Almost all coding bootcamps publish sample syllabi on their website. You can use these documents to compare the content, structure, and pacing of the bootcamps you’re considering. You can also get an idea of how each program handles its projects, and then choose the bootcamp whose approach to projects is best suited to your career goals.
Depending on where you are in your life, you may not be able to attend a bootcamp in person or make a full-time commitment. If this describes you, you’re going to want a flexible program. A bootcamp that offers part-time and online options may suit your needs better than a more rigidly structured bootcamp experience.
Career Services and Job Placement Outcomes
Bootcamps with low graduation rates and poor records of placing their graduates in jobs. When researching bootcamps, make sure to read up on how each school guides students through the program and helps them find jobs afterward. Remember that schools with the best job outcomes are more likely to display that information prominently on their websites.
Pros and Cons of Coding Bootcamps
As groundbreaking as bootcamps are, they can’t be all things to all people. There are definitely tradeoffs, and it’s important to weigh the benefits of bootcamp education against potential downsides. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons.
Pros of Coding Bootcamps
- Fast. A major attraction of the bootcamp model is that it won’t take up too much of your time. Even the most comprehensive programs can be completed in a few months. And if you join a bootcamp with strong student outcomes, you’ll have a good chance of landing a job within six months of graduation.
- Practical. Coding bootcamp curricula are lean, meaning that they don’t waste your time with theoretical principles. The goal is to give students enough training to start practicing and building projects on their own. From there, the rest is just muscle memory.
- Immersive. The best way to learn a new skill is to devote all your time to it for a short period of time. To this end, the immersive bootcamp experience is designed to make coding so much a part of your daily routine that it becomes second nature.
Cons of Coding Bootcamps
- Light on theory. If you’re hoping to come away from your bootcamp experience with deep knowledge of computer science, you should look elsewhere. Bootcamp grads leave their programs with the coding skills that matter to employers, and nothing more.
- Too intense for some. Useful and practical as they are, coding bootcamps are not a shortcut. Anyone admitted into a bootcamp needs to work hard for the duration of the program. If you aren’t ready to eat, drink, and breathe coding, this may not be for you.
- Unaccredited. The first coding bootcamps didn’t open their doors until 2011, and the United States government has been predictably slow to regulate them. So while a computer science degree is basically the same everywhere, bootcamp certificates vary in value. But as long as you research your options before applying, you should be fine.
Is a Coding Bootcamp Worth It?
Yes, a coding bootcamp is worth it for anyone with specific career goals and no time to waste. It’s the perfect option for beginners looking to transition into tech, but it is also appealing to more experienced coders who want to cement their place in the industry. Bootcamps are designed to get you your dream job as quickly and efficiently as possible.
If this all sounds too good to be true, you don’t have to take our word for it. There are plenty of websites where you can read bootcamp reviews from real students and alumni, who know better than anyone what you’ll be getting into. If you can get into a bootcamp with awesome career services and a high job placement rate, it will almost certainly be worth the investment.
Coding Bootcamp FAQ
No, coding bootcamps are not accredited institutions of higher learning in the United States. Under US law, bootcamp curricula are not eligible for the same forms of accreditation that colleges and universities need to be able to grant degrees. While unaccredited in the traditional sense, many bootcamps do prove their legitimacy by publishing their job placement rates.
It is not very hard to get into a coding bootcamp, especially if you cast your net widely. There are a few selective bootcamp programs that impose strict admission criteria on their applicants, but this is not the norm. Most coding bootcamps are designed to be beginner-friendly, and to that end, they give every serious applicant the same opportunity.
To be successful, a prospective bootcamp student should be hard-working, determined, tenacious, and collaborative. These soft skills are enough to get anyone through the intense grind of an immersive bootcamp experience. Some prior knowledge of coding fundamentals will also give students a leg up, but in most cases, the basics will be covered in the bootcamp itself.
Yes, you can fail a coding bootcamp. Students who fall behind on their coursework will not gain the technical skills necessary to complete their hands-on projects, which are the lifeblood of any coding bootcamp. To avoid having to drop out and forfeit your tuition, you should seek help from the instructional staff. You may even be assigned a personal mentor to help you stay on track.