That was it. Just a little click with my mouse, and there would be no turning back. I'd be committing $10,500 towards learning web development.
There's this little feeling in the middle of your chest that tightens in these sorts of moments. This feeling that lets your brain know hey, this is a big deal so you better be sure.
But I'm not sure, though.
I'm not sure if around 6 months from now I'll be using all the knowledge from this bootcamp to earn myself a junior developer job. I'm not sure that I'll be successful, or that the program won't be too much to handle while working full-time and volunteering part-time.
I'm not sure even if I get that job offer and leave my comfortable, stable position at a company I’ve been at for over 10 years, that I won’t live to regret it or miss the people and quiet routines there.
I'm sure that life isn't about guarantees. I'm sure that I don't have to be sure. I don't have to have all the answers to those questions in order for that leap into the unknown to be worth it.
These declarations don't stem from some Millennial daydream, either.
They stem from countless days of decision. A pile of endless pieces of paper and sticky notes containing lists of pros and cons. They are the results of a fruitless career that will lead nowhere, regardless of how good the company is or how comfortable I am there.
It is the years of my childhood spent in love with computers. It is that little girl who saw HTML in 1997 while in 8th grade for the first time and thought it was the neatest thing in the world. The one who got asked to be the teacher’s assistant that same year, and took her computer elective course over again instead of taking her first art class. (Being an artist since I was in 5th grade, that was a big choice.)
The girl who tried to take web design in high school, but ran into guidance counselors who thought a typing class was the same thing. Who eventually instead taught herself both HTML and CSS at 16, piecing together code (in what would probably look pretty ugly now) from memory, trial and error, and online how-to documents.
Somehow, that early seeded love for technology and computers fell through the cracks of society and adulthood and ended up lost along the way.
Until here I am now, finding it again, all these years later.
There are three main paths to learning web development: self-learning, bootcamp, or college degree. But this post isn’t to give you all the resources out there for each. It’s to talk about my reasons for the one I chose.
In my opinion, the final decision on which path is personal. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. There are pros and cons to each of these education options.
Self-learning is a very attractive path, isn’t it? It can be practically free, or at least extremely low-cost compared to either alternative. There’s a trade-off to that price tag, however.
- No mentors or fellow students
- No career councilors
- Least officially recognized
- Least amount of guidance
- Requires extreme discipline and determination.
I’m not ashamed to say that self-learning wasn’t for me. There’s strength in knowing what you need and what you can do. I have learned many things on my own, but for this path I had no interest or desire to waste time being distracted or veering off the course. I want a steady, straight path ahead. As someone with ADD, this is even more important for me.
My biggest question in this decision process was if it was difficult to get a job without a computer science degree.
- At 35 years old, pursuing a full degree in Computer Science would mean years of education that would leave me much older in the job market when first applying for those junior positions.
- Most expensive option
- Longest process to get started in
- May include work not relevant to the actual job position
I read over real job openings on LinkedIn, Monster, and many other job platforms. Although they were for a range of positions in the field and varied in programming languages, the biggest common denominator was ability. I realized there were many companies who value skill the most, regardless of a degree.
That leaves us with the last option. Pay $10,500 to go to a Bootcamp. I favored Rutger University Full Stack Dev program, but there are many options out there. For those who may not know, Rutgers is a University based in New Jersey, USA where I live.
Most of the developers I talked to who didn’t know much about these programs were astonished to hear the price. At first glance, it’s pretty expensive.
- Flatiron (Part Time Online) Software Engineer - $14,000
- General Assembly (Part Time Online) Software Engineer - $15,000
- Rutger University (Part Time In-Person) Full Stack Flex Program - $10,500
I talked to a small group of very helpful people willing to put up with answering days, if not weeks of my insane questions. I even have a friend currently pursuing a computer science degree after already being a developer for 5 years.
- Cover a lot of topics and programming languages briefly, but not truly in-depth compared to pursuing a degree.
- Extremely fast-paced, so knowledge might not be absorbed as well as something learned in a longer time span.
- Leaves many students with a false impression of being immediately hired after completion.
More than a few developers I talked to felt that bootcamps stretched the knowledge out too thin. They’d rather see someone very skilled in fewer languages, than only just getting started in many.
Another commonly expressed opinion was that these bootcamps left many students feeling they would be hired immediately (or guaranteed jobs) when in reality that didn’t happen.
I found the advice of all the devs I talked to extremely helpful, even if I did not decide against a bootcamp. The reason for that is simple. Hearing experienced voices about these programs enabled me to have an informed, educated decision.
Although I will be committing a lot of time and work to this bootcamp, it’s not the only and final source of education for web development I will take. I plan on incorporating free online resources as well as books, videos, podcasts, and many more.
I also do not expect to be handed a position upon graduating. Those cute little promises of “get a job within 6 months of graduating” are there to make potential students feel relieved, and I can understand that.
It’s a struggle to let go of so much money without any promises. I, too, was looking at the job placement reports that many of these companies offer about their students.
But I’m not going to give up if these too specific time frames don’t work out. I expect to continue to work very hard towards earning that first position, however long it takes.
That being said, Rutger’s bootcamp (and others) provide valuable tools to help me as I continue learning. They provide a career coach, interview prep, career goal checklists, networking events, and so much more.
To me, these are the type of things that I could not learn as easily on my own. Knowing the skills for the job is important, of course, but it’s not the end-all to landing one.
Some might gripe about having to go to a classroom for 3 hours, 3 days a week for months. I will be the first to admit that I have far less energy after working all day to go drive to a classroom and pay attention for long periods of time (or basically past 10 minutes).
However, learning in person is a much different dynamic. I will get to meet 26 other people, all reaching towards the same dream and goals as I am. I love meeting new people who have the same or similar passions as me. It’s why I joined Dev.to.
The idea of meeting some people in this field in person is just as exciting to me as having made this concrete commitment to pursuing this new career.
Although not an official degree, I liked that I would earn a certification for this bootcamp. I also very much value the program is run in partnership with Rutgers. Rutgers is a well-known University throughout America, but it’s especially enticing since it’s even more known in the state I live.
Many people have been talking about this a lot lately. How expensive college is. How hard it is to get a job. I won’t get too into that discussion here. However, I believe bootcamps are the future of education. Maybe they aren’t perfect. Maybe there are some flaws and kinks that have yet to be smoothed out.
Yet bootcamps signal the dawning of a new generation of learners. We need other options besides just college that is different than the traditional system which hasn’t changed for decades. These education systems need to change as our society grows and evolves.
In the end, no one is an expert immediately after learning from any educational platform. We become truly knowledgeable from real-world experience. Whatever path of learning we first take, it all leads us to that next course. This was just the right first step for me.
What happens after the bootcamp?
Maybe nothing happens.