The first coding bootcamp started way back in February 2012. Since then, they have changed the way individuals train and build the skills needed to break into software engineering.
Previously, the most common route to a tech job was by obtaining a Computer Science degree, which would take at least three years and cost upwards of $60,000 in tuition fees alone. While a computer science degree usually teaches students the fundamentals of coding and programming, coding bootcamps are designed specifically to equip graduates with the skills needed to get them hired as software developers as quickly as possible.
It is no wonder that many individuals view coding bootcamps as a quicker and more cost-effective route into the tech world. Even tech companies and HR teams are paying attention to coding bootcamps, often partnering with top bootcamps to fill their talent pipelines.
What are coding bootcamps?
A coding bootcamp is an accelerated, intensive course that allows beginners to pick up programming languages and frameworks within three to six months. The goal of coding bootcamps is to equip graduates with the skills required to transition into a software developer career path.
Most coding bootcamps have a set syllabus, delivered through hands-on project-based work, allowing students to practice and apply what they’ve learned.
Course Report also noted that Full-Stack Web Development remains the most sought after course at coding bootcamps, also congruent with Stack Overflow’s findings.
When reviewing a bootcamp's curriculum, you'll want to find out how in-depth you’ll learn a language. There’s no point in learning just the basics and syntax of a programming language when that’s something you could probably learn for free online. Instead, you should be exposed to the thinking and reasoning that explains why certain code is constructed the way it is.
It’s also important to remember that learning specific languages can be useful at the start, especially as you pivot into a brand new career. However, students should also be equipped with the skills and mindset to easily learn new languages and stay up to date with the latest technologies.
In-person vs remote courses
Coding bootcamps can be done full-time or part-time, delivered online or in-person.
Full-time bootcamps require students to complete 40 to 80 hours of classroom time and course work each week, enabling students to complete the course in three to four months. Whether online or in-person, these bootcamps are immersive, with one-to-one mentoring, teaching assistants and instructors to help students learn the material and execute their projects well.
Part-time bootcamps, on the other hand, only require students to attend 6 to 10 hours of classes each week, typically held on weeknights and weekends. Students will also need to complete an additional 10 to 20 hours of coursework per week outside of the classroom. The reduced weekly workload means that students take six to nine months to complete these bootcamps and the curriculum tends to be more focused on upskilling, getting a promotion at work, or landing a new job with an additional skill.
Lately, hybrid bootcamps have been introduced, allowing students to study a majority of the course online and complete the last stretch of the bootcamp in-person. For example, WBS Coding School allows students to complete the first 12 weeks remotely before completing the last three weeks with their classmates on campus in Berlin.
On average, a full-time 17-week bootcamp costs $14,142, while a part-time course averages at $8,800 for 17 weeks or more. While this is a huge chunk of change, marketing teams at bootcamps regularly remind candidates that a Computer Science degree is a much more expensive and long-term alternative.
Top 5 coding bootcamps for full-stack web development
There are dozens if not hundreds of bootcamps around the world, each promising applicants they’ll receive best-in-class training to help them secure a job in tech after graduation. Here are the top 5 full-time coding bootcamps based reviews sites Course Report and Switchup.
With over 2,000 reviews on both Course Report and Switchup, Le Wagon is by far the most popular coding bootcamp. Apart from their online courses, they also have campuses all over the world including destinations like Lausanne, Bali, Santiago, and Dubai.
According to their Jobs Report, 93% of graduates from European campuses go on to secure a job in tech within an average of 34 days after graduation. Interestingly, most of their full-time courses are only 9 weeks long, much shorter than the average duration of a bootcamp.
Another highly rated and well-reviewed bootcamp, App Academy boasts a 93% hiring rate for graduates in San Francisco and New York. According to their data, graduates earn $104,000 per annum in San Francisco, $86,000 in New York, and take just under 5 months to find a job.
Unlike Le Wagon, App Academy’s courses are much longer, with the option to choose between a 16-week or a 24-week program. This also means that the cost to enroll in their bootcamp is much higher, with the 16-week course starting at $17,000.
Awarded the Best Coding Bootcamp in 2021 by Switchup, Ironhack offers 9-week, full-time, remote and in-person bootcamps in cities across Europe, America, and Brazil. While their fees differ based on location and whether you choose to do an in-person or remote course, in general, remote courses start at €7,500 and in-person courses start at €8,000 in Europe, or $12,500 in America.
Interestingly, Ironhack does not have a jobs report and they don’t have any placement statistics on their website. Instead, they have a page dedicated to Career Services and a team to help graduates gear up for job hunting after the bootcamp. If you’re a student outside one of their key countries, as this graduate points out, bear in mind that they might not be very helpful when you look for a job or build your network.
Based in New York, Flatiron offers 15-week full-time software engineering courses online and in-person. On-campus courses are priced at $16,900 and require a $500 deposit for applicants to secure their spot. Students in this course learn all about full-stack development with the help of a technical mentor and receive career coaching support for 180 days after graduation.
The school reports a 53% placement rate within 2 months of graduation and an 86% placement rate within a year of graduation. This is probably why Flatiron School has been placed among the best coding bootcamps since 2017.
Coding Dojo was founded in 2012 and offers one of the most comprehensive curriculum on the market. Their full-time 14-week course promises to teach students 3 full stacks (which each include backend, frontend, and other supporting languages and technologies), preparing them for any challenge they decide to take on after graduation.
The bootcamp boasts extensive, lifetime career support, and 95% of graduates are hired within the first year of graduation. Courses start at $16,245 and students can choose from a range of financing arrangements to fund their bootcamp.
Other notable (and sometimes controversial) bootcamps include Lambda School (who received funding from YCombinator, now called the Bloom Institute of Technology), General Assembly, and Fullstack Academy. If you’re looking for an affordable, part-time, semi self-study bootcamp, Nucamp is a great alternative.
Financing your bootcamp
As the coding bootcamp industry has grown and evolved, so have their payment options. According to Course Report, deferred tuition and income share agreements (ISAs) are picking up in popularity, with 8% of students opting for the former and 11% of students choosing the latter.
Such flexibility can help lower barriers to entry not only into these programs, but into the broader tech industry as well. Having said that, each financing option has it's pros and cons, so be sure to spend a good amount of time evaluating your options to decide which method is right for you, your long-term goals, and your expectations.
Full payment upfront
This standard payment option is great for students who can afford to pay the entire sum in one go. It also means that students avoid paying interest or additional fees in the long term.
With this arrangement, students only start paying back their fees after they’ve secured a job that meets the bootcamp’s minimum salary requirements. Some say this is a good way to align student objectives with that of the bootcamp as both parties are incentivized to get the student employed with a reputable company (and a good salary) as soon as possible.
Income Share Agreements (ISAs)
ISAs are similar to deferred tuition, except that graduates pay a percentage of their salaries after getting employed, instead of a predetermined figure. It’s typically used by schools to demonstrate to potential students that they’re confident in their abilities to get students employed after graduation.
The percentage can range between 8% to 25% of the graduates’ salary, payable between one to four years. Similar to deferred tuition, there’s also a minimum salary range that differs between bootcamps.
Recently, ISAs have come under intense scrutiny as bootcamps set low minimum salary requirements and take up to a quarter of a graduate’s salary for up to four years. In some cases, the total amount paid back can be substantially higher than the initial price of the bootcamp had they paid upfront.
In 2019, Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote a letter to the American Department of Education criticizing ISAs, stating that these agreements can be predatory, more costly than traditional loans, and have little to no oversight from federal regulators.
If you’re considering an ISA, be sure to check the terms and calculate how much you’ll be paying the school back once you’ve secured a job.
There are plenty of financial institutions that offer private loans for coding bootcamps.
Popular lenders for bootcamps include Coursebud (UK), Nemuru (Spain), Ascent (acquired Skills Fund, based in the US), Climb Credit (US), Earnest (US), and Quotanda (Worldwide). Even if you secure a loan for the bootcamp, note that you’ll still be required to put down a deposit with the school to secure your spot.
As you search for loans, please remember to compare loan terms, interest rates, terms and conditions, and look out for any additional fees or penalties. When applying for these loans, expect to go through rigorous financial checks before getting approved.
There are plenty of scholarships ranging from $1,000 to full tuition available for those interested in joining a bootcamp but cannot afford it. Check out this list from Career Karma, this one from Course Report, and this list by Switchup.
State-sponsored financial aid
In some countries, the cost of coding bootcamps can be financed by local unemployment schemes.
For instance, in Germany, you can fund your bootcamp with a state-funded ‘educational voucher’ known as ‘Bildungsgutschein’. The goal of this scheme is to equip people with new skills to help them secure new jobs or embark on a new career path.
Bumble’s Tech Academy is a six-month program to help women+ (inclusive of women, trans, and non-binary) gain technical knowledge and transition into the world of tech. Bumble partnered with CodeOp to offer this program to a small cohort of students, offering personal coaching alongside technical training to remove obstacles often faced by underrepresented groups in the tech industry, and to improve diversity in engineering teams.
Apart from covering the fees of the bootcamp, Bumble will also pay trainees an annual salary of €25,000 over the training period and offer the same benefits as those in their Bumble Barcelona office (for example health insurance and language lessons). The icing on the cake? The program also promises a job opportunity to work full-time with Bumble as a junior software developer. The only downside to this program is that students need to have an existing visa to live in the EU or be an EU citizen.
- GI Bill: Available for American veterans and active military personnel only, this funding option is only available to some bootcamps. Check out which coding bootcamps are eligible here.
- Company sponsorship: Consider asking your employer to fund the course as part of your professional learning and development.
In general, while the amount of financial aid available is impressive, I personally think that more can be done for students outside of the US, UK and Europe.
Read the fine print
More recently, the Bloom Institute of Technology aka BloomTech (formerly known as Lambda School) rolled out a "Tuition Refund Guarantee" program where BloomTech promises to refund payments made to the school if students meet "Weekly Career Commitment" and are still unable to find a job that pays $50,000 within 365 days. The catch? Graduates need to fulfil the school's exhaustive list weekly career commitments over 46 weeks.
These commitments include fully completing and submitting applications to ten positions plus conducting one "follow up on each application via email, LinkedIn, text message, or phone call to each of these employers", making time for four interviews a week, contacting ten individuals for professional networking, responding to "all communications (email or inquiry) from the BloomTech outcomes team within three business days with the information requested unless otherwise arranged and approved by BloomTech in writing", and a whole lot more.
As this Twitter user pointed out, their terms and conditions make it almost impossible for anyone to get a refund.
Should you sign up for a bootcamp?
One of the many reasons people join a coding bootcamp is to transition to a new career in tech. People also tend to choose coding bootcamps because they promise to teach students everything they need to launch a new career, without the heavy investment (both money and time) needed for a full degree.
To better understand the value of coding bootcamps, we interviewed Corona Laufer, a graduate of Codeworks and frontend developer at TeleClinic.
The start of a new career
Before joining Codeworks, Corona was a freelance translator and transcriber. She started her bootcamp applications in August 2020 and eventually joined Codeworks’ remote 12-week Software Engineering Immersive Course in January 2021.
“I realized that my former job was not fulfilling and challenging anymore. At the same time, I felt that I was too old to go to university and the thought of earning nothing for a few years while studying was not at all appealing,” says Corona.
“I always had an interest in technical things but never imagined that programming would be something I could just get into. I stumbled across an article [about coding bootcamps] and was fascinated by the idea that these people promised you a new career and a new perspective within just a few months.”
Getting your money’s worth
She finally found Codeworks and was drawn to the program because it had a stricter admissions process and a more demanding curriculum.
Corona told me:
“As bootcamps aren’t cheap, I wanted to get more for my money, even if it meant that I wouldn't have any free time for many months. Codeworks promised to bring you up to 100% instead of the usual 60% to 80% that other bootcamps promise.”
On accountability and discipline
“You had to put the work in yourself, do the pre-course which ensured that everyone started on the same level. They had a 160-hour pre-course [and] the course itself was six days per week, 11 hours a day - which wasn't a lie. [On] Sundays, you would have to prepare yourself for the next week and catch up on things.”
“It was intense. We had to work hard but it really paid off in the end.”
Career coaching and support
The last week of her course was dedicated to career coaching, and Corona told me that it was immensely helpful. She learned how developer interviews were conducted and how to prepare for them. She also received tips for how to brush up her online profiles and guidance to improve her CV.
“It was all those little details that made the difference in the end,” she adds.
“Once the application phase started, we had a weekly chat with a career coach to [check that we were] on the right track. But at that point, I was so prepared and my online portfolio was so complete that the ball started rolling on its own. I had my first three job offers within three weeks after completing the bootcamp.
Codeworks also offers lifetime career support, which I think is a nice touch.”
Is a bootcamp really enough?
Now that Corona is working full-time as an engineer, I wanted to know if what she learned was enough for her new role.
“The syllabus was definitely enough,” she said.
While there might be topics and languages she hasn't learned or doesn't have in-depth knowledge about, Corona says:
“I'm certain that it will only need time, the right supervisor, and the right project. [With my solid foundation], I know that I will pick it up easily.”
Thanks for sharing your perspective with us, Corona!
Remember that bootcamps are not accredited
Unlike universities that have to meet minimum accreditation requirements and other quality standards, coding bootcamps are not accredited and therefore do not have to meet certain standards to guarantee students a quality education. Instead, coding bootcamps rely on completion and placement rates to measure their quality of education.
In 2020, The Verge hired industry experts to review Lambda School’s curriculum and found that its students did not meet the basic requirements to even pass the first round of phone interviews.
While there may be arguments about how traditional institutions have not evolved as quickly as bootcamps to meet market demands, a properly vetted curriculum that is globally recognized is still valuable to many students.
Is a coding bootcamp right for you?
If you’re on the fence about signing up, take a free course to find out if you actually like coding to begin with. If you do, and you decide to join a coding bootcamp, check to see if your bootcamp offers a free course to vet their pedagogy. You could also reach out to past graduates from the school you’re interested in to ask about their experiences.
At the end of the day, it really comes down to the individual (you) and what they (you) hope to gain from a coding bootcamp.
Advice for before the bootcamp
Corona also offered some great advice for those interested in joining a coding bootcamp.
Assessment and interview preparation
When it comes to applying for these programs, it’s important that you’re familiar with the material before scheduling an assessment interview.
“I think it is important to not rush into things.”
Corona said that she took her time with the free preparation course offered by Codeworks to make sure she had a good understanding of the topic. She only scheduled her assessment when she was confident with the material.
“Really prepare yourself”
Corona recommends getting as much preparation and studying done before you even apply for the bootcamp.
“[It’s important to remember that] preparation does not only [refer to] your technical skills. You [also] need to get your life in order so you can dedicate all of your time to learning.”
“Really prepare yourself. These bootcamps can deliver everything they promise, but you will have to work for it.”