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Comparing Coding Bootcamps: How to Find the Right Course for You

Flatiron School / 26 July 2016
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A few years ago, coding bootcamps didn’t exist. Today, there are hundreds, scattered across the world—and online—all clamoring to establish themselves as the best option for aspiring programmers. While websites like Course Report and Quora host valuable student reviews of various programs, there’s a considerable lack of resources when it comes to trustworthy bootcamp comparisons—especially given the lack of transparency and consistency in the industry.

When it comes down to it, there is no “best” coding bootcamp. It truly depends on you—your goals, your unique learning style, and your life situation.

Based on our own knowledge of the industry and the questions our admissions team gets from prospective students, we have a good idea about what students are curious about when it comes to coding bootcamps. We wanted to take the opportunity to break down a few approaches available to aspiring programmers and share some distinctions between Flatiron School and the other schools out there.

To find the best coding education option for you, you have to ask yourself a few important questions:

What’s your goal?

To dabble in code and learn a new skill

For people in this camp, there’s a wealth of resources, many free or for low-prices. As these resources are not bootcamps, they’re great for self-starters—you’ll be driving your own education rather than working with teachers and other students. Let’s take a look at a few.

  • Free courses:
    • Millions of people interested in dipping their toes into coding for the first time go to Codeacademy, which offers free online programming lessons. (And if you suspect you might be interested in making a full-career switch into programming, we always recommend starting to do some actual coding on your own to see if you like it before making that decision—this sort of website is valuable for testing the programming waters.) Udacity also offers a number of free courses (not to be confused with their paid Nanodegree courses, which we’ll touch on later).
    • Another option for is join Flatiron School’s online campus, Learn.co, for a free introductory course. Not only is this a great way to dip your toe into coding, but it will give you a sense of the learning platform you’ll use in our higher-level career change and certificate courses should you decide to join us for those programs.
    • Another option is video tutorials through YouTube channels like Learncode.academy and Thenewboston. Keep in mind, there’s a limit to how much you can learn just through watching videos, but these still represent a useful introduction to some key coding concepts.
  • Low-cost subscription courses:
    • Another model you’ll find is low-priced subscription-based sites like Treehouse and Lynda—your membership gives you access to libraries of online courses, often driven by video tutorials.

To start a career as a web developer

It becomes harder to judge your options when it comes to making a significant investment in career-changing education. There are many factors to consider (What languages and frameworks are taught?what tools are used?), but if your goal is to change careers, the only outcome that matters is whether you come away from the program able to get a job writing code. So it’s essential to look at a school’s jobs placement rate, and how—or if—they back it up with data. Here are a few of the ways you’ll find bootcamps reporting (or not reporting) their outcomes: ; 

  • Self-reported statistics: There are plenty of coding bootcamps for students to consider with positive student reviews that boast high jobs placement rates—General Assembly, App Academy, Full Stack Academy, to name a few. But it’s important to note that while these schools may release attractively-designed reports, statistics, and comparisons, they haven’t committed to providing fully transparent and independently-verified reporting of their job placement rates. With students making such a big investment in their education, it’s incredibly important for them to be confident that the outcomes they’ve been promised haven’t been presented selectively (i.e. are these schools considering every student or just a certain class/location? Are they including students who they have been cut from the program along the way? What types of jobs or compensation ranges are considered a job placement to them?). Without more transparency around how schools present their outcomes, it’s impossible to effectively judge and compare these schools.
  • No statistics reported: There are many programs, Bloc for example, that don’t release their outcomes statistics, leaning more on alumni success stories. You’ll also find programs like Udacity’s nanodegree program that accept any student willing to pay—they offer a job guarantee but don’t publish any data surrounding how many students finish the program to actually make use of the guarantee. It’s worth noting that completion rates for Massive Online Open Courses like Udacity hover at around 15%.
  • Independently-verified statistics: Flatiron School has a 99% graduation rate and 98% jobs placement rate, supported by an independently-verified jobs report that considers all of our students over the course of a year. We also believe so strongly in our effectiveness that we offer a job guarantee—if you don’t receive a job offer in six months, you receive a full refund.
  • Job guarantee: many of the schools listed above also have a job guarantee. However, before attending a bootcamp based solely on their job guarantee, it’s important to consider that while you may be able to get your tuition back, you can’t get your time back—it’s a huge opportunity cost. So it’s essential to still look at jobs placement data to see how effective a school is at helping students get jobs. It’s also important to read the fine print of job guarantees and know exactly what a school considers to be a job that falls under their guarantee. If your expectation is that a school will help you find a full-time job as a developer, be sure to check if a school has other types of jobs that satisfy their requirements—but might not satisfy yours.

How do you learn effectively?

This question is hugely important. No matter how well-regarded a specific program is, if it doesn’t fit your unique learning style, it can’t possibly be worth it for you. As we mentioned before, if you’re a self-driven learner, you may be able to teach yourself with free resources and books, but many others need a certain degree of structure and human interaction to stay on track and thrive. Here are a few different learning models you’ll encounter:

  • In-person bootcamp: Many programming students do best with the structure of a bootcamp—attending class every day, working with instructors, and learning with other students. For this type of program, it’s important to find out who will be teaching you and whether the school can offer independently-verified reports of their previous student outcomes. Many cities across the world now have the in-person bootcamp options—Flatiron School was founded in New York City about four years ago; Full Stack Academy has campuses in New York City and Chicago; App Academy is an option for California students with their San Francisco campus.  
  • Online mentorship: online programs like Thinkful, Firehose Project, and Bloc are based around students being guided through curriculum with a dedicated mentor. This can be a great option for students, but since your education will be guided by one person, it’s important to be get a sense for a given mentor’s teaching style before committing to a program. Also consider the logistics of this approach to learning: you are given a certain amount of access to a mentor at scheduled times—often once a week. If you run into a problem, you might be stalled until your next mentorship session. Be sure to ask what form off-hours support takes.
  • Virtual live-streaming video: some schools (General Assembly, Hack Reactor) utilize live streaming and video-chat (i.e. Zoom and Google Hangouts) to create a virtual window into a physical campus for their remote programs. Remote students essentially sit in front of their computer full-time for the duration of the program as if they are actually on campus, viewing live video of lectures and communicating with classmates through video or voice chat to work on solutions. This is good for people who learn well with live lectures, but keep in mind: these programs are as strict a time commitment as in-person programs, so you won’t be holding a separate job while attending.
  • Real-time support from a community of experts: Flatiron School believes learning is social, so we place a huge amount of importance on fostering a sense of community in both our in-person and online programs. When designing our Learn platform, we wanted to unlock the potential of the modern, social, open internet instead of using old tools. Through the Learn platform, students get immediate help from instructors and experts; they can also connect with other students to chat, form study groups, and work through problems together in real-time through an intuitive, modern interface. Note: for many online programs, we’ve seen community take the form of discussion boards and forums rather than something dynamic that mimics real, in-person interactions—keep that in mind when researching your options.

As much as possible, see if you can try out different school’s offerings to see if they work for you before rearranging your life for a certain program.

What works best for your life situation?

Finally, there are lots of logistics to consider. What can you afford? How much time can you devote to your education? Can you learn while keeping a job or can you afford to leave your job? Do you prefer to immerse yourself in a flood of information or take things at your own pace? There are a few factors that can help narrow your choices.

Pace

  • Full-time in-person: Coding bootcamps like App Academy, Dev Bootcamp, and Flatiron School offer in-person courses in various cities. An in-person immersive bootcamp like ours progresses very quickly (though there is robust pre-work as well as plenty of resources to help you along the way). Courses like these require you to attend full-time and be located in a specific city for the duration of the program—often three months. These are great for people who are ready to leave their jobs to pursue their coding education and have a bootcamp in their own city or are able to move to a hub like New York or San Francisco.
  • Full-time online: As we touched on above, online programs like General Assembly’s remote program and Hack Reactor Remote Beta allow you to work from anywhere. However, this flexibility doesn’t extend to the timing of the program: they require that you attend full-time over 12 to 13 weeks as if you were attending an in-person course.
  • Part-time options:
    • Bloc offers a “part-time” option in addition to their full-time course, but it still requires that you set a pace ahead of time (20 hours a week for 27 weeks or 12 hours a week for 54 weeks).
    • Various in-person bootcamps, such as General Assembly, also offer part-time courses out of their physical locations for students learning to code while also holding a job.
  • Self-paced: With Flatiron School’s online program, you can go as fast or slow as you want, giving you the flexibility to fit the program into your life, whether you’re working full-time or raising a family. You can also decide whether it’s worth your time to quit your job and pursue these studies full-time, allowing you to finish in as little as three months. When bringing our courses online, we specifically didn’t impose artificial schedules that don’t make sense when studying online.

Tuition

There are a few payment models you’ll come across when considering coding bootcamps. We’ll highlight a few and give you a few things to look out for:

  • Upfront payment: This is standard for many bootcamps, including Flatiron School’s in-person courses. However, check to see if the following are available:
    • Financing: We offer competitive financing options through Pave and Skills Fund, two of the leading accelerated learning loan companies. You’ll find other bootcamps offering similar financing options.
    • Scholarships: We have a number of fellowship programs such as the NYC Web Development Fellowship for foreign-born New Yorkers, as well as scholarships for women and veterans.
  • Ongoing payments: In this model, you pay for each month you’re a part of a given program. This is how tuition works for our online courses, as well as for subscription models like Treehouse and Lynda. It means that if you’re driven to get through the course faster, you could end up paying less overall than what you’d pay for an in-person course.
  • Deferred tuition: Some schools such as Full Stack Academy and App Academy offer what’s known as deferred tuition—you don’t pay tuition until you get a job, and you generally pay a percentage of your first year’s salary. This is a compelling tuition model for many students. However, it’s important to keep in mind that if a school only gets paid when a student gets a job, it’s likely they’re going to be focused on accepting students they consider easily employable, and getting them out the door and into a job as quickly as possible, which isn’t always conducive to creating an encouraging community for students who may need more support.

Our final piece of advice for considering your bootcamp options: don’t just find a program that will teach you how to code. Find one that helps you learn to love code.

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