A lot of people are very sceptical about coding bootcamps. In fact, not a week goes by where we don’t hear a student telling us, “I totally thought you guys were a scam when I first heard about you”, or have a worried parent calling us on Skype, thinking we had less than good intentions for their kids (hint: we don’t).
Scamming students is a stigma that exists for all technical bootcamps. This stigma is often driven by either former students who have had a poor experience, or grizzled, OG programmers who started playing around with electronics when Steve Jobs was still a hippy. For these developers, their main argument is, “I’ve spent the last 20 years perfecting my craft, so how could you possibly learn what I do in just a few weeks?”
Undoubtedly, these OG developers are very good, and they raise a valid point; nothing can replicate good old, hard-earned experience.
But within the last few years, pursuing careers as coders or programmers has become more mainstream. Along with increasingly high demand for skilled programmers, more accelerated methods of teaching people have appeared. Previously, coders would have had to undergo years of formal education, and forge territories unknown when they first started off. Now, there are countless resources to learn from and documentation to refer to. Development languages have also become more refined over time, with talented developers building frameworks and all manner of tools to make our (and their) lives easier.
This means new coders and programmers are building off years of experience and development, walking on the paths forged by the OG developers before them.
But bootcamps themselves…do they work?
For the most part, yes, they do. Coding bootcamp aggregator Switchup states the vast majority of students leave bootcamps with a positive experience, with over half of all students stating they experienced an increase in salary within 6 months of graduating.
However, it does depend on what you define as ‘work’, and how you define ‘work’ often will depend on what you want to get out of the experience. There are plenty of dodgy bootcamps out there, just as there are as many people expecting bootcamps to be a silver bullet to a high-paying and satisfying career.
Currently, in order to learn coding, you have 4 options:
- Take a 2-4 year computer science degree.
- Self-teach yourself, usually through experimentation, reading books and using online resources
- Coding bootcamps
- Through a combination of the above
Out of all the choices, bootcamps offer one of the fastest ways to jumpstart your journey towards learning how to code. While a few weeks of learning might seem short compared to a college degree, this shorter time period can actually be highly advantageous. One of the main reasons is the tech world is an ever-evolving beast, so short courses mean the curriculum can always be kept up-to-date. That means you won’t be stuck learning boring, out-dated theory.
As a way to upskill people fast, coding bootcamps also all centre around practical challenges and reversed learning. In non-fancy wording, they make you sit there, write a lot of code, and build tangible end-products. While this might sound like a steep challenge, all experts agree that this is really the only way to learn how to code. Bootcamps are designed to immerse you in an environment that replicates what it’s like to work on real-world projects (read our blog "3 reasons why you need to learn coding in an immersive environment”). This means bootcamps generally produce students who are well-aligned with real-world expectations.
The other advantage bootcamps have is a small mentor-to-student ratio. Everyone faces unique challenges in learning how to code; a concept you breezed through might be a colossal struggle for someone else, and vice-versa. That’s why having someone you can go to for help is not only immensely helpful, but is necessary to prevent you from stalling in progress and losing motivation, a phenomenon that’s all too common - it’s estimated only 15% of students complete online courses, with poor support and confusing instructions cited as major reasons for early dropouts.
Another side of the argument opponents of bootcamps often miss out on is the purpose of learning code. The prevalence of web technologies in everything we do nowadays means an increasingly broader range of people will benefit from learning web development. Many people who are learning how to code often have no desire to become a developer. Graphic designers, digital marketers, project managers, even bloggers, are all quickly cottoning onto the fact that in order to stand out, you should at least have a basic proficiency in reading and writing code.
This is where coding bootcamps shine. You don’t expect someone to undertake a multi-year computer science degree just to be able to work their way around an HTML/CSS document. By being able to choose your own bootcamp and finding one that meets your own personal goals, you’ll be able get to where you want with no time wasted.
How do you make the most out of a bootcamp?
The question we’ve been answering throughout this blog post is: ‘do bootcamps work?’. But to get the best results, we challenge you to slightly modify the question to, ‘how do I make this bootcamp work for me?’
Before you sign up, make sure you know what your goals are. Why do you want to learn how to code? Is it because you want to become a developer? Freelance? Just be able to read code and communicate with developers? Different bootcamps will cater for different levels, so have the right expectations before you go in.
Like all education, bootcamps are what you make out of them. They’re all-intensive and designed to fill your brain to its limit every day. But having the information in your head is only the 1%. The rest of the 99% is where the journey really starts. Here are our tips on getting the most out of bootcamp journey.
Make the most out of your mentors!
Small mentor-to-student ratios means you’ll likely work with the same tutor(s) throughout the entirety of the bootcamp. Bootcamp mentors, unlike teachers, are professionals who work full-time in the field. That means they’ll have years of up-to-date, relevant experience. Make use of it! Always ask questions, whether it be about code you don’t understand, or how to land a job. If you make it a mission to get to know them, you’ll make an invaluable connection (and even a friend!)
Always bite off a bit more than you can chew
When it comes to web development jobs, we always advise people to take on something they’re not quite qualified for. Having to learn as you work is a great way to upskill fast.
The same goes for bootcamps. Bootcamps are usually fast-paced, so there often isn’t a lot of time to rest on your laurels. However, always try set the bar high for yourself, and push yourself to meet these challenges. Learning how to code can be hard, but if you opt for the easiest paths you definitely won’t learn as much, and you might even regret your experience
Network, network, network
Chances are, your first piece of web development work will come through word-of-mouth, especially if you’re going down the freelance path. Open the net up wide and take any opportunity to make new friends! Who knows, you might pick up overflow work from a mentor, or pick up a job that your classmate didn’t want to take. Either way, more friends will always come in handy
Take control of your own learning
There might be a set curriculum and regular pre-planned classes, but don’t be fooled - much of what you learn in bootcamps is self-directed. Bootcamps generally employ a flipped-classroom learning model, where rather than getting all your information from one teacher, you are set challenges to complete, and mentors are there on the sidelines to help you as you progress. The challenges are often open-ended, so you can finish them however you see fit. Once you’ve finished a project, don’t stop there - create the next challenge to take on! It’s important to direct your own learning path, and complete these challenges in a way that meets your own goals.
Tackle problems by yourself
When you have a mentor there with you all the time, it’s easy to make a habit out of always going to them for help first. While this might sound like a good idea first, this could actually prohibit your progress. As we previously mentioned, the fastest way to learn is to direct your own learning path. The same applies when you encounter issues.
Along your journey, you’re going to encounter issues you won’t have an immediate solution to. However, it’s important to get into the habit of self-diagnosing and Googling problems when you don’t understand them. Constantly Googling issues might not sound like what professionals might do, but it’s something that even the most experienced developers and programmers will readily agree to. So if you’re ever in doubt, go hunt on the internet for it!
The end of the bootcamp is only the beginning of the journey
One of the toughest things about coding is the rapid rate at which learned knowledge is lost - just ask any developer. Stop coding for a week, and you’ll be surprised at how fast you’ll forget even the most basic things.
Coding is something you just have to keep doing, especially after you’ve finished the bootcamp. Put together projects and challenges for yourself to keep working on in order to keep your skills sharp - don’t let all your hard work go to waste!
As the demand for skilled developers continues to grow, there’s no doubt coding bootcamps are here to stay. In the end, it’s always important to do your research and choose a bootcamp that aligns with your goals. Bear in mind no matter how you choose to learn web development, your education will never be the be-all-and-end-all of your coding journey. The key is to take every opportunity that comes along your way to further your learning.
Written by: Josh Li
Digital Marketer at Institute of Code