So you don’t have a computer science degree but you want to break into the tech industry. Maybe you’ve considered signing up for a bootcamp as a way to get your foot in the door. But what really happens after graduates complete bootcamp training?
Opinions on whether coding bootcamps are worth your time and money have been hotly debated for a while now. Some argue that these bootcamps are profit-driven businesses with an eye toward making money off the backs of students who would be better served teaching themselves. Others argue that these bootcamps provide eager students a way to break into industry jobs and are often a better return on investment (ROI) than the traditional four-year degree in computer science.
Here, we’ll take a look at what the data say about how students fare after completing a coding bootcamp.
Standardizing the Reporting Data
Currently, there is no regulatory agency overseeing coding bootcamps. Because of this, some bootcamps have been accused of presenting misleading numbers and over-exaggerated claims, skewing students expectations about job placements and salaries.
In response to this criticism, various bootcamps began toning down their sales pitches. Some closed up shop altogether. Other bootcamps, recognizing the importance of transparent reporting, decided to go a step further and band together in a single organization known as the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR). This self-regulatory attempt is the first of its kind to explicitly require its participants to adopt common definitions, advertising standards and validation requirements.
This is a notable step. After all, it’s hard to compare apples-to-apples if Coding Academy X uses a different metric for graduation rates and job outcomes than does Coding Academy Y. Those who are part of the CIRR all use the same metrics, definitions and set of standards, making it possible for eager would-be students to make better informed decisions as well as temper expectations.
Currently, bootcamps that are part of the CIRR are required to report outcome data bi-annually. These reports can be found here and for those interested in evidence-based decision making, it’s a good idea to look at several reports from your short-listed bootcamps as performance can change over time. Here are some big-picture take-aways from the most recent report regarding what happens after coding bootcamps:
You will likely place in your target field within 6 months.
Not everyone will make $100,000 straight out the gate, but the reported CIRR numbers are promising. The median starting salary for half (14 out of 28) of the graduates from the CIRR-participating bootcamps is $75,000.
Notably, Codesmith and Hack Reactor bootcamps topped the charts in terms of median salaries, according to the latest outcome reports from CIRR. Codesmith’s Los Angeles branch reported a median starting salary of $106,580 and its New York branch reported a median starting salary of $112,500. Meanwhile, Hack Reactor reported $109,000 for its San Francisco branch and $100,000 for its New York branch. Thinkful graduates placed solidly in the middle at $75,000 and the remaining CIRR-participating bootcamps fell within the $50,000-$75,000 range. Keep in mind that these are starting salaries and often there is room for growth after you start working at a company.
When looking at these numbers, it’s important to keep in mind that cost of living is a relevant factor. An entry-level software engineer in San Francisco will usually make on average 35% more than an entry-level software engineer in Chicago. In fact, some of these schools’ salary reports may correlate with their locations. Hack Reactor offers bootcamps in San Francisco and New York, two cities whose entry level salaries are above the national average.
Once you break in to the industry – and the stats show that you are likely to do so after attending a bootcamp – it’s a matter of performing well on the job to rise through the ranks. As your title evolves from entry-level to Mid to Senior to potentially Chief, your salary will grow handsomely alongside it.
You will likely make decent money straight out of bootcamp
If the most important thing to you is salary, you may be willing to wait 6 months or more to land a job within your target field. On the other hand, if fast job placement is a higher priority then you may be willing to take a lower starting salary. Interestingly, the bootcamps that topped the charts in terms of starting salary fell to the bottom of the chart when it came to the percentage of graduates employed in full-time positions in their target field within 3-6 months. Wondering how “target field” is defined by CIRR? In order for bootcamps to claim that their graduates landed jobs “within their target field” the following documentation must be provided:
- A statement that the job requires the skills for which the student was trained at the school; or
- Have a job title that would fall under an in-field classification used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics SOC codes.
Tech Elevator, Software Guild and Eleven Fifty placed 70% of their graduates in jobs within their target field 3 months post-graduation. This number rose to 80% by the 6-month mark. Turing, Launch Academy and Thinkful were also in the top half, placing 50-60% of their graduates in a full-time job within their target field 3 months post-graduation. Meanwhile, Hack Reactor’s various branches (NYC, SF, Austin, LA and remote) placed about a third of their graduates within their target field at the 3-month mark and 45-75% of them within their target field by the 6-month mark.
There is no data provided on the remaining graduates, but software engineers and related titles (like those acquired through these programs) face a low unemployment rate (3.6%), comparable to that of lawyers and accountants.
It’s safe to say that even if you don’t place within your target field within 180 days, the chances are good that you will find a job in the field after expanding your portfolio or doing some freelance work. Tech industry leaders want to see that your interest in coding continues outside of the formal bootcamp training, so make sure to continue building your portfolio even while you are on the job market.
Your job title will likely match your training
Graduates of coding bootcamps go on to assume positions as Software Engineers, Web Developers, UX Designers, Analysts, and Developers (front-end, back-end or full-stack). CIRR-participating bootcamps report on the most frequent job titles their graduates assume every six months.
These starting titles often serve as a stepping stone into more senior positions, so it’s a good idea to take a look at these numbers for the bootcamps you may be considering. You’ll want to make sure the placement numbers align with your long-term career vision. For example, CodeSmith NYC’s breakdown: 73.1% Software Engineers, 7.7% Front-End Engineer, 3.8% Software Developer, 3.8% UX/UI Designer, 3.8% Full-Stack Engineer.
Meanwhile, Tech Elevator’s Cincinnati branch (a full-stack web development academy) placed most (65.2%) of its graduates in Software Developer positions; other positions included Q/A Tester (17.4%), Web Developer (13.0%) and Computer Programmer (4.3%).
If you’re curious about how these job titles are performing within the national economy, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you can plug in any of the job titles as a search term in the Occupational Outlook Handbook. If you’re interested in job stability and growth, you can consult the “Job Outlook” statistic, which is a projected percent change in employment over the course of the next decade (2016-2026).
According to the BLS, the average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent; but Software Developers positions are projected to grow at 24% over the next ten years and Web Developers are projected to grow at a 15% rate over the next ten years. Demand for these titles won’t be slowing down anytime soon, meaning that your education in this field will be valuable for the foreseeable future.
Caveat: some of these job titles are not defined in the same way across all companies and bootcamps. The BLS includes a description of the job title, so make sure that it matches your own personal definition and the definition provided by your bootcamp.
Finally, it is important to consider outcomes data on the actual versus the advertised program length to graduate. The actual reported range is large, so it’s best to consult individual CIRR reports for each academy. For example, Hacktiv8 Jakarta reported that 23.6% of their students graduated within the advertised program length. In contrast, most of the Hack Reactor branches boasted on-time graduation rates for 90% or more of their students. In some cases, this statistic is actually irrelevant because the programs are self-paced. You’ll have to decide how much this matters for you.
You need to calculate your own Return on Investment (ROI)
When it comes to deciding whether a coding academy is right for you, there are many factors that you should consider. The tuition costs are black and white – so you’ll have to decide what you can afford in terms of actual dollars you’d like to pay.
Some bootcamps now offer a deferment of tuition costs until after graduates land their first job. This approach is lowering the barrier to entry for many individuals who otherwise would not be able to afford the coding bootcamp of their choosing.
In terms of the investment of your time, it’s a bit trickier. You’ll have to evaluate where you’d like to spend more of your time – training in the program or searching for the right job. Let’s take a hypothetical situation. Coding Academy X and Y both offer the same total amount of time (16 months) but the graduation rates for Coding Academy X are much worse than Y. Thus, you’re better off (all other things being held equal) attending Coding Academy Y:
- Coding Academy X — 10 month program completion + 6 months to job placement = 16 months to your dream job (grad completion rate: 50% of their students graduate on time)
- Coding Academy Y — 13 month program completion + 3 months to job placement = 16 months to your dream job (grad completion rate: 90% of their students graduate on time)
Bottom line: coding bootcamps may not take you from “zero to hero” overnight, but they almost certainly will help you break into the tech industry in a field of your choosing. And once you get your foot in the door, you’re likely to make a decent starting salary, and have plenty of room for growth.
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- Thayer, “Coding Bootcamps vs. Computer Science Degrees: What Employers Want and Other Perspectives,” Bits and Behavior Blog, 02-March-2018. . Available: https://medium.com/bits-and-behavior/coding-bootcamps-vs-computer-science-degrees-what-employers-want-and-other-perspectives-4058a67e4f15
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- Korn and L. Weber, “Coding Schools Tone Down Rosy Job Script,” The Wall Street Journal, 20-May-2014.
- Omaha Code School, The Switchup. . Available: https://www.switchup.org/bootcamps/omaha-code-school
- Council on Integrity in Results Reporting, CIRR. . Available: https://cirr.org/
- Shieber, “Coding bootcamps commit to transparency in reporting around job placement,” Tech Crunch blog, 2017. . Available: https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/01/coding-bootcamps-commit-to-transparency-in-reporting-around-job-placement/
- Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR) Outcomes Report, H1 2018: Codesmith Los Angeles. .
- Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR) Outcomes Report, H1 2018: Codesmith New York City. . Available:
- Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR) Outcomes Report, H1 2018: Hack Reactor, San Francisco. .
- Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR) Outcomes Report, H1 2018: Hack Reactor, New York. .
- Glassdoor “Entry Level Software Engineer Salaries in San Francisco”
- Standard: Tracking Job Outcomes, Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR). . Available: https://cirr.org/standards/standard-tracking-job-outcomes
- Silady, “The Rise of the Software Engineer,” Smart Asset blog, 20-September-2018. . Available: https://smartasset.com/retirement/the-rise-of-the-software-engineer
- Shain, “10 Coding Boot Camps That Defer Tuition Until You Find a Job,” Student Loan Hero by Lending Tree blog, 13-June-2017. . Available: https://studentloanhero.com/featured/coding-boot-camps-deferred-tuition/