coding bootcamps

Coding bootcamps require hard work, but payoff can be worth it

Coding bootcamps offer a faster way to break into the developer job pool, but grads say it isn't a piece of cake

What’s the key to landing the best computer programming jobs? It might be a coding bootcamp, if recent research is any indication.

Seventy-three percent of coding bootcamp graduates secure a STEM job after they graduate, according to a survey from Course Report. Those numbers offer a stark contrast with the 49.5 percent of engineering undergraduates and 49.2 percent of computer, math, and statistics undergraduates with bachelor’s degrees who land STEM jobs, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. That data also indicates 74 percent of people with a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field aren’t working in those professions.

Eighty percent of recent graduates from coding schools—sometimes called coding bootcamps—say the job they obtained after graduation is directly related to, and requires use of, the skills they learned during their coding training, according to the Course Report survey.

Coding bootcamp grads also say they experienced an average salary increase around 51 percent, and the average starting salary of a coding bootcamp grad is $70,698. The typical coding bootcamp student is nontraditional by college and university standards—they are 29 years old, have six years of work experience, earned at least a bachelor’s degree, and they have never worked as a programmer before.

Research shows 36 percent of coding bootcamp students are women, compared to undergraduate computer science degree programs, where women account for just 17.9 percent of students.

As coding bootcamps grow in number and in popularity, more aspiring developers see them as a viable option, due partly to their shorter duration and their targeted, real-world focus.

Patience may be the key to a post-bootcamp employment offer. While some grads find jobs within 30 days (33 percent), it takes others up to six months. Workplace success varies. A Google search about bootcamp graduates yields pages of complaints about scams and continued unemployment. But other graduates have shared more positive experiences, and keeping expectations in line with the real world might be the best way to ensure a realistic view of the job market.

After three months, Hack Reactor graduate Felix Feng accepted a job offer. He details his post-bootcamp job search in a thorough blog post.

“I applied to 291 companies, did 32 phone screens, 16 technical screens, 13 coding challenges, 11 on-sites, and received eight offers,” he writes. “The offers ranged from $60-125k in salary from companies all over the U.S., and for both front end and full stack roles. In total, 2.8 percent of applications became offers.”

In his post, he offers a number of recommendations to increase the likelihood of follow-up interviews and job offers, including sending resumes to real people whenever possible and continuing to study to prepare for tough interview questions.

“The number of computer science jobs continues to grow, and there’s a skills gap between the number of skilled workers and the number of available jobs,” says Coding Dojo COO & CFO Jay Patel. “We need to tackle that need together. It’s not just companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon that need this skill—it’s also companies that didn’t start in technology, but that are now leveraging websites and technology to improve their products.”

Coding bootcamps can help those who want a career change or who want to improve their skill set, Patel adds. Though a number of free coding education resources exist online, information overload can become a problem if students don’t know how to teach themselves, and free or traditional programming courses are often imbued with theory and offer less real-world application.

Part of Coding Dojo’s goal is to produce self-sufficient bootcamp graduates who know multiple coding languages and who are adaptable as technologies and companies’ needs change.

“At the base level, what makes a good developer is being a good problem solver,” Patel says. “Technology and industry change so rapidly. New technologies come up each day. As a developer, you need a base skillset to identify the problem in front of you and the best skills to solve the problem. We focus on teaching students how to learn.”

Enrolling with Coding Dojo gave bootcamp grad Brian Kang a chance to boost his software-development skills while avoiding what he says was the expensive and time-consuming option of returning to school.

“When I weighed the pros and cons of both options, it was pretty obvious which made more sense for me,” Kang says. But just because the bootcamp didn’t require the same amount of time and money as a longer, more traditional program, it was still challening.

“You are constantly grinding and putting in hours,” Kang says. “That alone trains your mind and habits to the kind of work ethic it takes to succeed in learning new, difficult skills. that’s a large part of what employers seek out—your drive and work ethic.”

Coding Dojo’s method of teaching students multiple programming languages is directly aligned with workplace expectations, Kang says.

“I feel that learning mulitple programming languages was super critical to my overall success,” he says. “At the end of the day, you’re more likely going to need to learn brand new skills once you actually start your new job, so having gone through the process more than a couple times already will make it a bit easier every time. The learning never really stops.”

Kang has a few recommendations for would-be coding bootcamp enrollees:

  • It’s not for everyone; know yourself, your goals, possible time and lifestyle sacrifices, and your level of commitment
  • Passion and skill are huge factors in bootcamp success
  • Be ready and prepared to go all-in, because coding bootcamps are fast-paced
  • Find a mentor: “[It] doesn’t have to be the CTO of Intel, but find somebody who has been in your shoes who can help guide you through the mistakes and successes they’ve already had

Coding bootcamps’ fast pace sometimes can’t hold a candle to “real-world” positions, Kang adds.

“I thought I was learning fast in the bootcamp, but I’m probably learning at least twice as fast in my new job,” he says. Kang is now working with a programming language Coding Dojo doesn’t teach, “but because I’ve already gone through the process of learning new languages and frameworks several times, I’m more prepared to take on my daily challenges.”

Programmer Jack Jutzi attended the DevMountain bootcamp after self-teaching development skills and after taking a number of traditional college programming courses.

Jutzi says he opted to enroll in a bootcamp because finishing his degree would have taken another 18 months, and the content in traditional computer science programs is at times heavier in theory and fundamentals and lighter on hands-on experience with fast-changing technologies.

“A bootcamp focuses heaviliy on hands-on experience, building apps, and being job-ready, even though it doesn’t give you the foundation a computer science degree does,” he says.

DevMountain’s program only lasted 13 weeks, and “it was challening in every sense of the word,” Jutzi adds, estimating he often spent upwards of 60 hours per week coding. “This hands-on approach prepares you well for the job market and definitely helped me hit the ground running. You will absolutely learn to be self-sufficient and learn quickly, which is a huge boost when trying to break into your first development position.”

Jutzi cautions aspiring bootcamp enrollees to “take bootcamp marketing and the promise of a life-changing salary upon graduation with a grain of salt. While my educational experience was fantastic, the job search afterward was brutal—not just for me, but for my entire cohort.”

Part of the struggle lies in the fact that many recruiters and companies don’t take bootcamp grads seriously, he says. “I know at least two very talented developers from my cohort who are still struggling to get their first developer job three months after we graduated.”

Jutzi advises those interested to:

  • Do your due diligence on whichever camp you plan to attend
  • Research the local market expectations/job postings/salaries
  • Temper your expectations
  • Make sure you’re prepared for the challenge
  • Be realistic about what you can expect from bootcamp

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Laura Ascione

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