So you want a job in coding but don’t have any experience. What do you do? Coding boot camp might be the way to go - but be careful. Here are five things to consider before taking the plunge.
The developer job market is flooded with boot camp graduates. Worse, most programmers have years of experience. Stacked up next to that, a coding boot camp looks like child’s play.
Don’t worry. If you keep a few things in mind, coding boot camp can take your career to the next level.
Here’s how in some easy steps.
What A Boot Camp Does (And Doesn't) Do
You want to be a developer. You heard coding boot camps are the way to go. A friend went to boot camp and a month later she got hired. Now she makes 100K annually. Seems the best route, right? Not so fast.
I did the research and asked some big players in the IT world what they think—from HR managers to company heads.
The answer? The jury is still out.
When do coding boot camps work and when do they fall flat? You need to know before you spend big cash attending one. Here’s the golden rule: if you’re trying for an entry-level job, you need to prove your skills somehow.
You can do that by citing past coding achievements in non-coding jobs, both on your resume and in the interview process. However, for entry-level candidates, while a boot camp can never replace experience, it’ll teleport you ahead of all the newbie applicants.
Think of an MBA program. You don’t want to spend loads of money on a second-rate MBA. The same goes for coding boot camp, especially when you start looking at the prices.
So ask yourself: do I really want to commit to coding as a career? If yes, you’ll need to build your skills. A boot camp is one way to get those skills.
Will it get you hired? Nope. Not on its own. And particularly not if you’re up against experienced candidates who have killer professional IT resumes.
But if the other applicants are newbies like you with no experience? A coding boot camp can level-up your skills and cred.
Deciding If Boot Camp Is Right for You
Start by asking yourself some important questions.
"Are you experienced?" You won’t gain much value if you already know the programming languages. Sure, it’s a place to network, but it’s better to reach out to your own friends and colleagues for a job lead.
"Are you inexperienced?" This is the target clientele for boot camps. They help build your expertise with crash courses. You’ll build skill and get a nice addition to your resume.
"Are you doing it for the money?" Don’t do it. I’ve heard the same success story over and over when researching the benefits of attending boot camps. Don’t fall for the 0-60 miles per hour success story. Boot camps lay the groundwork, but success is about the countless hours you put in every night.
"Are you doing it because you want to learn and love coding?" You want to dedicate the time to see how your interest plays out on a more professional scale. Boot camp is a good starting point. Nearly 80 per cent of coding boot camp graduates say they’ve been employed in a job requiring the technical skills learned at a boot camp.
But beware, prices could have you second guessing your interest. If you don’t have the money to dish out, then you can learn just as much by doing projects on your own. Online resources are your go-to.
“Boot camps have the potential to be a cool starting point,” says Kuba Bialy, PHP developer at Zety, “but there are so many online courses and books available behind every corner. My advice is to look up what you need to learn and do it step-by-step without spending the big bucks”.
How To Choose Your Boot Camp
Pick the Right Teachers
The first thing to consider is—who will teach you the tools of the trade? Do your research here. Does the teacher have an extensive coding background? Is she a developer? Was she? You want to learn from the best.
The idea that there’s one best coding boot camp out there is false. Your career goals, location, and learning style matter. Read reviews and ask about job placement data. If it’s a brick-and-mortar boot camp, visit the classroom, talk to alumni, and look at the curriculum. Look for transparent student outcomes, scholarships, or innovative payment plans. Check for reputable instructors and a rigorous application process.
Pick the Right School Type & Location
Do you want to learn to code from home, or do you learn best in person? Here are some options for you to consider.
- Online coding boot camps. This option eliminates two big obstacles: location and flexibility. Students who attend boot camps online can generally choose their own hours. The downside? They may not be as immersive as other options.
- Part-time coding boot camps. These meet a certain number of hours per week, usually on nights and weekends. The upside is that you can hold a part-time or a full-time job while you complete the boot camp.
- Full immersion boot camps. These can range from 2 to 6 months. They’re full-time and work on multiple projects. They can last as long as 80 hours per week. The upside? You’ll gain a ton of skills in a short time. The downside is, they require total dedication.
What about location?
If you’re in a major city or hubs like Chicago, San Francisco or New York, you’ll find plenty of options. If you’re in the great wide spaces, online courses might be best.
But packing up and attending a coding boot camp in a different city could help with your job hunt afterward. Let’s say you are from Chicago that has plenty of boot camps but want to land a job in San Francisco. Being in that city leads to many different recruiting opportunities.
One of the major considerations for attending boot camp is the price. Consider how much you’re willing to spend and what you can learn for free. The average price is nearly $12,000 but some boot camps are free.
Here are three coding boot camp categories to consider:
- Low-end: App Academy ($3,000-$6,000); Epicodus ($6,900); Grand Circus ($8000)
- Middle-range: IronHack ($11,000); Flatiron School ($15,000)
- High-end: Fullstack Academy ($15,910 - $17,900); HackReactor ($17,980)
Many of these schools offer exclusive scholarships and discounts, plus tuition refunds. Others, like App Academy and Viking Code School, don’t ask for tuition until you’ve been placed in a job.
How to Get Accepted to Your Desired Boot Camp
You’ve decided to attend boot camp. You know which one you want. You sent out your application. Now, you have a coding boot camp interview.
Count yourself lucky.
Some boot camps are extremely competitive. Hackbright Academy, for instance, has a 5% acceptance rate. App Academy is at 7%. The competition is fierce. But those low admission rates mean the instruction is top-notch. Here’s some advice on what to expect in the coding boot camp interview.
Generally, there are three parts to the interview: written or video application, the culture fit interview, and the technical interview.
The first part of the interview is usually the culture fit. Boot camps set an expectation off the bat. Highly competitive schools try to weed out people just looking to coast through. If you’re passionate about coding, this is where you can impress the boot camp staff. Let them know why you’re attending and what you hope to get from it. They know you’re coming to the boot camp to learn better skills. So set yourself apart from all those other applicants. Do that by telling your story and why you took the plunge.
Secondly, most schools have placement tests in the form of online pre-work assessments. The questions won’t be extremely difficult. Study up on the basics and you’ll do just fine.
The best advice, according to coding boot camp teachers, is to read their websites, look at the founders’ blogs, talk to former students, and get to know a general atmosphere.
If you’re setting yourself up for a promotion, preparing for a new career, or trying out a new hobby, boot camps are a great way to achieve your goals. Just make sure you follow this guide step-by-step, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a better coder!
Miles Maftean is a writer at career advice site Zety.