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Anahita is a trained neuroscientist and a lifelong writer. She currently works as a Senior Science Writer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University and as the Chief Editor for Neurocrew, a data-driven writing agency which partners with Conduct Science.
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Anahita is a trained neuroscientist and a lifelong writer. She currently works as a Senior Science Writer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University and as the Chief Editor for Neurocrew, a data-driven writing agency which partners with Conduct Science.
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Editor: Coding boot camps are becoming increasingly popular, and there are publicly validated data sets that we analyzed to understand what happens to these graduates. In a two part series, ConductScience looks at both the 1) outcomes as well as a 2) cost benefit analysis.

Wondering whether attending a coding bootcamp is worth your time and money or whether you’re better off going the traditional route?

Here’s what you’ll actually spend in terms of your hours and dollars:

Program Length (Time Cost)

Most coding bootcamps take anywhere from 10-28 weeks to complete. The latest in-depth Market Sizing Report from Course Report states that the average coding bootcamp takes about 15.1 weeks to complete. In contrast, receiving your bachelor’s degree in computer science or software engineering from a college or university takes about 4 years (208 weeks) in total. That’s 13.7x more time spent in the classroom if you go the traditional route.

Tuition Cost

What about the sticker cost? The average tuition cost for a coding bootcamp is $13,584. In contrast, traditional four-year degrees cost $28,804 (for in-state tuition) and $43,644 (for out-of-state tuition) according to College Tuition Compare, which compared 254 colleges and universities offering Computer Science vocational programs in the United States.

Opportunity Cost

Finally, there’s opportunity cost. Bootcamp graduates typically land a job in their target field within six months of graduation (and some as early as three months!). Within the four-year window that it takes a college student to pursue a traditional computer science degree, a bootcamp graduate can be making an average salary of $75,000 a year (notably, starting median salaries for the top-performing bootcamps such as Codesmith or Hack reactor are in the $100,000 range) three full years ahead of the college graduate (that’s at least $225,000 over the course of three years!)

Beyond the Numbers

Although some employers indicate that a college degree is mandatory (though not necessarily in computer science), this is not always a hard and fast rule. If you don’t have a college degree and want to assess your marketability after attending a coding bootcamp, it’s especially important to do your research on graduate outcomes for your shortlist of bootcamp programs. You can obtain reports on bootcamp graduate outcomes twice a year from the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR). All graduate outcome data from the CIRR is verified by an independent auditor, so you can rest assured that CIRR-participating bootcamps are confident enough in their outcomes that they are remaining transparent.

Just looking at the numbers, you may be tempted to say: “Well then, forget the college degree! I’ll go straight into a bootcamp and save myself both time and money!” A few years ago, The Washington Post published an article discussing this trend. Indeed, many prospective students have begun applying to coding bootcamps in lieu of the traditional four-year degree. So what’s left to discuss here? It’s a no brainer, right?

Not exactly. You also have to consider how marketable you will be once you graduate.

How tech employers perceive bootcamp graduates versus graduates of four-year colleges

A study from 2018 found that hiring managers (across 12 companies polled) typically view bootcamp graduates favorably when it comes to soft skills “such as teamwork, passion, and persistence. Since most coding bootcamps place an emphasis on mimicking real-life projects and teams, instructors explicitly take the time to teach their students these skills and hiring managers are taking note. However, when it comes to the technical skills, most hiring managers still view the computer science graduates as more competitive than graduates of weeks-long coding bootcamp programs. In a blog post published last fall by Peterson’s, a leading educational services company, the message was clear: bootcamp graduates are superficial and lack the breadth and depth that university graduates receive.

But here’s the thing: you absolutely can still learn on the job if you’re willing to put in the extra time and hours to catch up with graduates of computer science programs. This willingness to continuously push and improve yourself as a programmer and software engineer will also increase your chances of upward mobility once you are hired. As Erik Gross, Co-founder of The Tech Academy put it:

“If the hiring managers, recruiters and other folks involved in vetting and employing developers will take the time to look into every aspect of a boot camp grad – including learning how they think; what their approach is to solving problems; and how hard they’re willing to work when trying to accomplish something, they’ll make a well-informed decision in bringi