Developer Bootcamps, an intensive 8-14 week program, allow someone with very little to no experience to immediately jump into the path of becoming a developer. With increasing rates of unemployment, underemployment, and falling wages, these programs have popped up to fill a need – tech companies are in need of developers and people are always looking for means to jump start their career and quickly make more money.
DevBootcamp, General Assembly, and App Academy are a few well known names in quickly growing and crowded list of options. Each program is slightly different, but the cost associated for you to participate is typically north of $10,000. While there is a shortage of developers, are these programs really the answer? More importantly, are they the right solution for you?
When I began my journey to learn to code, I investigated these programs, including in classroom and virtual options. Ultimately for me, charting my own course was my best option. For others, a more structured, group environment may be the best option. But, spending that kind of cash requires some serious thought and research into your potential return on investment.
Developer Bootcamp Data
A scarce amount of hard facts and data exist on graduate outcomes. I’d love to see these organization voluntarily share the raw data on graduates’ hiring rates and financial gains. Unfortunately, you’ll usually only find anecdotal results or headline-grabbing “88% Have Offers At Average Of $79K” declarations. I want the raw data and stats, and think anyone considering these options deserves it.
In an absence of empirical evidence, there are resources trying to provide guidance. You can turn to active Quora Discussions and Technedo.co is trying to grade developer bootcamps. But, the “grade” is based on sentiment reviews by existing participants, who are inherently biased.
There are certainly success stories available to verify that you can achieve your goals by completing a dev bootcamp. You could potentially double your salary, nab a salary of more than $80K, or successful begin your own successful startup.
However, for every success story there are a dozen participants with unfulfilled dreams and empty pocketbooks. My company is currently hiring developers in Los Angeles, and we’ve witnessed firsthand the hardships of graduates. The trend we’ve experienced in recruiting two graduating classes of local bootcamp is that companies compete to hire the select few top tier talent, while the majority of alums continue to freelance or are hired directly by the organization to teach the next cohort or help run operations.
Yes, my experience is very unscientific. But, my gut tells me the success stories are the exception and not the norm. All developer bootcamps are not bad. Your participation and success should depend on several factors:
1. What is your end goal?
When you’re thinking about learning to code and before considering plopping down big bucks for a developer bootcamp, you’ve got to first understand your own end goal. Is it more money? It is better technical expertise to help at your existing job? Do you want to boost your resume? Know the destination before you lay down the path.
2. How have other people in my situation performed?
Without the raw data to know actual results, you’ve got to find a previous graduate with your similar makeup in order to best approximate what to expect. Ask the organization to set you up with an alumnus with similar professional, personal, and education backend as yourself? Take that person to coffee or jump on skype and politely grill them with questions. What’s their learn style? What did they like about the program? dislike? How were they viewed by employers? Use these data points to map out your own potential outcome. And ask them to be your mentor.
3. What are your resources? And how would you evaluate your potential outcomes?
Obviously if you spend the ~$10K and score an $80K job, your resources were put to good use – amazing ROI! But, you need to evaluate other potential results, how that will impact you both professionally and financially, and determine if the risk/reward pays off. If you end up freelancing for 12 months after you graduate, will you be happy? What about if you work 2-3 low-wage internship/apprentice jobs after graduating, will you be fulfilled? Evaluate the 3-4 most likely outcomes and then decide if should move forward.
Do you think developer bootcamps are worth the investment for a beginning developer?