Are Coding Bootcamps Worth It? Everything You Should Know

Posted by Mianya Ong  /  February 6, 2021

Key takeaways:

  • Coding bootcamps are a good option for people who want to switch careers

  • They’re a cheaper and faster option than getting another degree, but it’s a different type of education

  • Bootcamps teach you a practical curriculum, whereas colleges are more holistic and philosophical

  • Understand what is important to you and pick a bootcamp based on that

  • Grads from leading bootcamps graduate, get jobs, and get paid good salaries

  • When choosing a bootcamp, always research their outcomes and average salaries

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What is a coding bootcamp?

Much like their name suggests, coding bootcamps are intensives designed to teach code and get you a coding job. Although courses vary depending on the school or program, they often combine both speed and rigor. Not quite the same as vocational training or trade school, think of a coding bootcamp as an accelerated education. 

While “coding” might suggest these bootcamps only focus on writing code, there are several disciplines that all fall under the umbrella of “coding” in this case. And though software engineering “coding” bootcamps are by far the most popular, there are also data science, UX/UI design, cyber security, and product management bootcamps. 

With the tech boom holding strong in the last decade and more and more startups launching digital products and apps, the demand for developers and software engineers has increased. Not only is there strong job security with these roles, but developers and engineers have high salaries and great benefits even beyond Silicon Valley and New York.

And thus, the demand for in-person and online coding bootcamps has grown accordingly.

In fact, the market has grown over 10 times since 2013 and is expected to grow another 15% by 2024. For those looking to jump careers and join the tech industry — and those looking to break into the field without spending 4+ years (and a lot of tuition money) on a degree — coding bootcamps are ideal because of their efficiency.

Because these programs focus on the most important aspects of coding, bootcamp students can come in with very little coding experience and still find success. The format of most bootcamps also lets students immediately apply their new skills to real-world problems in web and mobile development, design, or security. 

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What are the benefits of coding bootcamps? 

At a high level, coding bootcamps are hyper-accelerated and offer a “fast track” to launching a technical career when compared to more traditional routes. Some bootcamps are as short as one week, while part-time courses can be as long as 10 months, with an average of around 16 weeks.

Often, bootcamps offer multiple paces for students with different goals and schedules. For example at Flatiron, students can pick our 15-week full-time software engineering course, 5-month online software engineering course, or 10-month part-time online course. All of these courses have the same goal: to train you and get you a job as a coder. They just do it at different paces with different levels of rigor to accommodate your needs.

Many other bootcamps offer similar options.

In general, bootcamps have a low barrier of entry and, in the long run, are an affordable alternative to standard degree programs. 

That’s not to say there aren’t drawbacks. However, for most individuals, bootcamps are worth it because the benefits can outweigh the disadvantages. 

Pros of coding bootcamps

  • Hands-on, applicable skills in a short time

  • A faster way to learn computer science

  • Focused on getting you a career as a developer

  • Affordable and can be done part-time

  • Many have career services and job search assistance

  • Ready-made professional network

  • Connect with other developers

  • Up-to-date with market/employer needs

  • A vast majority of hiring managers look favorably upon coding bootcamp grads

Cons of coding bootcamps

  • High cost upfront, at once

  • Intense, long hours, for a few months

  • Lack of access to federal financial aid

  • Less philosophical background than computer science degree programs

  • Less depth than traditional college students

  • Can be extremely fast-paced 

  • There are still a few HR managers who require or at least expect a computer science degree

How do bootcamps compare vs. colleges?

The cost of bootcamps vs. the cost of college 

Looking at how bootcamp costs compare to college costs, let's first focus on the growing costs and tuitions of college nationwide.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics — in constant 2017-18 dollars — the average fees for a private 4-year undergraduate student more than doubled, climbing from $21,042 in 1995 to $43,139 in 2018. For public 4-year undergrads, it jumped from $8,798 to $20,050. Here's a closer look at those college fees based on the data from the NCES.

Graphic: College tuition costs rising

With these skyrocketing tuition fees, it’s no surprise student loan debt has also skyrocketed. Over 42.9 million student loan borrowers nationwide collectively owe $1.44 trillion in federal financial aid  (though the current administration is looking to reduce those numbers ???). For private student loans, that debt is a reported $119.3 billion. 

In other words, college can be expensive — strikingly expensive. Bootcamps, though still not cheap, are more affordable.

For a quick comparison: The average coding bootcamp tuition is around $13,584, according to Course Report, though some, including Flatiron School’s, are higher than that. This is no price tag to scoff at but is much more cost-effective than the average college degree — especially given how quickly bootcamp grads can get salary returns after getting hired.

We'll dive deeper into this later.

Comparing bootcamp education vs. college education

For traditional computer science degrees, most colleges design programs meant to be completed over 2 to 4 years. The curriculum requires a series of courses that focus on theory, philosophy, and even complementary skills like higher-level mathematics or statistics.

In general, a degree in computer science should prepare you for most disciplines within the field, from full-stack web development to front end and back end development to countless programming languages and skills.

College takes a holistic, well-rounded approach and is designed to give a philosophical understanding of the subject. It is education delivered in a traditional environment at a moderate pace that is (arguably) easy to keep up with. However, it’s worth noting that degree programs don’t change or evolve quite as quickly as the job market’s demand might need.

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Bootcamps, on the other hand, are well-positioned to match the ongoing needs of the market and prospective employers. This is one of the major differences between colleges and bootcamps. It’s could also be why so many colleges and bootcamps partner up on specific offerings.

In fact, some bootcamps work directly with advisory boards to ensure their curriculum is up to date. The “tech landscape” changes rapidly as innovation and new developments are introduced. Hard skills and coding languages that were job requirements a couple of years ago could be obsolete or outdated today.

These boards are comprised of executives from hiring companies and education heads, and they meet specifically to make sure a bootcamp is teaching what prospective workers need to know.

If you eventually decide to go down the coding bootcamp route, be aware of the modernity of that bootcamp’s curriculum. Are they teaching popular languages and processes? Do their instructors have recent industry experience? Why are they teaching the curriculum that they teach?

If you’re not convinced a curriculum is up to date, look elsewhere, because there are many bootcamps that innovate and evolve their curricula regularly. An in-demand curriculum on its own can be enough to make a coding bootcamp worth it.

Key takeaways:

  • While you’re foregoing depth and theory with the bootcamp route, you are paying less in return and getting educated much faster.

  • College degree programs offer a strong foundation and drill the fundamentals so the individual is primed for success and can pick up new skills on their own.

  • Bootcamps have a specialized focus and zero in on what employer needs are, going as far as designing programs based on specific disciplines. 

Blog post image: front end vs back end languages

What do you learn in coding bootcamps?

The goal of a coding bootcamp is to immerse you in a crash course that will teach you how to think and build like a seasoned software engineer. While the curriculum will vary depending on the program that you select and the area you are focusing on, whether that is front end, back end, or full stack development. Bootcamps will generally go over the most common languages and frameworks being used in the current market. 

Front End Development 

Most people new to coding will begin with front end development. The “front end” refers to everything that is shown and can be seen, from the styling to the animation. If we were to compare front end development to renovating a house, it would be in the realm of interior design. 

The reason why front end development is an easier discipline for beginners is that it’s very visual and not as technical as other disciplines. Front end coders typically write in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for web applications. JavaScript is the single most popular language in the world — it’s used on over 95% of websites worldwide — which is another reason why starting with front end development is a great way to pursue other paths, too.

  • The average annual salary for a Front End dev is $92,783 on Glassdoor. On Indeed, that average is $108,303.

  • Average salaries for junior Front End devs are lower — $60,425 on Indeed and $79,511 on Glassdoor.

  • Senior Front End devs earn an average of $120,000, according to Glassdoor.

JavaScript popularity by year

The chart above shows the relative popularity based on how many GitHub pulls are made per year for that language. This chart and all the charts below are based on data from GitHut 2.0, created by littleark.

Back End Development

The “back end” refers to the site that you cannot see or directly interact with as a regular user or web visitor. This is the part that is responsible for function and making specific operations run smoothly, efficiently, and reliably. Taking the same home renovation example, the backend would be something like the electrical wiring that keeps everything running. 

Back end development often requires work in Ruby, Python, PHP, and sometimes C/C++ or Java. These languages are designed to run complex requests and commands on the server side. There's a little bit more logic and quantitative thinking involved in back end programming. 

When comparing front end to back end, picture front end devs creating the face of a website, and back end devs bringing it to life.

Graphic: Back end languages

Full Stack Development

If you’ve been following along, you could probably guess that full stack development covers the entire spectrum of web/app development. In other words, this is both front end and back end development, combined. Most professionals who label themselves full stack developers will specialize in one or two languages but are familiar with many more than that.

Full stack developers are well rounded and considered the “jack of all trades” in the software world. They are also specialized individuals who can spot when the front end and back end of a website or app aren’t communicating correctly. 

How much do coding bootcamps cost? 

As we noted earlier, bootcamps are a cost-effective alternative to a typical college program. 

Depending on location and program, the cost of coding bootcamps can range from around $5,000 for more basic courses to as high as $20,000 for more comprehensive ones. Also as mentioned earlier, the average cost for coding bootcamps is $13,58, according to Course Report, an industry-leading bootcamp review site.

Some bootcamps offset these costs through accessibility scholarships based on background, financial status, military background, and more. Scholarships like these are something Flatiron is proud to offer.

Many bootcamp also partner with private financing companies to make it easier for students to get tuition and cost-of-living loans for their courses. Others offer Income Share Agreements, which is an obligation where the student pays a predetermined percentage of their salary once they graduate and land a job. 

At Flatiron, we’ve partnered with two different financing companiesSkills Fund and Climb — to offer eligible students the option of taking out a loan and making monthly payments as opposed to a large lump sum up front. 

Lastly, many bootcamps support installment plans, so you can pay over the duration of your course instead of all at once.

The good thing about coding bootcamps is that there are a bunch. And even though we strongly recommend choosing based on which matches your learning style, schedule, and goals, we also understand tuition costs are obviously extremely important. If one bootcamp doesn’t offer an option that works with your current situation, you can probably find another that more closely aligns with your budget.

Key takeaways:

  • Coding bootcamps are cheaper than college but are still not cheap

  • Many bootcamps offer scholarships to help offset costs

  • They also offer loan options, Income Share Agreements, and installment plans

Here's a deeper dive into how you can pay for a coding bootcamp.

Will a coding bootcamp get you a job?

To be blunt: bootcamps are made to help you get a job and start a new career. If they didn’t get you a job, then they wouldn’t be worth the money and wouldn’t be worth attending. Fortunately, the answer is that, yes, coding bootcamps often get graduates jobs.

The reality is, we’re in the midst of a technological boom. As more innovations and advances take place, there are a lot of careers that are at risk of being eliminated. Coding isn’t one of those careers.

Tech jobs are recession-proof and often the most stable jobs in the economy. They’re also some of the most protected jobs. When the economy struggles, we look to innovation to get us back on track. In the current day and age, innovation takes place predominantly in tech, no matter what sector. 

The demand for software engineers has increased and will continue to increase. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “web developers and digital designers” are expected to grow another 8% by 2029, and “software developers” are expected to grow by 22%.

Many working professionals who pursue new careers recognize this. It’s often a primary reason for the pivot. The typical student who enrolls in a coding bootcamp already has a bachelor’s degree and even a few years of work experience. Whether they are hoping to move laterally within a company to a more technical role (that often comes with a salary increase), or move to another company as a developer, coding bootcamps offer a fast pathway to accomplishing that. 

When you’re doing your research into coding bootcamps, know that you are entitled to transparent information about their job outcomes and average graduate starting salaries. Any bootcamp worth its salt should be willing to provide that information clearly and proudly for any student. After all, if you’re investing $15k in a bootcamp, you should be able to invest confidently.

This is why it’s important to do extensive research and due diligence on the job placement rates of a bootcamp you’re considering. If a school doesn’t make its numbers explicitly clear, there could be a reason why.

Also, keep in mind that different bootcamps have different reporting criteria. Some will report job placement three months from graduation, and some will report job placement 12 months from graduation. Be aware of this so you can compare apples to apples when comparing bootcamps.

A few tips to look out for when researching different schools and programs:

  • Average starting salaries

  • Pay attention to the city, market rates, and how bootcamp salaries compare to the market. Is that bootcamps’ average starting salaries in line with a city’s average salaries?

  • Job placement rates for women

  • Average time to find a job

  • Which types of jobs graduates land

  • Which companies those graduates get offers from

To see an example of how jobs numbers might be reported, see Flatiron’s latest Jobs Report data.

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Do coding bootcamps help you job search?

This can vary depending on the bootcamp. Some bootcamps provide career services, and some don’t provide are career support at all. The ones that do are invaluable. Many people pay top dollar for career services — the best bootcamps have these services included.

Just like transparency into job numbers, a reputable coding bootcamp that is worth it is open about its services. Make sure to do your research and ask the bootcamp’s admissions team as many questions as you need answers to.

  • When do career services start once you are enrolled in the program? 

  • For how long do they offer the career services?

  • How often do you work with your career coach?

  • Do you get a dedicated 1-on-1 career coach? 

  • In what ways does the bootcamp support you? 

How much do coding bootcamp graduates make?

Coding bootcamps don’t only get you jobs, they get you jobs in a highly lucrative field. Software engineers earn high wages. On average, software developers make an average of $100k, according to ZipRecruiter. This can vary depending on the region and the number of years of experience.

According to the major salary websites, these are the average salaries for a software engineer for major tech cities.

  • New York City average software engineer salary

  • Chicago average software engineer salary

  • Houston average software engineer salary

  • Austin average software engineer salary

  • Washington, D.C. average software engineer salary

  • Seattle average software engineer salary

  • Denver average software engineer salary

  • Miami average software engineer salary

  • San Francisco average software engineer salary

  • Los Angeles average software engineer salary

Coding bootcamps should be upfront and transparent with the average starting salaries of their graduates. The samples they use to determine those numbers should also be clear and easy to understand. As is the case with job placement rates, any time salary numbers are hard to find or unclear, that’s a red flag, and you might be better off finding a bootcamp that practices transparency.

When you do your salary research, compare that bootcamp’s starting salaries to the average salaries in that city. For example, if a bootcamp boasts $75k salaries for its New York City graduates but the average software engineer salary in NYC is $100k, then you can probably find a bootcamp that averages better salaries.

Granted, that doesn’t mean that every student from that bootcamp only makes $75k, or that you couldn't graduate and land a role well over $100k, but it’s something to consider when picking a bootcamp (among many other considerations).

At Flatiron, we go to great lengths to make our Jobs Reports clear and digestible. That way you can easily see the salaries our graduates earn and compare them to average salaries in those grads’ respective cities. 

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Do alumni think coding bootcamps are worth it?

There are a few good bootcamp review sites that can help answer this question. Course Report, Switchup, and Career Karma all host bootcamp alumni reviews for bootcamps. 

Read those reviews, because they can be very insightful! They’re valuable and will give you a unique view into the culture and environment at a bootcamp. Scroll through and read both the good reviews and the bad reviews. And go into them with an understanding of what’s important to you in a bootcamp.

Many cover curriculum, specific instructors, and the overall vibe of the classroom and/or online experience. If you know what’s important to you beforehand, it will make reading the reviews much more beneficial.

Do employers think coding bootcamps are worth it?

Perhaps this question is better phrased, “Do employers or recruiters hire bootcamp grads?” To that question, the answer is yes. 

According to Indeed, 72% of employers say bootcamp grads are just as prepared to succeed as computer science grads and are even just as likely to be high performers. In that same survey, 12% of respondents think bootcamp grads are more prepared to succeed, and 17% think bootcamp grads are less prepared. The bottom line is that many employers look at bootcamp grads very favorably.

Companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Spotify, The New York Times, Facebook, Salesforce, and Slack are all known to hire bootcamp grads. Startups are well known to hire bootcamp grads, too.

Since coding bootcamps are able to keep up with the latest skill demand, they've become a great option for employers looking to hire tech talent. 

Hiring and onboarding is a critical part of any growing tech company. And this process can be extensive and expensive. Employers like that bootcamp graduates already have hands-on experience and are familiar with fast-paced environments.

How to make the most of your bootcamp experience

There are countless reasons why coding bootcamps are worth it for someone looking to make a launch their tech careers. To make the most of the experience, preparation is key. If you are considering a bootcamp and want to change to a software development career, make sure you do your research! 

Here is a checklist of how you can get the most out of this journey: 

  • Research, research, research! Find the programs that interest you most in terms of tuition cost, curriculum, timeline, and reputability.

  • Identify your goals — what type of specialty do you want to focus on? 

  • Application process — different bootcamps will have different requirements for getting into their programs. 

  • Put together a job search timeline — be realistic and work with a career coach. 

  • Reach out to your network and support system when it’s graduation time. Referrals are often the best way to land an interview!

  • Constantly ask for feedback and collaborate with peers so you can master the hard skills. 

  • Build your online presence and consider writing articles to show your new expertise. 

  • Leverage the resources and technical experts during your time at a bootcamp 

  • Be prepared to work hard. We cannot emphasize this enough. Like with many things, you get out of bootcamps what you put into them. There is no silver bullet to learning to code, no matter what anyone might tell you. Bootcamps are rigorous and they can be tough, so you'll need to put in the time and the effort to learn and retain the information your instructors teach. If you do, the payoff can be life-changing.

Suffice it to say, it’s always daunting to start a new journey. But with any luck, you are well prepared and in reading this article, already taking the first steps towards a brand new career. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team if you have any questions or interest in our programs! 

So, are coding bootcamps worth it?

Coding bootcamps offer a lot of things. They offer an opportunity to learn the skills you need to launch a career at a relatively affordable and fast pace.

What's required of you is to find the right bootcamp. Find a place that teaches in a way that fits your learning style, meets your price point and schedule, and focuses on the languages and skills that align with your career ambitions. If you do your research and find the right place for you, then attending the right bootcamp is definitely the right choice.

In sum, if your goal is to learn software engineering skills and to start a coding career, then the answer is an unequivocal 'yes' — good bootcamps are worth it.

If you're ready to pursue a new future, Flatiron School offers our flagship on-campus Software Engineering program as well as our Online Software Engineering program.

If you're still weighing your options, try our free introductory workshops: