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Don't attend a bootcamp in 2021

jasterix profile image Jasterix ・3 min read

Since a few people have messaged me with their bootcamp questions, I thought to aggregate my suggestions into a blog post. Please share with anyone who is struggling to transition to tech or considering a bootcamp as their best bet for becoming a developer.

This article isn't to say that all bootcamps are terrible. There are great programs out there and free ones, too. Personally, though, I think bootcamps reached their peak years ago. But attending a bootcamp in 2021 just doesn't make financial, career, or educational sense. Why?

  1. There are too many bootcamps and bootcamp grads. It used to be that attending a bootcamp was a way to stand out in a sea of would-be developers. But now we see a new one popping up every season and individual bootcamps churning out hundreds of graduates every month.

    • Unfortunately, this also means larger classes, fewer instructors, and, worse of all, inexperienced TAs. Many bootcamps hire TAs directly from their graduate pool, which is a great way for the TA to continue learning. But is that fair to the future students who need support from a qualified teacher?
  2. The curriculum is mostly ineffective. I graduated from Flatiron School, one of the largest bootcamps in New York. The reviews were great, their marketing even better, and at the time, they had a reimbursement program. This meant grads unable to land a job within 6 months of graduation had that debt written. Enrolling at the time felt like a relatively safe choice.

    • Even for a free education, I took issue with the school curriculum. Students were promised to learn Ruby, Rails, JavaScript, and React over 12 weeks. How
    • We're talking about 1 new topic/framework/language every 3 weeks. With 1 week dedicated to passing that module's "code challenge", we technically received 2 week's instruction on each topic. This was barely enough time to grasp the high-level concepts, before moving on to something new.
    • In addition to the watered-down curriculum, many of us struggled with the school's course material. Instead, we relied on each other, overworked instructors who stayed behind after class, and mostly free resources online to learn just enough to pass each code challenge.
  3. There isn't enough career support. Many bootcamps parade their high job placement rates and post-grad career support in front of eager applicants. Some bootcamps have career coaches and career fairs that guarantee you a job interview.

    • In my case, that career support was basically weekly emails of job posts I could find online. The career advice and resume feedback were pretty outdated. And rather than tailor each resume to the student, my career coach insisted I use the same boring template that every student was forced to use.
  4. Bootcamps are too expensive. Flatiron was $17K. If not for the reimbursement program available at the time, I would be kicking myself now. Given that all of the material is available online for FREE, I would have basically paid for the structure.

    • I understand new devs often feeling unsure and overwhelmed by the wealth of information online. There seem to be a million languages, frameworks, and places to start. That's how I felt before attending a bootcamp.
    • After graduating, I still felt totally unprepared for the job market. But I did have a much better idea of where to focus my attention. But honestly, is that worth $17,000? I've seen people go into major debt to attend a bootcamp, only to graduate without the career they were promised, and without the basic knowledge they should have gained.

One of the best things I did after graduating was to create a self-study curriculum focused on learning the fundamentals. I would recommend starting there before spending over $10,000 to enroll in a bootcamp.

This blog was initially supposed to offer a list of alternatives to attending a bootcamp. But it was important to cover some of the issues first. I'm still going to write the article. I'll be going to detail on how to best use each resource. I'll also be sharing a list of FREE BOOTCAMPS I learned about too late.

Below is what the bootcamp alternatives list is looking like so far:

  1. Udemy
  2. Coursera
  3. Frontend Masters Handbook
  4. FreeCodeCamp
  5. Chingu
  6. Technical blog

Photo by Gabby K from Pexels

Discussion (45)

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egilhuber profile image
erica (she/her)

I think this is a pretty broad generalization - bootcamp experience can vary widely depending on which one (and what type) you attend. The bootcamp I attended was local and in-person, with a strong curriculum that taught us fundamentals and how to navigate resources for specific solutions. They also provided graduates with very strong career support and a large network in the area.

I agree that right now may not be the best time (large, online classes is definitely different and likely more challenging than my experience), but that doesn't mean bootcamps can't be a great resource.

I think the most important thing here is that there is a large - and growing - pool of bootcamp grads, and they're easy to find. Seek them out and ask them about their experiences - they'll likely be happy to share and you can better find a bootcamp that works for you.

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jasterix profile image
Jasterix Author

Thanks for the well thought out comment. It sounds like you graduated from a really great, personable program

It is true that many people do in fact have great bootcamp experiences. But I don't think spending that much money on a 3 month program is worth it. Three months is not long enough to understand one language well, let a framework, devtools, etc.

As a bootcamp grad, I feel uncomfortable recommending them to others when they likely won't have as great an expereince as you did. I can just as well direct them to freely available resources. Especially when they're talking about taking on additional debt to enroll

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demmyhonore profile image
Demmy Honore de Vries

Hi Jasterix,

The bootcamp I went trough aimed to make their students ready enough to land their first job and to continue learning from there.

I think that can be perfectly fine. This has enabled me and many others to launch their developer career and be quite successful.

Of course, whether it justifies spending the money is a highly opinionated debate where many factors can matter. Also the scheme of paying up front versus paying in instalments only when you get hired (how mine went).

That being said, I would not recommend a bootcamp with online classes during these corona times. Simply because you will miss out on the group experience / classroom setting.

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egilhuber profile image
erica (she/her)

They certainly can be cost prohibitive. I wasn't in a place to be able to pay up front at all, but the camp I went to offered options based on employment that did work for me. I think that's one of the biggest pros of bootcamp (that I wish traditional schooling options would offer) - tuition being owed once you're gainfully employed after the program.

The financial side of bootcamp is a pretty individual thing that everyone needs to research and consider for themselves. If someone is firm about not wanting to do a paid program, then I definitely wouldn't recommend them a bootcamp.

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jasterix profile image
Jasterix Author

what were the pros and cons that you considered when looking at bootcamps? For me a big factor was price but also timing. Looking back, there are quite a few things I wish I considered

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egilhuber profile image
erica (she/her)

The biggest factor for me was in person learning. I knew that if I was going to learn how to code, that was going to be the best way for me to learn. Employment based repayment was my second biggest factor. Admittedly, since the bootcamp I attended was local to me, I didn't look too much farther than that one.

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angelomiranda profile image
angelo.miranda

not many people have 17K+. That is an outrageous amount of money to spend on something where you can get the same knowledge for free on the internet if you search carefully. At times, free materials are even better than some of the boot camps.

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egilhuber profile image
erica (she/her)

I agree $17k is a lot of money, especially if a camp wants that money up front. It's not an option for everyone, but can be a low(er) cost alternative to a 2 or 4 year degree.

A big part of bootcamp isn't the tech information, but the structure, experience (team projects, daily standups, etc), and access to a network and references to make it easier to break into the field.

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leob profile image
leob • Edited

Yeah ridiculous amount for a 3 or 4 month online course that largely consists of material that you could acquire for free online ... total rip-off

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angelomiranda profile image
angelo.miranda

i agree that bootcamp might not be practical. I am a self-taught engineer and I picked up everything thru reading docs, trying and experimenting and mostly watching youtube videos.

Now, I created a channel to help those who want to learn, please check it out and give the link to those who want to learn.

youtube.com/channel/UCFIwa5Eqf4kN1...

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jasterix profile image
Jasterix Author

I just watched a few videos and subscribed! I'm a huge fan of short form content. The videos I watched were quick, energetic, and provided the right amount of information without getting bogged down by the details

You should add it to the comment section of this blog post. I wrote in in 2019 but it's still get likes and views. People are also constantly sharing their favorite channels

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angelomiranda profile image
angelo.miranda

thank you for subscribing! I just added my channel there and thanks for letting me do it.

I added a bookmark, unicorn, and heart to support you as well.

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asyroyez profile image
Andrey Syroyezhkin

As someone who is currently enrolled in the Flatiron bootcamp, I've a few takes on this:

1) Yeah the schedule of learned you mentioned is insane, but can't you just do an online bootcamp and learn the material more thoroughly as you go...? I mean, I know the tag line is always "Get a career in X months" but in reality, if you personally don't want to just glaze over some topics, you CAN go deeper at your own pace in an online curriculum. And it will make you a better dev for when you are ready to look for a job.

2) The idea of there being a sea of grads - sure, but there is an ocean of self-taught devs! Either you're one of hundreds of bootcamp grads, or one of thousands for non-grads/self-taught people. Having something say you completed a course / certification means a lot for some companies though, which is why I ended up going w/ it instead of striking out on my own. It's not a BA in Comp Sci but it's something rather than nothing.

3) I find that the curriculum is actually very helpful. You don't know what you don't know, and in a self-study situation you may simply to be aware of something. Having a group of students or a TA get on a call and go over stuff w/ you or to support when you hit a wall and can't StackOverflow your way out of it... it's just nice.

4) "Worth" is quite subjective. The way I look at it, if you're making 35k a year, paying down 17k (online bootcamp w/ support was 13k though) to make 60k+ starting makes total sense. If you are brave enough to make the leap? That's a personal choice.

If anything I think the bootcamp grads that came before "softened" the market for others like myself, so now it's less about proving that a bootcamp is a legit thing to a company... everyone knows what they are / had experience with grads from them. So there is that.

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jasterix profile image
Jasterix Author

Thanks for taking the time to write out such a detailed comment

  1. These programs are always going to be challenging. I specifically took issue with the Flatiron curriculum because learning 4 languages/ frameworks + sinatra/rack is unrealistic. This is prob why so many bootcamps opt to teach 1 language frontend and backend
  2. Very true. When you can get a degree for less than attending a 3 month program, the pricing structure needs to be reassessed. The value / cost ratio doesn't work for me
  3. A very good point. Leaving the pootcamp, I felt much more comfortable deciding what to learn next, but I honestly wonder if a Udemy course could have served the same function
  4. Def subjective. Personally, I'm looking at knowledge imparted + hours of lecture + one on one support per dollar. $17k works out to $1,416 / week of instruction. For that much money, you could just as well hire a tutor for one on one instruction

Since writing this article, I've heard from people who have had amazing bootcamp experiences and horrendous experiences. I really hope that Flatiron has addressed many of the issues my cohortmates and I dealt with. I also hope you walk away with an amazing education.

But especially knowing what I know now, I can't justify paying that much money for the education I received. It's not to say that I didn't learn anything. Flatiron helped me find my footing in learning how to code. I also loved the structure of set schedules, being in a classroom, and getting to ask questions.

Personally, I still don't think it's the best use of that much money. That is why I started this series for people who want to learn and need the additional structure that a bootcamp provides, but don't have the ability to shell out that much money on a program that may or may not work for them.

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asyroyez profile image
Andrey Syroyezhkin • Edited

I think our perception is also shaped by the fact that your experience was with the in-person bootcamp, whereas mine is with the online version of it. From the pricing to lack if individual attention - seems to primarily deal with the in-person version of bootcamps. If one can / chose to cover the same material online in the same amount of time (few months) as the in-class cohorts do, the online education would be way cheaper. At the other hand of that coin, since it's per month, if you take longer to actually learn the material it costs almost as much as the in-person one. For me, the material has to be learned at the end of the day, so it was a choice between taking my time and learning at my pace (longer) but being more thorough, or to blast myself with a firehose of code in a short time but still be relatively new to it all when it's over.

With the online version of it, I don't necessarily have to rush through the content and then learn more about all the things covered. I can just put the bootcamp on pause while I go and learn more of Sinatra or Dbs or w/e they only briefly covered, since I know the job place will actually test if you know it well vs just "we covered this in week 3" lol.

I'll check out your channel though since I do use free resources along side the bootcamp, and since you've graduated from the same program you may have useful information for me.

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sebbdk profile image
Sebastian Vargr

12 weeks holy fucking shit.

That's barely enough time to grasp the basics.
My guess is that even if you succeed it would leave you totally stressed out.

Getting a job afterwards, would probably double down on that stress as you frantically try and fill in the gabs.

I took a short education of 19 months, and I still felt really unprepared for real work.

That was in 2007, when things were much simpler.

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jasterix profile image
Jasterix Author

19 months to get a degree or something else?

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sebbdk profile image
Sebastian Vargr

The entry requirement was having completed gradeschool. :)

So far from, it was taught at a practical school where they also educated plummers, welders, CAD design etc. they called it webintegration.

The only reason I got a job afterwards was scarcity, being able to do HTML/CSS was in high demand then.
This was before the local industry worked out how to out/insource obviously.

I do not believe I would not have gotten a job today with that knowledge.
Junior developers are expected to know much more today, and to have a degree usually.

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ash_bergs profile image
Ash

You hit the nail on the head with a lot of these points. I attended Lambda School's bootcamp, which unfortunately came with a much larger price tag than other bootcamps. Getting through the curriculum would have been simply impossible (at least WITH understanding it), without the countless hours I poured into independent research and studying, group studying and peer programming, and the udemy courses I also had to buy.

I could have a long conversation around the complexities of attending (or not attending) a bootcamp - and I have my criticisms of Lambda - my experience as a student left a lot to be desired, but my experience as an alumni has been pretty great. Slack groups are maintained, and career coaches are available every day to meet with, review your resume, recommend certifications and skill growth, and even look over code together. Of course, this depends on the developer taking part, making the appointments, being in the meetings and doing the work.

But I fully believe that if coding is right for a person, and they're willing to do the work, then a bootcamp is not needed. A bit more of a grind, but fully possible.

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jasterix profile image
Jasterix Author

That's awesome you have a great alum culture. Once I opted for the tuition reimbursement, I was booted from all alumni spaces lol

Bootcamps aren't all evil. But I want to help others learn how to code without them having to spend $10k

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angelomiranda profile image
angelo.miranda

I tried and even bought some courses from Udemy and I would preview them first prior to buying. Money is scarce so I need to ensure that I would really benefit and learn based on the preview I see. In case I don't like it what I see, I go and look for something else.

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aaronc profile image
Aaron Canty

Lovely post. I was nearly suckered into a bootcamp 2 years ago, and I'm very glad I didn't sign up. I had some work colleagues, who, unbeknownst to me, did it but it was too demanding and expensive.

Many moons ago, I signed up with The Odin Project (theodinproject.com) and while I didn't continue with it, it was fantastic. Totally free too. While I have little formal education so far, I spent a few months learning part time on this site. TOP really helped me understand HTML & CSS and to an extent, JavaScript. Great stuff.

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jasterix profile image
Jasterix Author

Another great resource to add to the list!

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aaronc profile image
Aaron Canty

😎😎😎

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chiubaca profile image
Alex Chiu

I learnt js over a period of 4 years whilst working full time and I have just landed my first job as full stack js developer. This obviously takes a lot longer and requires u to come up with your own learning curriculum, but should be considered as a safer and cheaper alternative.

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Lane Wagner • Edited

Hey there! Thanks for posting this, I share many of your sentiments and have spent much of 2020 working on a bootcamp alternative/supplement. Take a look at Qvault.io as a bootcamp alternative as well, I'd love to get your thoughts!

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jasterix profile image
Jasterix Author

thanks I'll check it out!

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leob profile image
leob • Edited

Totally!

17K for an online "boot camp" of 4 or 5 months, to learn stuff that you can find for free on the Net ... crazy amount of money.

In some countries (not the US, mind you) yearly tuition fees for official university/college level education might be a fraction (say, a quarter, or less) of that amount, and then you're getting bona fide academic education.

17K, what a rip-off.

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dastasoft

Totally agree with the statement of 12 weeks to learn all that stuff.

I believe that bootcamp in the first place have a lot of sense when a real expert take a few people who already are in the industry and accelerate they learning process and/or take they to a new point.

Nowadays you can find a lot of bootcamps like "from 0 to hero" but with the same timings than "you are already a developer who seek a new goal", there are good bootcamps out there but as always there are more "bad" bootcamps or at least they do more noise.

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codefinity profile image
Manav Misra

I am the lead JS instructor at a bootcamp currently. I actually agree with some of the points made here...but definitely don't agree with the title! 🙅🏾‍♂️

Some of the points are beyond my control, but I write and implement the curriculum fully, and I can say that (and most of my previous students) would agree that it has been very finally tuned and deliberately designed to balance theory and practical application.

At any rate, free resources are great, and many of my students went through some of those. Mainly it's the 'leading questions' and 'custom help' within the 12 weeks that beats just sitting through a series of videos.

All of the free and paid online courses have 2x more impact after they have finished 'dealing with' me and the rigor that I put them through.

Just certain finer points regarding code style, architecture, etc. are a few of the things that no paid course can cover.

In fact, one of my recent graduates as a senior-year Computer Science student. I was 😟 that I wouldn't be able to teach him much, but that was not the case. Along the way, he taught me a few things too. 🤓

Finally, the resources are great. I will never recommend Udemy. I know of some have content creators that have their hard work directly copied/stolen and resold by someone else and Udemy doesn't do a GD thing about it for all intents and purposes. 💩! There is really no screening of content there at all. Just the fact that there are dirt cheap means that if they are bad...oh well.

I would maybe add Pluralsight to the list - definitely over Udemy 💩.

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jasterix profile image
Jasterix Author

Thanks for sharing your experience! I'm disappointed to learn that about Udemy. Wish there was a way to know if the content had been stolen. There are some instructors I regularly recommend because they're very beginner friendly. But I'll be sure to include your comment about the theft on the platform

To your point about individual instructors, I 100% agree. I had 2 great instructors during my program, including one who regularly stayed late after class to answer student questions and help us with the concepts. One of my friends became a TA and made sure students got practice with data structures and algos (which weren't even on the curriculum at the time)

When I applied, Flatiron School had really great reviews. But I wonder if they had also reached the point where they needed to be more profitable, which meant more students, fewer teachers, and less support for students

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kamilliano

My 4-year Natural Sciences degree at Cambridge, UK, back in the day made me fork out about $15k.
For $17k get yourself $10k worth of coke and for the rest of the cash, go to the eastern European country and study computer engineering, whether high or not, with a sole intention of trying to understand the fundamentals. Give yourself 4 years. If you actually learn the stuff within 4 years, kudos to you, you mastered the past 50 years in such a short time.
My aim is to go for long-life learning, keep finding online resources, Edx, Coursera, Pluralsight, Udemy to get myself up to date with marketplace skills but at a much lower overhead than $17k.

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Elise Hollowed

Curriculum and career resources aside, I think I would have given up learning how to code without a community or teacher to fall back on.

I generally agree with a lot of what you're saying but think everyone should weigh the cost of a boot camp against their level of motivation to learn independently and ability to hold yourself accountable. $17k is a ton of money, and sure you can find free content online. But will you complete those courses and get those 20 half-finished projects presentable? Totally a personal question.

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jasterix profile image
Jasterix Author

I hear you. The classroom and community aspects of my bootcamp were fantastic. Learning to code without that would have admittedly been more challenging. Maybe if I'd done a 6+ month bootcamp, my experience would have been more positive

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Rishiraj Purohit

The only thing I hate about bootcamps and other similar structures is they compare themselves to a 4 year college degree to justify their price, I don't think a bootcamp can ever come close to a 4 year degree, the only thing it can do is actually teach material that are better suited for an entry level job in a specific role (enough to get you in) whereas the degree tries to combine a lot of stuff in the field with fundamentals to make sure you can choose a direction and still have something that can be applicable.

For me they are just online video course like those available for free, with a TA , some resume and LinkedIn service added together and marketed as a one stop solution for an absurd amount of money only because desperate people will find them easily and can be convinced better this way.

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kethmars

I really like the other kind of take on this topic, so thank you! There are soooooo many ways of becoming a dev today and as I haven't been through bootcamps myself, it's great to see other perspectives.

I was wondering if you'd be interested in talking about your experiences on this topic in my Youtube channel called Developer Habits (youtube.com/channel/UCJLZwePkNHps5...)?

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jenlooper profile image
Jen Looper
  • adding to free bootcamp list: our brand new FrontEndFoxes.school, where we have had similar input about other boot camps and have taken note!
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ozone72 profile image
Orin Fletcher

Here's a good open source curriculum:

github.com/ossu/computer-science

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jasterix profile image
Jasterix Author

thanks for sharing!

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almokhtar profile image
almokhtar bekkour

thanks for sharing

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absoftware profile image
Ariel Bogdziewicz

Problem, stackoverflow, repeat.

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xoshly profile image
Ashley Randall

Thank you so much for your honesty. I am using FreeCodeCamp and I am learning soo much.

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jasterix profile image
Jasterix Author

Glad you found it helpful! Feel free to reach out with any questions along the way 😊

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supercodingninja profile image
Frederick Thomas

I can understand some points. I recommend bootcamp.uw.edu/. I like it better than Code Fellows.

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gundappabaragalle profile image
Gundappa

Yeah this is what I also think.