Coding bootcamps are one of the most popular options for learning to code.
Are they worth the hype? In this guest post, Jonathan from SwitchUp.org gives us the lowdown on the 2016 Switchup survey. They asked over 1,000 bootcamp students about their experiences, and here's what they had to say.
Take it away, Jonathan!
Over the past five years, coding bootcamps and immersive courses have gone from an unconventional education option to a thriving industry. With the allure of high-paying tech jobs and the recent announcement that federal student loans now cover some coding bootcamps, it’s no wonder enrolment is soaring.
But are programming bootcamps worth the investment of time and money, and will you really graduate with the skills needed to land that web dev job? Many bootcamps claim you will, but due to the minimal amount of industry regulation, and in light of some recent scandals, it can be hard to know if your investment will pay off.
SwitchUp, a resource for prospective bootcamp students and alumni, was started to answer that question and bring transparency to this new industry. Over the past year, we have surveyed alumni and gathered information about coding bootcamp students and their experiences. After hearing from more than 1,000 students and alum, we’ve crunched the numbers and published the results. Read on for five highlights of the report, plus our analysis of how to get the most out of your bootcamp experience.
1. 63% of graduates reported an increase in salary (and, on average, a fairly significant one).
Bootcamp grads continue to report a salary increase overall, and this number is up from 59% last year. Grads are also seeing a bigger salary bump: this year, those who reported an increase saw their salary jump by an average of $22,700 within six months, while respondents in 2015 reported an average increase of $18,101.
While a majority of graduates received a salary bump, it's important to remember that almost 40% of student respondents did not. If you as a prospective student are told that your investment will pay for itself after graduation, be sure to verify the claim with past alumni and assess your own situation.
2. Women are more prevalent in coding bootcamps than in college-level computer programs.
Coding bootcamps have been praised for adding diversity to tech, and this is definitely true when it comes to female programmers. In 2016, our data found that 43% of coding bootcamp grads were women, up from 41% in 2015. Conversely, just 12% of computer science grads are women.
Bootcamps have successfully proven that people from every background can make a career change into tech. It remains to be seen if computer science programs will make the same diversity gains in the future.
3. The bootcamp market is growing fast, with a projected 100% growth rate in 2017.
Have you noticed coding bootcamps popping up everywhere? The coding bootcamp market is booming, and we don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. Our survey looks at how the coding bootcamp market has grown since 2013 and continues to grow. In 2017, we expect 121 bootcamps with 23,000+ graduates.
4. The average class size is 30 students, with a 3.8:1 student:instructor ratio.
In comparison, the average ratio of students to teaching staff at American tertiary education institutions was 16 to 1. Although the jury is still out on just how much class size affects education quality, and our study did not indicate a correlation, some studies have reported an increase in student engagement and achievement for smaller classes.
5. 80%+ of graduates were satisfied with their bootcamp education.
For an industry that's still relatively new, coding bootcamps show a very high level of consumer satisfaction. Over 80% of students reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their education. Only a small minority (7%) were dissatisfied.
So, is attending a coding bootcamp worth it?
It’s a complicated question, but if you are looking to get a job in the technology industry, our research says “Yes!” Technology is an amazing industry to be in, and can be very rewarding. However, before you take the leap into a full-on intensive program, you’ll need to do your research to make sure coding is right for you. We suggest you focus on a few things to get started:
Know Your Career Goals, Think Three Steps Ahead, and Do Your Homework!
You’ve taken self-paced online courses, free courses, and maybe even gotten your feet wet with a more in-depth track. But now you want more and are considering a coding bootcamp. Let’s face it: A coding bootcamp is a serious life decision. Here are the top four items in our checklist:
- Make sure you have a clear understanding of your own career goals and where you see yourself in the industry. Coding bootcamps now focus on a broad range of topics and languages, and the perfect bootcamp curriculum will depend on your individual needs. Spend some time researching different careers that students often land in after attending a bootcamp, and decide which career paths are most appealing to you. Once you understand your career path, you can choose the right program.
- Know what happens after graduation. When you’re looking at bootcamps, keep in mind that not all of them offer career services. If yours does, make sure it’s an insightful program rather than the same old high-level career advice that you could find on Google. Try to choose a school that offers dedicated career services resources, such as one-on-one sessions with a career advisor, open forums with industry leaders, and networking events.
- Check the post-grad hiring rate. Some schools may boast great hiring rates, but dig deeper to check that the alumni got jobs within the industry.
If you’re just starting your search, here are a few additional pointers…
- Check all the bootcamps in your city before considering other locations. Check their ratings on SwitchUp, and see if they made the SwitchUp Best Bootcamps list.
- Take pre-courses (offered for free by many bootcamps), speak with an instructor, and visit the school’s website (and the bootcamp location if you can). If you’ve decided on a bootcamp, remember that you are investing valuable time and money. Ensure you are compatible with the teaching style and lesson schedule.
- There are big differences in prices. For example, Hack Reactor comes in at a whopping $18,000, whereas some schools like Tech Talent South might only charge $6,000. Know that expensive does not necessarily mean better, and cheap does not necessarily mean good value. It all depends on the individual school and situation (and your needs and goals).
- Read student reviews on SwitchUp and other review sites, and reach out to alumni; you’ll find many are happy to share their experience. Students and alumni will have valuable insights and tips to help you get the most out of your bootcamp experience.
- Try to seek out scholarship opportunities and consider many of the financial lending options out there that will help ease your payments over time. Use the guidelines outlined to evaluate whether a bootcamp is “worth” its value. Then look at the price tag. Some bootcamps prefer to price themselves high to make them seem like a high-end product even if they’re not — a classic marketing strategy!
- At the end of the day, it comes down to your own financial situation, how much capital you have to invest in your education, your career goals, and the return on investment. Make sure you plan for at least 3-6 months of job hunting after the bootcamp!
To learn more about coding bootcamps and read alumni reviews, visit Switchup.org.
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About the author
Jonathan is a coding bootcamp alum who founded SwitchUp to help add transparency to this fast-growing bootcamp education industry. A former MIT alum and data scientist, he is passionate about education, software development and helping other people find their dream careers. He also recently co-founded Carriage, an international on-demand logistics company.