If you want to learn to code, there are many strategies to get your coding skills from non-existent to employable. Some folks might go back to university and get a formal education in computer science. Others prefer to teach themselves. And of course, you can always choose to put yourself through coding bootcamp.
Learning to code by going back to college is the comprehensive route. You’ll probably be able to get a job just by getting a computer science or software engineering degree. But it’s also the most expensive and time-consuming option. Plus, a lot of that time and money will be spent on irrelevant classes and lectures. Unless you’re dying to go back to college and spend a lot of time taking a bunch of classes that may not even align with your interests, I’d recommend finding another route.
The other end of the spectrum is teaching yourself to code entirely on your own. Though some people manage to pull this off, it’s quite an elusive feat. You don’t know what you don’t know. Especially if you’re taking your first steps into a new field, you’ll overlook some crucial fundamentals, or you’ll lose steam. Learning to code is not an easy task, and tackling curriculum planning, hands-on exercises, portfolio projects, and your own frustration all on your own is a big challenge.
So where does that leave us? Coding bootcamps. There are both in-person programming bootcamps, or you can choose a programming bootcamp online. They’re a straightforward and effective way of giving your self-taught education structure, accreditation, and oomph. Companies are open to candidates who don’t have a college degree in computer science, but they need to see evidence of your skills even before you get to a technical interview. On top of a portfolio of interesting projects, you’ll need well-practiced coding skills to confidently communicate your coding knowledge in technical and coding questions. Coding bootcamps can give you that.
🔗 Pros of Online Coding Bootcamps
Getting some professional assistance can be a big help when you’re trying to break into a new industry and get your skills up from zero to 60 in a time-efficient way. But not all coding bootcamps are created equal. Let’s break down the pros and cons of coding bootcamps.
🔗 Pro of Online Coding Bootcamps: Organization
Coding bootcamps specialize in figuring out what you need to know and teaching it to you. If you tackle your computer science education entirely on your own, you’ll have to spend a good chunk of the time you’ve set aside for your learning to determine what you need to know and find resources to learn from.
Having the modules determined for you by a team that specializes in teaching others how to code makes a big difference. You’ll get to just concentrate on learning the concepts and improving your coding skills.
In summary, it’s important to learn in a way that builds on what you know to reinforce past topics and to quickly establish a framework for you to better and more quickly understand new concepts. You can try to do that yourself, or you can let a bootcamp team do it for you.
🔗 Pro of Online Coding Bootcamps: Digestible
Online coding bootcamps are great because they fit in around your existing life. Most people choose to continue working while they learn to code well enough to land the programming job they want. An added benefit of doing a coding bootcamp online is the flexibility.
Coding bootcamps break down into two options: async and sync. The async version has all the classes, videos, projects laid out for you to complete on your own time, while the sync version has an instructor to run you through it all. When I say coding bootcamps are digestible, I’m referring to the async coding bootcamp. While you can do a synchronous programming bootcamp remotely, it’s still a lot of time commitment and effort.
If you opt for an asynchronous coding bootcamp, you can go at your own pace. The content is typically split out into units of a half or full hour. I find it to be quite comfortable to consume information in a format with a limited time. You can sit down and focus on a unit at a time.
Depending on your background and how much coding groundwork you’ve done on your own, some concepts may be a cakewalk for you, but others might be really confusing, even after you’ve gone through the whole module. If the coding bootcamp you’ve opted for has additional resources, you can take a break from the scheduled programming and double down on the bits that are tripping you up. If not, finding some supplemental online tutorials, documentation, blogs, or YouTube channels can be great for explaining a confusing concept from a different angle or providing additional examples.
Online coding bootcamps allow you to deepen your coding curriculum in the places you want to. If this is a style of learning that you’re interested in, I’d choose an asynchronous online coding bootcamp that doesn’t have fixed meeting times.
🔗 Pro of Online Coding Bootcamps: Support
If you go for the right bootcamp, they can provide you with a meaningful support network, like a Slack or a Discord channel filled with your peers. Let’s be real: tackling the expansion of your knowledge into a technical industry is difficult for a lot of reasons. It takes a lot of emotional effort to understand all the new concepts and keep your motivation high.
It can really help your progress to have access to people who are going through a similar experience currently or have gone through it in the past. A community of past, present, and future coders can help you practice how to best pitch your skills to potential employers. It’s also a great way to understand which directions you can apply your newfound knowledge in.
With a bit of luck you can find someone working at your dream company (or a similar one) to help review your resume or even do some practice coding interviews with you. For example, boot.dev in particular has a great community surrounding their online bootcamps with a bopping Discord channel and weekly portfolio-boosting events.
🔗 Cons of Online Coding Bootcamps
Online coding bootcamps are great educational and practical programs for anyone looking to learn to code. However, there are downsides. These negative aspects do not hold true for all online coding bootcamps. There’s a huge variety of formats, programs, and specializations of coding bootcamps, so be sure to shop around for a style, content, format, and cost that work for you.
🔗 Cons of Coding Bootcamps: Cost
Depending on the online bootcamp you choose, money can be a big factor. There are a lot of affordable options for $20-$100 a month like boot.dev, PluralSight, or Udemy. You can see a breakdown of different price points in my review of the best online coding bootcamps.
If, however, you decide on a synchronous, intensive online coding bootcamp, those typically run between $10K-$18K, require a commitment of at least 20 hours each week if you do it part time, most of which is synchronous, and last between 3 and 9 months. All of those factors depend on which bootcamp you ultimately choose. You can find tips on how to choose the best online coding bootcamp for you in this detailed guide.
If money is a big factor for you, or you’d like to see whether programming is something you really want to pursue, starting out with a cheaper bootcamp with a monthly subscription model can make your start into the realm of coding bootcamps much more manageable, both in terms of money and time commitment.
🔗 Cons of Coding Bootcamps: Risk
If you opt for a synchronous full-time online coding bootcamp, obviously you have a pretty big opportunity cost. Unless you have an extremely understanding employer, you have to give up your current full-time employment. Or you’ll need to somehow pull another 40+ hours out of thin air on top of your existing commitments.
There’s always a small risk that you’ll find out coding isn’t for you, after all. If you’ve already been through bootcamps which are cheaper or have smaller time commitments, and you really want to ramp up your coding skills in an intense way, then this risk becomes much smaller. Otherwise, I would recommend looking for other options with smaller money and time requirements.
🔗 Cons of Coding Bootcamps: That’s it!
Cost and risk are the only cons to choosing an online coding bootcamp. If you are just learning to code or don’t have much experience or knowledge in computer science, a cheaper course like boot.dev’s or one of PluralSight’s courses is absolutely worth the money in terms of the time you save yourself in figuring out what you need to learn to accomplish your personal or professional goals and finding comprehensive, reputable resources.
🔗 Navigating the Pros and Cons of Online Coding Bootcamps
Coding bootcamps are very useful tools to improve your knowledge of theoretical computer science concepts and your coding skills. Participating in an on-demand online coding bootcamp is the best way to learn without going through a university or a full-time bootcamp program, since it’s significantly cheaper, less of a time commitment, and still teaches you all the basics you need to know.
If you start considering the return on investment (ROI), coding bootcamps give you a lot more bang for your buck, especially if you enroll in one of the cheaper ones and land a job based on what you learned from the bootcamp.
Coding is a skill that you’ll never stop improving. There are so many different technologies, frameworks, applications, programming languages, and more that you will constantly be expanding and deepening your computer science knowledge.
Online coding bootcamps are wonderful for getting you started in the right direction. They’re quite effective in helping you understand what you need to know. I really think a bit of hand-holding is needed for the basics, structure, and support to learn to code properly and in a time-effective way, which is the main benefit between doing a bootcamp vs self taught. For most people, learning to code involves developing a whole new pattern of thinking for solving problems. This mental way of figuring out how to approach a problem with code is a tricky one to get a hang of on your own.