How Coding Bootcamps Can Change the Face of Tech

Lauren Stewart

Written By Lauren Stewart

Jess Feldman

Edited By Jess Feldman

Last updated on June 5, 2024

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Most high-salary industries need more diverse workers, and tech is no exception. The conversation about diversity in tech usually focuses on gender, diversity encompasses racial, socioeconomic, cognitive, and experiential differences. Think pieces and diversity reports show large tech companies admitting they have a problem and beginning to address the diversity in tech crisis, but can the industry really change? Even if companies make public commitments to hiring more diverse candidates for technical positions, is the pipeline strong enough to fuel those hiring commitments? As we track non-traditional routes to tech at Course Report, it’s clear that talented, diverse coding bootcamp grads can fill that pipeline and play a role in shifting the demographics of the US tech industry.

The Current Landscape

What does the tech sector look like these days? According to the Department of Labor, the number of tech jobs in the US grew to 6.9 million in 2016 (up from 6.7 million in 2015), and the average salary for a US tech worker is $108,900. In 2016, the industry was composed of 66% men and 34% women; 70% of workers held bachelor’s degrees in computer science and the average tech employee is 40 years old. If we look at the racial breakdown of employees in tech vs. the US population in 2016, it’s obvious that something is off.

As top tech companies start to dig into their demographics and share that data publicly, it’s clear that the tech workforce lacks racial and gender diversity when compared to the actual population. Companies like NVIDIA, Microsoft, and Intel only have 27% of their technical roles held by women (even though generally 50% of the US population is made up of women). Black and Hispanic populations are represented the least in tech, while Asian employees dominate minority representation. Understanding the data marks the first step towards fixing the problem, but long story short: most tech companies retain White and Asian employees and usually keep their teams looking like a boys club. 

The Pipeline Issue

Of course, even if the aforementioned tech giants make commitments to hire non-traditional candidates and revamp exclusionary recruiting practices, the tech skills gap remains. It may sound shocking, but 1.4 million computing and engineering positions need to be filled by 2020. Companies can’t hire skilled employees who don’t exist, and the lack of women and underrepresented minority students in STEM starts young. 

So how do we retrain adults who are left out of traditional routes to high-paying tech jobs? Coding bootcamps present a solution.

A Needed Solution? Coding Bootcamps

For the uninitiated, coding bootcamps are intensive, accelerated learning programs that teach beginners digital skills like full stack web development, data science, digital marketing, UX/UI design, and more, in just a few months. The industry has grown 10x since the first bootcamps launched in 2012; coding bootcamps graduated around 23,000 developers in 2019 and are on track to earn $309 million in revenue in 2019. This alternative route to education is not only shorter and more cost-effective, but also more accessible to a wider range of potential students. 

For the most part, bootcamps are aware of the potential that this model holds. “Racial and gender diversity are things that ultimately create cognitive diversity, which is something that creates a better learning environment in a bootcamp and ultimately a better work environment,” says Kristi Riordan, COO of Flatiron School. “The bootcamp industry is trying to increase representation within bootcamps and within the tech industry. When different types of people come together, we see magical and special results.”

Structurally, Bootcamps Lend Themselves to Diversity

The unique structure of a bootcamp lends itself to include groups that are historically shut out of traditional education. Low-income and marginalized groups in the US have limited access to high tuition schools, better education, and better-paying jobs. But we know that while opportunity is unevenly distributed, talent is not. One way to solve the pipeline issue described above is to tap into communities outside of Silicon Valley, and coding bootcamps aim to do just that by lowering the barrier to entry. Here are some benefits that bootcamps uniquely offer:

  • Less time away from work: the average bootcamp is 15.1 weeks vs. 4 years for a college degree. That’s crucial to a single parent, the sole provider of a household, or a low-income earner who can't afford to spend 4 years changing careers. 
  • More affordable: The cost of a bootcamp can be comparable to one semester of college – average tuition for bootcamps are $11,400, with an average of $33,480 per year for private college. Bootcamp graduates are also seeing tangible ROI – low-income students see a $35,914 lift in salary. 
  • The industry is ripe with innovation; for example, online coding bootcamps and flexible, part-time learning formats help working parents and those not able to quit their jobs. “We felt that an online program was the best way to reach the audience of potential developers who don’t live in a big city,” says Actualize bootcamp founder Jay Wengrow, “Educational accessibility is very important to us, which is why we offer a part-time program.”
  • Most bootcamps believe that education background isn’t a predictor of success. This mindset expands access to communities that are typically underserved in education and underrepresented in tech. 
  • Acknowledgment of the problem: Bootcamp staff are typically industry professionals who have seen the gender/race gap and genuinely want to close that gap. “Having worked in a number of different technology roles myself, I've been the only person of color in a team or a department, or the only programmer of color,” says Jarryd Huntly, an instructor at We Can Code IT. “Being able to help other people start a career in this way, even just getting the idea out there that this is a viable career path, that tech is something you can pursue, was always something I was a big fan of – We Can Code IT’s mission and their focus and emphasis on diversity. That was a big draw for me.”
  • Incentives and encouragement: Scholarships and diversity initiatives fuel support for underrepresented groups. Check out these coding bootcamps with scholarships for women, LGBTQ+ folks, and veterans. And these bootcamps offer various diversity scholarships: Flatiron School, LearningFuze, Hack Reactor, Hackbright Academy, Designlab, and We Can Code IT.
  • Bootcamps are outcomes-focused, meaning that they’re not successful unless they’re actually getting graduates jobs. More and more companies now appreciate the diversity of thought, skills, and backgrounds that come from coding bootcamps – see why these companies love hiring bootcampers.

Lower opportunity costs combined with accessibility in coding bootcamps gives more individuals a chance to join the tech industry (and change their lives with access to $70-100k salary ranges).

So Why is This Year Poised to See a Change?

In 2013 (the early stages of the bootcamp industry), bootcamps were graduating diverse developers, but we weren’t seeing the face of tech change. Bootcamp graduates largely went into junior developer roles, not positions of power. We now see bootcamp grads moving up in their positions quickly – 2-3 years into their careers, bootcampers are getting promotions, working in powerful roles, managing teams, and making hiring decisions. For example, this Fullstack Academy grad now leads his data acquisition team and Iron Yard alum Shane now manages his mobile dev team.

It’s not just bootcamps impacting this change in workplace culture; companies must also do their part in hiring with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion. And once a company hires diverse candidates, they must do what it takes to retain women and underrepresented minorities. The companies we’ve seen be most successful at diversity and inclusion often employ the following tactics: 

  • Offer affinity work groups focused on racial and gender commonalities + specific professional development and mentorship for minority groups.
  • Expand partnerships + recruitment with a broader range of universities like Historically Black Colleges (eg. Google’s new Howard West campus) and recruiting from colleges that aren’t Ivy Leagues.
  • Revamp key business priorities and shift hiring priorities towards training non-traditional hires to excel in their field.

Coding bootcamps are one way to increase diversity and inclusion in the tech pipeline, but it will take commitments from hiring partners and US companies to solve this issue. From filling the tech education pipeline with diverse candidates to changing hiring processes that previously shut out non-traditional applicants, in 2020 we hope to see the tech industry start to reflect the diversity of its consumers.

13 Scholarships for Future Bootcampers of Color

💡 Only ~7% of high tech jobs are filled by African American technologists. Bootcamps can help change the pipeline – so let’s shine light on scholarships specifically for future bootcampers of color!

Comment below with any scholarships we missed – we would LOVE to share! 

1. The Code Fellows Diversity Scholarship

  • 💸: Scholarships are awarded based on financial need and the applicant's ability to meet the requirements of the course and scholarship application. Additionally, Code Fellows offers one (1) full-ride scholarship to a Black American in every cohort.
  • ❓:  Created to support diversity in the tech industry.
  • 🔗:

2. The Coding Dojo Diversity Scholarship

3. Grand Circus Diversity Scholarship

4. V School Bright Future Scholarship

5. The Tech Elevator Represent Tech Scholarship

6. DeltaV’s Diversity Tuition Awards

  • 💸: Up to full tuition scholarships
  • ❓: Women, U.S. military veterans, low income, and populations underrepresented in technology (African American, Hispanic, and Native American, including Alaskan and Hawaiian, and people with disabilities) are encouraged to apply.
  • 🔗:

7. Codesmith's Minorities in Tech Scholarship

8. The John Stanley Ford Fellowship

9. DigitalCrafts You Belong in Tech Scholarship

10. Diversify Design Scholarship

11. iO Academy Diversitech Fund

12. Claim Academy Black Women in Tech Scholarship

13. Claim Academy Minority Scholarship

Coding Bootcamps for POC Career-Changers

These coding bootcamps were specifically created to empower POC future technologists:

1. Pivot Technology School
Pivot Technology School's mission is to help support minorities gain access to comprehensive technology training for today's workforce. Pivot Tech School offers 20-week, live online bootcamp programs in Web Development and Data Analytics, and also offers its students mentorship and career assistance.

2. The Black Codher
Based in Birmingham, England, The Black Codher bootcamp was designed to help Black women who are either unemployed or employed with a salary of under £20k make a career-change into tech. In the 30-week, part-time bootcamp, students learn software programming, data management and analytics, design thinking, and machine learning and AI. The Black Codher also offers networking opportunities and career assistance to its students. 

3. G{Code}
G{School} is a place-based community in Boston, MA offering a free web development program to women and non-binary people of color between the ages of 18-25. In addition to technical skills, G{Code} students learn professional development, such as physical and mental well-being and financial literacy.

4. Dark Mode
Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Dark Mode offers a 16-week, in-person UX Design bootcamp for beginners. The bootcamp is open to people from all backgrounds. 

Further Reading: Scholarships, Organizations, and Stats

"Make sure you find either a mentor or a group of people who understand you. They don't have to be other women of color, but people who will be supportive of you and your career. I joined the Facebook group Sista Circle: Black Women in Tech a few months ago that has completely changed my thinking. When I was applying to Microsoft, members of that group flooded my inbox with messages of support!" Beverly, Hackbright Academy alum

Get involved with these organizations that are already doing the work to increase diversity in the tech industry...

  1. TechHire
  2. Black Girls Code
  3. Coding Black Females
  4. 20/20 Shift 
  5. Hack Reactor Telegraph Track
  6. Dream.Tech
  7. Code2040
  8. Jopwell
  9. Per Scholas
  10. Black Tech Pipeline

Want to donate to an organization that's already doing the work?

Want to know how your favorite tech companies are measuring up? 

Learn More:
Podcast: Building Diversity in Bootcamps
Free Bootcamps / Deferred Tuition Bootcamps
Coding Bootcamps with Job Guarantees
How to Avoid Paying Tuition Until Landing a Job

About The Author

Lauren Stewart

Lauren Stewart

Lauren is a communications and operations strategist who loves to help others find their idea of success. She is passionate about techonology education, career development, startups, and the arts.

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