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Josefine Schfr
Josefine Schfr

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Programming Bootcamps - worth the hype? 🎓

Credit for all images used in this article goes to Christina Morillo

TL;DR: As with everything in life, there is no straightforward answer: as with everything in tech, it depends.

But let's have a closer look - we will explore the pro's and con's about joining a programming bootcamp, I'll share my personal opinion, and, of course, am super curious to hear your thoughts:

➡️ Did you join a bootcamp or are you considering? What was that experience like for you? Let me know in the comments and let's discuss 🙌

neueFische Programming Bootcamp: my Personal Experience ✨

I participated in a local in-person 3 month frontend programming bootcamp here in Hamburg. It was conveniently close to my home, I was super lucky and got a scholarship because I had gotten laid off. Mind, this was pre-pandemic, so, at least for us, there was no virtual participants or hybrid model. For me, that was great: After a mini entrance exam (very basic programming logic) I was assigned a cohort and for 3 month, we spend the entire day there, working our way through a tight curriculum with our programming coaches.

Three women sitting on a couch with laptops<br>

Web Dev Curriculum

Our curriculum basically comprised of a new topic each week. We started of with HTML, went on to Bootstrap and CSS, then dived into JavaScript. We learned the basics of Git, worked with a terminal and they introduced us to the "developer way of working" including daily stand-ups. We also got an introduction to MongoDB and JQuery and spend the last weeks building a portfolio project in React. Most of us had almost zero experience, like me; some had some technical background and where able proceed to more advanced topics fairly quickly. We worked in groups, helped each other out - it was super stressful, because the pace was very fast, but it was also really fun. I loved learning something new and the community aspect of it.

While preparing our projects, I already started applying for jobs. If you are curious about finding a job after a programming bootcamp, I actually have another article for you on that topic.

two women looking at a computer screen with code

Finding the right fit: different kinds of programming bootcamps 👩🏻‍💻🧑🏽‍💻

What I have described above is of course only my personal experience. There are many different kinds of bootcamps to choose from these days, virtual and in-person, frontend, backend and full-stack, full-time and part-time; the list goes on. It can be very overwhelming to choose from, especially if you have little to know experience.

Forbes put together a list of the best 2023 Bootcamps, if you are curious.

And of course, software or web development is just one out of many options. There are also bootcamps to get into:

  • Data Science
  • UI / UX
  • Visual Design
  • Data Analytics
  • Cyber Security
  • Mobile Development
  • Digital Marketing

Women looking at a computer screen<br>

How to evaluate a programming bootcamp

Unfortunately, the main responsibility for choosing the right programm lies with the student, as there is no one unbiased evaluation of all programming bootcamps out there.

I had asked a few friends who worked in tech whether they thought the curriculum was reasonable, but in the end, I decided to simply trust the process and the fact that they knew that they were doing. It's definitely worth comparing different options to see whether something completely sticks out. If possible chat to the organizers, a mentor or friend about the reasoning and find out more context.

Check job openings

If you already have a rough idea what kind of job you would like to apply to after completing the bootcamp, it might be a good idea to check their requirements. You probably will not cover everything during the bootcamp, but of course it would be helpful if there was some overlap.

Talk to Alumni

Of course, be respectful and mindful of everyones time when reaching out to folks, but it might be helpful to chat to people how have completed the bootcamp you are interested in. Be that on LinkedIn, Social Media or even at an event the bootcamp might offer. Our bootcamp regularly hosted networking events and presentations, which was a great way for students to showcase their work and applicants to see what they could expect.

Financing a Bootcamp

There are of course some amazing options, which are free. Depending on the technology, there are amazing tutorials on Youtube, but also platforms like freeCodeCamp, which are dedicated to making learning to code accessible. However, if you are looking for a full-time (in-person) education programs, there might still be some costs attached. This really depends on where you are applying to a bootcamp and what kind it is, but it’s definitely crucial to look into how you will pay for it. There might be funds for career switchers, diversity scholarships or community funds. Sometimes there are options to start paying the program once you have your first job or they can help you take out a loan.

This is also the tricky bit and really depends on your personal situation. It’s impossible to say whether “it’s worth it (or not)” to invest into a new career. In my personal (and very humble) opinion, education is a great investment - if you can afford it and got your other bases covered. Unfortunately, it’s still a massive privilege.

If you are in a situation where you no scholarships will cover and you would have to go into dept covering your living expenses and the cost for the bootcamp, I would always suggest trying the free options first. There is plenty of really good programming content you can to part-time and practically free. Especially if you are not 100% sure whether it’s right for you. You will likely not progress as fast as in a full-time education, but you can keep your job.

Do Bootcamps get you "job ready"?

Another controversial point for sure: Are you ready to enter your first real job as an engineer after completing a bootcamp? Many bootcamps promise to get you ready for (Junior) Dev positions and advertise with their great connections to the industry. When I signed up for the bootcamp, I really wanted to believe them, as I couldn't afford to not have a job much longer.

After sending out a ton of applications, I was one of the lucky few from my cohort that found a job only within a month of graduating from the bootcamp. But I was far from ready. Again, this depends on many factors such as your previous experience, your ability to learn quickly on the job, other qualifications you might bring to the table and the requirements of the position you apply for.

But I think it's pretty safe to say there is still a ton of learning involved, either on your first job or in your own time after completing the bootcamp. We can't expect to learn a whole (and very complex) job in 3 or even 6 month. Plus, as developer, we are never done learning, right!?

Conclusion: Programming Bootcamps - are they worth the hype?

This also brings me to my conclusion. From my point of view, programming bootcamps are a great way to get started in tech. They provide guidance and structure and for many folks, it’s a great stepping stone to becoming a developer. That being said, some of them are also quite pricey. You have to cover the cost for the bootcamp, but also your living expenses, as you are likely not earning anything while participating, which can amp up the pressure and make it difficult to concentrate on learning. That’s why I have a really hard time to recommended in all cases.

What is your experience? Did you participate in a bootcamp? Would you recommend it? Super curious to hear your thoughts ✨⬇️

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