Are Tech Pros Really Using Bootcamps?

How are developers educating themselves in the technologies and techniques necessary to succeed in their industry?

Of those developers recently surveyed by Stack Overflow, a sizable minority (32 percent) downplayed the effect of formal education on their career success. “This is not entirely surprising given that 90 [percent] of developers overall consider themselves at least somewhat self-taught,” the organization wrote in a note accompanying the survey data. “A formal degree is only one aspect of their education, and so much of their practical day-to-day work depends on their company’s individual tech stack decisions.”

With that in mind, what sorts of alternative education are developers pursuing? Some 90 percent of them reported being self-taught, while 45.4 percent said they relied on online courses.

Another 41.2 percent cited on-the-job training as a learning venue, followed closely by “open-source contributions” (37 percent). Hackathons and coding competitions stood a bit lower, at 23.6 percent and 22 percent, respectively—no surprise, given how those events tend to be much shorter-duration than a class or training course.

Developers tended to rely far less on part-time or evening courses (15.3 percent) or industry certifications (14.7 percent). Coming in last: bootcamps, at 9 percent.

“Due to the high demand for professional developers, coding bootcamps have exploded in popularity in the past few years,” Stack Overflow’s note continued. “Although commonly perceived as a way for non-developers to transition into a new career, we found that 45.8 [percent] of those who said they’d gone through a bootcamp were already developers when they started the program.”

Another 9.7 percent of developers had already landed a developer job before completing the program, slightly behind the 11.3 percent who got their job right after graduation. Contrast that with the 8.1 percent of developers who hadn’t managed to obtain a job quite yet, and it’s clear that most of those who’ve gone through bootcamps are working in tech—even if it took some time to actually land a position.

There are signs that bootcamps have indeed become more popular in recent years. Last year, the review site Course Report stated that some 17,966 students attended 91 full-time bootcamps in the United States and Canada, paying an average of $11,451 for the privilege. Although that spike in popularity has led to calls for some sort of monitoring of bootcamps’ effectiveness, such efforts are still embryonic; for example, the new Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR) only recently announced that it would start analyzing data from bootcamps to determine the ultimate benefit to students.

If you’re interested in participating in a bootcamp, make sure to ask questions about its format, access to instructors, and whether its curriculum can help you achieve your professional goals.

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