Coding bootcamps can be an intensive, fast way to break into a lucrative tech career—graduates see a 34% average salary increase in their first job after bootcamp. But to be successful, you need to find a school that fits your schedule and budget, matches your learning style, and helps you land a great job.
These months-long training programs are becoming more ubiquitous—there are more than 110 schools in the U.S. and Canada to choose from. They also cost, on average, about $13,000, so it’s important to take the time to do your research before you zero in on one program and make the practical, financial, and emotional commitment to go for it.
I've talked to more than 100 coding bootcamp graduates over the years in my role as Content Manager at Course Report, a resource for researching coding bootcamps. Here's what I've learned about choosing the coding bootcamp that’ll be a good fit for you—and put you in the best possible position to land a job afterward.
1. Look for Programming Fundamentals in the Curriculum
If you’re looking to switch careers into coding, as is the case for most people looking at bootcamps, then you should focus on programming fundamentals before worrying about what specific languages a coding bootcamp curriculum covers. (If, on the other hand, you want to upskill and get a promotion at your current job, then skills in a specific language might be a priority.)
Tech trends shift quickly, so a good coding bootcamp will emphasize teaching you the foundations to ensure that you can learn new languages throughout your career. When it comes time to get a job, your mastery of the software building process is more important than your experience studying one particular language or another.
“Languages and frameworks are temporary, but the processes stay the same. When you learn how to design software and work effectively in engineering teams, you're set for decades of success in any technology,” says Jeff Casimir, Executive Director of Turing School in Denver.
One thing you don’t need to decide yet is the exact job you want after you graduate. If you’re learning the fundamentals, you can figure out what you want to be—whether it’s a front-end engineer, a back-end specialist, or an iOS developer—while you're at coding bootcamp. In most cases, a full-stack coding bootcamp will prepare you for any of those roles, no matter what coding languages are in the curriculum.
Caveat: If you want to learn something more specific like data science or UX Design, then you should choose a bootcamp specifically geared towards that career path.
Pro Tip: If you already have some programming experience, consider a bootcamp with a more advanced admissions process like App Academy, Codesmith, or Hack Reactor. Students with a tech background who graduate from these programs can expect to get mid-level software roles. If you’re a complete beginner, coding bootcamps like Flatiron School, Tech Elevator, and DigitalCrafts provide prep courses and pre-work to bring you up to speed for day one of class.
2. Pick a Schedule That Allows You to Make Bootcamp a Priority
Coding bootcamps are not get-rich-quick schemes. They take grit, dedication, and time. You can choose between full-time, part-time, and self-paced programs, but regardless, you’ll be most successful at bootcamp and in the job search down the line if you make your training a top priority.
Full-time coding bootcamps require you to quit your job and put your life on hold for three to six months while you throw yourself into the world of programming. Many students find that, for them, going all-in is the best way to focus and learn the skills needed for a career change.
If you have a busy schedule, six- to 12-month part-time bootcamps allow you to fit the curriculum around your other commitments. This is especially helpful for those who need to continue to work full time to pay the bills.
If you need full flexibility, then a self-paced bootcamp could be for you. These programs take place entirely online and allow you to speed up or slow down your learning depending on what else you have going on at the time. More control of the timeline means you can give your program the attention it deserves when you have time to do so.
The best way to position yourself to get a great job after graduation is to devote as much time and energy as possible to your education—whatever that looks like with your schedule.
3. Find the Right Learning Environment
The most successful bootcamp graduates I speak with say that learning alongside other students, whether online or in person, is the key to getting the most out of a bootcamp.
Some prefer to be physically present in a traditional classroom setting with instructors and other students, where they can have conversations and ask questions face to face. Many coding bootcamp graduates also find the support of peers invaluable to getting through an intensive bootcamp program.
While in-person bootcamps guarantee that you’ll be in that immersive classroom, online coding bootcamps are becoming more popular and are ideal if you want to avoid a commute, don’t live near an in-person bootcamp, or are balancing your course load with family and other demands. Remote bootcampers usually learn through online projects, live or recorded videos, and one-on-one mentorship.
In addition to location, some students want to consider the makeup of the population of peers they want to surround themselves with. Hackbright Academy graduate Stacey Carter, for example, specifically wanted to learn alongside other women. “As a woman entering the tech industry, I knew that a supportive learning environment and solid network would be paramount for a successful career change,” she says. “Being a part of the Hackbright community means you gain a whole cheer squad of cohort mates and alumni that all want to help you succeed.” Ada Developers Academy and The Grace Hopper Program also focus on training women.
Other schools focus on diversity. The Holberton School, for instance, has a blind admissions process that doesn’t take into account your previous education or work experience, age, ethnicity, or gender. According to co-founder Sylvain Kalache, the goal of the automated process is to reduce human biases.
Pro Tip: Most bootcamps offer in-person or online info sessions and workshops where you can experience the learning environment, meet staff and students, and see if it’s a good fit for you. “Choosing a training program is a decision that determines the future of your professional life. Reading blogs and reviews, doing a campus visit, and attending events or workshops are essential to ensure they're a fit for you and you're a fit for them,” Casimir says. Consider it a test run!
4. Research Job Outcomes and Reach Out to Alumni
Quality coding bootcamps have career teams dedicated to preparing you for the job search. According to the Course Report alumni survey, 89% of coding bootcamp students receive resume preparation assistance and 61% have access to job placement services as well.
Even if a school provides career guidance, it’s also important to look at real statistics to see how many graduates have actually landed jobs, how long it took them, and what kinds of salaries they’re earning. One place to find these statistics is through the Council on Integrity in Results (CIRR), a nonprofit that encourages schools to publish transparent information about their outcomes according to strict guidelines.
But numbers don't tell the whole story. Once you've started narrowing down your options, make sure you take some time to learn about real people's experiences in these programs. More than 80,000 developers have graduated from coding bootcamps, so find people in your community or online who have been to the programs you’re seriously considering and ask them about their experiences. Or at the very least, read about them in alumni reviews.
Pro Tip: A job guarantee can be a great assurance that a bootcamp’s incentives are aligned with your own—you could get your tuition money back if you don’t find a job, or wait to start paying tuition until you find a job. These guarantees usually require students to apply for a certain number of jobs and provide evidence that they did, so make sure you read the terms and conditions of those before applying.
5. Think About Your Budget and Financing Options
Coding bootcamps are much less of an investment than a traditional college degree, but tuition will still typically run you $8,000 to $20,000. So in tandem with reading reviews and researching outcomes, you’ll want to compare tuition costs and payment plans to find what works with your budget.
Here are some things to look for:
- Financing options: Partners like Skills Fund and Climb Credit provide funding specifically for coding bootcamps.
- Income share agreements or deferred tuition options: An increasing number of coding bootcamps are partnering with companies like Leif and Vemo to offer students the option of paying for bootcamp only after they’ve landed a job. Students commit to sharing a percentage of their income (10% to 17%) for a fixed time period (three to five years) once they’re employed. Another type of risk-sharing plan called deferred tuition—which requires graduates to pay back a fixed amount rather than a percentage—is offered at bootcamps like the Grace Hopper Program and App Academy.
- GI Bill-approved bootcamps: More than two dozen coding bootcamps around the U.S. are approved to accept GI Bill benefits, so if you’re a veteran, make sure you ask the schools in your shortlist about this (or use the directory of approved programs to help you narrow down your options). The new VET TEC initiative funds technology skills training for veterans, without using up any GI Benefits, meaning even more veterans have access to funding for coding bootcamps.
- Scholarships: Many coding bootcamps offer scholarships for women, veterans, and underrepresented minorities, ranging from a few hundred dollars to full rides. Find details on school websites or reach out to the team to ask. Course Report also offers $500 scholarships to over 80 schools.
Going to coding bootcamp is a serious investment of time and money, but once you find the school that ticks all the boxes for your schedule, learning environment, career goals, and cost, you’ll be well on your way to collecting all the tools you need to land a well-paying tech job you love!
TopicsEngineering , Professional Development , Tech , Women in Tech , The Military , Career Paths , Career Changes
Photo of people sitting in an office working on computers with code onscreen courtesy of skynesher/Getty Images.