Coding bootcamps: an attractive alternative to a 4-year degree?

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See also, “What is more employable: a coding bootcamp certificate or a degree?

Anthony Viglione was struggling to pay for college, so he decided to take a leave of absence from BYU. The loans he would need to take out and eventually pay back just seemed too daunting. Viglione also wasn’t sure what kind of program he wanted to commit to and didn’t know if he could afford to waste valuable time and money switching his major. After some deliberation, Viglione decided to join a coding bootcamp.

“My decision to go to (a coding bootcamp) was actually out of a desire to gain more valuable skills as quickly as possible as to well as explore coding and potentially work in the industry to better decide if I want to commit to it wholly,” Viglione said. “Once I have a job, it shouldn’t be difficult to afford school if I decide to continue.”

Viglione is just one of the many people who has decided to join the ranks of coding bootcamp. According to course report, an estimated 20,316 people graduated in 2018 from coding bootcamps in the U.S. and Canada. The report also noted coding bootcamps constitute a $240 million-dollar industry that has had a steady growth rate since it became popular in 2013.

V School vice president Tony Borash spoke to another reason coding bootcamps may be popular.

“Some companies prefer to have a non-traditional coder to shake-up the diversity,” Borash said.

Coding bootcamps are low-cost, popular alternatives to a four-year degree. All statistics cited in this graphic are from course report’s 2018 market sizing report. (Auburn Wilcox)

The popularity of coding bootcamps has also extended to some university graduates who believe coding bootcamps can give them the additional skills they need to succeed.

After graduating from the Marriott School of Business and working for a few years, Michael Johnston decided he wanted to shift his focus and enrolled in a program at coding bootcamp DevMountain.

“I had been working for multiple tech companies in various roles. I felt like the bootcamp was a quick way to gain the skills to enter the workforce as a developer,” Johnston said.

Johnston currently works as a front-end software engineer and developer at Nokē in Lehi. Johnston believes his program at DevMountain helped him to learn the framework he needed to be a successful developer.

DevMountain admissions representative and student accounts manager Bonnie Bradford said in her experience, the three main reasons people chose coding bootcamps over four-year degrees were time, cost and personality.

Time

According to course report, the average duration of a coding bootcamp is 14.3 weeks. Tanner Scadden, a student currently enrolled in an immersive web development program at a coding bootcamp, believes this is a far better timeline than a four-year degree.

“I want to dive into my career with training that will give me experience on how to create various projects, build a portfolio, and make sure that I understand full-stack development,” Scadden said. “(I) won’t have to learn unnecessary curriculum that won’t help me in my future career path.”

This sentiment was echoed by DevMountain Executive Director Krissy Weekley.

“I believe people are choosing bootcamps over four-year degrees because they are quick. You can jump in and learn to code in three months and go find a job right away. Four years is a lot of time to invest in changing technology,” Weekley said. “We get students that have already done a four-year degree and feel frustrated by the amount of time and lack of opportunities. Bootcamps give you a quick path to a very viable career.”

Cost

According to a study by computer science researchers Kyle Thayler and Andrew J. Ko, the average cost of a coding bootcamp in the U.S. and Canada was $11,451 in 2016. Compared to the cost of what the college board said the average undergraduate university degree was in 2016, $7,110 per year, the cost of a coding bootcamp is miniscule.

BYU Office of Information Technology engineering manager Dan Cunningham said cost is one of the main reasons students are choosing code bootcamps over a four-year degree.

“It costs a lot of money to go to college and it takes four years. If I can come out of a camp in six weeks that says I am a certified web developer … why wouldn’t I do that if I don’t have to go to college?” Cunningham said.

Personality

Bradford said personality also plays a huge role in the decision to take a coding bootcamp over a four-year degree.

“We see everything. Anyone can do a bootcamp, but we also see that even though it’s a good fit for those individuals who might do well at university, it’s also a good fit for those who need to learn in (more of) an application-based setting,” Bradford said.

Christopher Bradshaw, a computer science student at BYU who also has experience as a developer, said he believes coding bootcamps can be a better fit for certain people.

“A coding bootcamp can be really helpful for someone who can’t deal with the normal education system or those looking for a fast way to get into a programming job,” Bradshaw said.

Borash believes the decision to do a coding bootcamp has less to do with personality and more to do with what the student hopes to gain from the program.

“It’s hard to say it’s a certain type of personality,” Borash said. “It’s (often) folks that have been studying code on their own that can’t learn any more by themselves that try to maximize their learning by enrolling in a coding program.”

Availability

According to a study by Thayler and Ko, demand for software developers is expected to grow by 17 percent in the U.S. between 2014 and 2024. This may be why, according to Thayler and Ko, coding bootcamps have grown in number and popularity. In fact, according to switchup.org, Utah offers at least six bootcamps in the Salt Lake area alone.

Matthew Gibbons, a professor of digital humanities at BYU, believes the choice of a bootcamp over a four-year degree mainly has to do with the lack of four-year web development degrees.

“From my experience, the choice of a four-year degree or a code boot camp usually comes down to availability. There are not many four-year web development degrees, and there are many more bootcamp options. Students tend to take what they can get,” Gibbons said.

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