Written By Imogen Crispe
Should I do a coding bootcamp? This is a question we hear all the time, and for good reason. As more coding bootcamps launch (not to mention the rising media coverage), you’re probably wondering, “should I jump on the bandwagon and learn to code?” A recent TechCrunch article implored you not to learn to code unless you’re ready to put in the work to be great, whereas President Obama wants every student to learn computer science in high school. So what types of people are opting for coding bootcamps? And should you be one of them?
So why are people going to coding bootcamps? Most bootcamp graduates report applying to a coding bootcamp in order to get a job as a programmer (89%). 4% report attending a bootcamp in order to start their own company; and still others want to get a promotion or build on existing tech skills.
But those are the stats. In this article, we’re going to dig deep into our archives of blog interviews with students and alumni to share seven different reasons that bootcampers have been driven to learn to code.
Many people turn to a coding bootcamp because they are underemployed, unsatisfied in their current role, or are ready to settle in a career they love. Here are a few stories that stood out to us:
Jennifer had worked as a foreign language teacher, a chemistry lab technician, and a health coach; plus she was a mom. “I had a lot of different jobs but I didn’t have a career,” she says. When Jennifer’s brother gave her a coding book, she couldn’t put it down, and enrolled at Flatiron School in New York.
Where she is now: Software Engineer at XO Group
Ilana was feeling burnt out in her job as a legal assistant. “Half the time, I was just sitting there 40 hours a week doing nothing,” she says. “I’d always known being a paralegal wasn’t my end goal.” Ilana saw how much her boyfriend was enjoying his job as a software engineer, so she tried out some Codecademy courses and loved it. She enrolled at RefactorU and found the learning process exhilarating.
Where she is now: Freelance Web Developer
Where he is now: Full stack developer at Akirix
Traditionally, to get a job in tech, a computer science degree from a four-year university is the way to go. However, some people find their CS degrees don’t cover enough of the current technologies that you need to be a web developer, so they enroll in a coding bootcamp to top up on practical skills. In fact, according to our most recent Outcomes & Demographics Report, a handful of bootcamp grads actually studied CS or IT in their undergrad. Those who studied IT before a coding bootcamp had average starting salaries of $94,650 after graduating; and 92.5% of those who studied computer science got jobs using skills learned at bootcamp after graduating.
Where he is now: Junior Developer at Exceleras
Faith is a computer science major at the University of Utah, but decided to enroll at DevPoint Labs over summer “to get the real world experience that you just can’t get in school.” She looked at job postings, and saw they needed different skills than what she was learning at college.
Where she is now: Finishing up her CS degree, working in the Air Force Reserves
Frances found her CS degree to be very theory-heavy and wanted to gain practical coding skills. “90% of CS undergrad degrees are extremely theoretical, and you won’t get a lot out of them if you focus solely on completing the classes.” She enrolled at Fullstack Academy’s Summer of Code program and found it even more effective than college.
Where she is now: Wearables Developer Intern at Accenture
More stories: Daniel (Fullstack Academy)
Maybe you’ve enjoyed coding in your youth, taken a different career path, then returned to your tech passion later in life, like these bootcampers:
Adam was working as a business trainer in the restaurant industry, but kept thinking about how much he loved coding as a kid. “I remember as a kid coding programs all day long and how much it kept my attention.” So he enrolled at The Tech Academy in Portland.
Where he is now: Lead Instructor at The Tech Academy
Clayton started a CS degree years ago, but never finished it and ended up working in hospitality and real estate. When he heard about the coding bootcamp model, he realized it was a path back to his passion. “I'd had the inclination and motivation to do this for years, but I didn't know how to get there.” Clayton enrolled in RefactorU in Boulder, CO to learn MEAN stack.
Where he is now: Junior Developer at BiggerPockets
People often come across small bits of coding in their existing jobs, or through a friend, and realize they like it more than their current field.
Erica was a foreign language teacher, and discovered her passion for coding while doing data analysis for her school. “I realized I actually liked doing data analysis more than teaching,” Erica says. She had lots of ideas for mobile apps so she enrolled at TurnToTech mobile development bootcamp in NYC.
Where she is now: Associate iOS Engineer at XO Group
Chris was an integrity engineer at a pipeline company, and worked with a developer to build an in-house app for analyzing pipeline data. “I worked with him to put together user stories, and ended up doing front end testing of the app for him,” Chris says. He really enjoyed it and decided to enroll at Turing School in Denver CO.
Where he is now: Rails developer at RealGeeks in Hawaii
Cori was working for a nonprofit that provides STEM resources to school programs, and gets more girls into STEM. She did Hour of Code and really enjoyed it. “That’s when I realized coding was what I wanted to do,” Cori says. “You can create so many things with code, and I wanted to find a way to integrate education into that.” Cori enrolled in The Iron Yard’s Front End Engineering course in Atlanta, Georgia.
Where she is now: Front End Developer at Matrix Resources.
As tech opportunities increase and become more varied, people are realizing that tech really is the future. Not only do bootcampers get jobs at software development agencies, but also in fields like healthcare, insurance, and finance (like these students):
Tammi was working in marketing, and noticed her tech-savvy co-workers were really in demand. “Our in-house developers were the first ones to get jobs elsewhere, so I saw that engineering was a valuable field,” Tammi says. She had already learned R as part of her job, and enjoyed it, so enrolled at Sabio coding bootcamp in Orange County.
Where she is now: Software Developer at XDimensional Technologies
Jonny was an artist and a custom picture framer when a friend told him about coding bootcamps and how in-demand developers are. “I felt like this career path, while still being a creative outlet, offered a lot more opportunities for innovation and growth,” Jonny says. He enrolled in The Iron Yard’s Front End Engineering program in Atlanta, Georgia.
Where he is now: UI Developer at Thingtech
Wendy was working in PR for tech companies, including Facebook, and realized that technology skills, specifically cyber security skills, were very in demand. “I didn’t just want to work for the tech company, I wanted to be part of the tech team,” Wendy says. So she enrolled at Hackbright Academy women’s coding bootcamp in San Francisco to learn to code.
Where she is now: Associate Application Security Engineer at Lending Club
More stories: Shehzad (TurnToTech)
Our recent Outcomes Report found that 12.3% of bootcampers had past work experience in programming. Maybe you’ve been working in a tech adjacent role at a startup or in the tech industry for a while, but realize your skills are a bit out of date, so need a bootcamp to quickly ramp up and learn the latest technologies.
Steven had a computer science degree and years of freelance web development experience, but he really wanted to get into mobile development. “The idea of being able to build tools that are actually designed as tools, just really excited me,” Steven says. So he enrolled in the iOS Development Accelerator at Code Fellows.
Where he is now: Co-founder and CEO at Elevator
Kathy had been working in software testing for 15 years, but realized she needed to update her skills and learn web development. “If you want to stay in the testing industry, you need to know how to code,” Kathy says. She enrolled in the Software Guild’s part time Online Program so she could learn .NET while still working at her job full time.
Where she is now: Software Quality Control Engineer at Wolters Kluwer Financial Services
Nat has been a web programmer for 11 years, but really wanted to learn mobile development. “I decided to focus more on programming and Android in particular,” Nat says. “I enjoy staying current and working at the cutting edge of technology.” Nat enrolled in General Assembly’s Android Development Immersive.
Where he is now: Freelance Android Developer
Choosing between college vs. a coding bootcamp? Coding bootcamps may not be a replacement for college quite yet, but there are students who see it as a viable option after graduating from high school. Maybe you’re not ready to invest the time and money into a CS degree and want to spend 3-6 months at a coding bootcamp.
Josh wanted to be coding all the time and wasn’t sure if a computer science degree would meet that need. “I really didn’t see myself going to university and studying computer science there, because the curriculum isn’t very good,” Josh says. So after high school he moved from England to San Francisco to attend Holberton School.
Where he is now: 6 months into the 2-year Holberton School program
Hussain chose to delay college, and go to a coding bootcamp after he finished high school. “I’m pushing college back by a year or two to get comfortable as a developer,” Hussain says. A few months after graduating high school he enrolled at Coding Temple in Chicago to learn .NET.
Where he is now: Front End Developer at Fifth Estate
Imogen is a writer and content producer who loves exploring technology and education in her work.
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