For those who want to break into the technology industry as a developer, there’s perhaps no bigger question than whether to sign up for a coding bootcamp. Such programs are expensive and time-consuming—but are they actually worth it?
A recent analysis by Course Report (which regularly conducts in-depth analyses of the bootcamp market) suggests that the average salary for bootcamp graduates is $66,964 per year. “The majority of graduates of coding bootcamps are finding full-time employment,” the analysis added, “and 83 [percent] of graduates surveyed say they’ve been employed in a job requiring the technical skills learned at bootcamp, with a median salary increase of 51 [percent] or $22,000.”
The typical “bootcamper” is 31 years old, with six years’ worth of work experience, and has never worked as a programmer or developer before. Most graduates reportedly take anywhere from one to six months to land their first post-graduation job.
In August 2019, Course Report reported that, since 2013, the number of graduates from coding bootcamps had grown 11x, with 23,043 set to graduate last year (the largest number of such graduates ever, supposedly). Web development was the most-enrolled discipline, followed by full-stack courses, .NET, Ruby on Rails, and Java.
Sounds like a bootcamp can fulfill all your career dreams, right? However, it’s worth noting that much of the data around bootcamps is self-reported (although the Council on Integrity Results Reporting (CIRR) has a third-party auditing system in place). It actually takes many graduates quite a bit of time to land a position, despite the tech industry’s low unemployment rate and obvious need for fresh talent. Back in 2018, for example, Stack Overflow analyzed how long it took bootcamp graduates to find their first post-graduation job, and found that 20 percent needed longer than 90 days.
“If we discount the 45.5 percent of bootcamp grads who already had jobs in tech, we could assert that the success rate for bootcamps in helping graduates find gainful employment in a reasonable time after graduation (if at all) is almost 50/50,” we wrote about Stack Overflow’s results at the time.
There’s also the small matter of bootcamps that have run head-on into the buzzsaw of controversy. For example, Woz U, the online learning platform endorsed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, was excoriated for high-pressure tactics and reports of curriculum errors. The Lambda School, which promises that students won’t have to pay for their education until they actually land an actual job, was fined by the State of California over reportedly failing to register as a school. (Basically, if a bootcamp does some of the stuff described in this highly informative and entertaining Twitter thread by Zed A. Shaw, run in the other direction.)
In other words, before signing up for a particular bootcamp, do your homework. Study the bootcamp’s statistics to see how many students graduate and find jobs. Make sure that the bootcamp isn’t exerting too much pressure on you to sign up—that’s a huge warning sign, especially given the expenses and time commitment. Make sure that the bootcamp will actually teach you the specific skills that you need for your planned career arc, and talk (if possible) to graduates about their experiences (SwitchUp is a good site to consult for student reviews).
There are good bootcamps out there that can help you fulfill your career goals. But as with so much in tech, it’s important to not jump in impulsively. Instead, treat a potential bootcamp experience as just one part of the very large puzzle that’s your career.