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Coding Bootcamp: Worth it in 2019?

2017 marked the year that numerous coding bootcamps closed their doors. Since then, the number of bootcamps continues to dwindle.

But, there are quite a few survivors, many that appear to be doing quite well.

Is a coding bootcamp worth your money and time in 2019?

Coding bootcamps were the obsession of so many media outlets four and five years ago.

One of my first big motivations to learn how to code was actually from an article I read in the New York Times. Just randomly read this article about bootcamps and was like, “I need to check this out.”

While I shied away from actually enrolling in a bootcamp, I did end up applying to a few. At the minimum, it was an influential article that exposed me to the world of software development and coding education.

But I wasn’t the only one who got swept up in this coding fury. Coding bootcamps from NYC to LA and everywhere in between were ushering in thousands of eager and aspiring developers ready to make the transition to a high-tech life with the promise of lots of jobs and high wages.

But then, in 2017 there was a total shift…a Coding Bootcampocaplyse.

Camps like The Iron Yard, which had multiple campuses across the United States.

Camps like Dev Bootcamp, which was owned by one of the biggest and most successful test preparation and certification exam providers in America — closed. 

The list goes on.

And now it’s 2019.

Do people still go to these things?

Are they still teaching real-world skills that can actually get you a job?

Should you go to one of these coding bootcamps so that you can learn real-world skills that can get you a job?

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The answer to the first question is yes.

The answer to the second question is yes.

The answer to the third question is…a hard maybe.

The good news is, many survivors of the Coding Bootcampocaplyse are not only surviving, but thriving. They’re teaching the hot web developer stacks, often it’s something like MEAN (Mongo, Express, Angular, and Node) or MERN (Mongo, Express, React, and Node). Many camps have also expanded to offer training for auxiliary careers like UX/UI and Quality Assurance.

There have also been some promising compromises developed by some of these bootcamps.

One of the biggest drawbacks to these places is that they are expensive. And because they’re usually not accredited, you can’t take out traditional government-backed student loans — that $15,000 or $20,000 has to come out of your pocket, or you need to fine a private lender to help you. Stressful! The smarter bootcamps solved this problem by deferring your tuition until you get a job and some of them take a percentage of your first year or two of wages. So if you’re making $75,000 your first year, they get 15% or 20% of that, or whatever percentage they have in their policy.

And that really holds them accountable too, because if students aren’t getting jobs, the coding bootcamp isn’t getting paid. So it’s in their best interest to give as high-quality training as possible so they can cash in on those salaries that highly-skilled developers make.

The second huge drawback bootcamps have always had is that you have to give up months of your life, sometimes up to a year, and basically drop everything to attend these camps.

You have to quit your job — there’s absolutely no spare time for you to work a job at these camps — you have to leave your family, you have to arrange for accommodations often in prohibitively expensive cities, food, transportation, and incidentals, and now that $15,000 you dropped for bootcamp all the sudden $45,000. That’s a lot of money, especially when you’re not even guaranteed employment afterward. But in the last few years more bootcamps are going completely online where all you need is a decent Internet connection.

However, the thing that coding bootcamps do offer is accountability and structure. Can you learn everything a coding bootcamp teaches on your own? Yes. But, how many times have you logged on to YouTube to watch a coding tutorial, then spent an hour or more watching viral videos and Vine compilations? Come on, don’t lie. Like, every time, right?

You don’t have time to do that at a coding bootcamp and your classmates and the instructors hold you accountable. So, it can be a very efficient way at learning things in four to six months that might take you a year or two on your own.

Essentially, what you’re paying for with bootcamps in 2019 is accountability.

On the other hand, you can network at Meetups and other tech gatherings; you don’t need to pay $15K to network.

Similarly, you can learn how to code with a few books, Udemy video courses and documentation — you don’t need to pay $15K for that, either. You can spend $100 and get the same material a coding bootcamp offers, honestly.

But if you need the structure, you need somebody in charge to say, “Sam, I need that REST API code homework in twenty minutes, let’s go!” or “Today we’re gonna learn about service workers, flip to page 29,” coding bootcamps are definitely the place to be. Let’s be honest: the Internet is one big distraction and if we’re learning online alone, we’re being assaulted by distractions that take away from our learning and development time.

I will say this. In my two years of producing videos for my YouTube channel (I’m very active with my channel and love meeting fellow developers, so I know a lot of them), I have met a few aspiring developers who have gone to a bootcamp out of a sense of desperation. I can’t tell if this is a good or bad thing, but I feel like a significant amount of aspiring self-taught developers end up getting very frustrated with their lack of progress on their own. They’ve read the books, the docs, watched the videos, made the projects, developed their portfolio, but still feel like something missing.

A bootcamp doesn’t necessarily solve these issues because as software (i.e. web) developers we’re always learning, the tech is always changing, and there’s no way we can learn everything. In a sense, there’s always something missing. 

Even senior developers will tell you that they’re always learning and debugging. There aren’t a lot of positive feedback loops when it comes to coding because everything’s default is set to broken. And then we break it some more and have to fix all of it!

It really is an entirely new way of thinking and approaching problems, and that mode, that reality, of “default set to broken” can take some time to settle in. It’s stressful, it’s frustrating, and I do see some developers going to bootcamps to try and escape this. I 100% don’t blame them, but the camps aren’t necessarily going to fix that. If you’ve already learned the basics of web development, coding bootcamps are neither going to be a magical force nor a revelation.

If you’ve already learned the basics of web development, coding bootcamps are neither going to be a magical force nor a revelation.

It’s 2019 and developers have so many excellent resources at their disposal, bootcamps are one of them. Do your research, don’t go to a bootcamp on the advice of just one person — and that includes me. I’m one YouTuber and you should never let a YouTuber make a decision for you. We can guide you, but use your own critical thinking to assess what you need in your life. Do you need just the raw skills, are you trying to pick up the MERN stack and some GraphQL? Or do you need the structure and the social interaction? Do you need networking? Do you need a job? What do you need?

Answer that basic question, what do you need, and then proceed. Coding bootcamps provide condensed coding education for a cost. Sometimes it’s worth it. Sometimes, not so much.

There is a lot of talk about the camps, but let’s hear from some people who were actually there. What were your experiences? How was it better than learning on your own? Are you currently employed?

Let me know in the comments below.


P.S. Bootcamps absolutely offer value. But you definitely need to assess your own needs and goals before making the big leap…If your main goal is to get a job in the field, definitely check out my top-rated Udemy course How to Get a Job in Web Development. It’s about $14,988 cheaper than a bootcamp. 🙂

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