What Is a Coding Bootcamp? (A Comprehensive Guide)

A coding bootcamp is a concentrated course that teaches essential skills and provides real-world training for people seeking jobs in computer and information technology fields. Coding bootcamps condense the time and expense required to pursue a traditional college degree by focusing on the hard skills that employers desire. As a result, bootcamps can provide an accelerated path to a rewarding technical career.

These days, many businesses are looking for skilled, tech-savvy employees to make their systems, software, and apps work better. These needs have created new opportunities for those with a coding background, including both workforce newcomers and established professionals seeking a career change.

Through a coding bootcamp, learners can acquire the essential skills that businesses need without spending excess time and money on a computer science degree — in fact, many web development and coding bootcamps take as little as 12 weeks to complete.

Here, we’ll cover the basics of coding bootcamps: how they operate, what you’ll learn, what they cost, and what career pathways they can open.

Do Coding Bootcamps Work? Top 3 Reasons People Are Signing Up for Bootcamps

Do you see lines of code and think, “I’d love to understand that?” After completing a coding bootcamp, you’ll be equipped to write the code that makes up today’s websites and apps. The process, although intensive, comes with a surplus of benefits. Here are three reasons why aspiring coders are enrolling in bootcamps:

1. Coding Bootcamps Have Unique Advantages Compared to Computer Science Degrees (and Some Disadvantages)

Computer science is a broad college major, layered with theoretical and practical studies, as well as many sub-specialties. While computer history and theory are important, coding bootcamps offer the opportunity to focus on job-ready skills — notably, the most widely used programming languages and frameworks.

Comparatively, coding bootcamps are less theoretical and more project-based than traditional college programs. They focus on the prime coding skills, languages, and techniques used commonly in the industry today. Learners complete the bootcamp with portfolios to show employers, benefit from an array of career-service offerings, and can generally complete the bootcamp much faster than a traditional college program.

Of course, coding bootcamps might not be for everyone — their fast-paced learning environment requires diligence and dedication to learning. The pace is typically demanding, but the results are equally satisfying.

2. Coding Bootcamps Offer Flexibility

College computer programming majors offer thorough preparation for a tech career, but what about those who need more schedule flexibility? Coding bootcamps are an ideal choice for those who want to continue working while studying, or who want to finish a coding curriculum quickly.

Coding bootcamps offer a variety of flexible options, allowing learners to merge their educational needs and life requirements. Need to keep weekdays free for work? Coding bootcamps can accommodate that. Looking to concentrate your studies into a short time frame? Bootcamps fit that schedule as well.

Let’s detail some of the flexible opportunities bootcamps offer:

Part-time or full-time

Many bootcamps follow part-time or full-time schedules, lasting 12 or 24 weeks respectively. Learners in a full-time course can expect to attend online classes on weekdays and spend 30 or more hours per week outside of class on classwork and projects. Part-time learners attend less class time (usually four hours per week) and can expect to conduct 20+ hours on self-paced learning and projects outside of class. Busy professionals might consider the part-time model a better fit, whereas someone with a less rigorous schedule may appreciate the opportunity to complete their bootcamp more quickly through a full-time curriculum.

In-person or online

Learners can choose how they want to learn, as well as the schedule they’d prefer to learn it on. For those who prefer face-to-face instruction in a classroom environment, coding bootcamps that offer in-person courses can be a great place to learn. However, the online model is also popular among coding bootcamp learners — their remote accessibility offers flexibility within most schedules or locations.

Synchronous, asynchronous, or hybrid learning

Coding bootcamps can be conducted using synchronous, asynchronous, or hybrid models.

Synchronous classes are conducted live, meaning learners and instructors meet online in real-time. The classes operate as in-person sessions would, with lectures and discussions offered through a video platform.

Asynchronous learning is more self-paced, as learners progress through a course curriculum and structure work to meet deadlines within their personal schedule. The coursework might include recorded instructor videos and supplementary studying materials. Learners also might meet through video chats and discussion forums as needed.

The hybrid model combines synchronous and asynchronous learning. For instance, Columbia Engineering’s part-time Coding Boot Camp, an online coding bootcamp based in NYC, uses an innovative model that blends live interactive classes with weekly content to work through independently. In this approach, learners can engage with instructors and peers in conversations during their online class time while completing projects as their schedule permits. This format is intended to provide maximum flexibility while maintaining quality instruction.

3. Good Coding Bootcamps Provide Job-Ready Skills and Help Successful Learners Get Hired

Coding bootcamps pack a lot into their curricula but have a singular mission: to teach skills relevant for the real world and to help make learners job-competitive. Bootcamps narrow their focus to essentials such as important developer languages and frameworks, key web technologies, and databases. Bootcamp certificate recipients can take these tools directly to the workforce.

Bootcamps provide more than career training. They offer career services to assist learners in making themselves more marketable and finding the right career opportunities. In addition to coding, participants can benefit from interview skills, resume best practices, and networking sessions during their bootcamp experience. Bootcamps may also offer 1:1 sessions with a job coach, career fairs and placement events, and job referrals through industry partnerships with leading companies. And companies are noticing bootcamp learners.

According to HackerRank’s 2020 developer survey, 32 percent of hiring managers said they have hired bootcamp certificate recipients. Here’s another important statistic: HackerRank notes that more than 70 percent of hiring managers consider those who’ve completed bootcamps to be as or more qualified than other employees they have hired.

What to Expect From a Coding Bootcamp

Coding bootcamps are often structured much like other educational courses, with classes, homework, projects, and collaboration. As a result, learners must be self-motivated and prepared for the fast pace at which they move.

Here’s a closer look at what bootcamp courses can offer to aspiring coders:

Which Subjects Are Covered?

Coding bootcamps usually begin with an introduction to the fundamental concepts of web development, including basics such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It won’t be long before you’re creating a web page from scratch with these important browser-based technologies.

Coding bootcamps then dive into the technical tools required for front end, back end, and full stack web development. This can include working with servers, writing code to extract data from databases, and connecting back end technologies to a website’s front end. In addition, learners typically learn skills necessary to become a web developer, working with web development frameworks used to build web applications (these frameworks may include Ruby on Rails and Django). Key full stack technologies covered often include Express, React, jQuery, and MongoDB. Bootcamps may adjust their curricula based on market demand for the newest and most-used programming languages and tools.

What Does the Coding Bootcamp Experience Look Like?

Prepare to challenge yourself on the road to new possibilities. Coding bootcamps mix instructor-led classes, group exercises and projects, and self-directed study into a rigorous course curriculum.

The amount of class time required per week usually depends on whether you attend a part- or full-time bootcamp. Classes in both bootcamps will offer live instruction, interactive meetings with peers, and lively discussions — those who are engaged with instructors and classmates will derive the most benefit.

Lab work can include individual or team projects to implement and practice what you’ve learned, and a completed project can act as both a demonstration of your new technical expertise and a valuable resume addition. Some in-class assignments are timed to test proficiency with certain coding skills. You should also be prepared for homework; it’s a significant component of most bootcamps that can usually be completed on your own schedule.

The coding bootcamp experience is comprehensive, testing learners’ diligence and drive. Courses can also be quite collaborative as like-minded learners pursue their potential new coding careers together.

How Long Does a Coding Bootcamp Take to Complete?

Coding bootcamps generally operate on full- or part-time schedules and last from 3-6 months. A full-time bootcamp usually runs for 12 weeks and includes several hours of class time daily. Conversely, expect most part-time bootcamps to run for 24 weeks with fewer class hours per week.

Is it Hard to Get Into a Coding Bootcamp?

People often wonder what prerequisites are needed to apply to a coding bootcamp; specifically, they ask if previous math or programming experience is necessary. The answer, in most cases, is no. Bootcamps are generally designed to prepare learners for entry-level positions, so they don’t have strict entry requirements.

However, every bootcamp is different, so it is important to gain necessary information on prerequisites prior to applying. Broadly speaking, coding bootcamps often require an interview to determine whether learners fit the course. In addition, they can conduct tests to assess learners’ critical-thinking and problem-solving skills (among other similar traits).

Do You Need a College Degree to Apply?

Coding bootcamps usually do not require a degree, or even college experience from applicants. In most cases, anyone can theoretically apply, regardless of their educational or work background.

How Much Coding Experience Are You Expected to Have?

Coding bootcamps usually don’t require coding experience unless they are designed for advanced learners. However, coding experience can certainly be helpful, as it can give learners a head start on course curricula.

Some coding bootcamps, like Columbia Engineering Coding Boot Camp, offer tutorials to prepare learners for the course, and since bootcamps tend to operate at a quick pace, any preparation can help.

Can You Fail a Coding Bootcamp?

Coding bootcamps are not built for the lackadaisical; they usually move swiftly, and often require learners to engage with the material in both classroom discussions and projects with fellow learners. With this in mind, it is possible to fail the course if learners are unable to keep pace and make the necessary time commitment.

How Much Do Coding Bootcamps Cost?

Bootcamp tuition varies based on location and course length. For example, Columbia Engineering Coding Boot Camp costs $14,495 for the part-time course and $15,495 for the full-time option. Some in-person classes can cost $20,000 or more.

However, many coding bootcamps offer scholarships or payment plans for those who qualify. Columbia Engineering Coding Boot Camp provides an interest-free payment plan that allows learners to make monthly payments (after an initial deposit) without additional interest. For those looking to work while attending bootcamp, a part-time course may be both feasible and comparatively affordable.

Career Outcomes

Today’s global workforce marketplace has become an ideal landscape for aspiring coders. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 global jobs report, employers view critical thinking and problem solving as some of the most in-demand skills in their hiring efforts. The report also notes that 84 percent of employers are rapidly digitizing their work processes, and many plan significant expansions of their remote workforce. Bootcamp learners check most of these boxes; they tend to possess the tech skills and critical thinking abilities coveted by many hiring managers.

What’s more, employers are giving more attention to bootcamp learners. Indeed’s survey of more than 1,000 U.S. recruiters and HR managers found that 72 percent of surveyed entities consider bootcamp learners to be “just as prepared and likely to be high performers as candidates with computer science degrees.” Eighty percent of those surveyed said they have hired bootcamp learners; 99.8 percent said they would hire more.

Many of the world’s top companies (including Apple, Google, Facebook, IBM, and Amazon) hire bootcamp learners for a variety of roles. Some of the most common positions, in this regard, are web developers (front end, back end, and full stack), web designers, and computer programmers.

The job outlook for all web developers and designers is promising (8 percent employment growth through 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), and annual median salaries are competitive ($77,200 nationwide, and a commensurate $76,450 in New York, according to CareerOneStop). New York also has one of the nation’s highest employment levels in web development, according to the BLS.

Looking for some specific careers to pursue through a coding bootcamp? Here are a few to consider:

Front End Web Developer

Web pages that look great and work seamlessly usually have a common denominator: a good front end web developer.

Front end developers produce what you see on a web page and how you interact with it. They use a variety of languages and tools to generate a page’s look, feel, and usability. Front end developers build graphics and animations, design menus and interactive buttons, and generally make web pages and applications look and work smartly.

Front end developers are proficient with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (and its many accompanying tools). These are among the keyskills needed to become a front end developer and, not coincidentally, the foundations of a good coding bootcamp.

Back End Web Developer

Some people love to lift a car hood, or take apart their laptop, to see how things work. Back end developers share that same inclination. They work behind the scenes of the site displayed in your web browser to make sure that it works properly.

Back end web developers work on the “server side.” That’s where your devices (computers and smartphones) send requests for web pages and apps. Back end developers make sure the servers deliver the information that programs request on the front end. They also maintain databases, write APIs (application program interfaces), and debug processes so the front and back end communicate smoothly.

Skills needed to become a back end developer differ from those on the front end. Back end developers program in different languages, including Python and Java. Since they also work with databases, back end developers should be familiar with languages such as SQL and NoSQL.

Full Stack Web Developer

Full stack developers burn the coding candle on both the front and back ends, making them versatile players in the business. Though front and back end specialists are important in web development, many companies value the integrated view that full stack developers provide.

Full stack developers shepherd a website from concept to launch. They design and test on the front end, build applications on the back end, and manage communication between the servers. Plenty of work goes into becoming a full stack developer, which many are willing to do; 55 percent of developers identify as full stack developers, according to Stack Overflow’s 2020 survey.

To dive into a comprehensive full stack web development curriculum, check out Columbia Engineering Coding Boot Camp.

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QA and Test Engineer

Quality assurance (QA) and test engineers are specific roles within the broader software development, quality assurance analysis, and testing industry (as defined by the BLS), and they are crucial in the development and fine-tuning of software. These professionals are primarily tasked with creating test plans and procedures for new software, identifying potential risks and recommendations for mitigating them, and providing feedback to software developers and other stakeholders to ensure systems remain both usable and functional. Programming often plays a big role in these efforts, as these professionals rely on coding fluency to accurately interpret and rectify software deficiencies during testing.

Computer programmer

Programmers help turn great ideas into great products. The BLS states that computer programmers “write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly.” That’s a basic but solid way of describing the role, which is important to a variety of industries.

Consider the software developer who devises an innovative game design. Computer programmers will translate that design into code to produce an entertaining game that works without bugs. In addition to writing the code, programmers also will test and debug it, two key elements of the job.

Bootcamps can offer an effective method to become a computer programmer fast by focusing on the core coding skills needed in a short time.

Web Designer

Where web developers work on a site’s technical side, web designers tend to its visual side. Web designers are digital creatives, using software design tools to create the look and feel of a site. They work in tandem with developers to shape the finished product.

Interested in web design? Then you might want to consider a UX/UI design bootcamp, which teaches the skills required to build attractive, responsive websites. UX/UI focuses on the users directly — UX refers to the “user experience,” while UI involves the “user interface.”

Those who work in UX/UI design in any industry assess how users interact with products and how to make those products easier to use. It’s an important role in web design, where sites and apps undergo constant change to improve their appearance and functionality.

How to Identify a Good (or Bad) Coding Bootcamp

Uncertain about how to identify a good (or bad) coding bootcamp? That’s understandable. Many bootcamps provide opportunities to learn coding, cybersecurity, data analytics, and other technical disciplines. The options can be overwhelming.

Finding the right bootcamp is all about asking the right questions that take your needs and expectations into account. These questions may include:

  • What background and expertise do the instructors bring to class?
  • Does this bootcamp teach up-to-date, widely used technologies?
  • What kinds of projects will I undertake?
  • What academic and career support is available?
  • How does this bootcamp fit into my schedule?

Misconceptions That Keep People Away From Coding Bootcamps

“Bootcamps aren’t for everyone; they overpromise and underdeliver; they can’t help you get a job.”

Common misconceptions about coding bootcamps, like the above, are unfounded, and may actually dissuade someone from taking an important step in their professional development. Therefore, it is important to align accurate information when considering a bootcamp, vetting your options based on prior research.

Ultimately, the biggest misconception about bootcamps (and coding in general) is this: they’re not for everyone. Nonsense. Bootcamps are for anyone interested in them, and it doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are, where you’re from, or what you do. If you want to learn how to code in this manner, you can.

Summary: Is a Coding Bootcamp Worth it?

Those who ask, “Are coding bootcamps worth it?” should consider this statistic: The BLS expects the U.S. to add more than 530,000 computer and information technology jobs by 2029. As noted earlier, many industries are searching for skilled professionals in this space, and their growing digital needs will continue to fuel this demand.

Whether you’re new to the job market or a professional looking for a change, a coding bootcamp can serve as a gateway to a new career. Bootcamps teach in-demand skills in a fast-paced, concentrated curriculum. They provide training in the latest technologies, practical experience, and career support. They also deliver the most benefit to those who make the most effort.

Ready to take the first step toward an exciting new coding career? Consider Columbia Engineering Coding Boot Camp.

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