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How to Become a Web Developer

Are Coding Bootcamps Worth It?

Ready to start your career in Development? Find out more about BrainStation's Web Development Bootcamp

Yes, coding bootcamps are an increasingly worthwhile investment for aspiring Web Developers. The coding bootcamp sector in the US increased to over 35 thousand students in 2019, which was a 4.5 percent increase from the year before (and nearly a 2000 percent increase from 2012). There are good reasons for this growth.

First, career opportunities in development are attracting professionals from other fields. Our Digital Skills Survey found that 54 percent of our development respondents began their career in a field other than development, and 57 percent had been working in development for less than five years.

Second, employers are increasingly valuing skills and experience over education, which has made it harder to justify prioritizing inexperienced Developers with a college degree. Coding bootcamps have thrived because they are short, immersive, and focused on outcomes and employment – their goal is to develop job-ready skills. By all accounts, they’re succeeding. In Course Report’s Outcomes Report, 83 percent of respondents say they've worked in a job requiring the technical skills they learned in the bootcamp. What’s more, over 90 percent of BrainStation graduates have found work within six months of graduation.

There is, of course, also an important financial component involved, and here too coding bootcamps come out on top. According to Course Report, the average tuition for a four-year computer science program is over $163,000, with bachelor’s degree holders earning an average of $59,124. Coding bootcamps, on the other hand, are 12-14 weeks long and $11-15,000 in tuition, with the average bootcamp graduate earning $70,698.

What Is a Coding Bootcamp?

A coding bootcamp is an intensive, short-term technical training program that teaches the programming skills that employers are looking for.

These programs can allow students who begin with very little coding proficiency to focus on the most important aspects of coding so they can immediately apply their new coding skills to solve real-world problems in web and mobile development, design, or security.

Most coding bootcamp attendees want to transition into a career in web development. They do this by learning to build applications at a professional level under the guidance of instructors who are immersed in the industry. That provides the foundation they need to build production-ready applications and demonstrate they have the skills to add real value to a potential employer. Most of these programs offer both online and on-campus learning options, and they typically allow students to choose between part-time or full-time schedules.

According to market research by Course Report, coding bootcamps graduated an estimated 23,000 students in 2019. The research found that across 44 states, there are 95 in-person providers and 13 online bootcamps.

The typical coding bootcamp takes less than four months to complete — 15.1 weeks on average. And most graduates report getting a job with ease – in fact, more than 90 percent of BrainStation’s graduates are employed in their fields within 180 days of graduation.

What Are the Benefits of Coding Bootcamps?

These programs offer a wide range of benefits, allowing you to gain in-demand skills in a short period of time, expand your professional network, and eventually find a high-paying job in a growing industry.

Although it is possible to learn to code by yourself, most experts in the field find that going the self-taught method is deeply time-consuming and challenging.

A web development course or program will first establish your foundations, deepening your HTML and CSS knowledge and familiarizing you with frameworks including Flexbox, React, and JavaScript. You’ll also understand server-side programming, how to build servers using a modern back-end framework, and how to manage databases and data on a web server. Most likely, you’ll also combine some of these competencies to create a project that follows industry practices – boosting your portfolio in the process.

You’ll also establish the beginnings of your professional network, getting to know other aspiring Developers, instructors who double as industry pros, and guest speakers from leading tech companies.

Some programs even get you ready for the interview process by putting you through mock interviews with a hiring manager and a Web Developer and then offering constructive feedback.

The Pros and Cons of Coding Bootcamps

Coding bootcamps are a popular way for people to gain the programming skills they need to transition careers and land a job in web development, but before signing up, it’s worth considering both the pros and cons.

Here are some of the pros of coding bootcamps:

  • Cost. Attending a coding bootcamp is certainly affordable in comparison to a four-year computer science college degree.

  • Focus on modern languages and frameworks. These programs tend to have an edge over traditional college programs in one important area: flexibility. They tend to adjust their curricula often to ensure students are getting the most up-to-date education possible.

  • Immersive environment. These programs are laser-focused on getting you up and running as a Developer.

  • Networking opportunities. Intensive web development programs can help you begin to build out your professional network as you begin pursuing your new career.

And here are some of the cons of attending a coding bootcamp:

  • Cost. Although these are definitely less financially imposing than a four-year college degree or diploma, not everyone will be able to afford them, and if you want to enrol in a full-time program, it will be very difficult to work at the same time. And many aren’t eligible for Pell Grants or federal loans.

  • They require a lot of your time. The average program is about 16 weeks. That doesn’t seem like much when you consider that you’re coming out with a totally new skillset, but it’s still a significant commitment to make. And again, it’s also a long time to be out of work or working only part-time. Prepare to give up some evenings and weekends for homework, too.

  • Not all programs are created equal. Make sure you do your research and due diligence before making a commitment. Take a look through different curricula and gather as much information as possible about the program before you start to make sure it will get you where you need to go.

How Much Do Coding Bootcamps Cost?

The average full-time coding bootcamp in the United States costs $13,584, according to Course Report. However, tuition can range from $7,800 to $21,000

That investment was worth it for most alumni, Course Report found; their study found that graduates made an average starting salary of $67,000. Bootcamps also vary greatly in length, another reason for the disparity in tuition costs. Though the average is roughly 16 weeks, coding bootcamps can range from six to 28 weeks.

Most offer a range of scholarships to help ease students’ financial burden. Many offer flexible payment plans or allow you to split your tuition into smaller monthly payments. Another opportunity worth exploring is an employer scholarship, where students get their tuition reimbursed by their employer.

Whether you are considering a program at the high or low end of the cost spectrum, there are some elements most have in common. They teach modern, widely used programming languages and frameworks like Ruby on Rails, Python on Django, JavaScript, and PHP stacks through project-based learning. Students graduate from bootcamps with a portfolio, an online presence, and, usually, interview skills. Further, most will match students with an employer network or help them attain an internship. It seems to be working; Course Report's most recent research found that 83 percent of bootcamp alumni report being employed in programming jobs.

With campuses now in more than 90 cities across North America, coding bootcamps were expected to gross $309 million in revenue and graduate 23,000 students in 2019.

Can I Calculate My Bootcamp ROI?

Coding bootcamps can be a great fit for career changers who want to acquire an in-demand new skill in a hurry, but if you’re not sure if this is right for you, you can calculate your bootcamp return on investment (ROI).

First, take a look at your current financial situation and jot down your monthly income after taxes and your current expenses.

Next, look at the total time and money you’d be investing in the program. Calculate or estimate the cost of tuition, the time it will take to graduate, your cost of living while you take the course, the cost of financing your tuition (if applicable), and any other upfront costs – like a new computer or any other supplies.

Finally, let’s get realistic about your post-graduate expectations. What salary do you expect to make? Although the average salary for a Web Developer is $78,248 in the U.S., we recommend erring on the side of caution and putting in a more conservative figure for now. Then factor in expected income taxes and the amount of time you expect it will take to find a job placement.

Then, you just need to weigh the total investment against the difference in your expected income after taxes.

How Much Will I Make After My Bootcamp?

On average, coding bootcamp graduates in the United States have a national average starting salary of $65,000-$70,000, and the graduates typically increase their salary around 50 percent after program completion. Low-income students have been especially affected, receiving around a 180 percent raise in salary. But there are lots of factors at work when looking at the salaries of freshly graduated bootcamp students, including what part of the country they’re in, what type of career they have, and the amount of freelance experience they might have gained.

A Full Stack Developer who specializes in JavaScript is likely to receive a starting salary somewhere in the low-to-mid $60,000 range, while a Python Developer — a role that is arguably in higher demand right now — might start out somewhere in the low $80,000 range.

Further, if you have any prior experience in the tech field, you can certainly expect a higher starting salary. If you’re someone with a tech background considering attending a bootcamp to boost your skills, you might even expect a salary in the six figures after you graduate.

Earning Potential for Coding Bootcamp Grads

Coding bootcamp graduates earn an average of roughly $65,000 in their first jobs after graduating, according to a survey of more than 1,800 grads.

Expect that number to leap up as you gather more experience in the field. According to the survey, bootcamp graduates in their second job earn around $77,000. By their third job? They earn an average of $90,000 per year. Whether or not you have a college degree will likely affect your salary. However, even grads without bachelor’s degrees still see an average salary of roughly $60,000 – an average increase of 77 percent compared to their pre-bootcamp wages.

Tuition Range for In-Person Coding Bootcamps

Tuition for in-person coding bootcamps can vary from $7,000 to $21,000. Ranging in length from six to 40 weeks, no two programs are quite the same and that’s one reason for the high degree of variance in tuition prices. Some offer a guarantee of a developer job and if you don’t land one, you’re only on the hook for your initial deposit.

Most offer other scholarships as well as flexible payment plans to help you manage the cost. Others offer employer scholarships, where your next employer will reimburse your tuition fees.

If you’re unsure that you can afford a coding bootcamp, it might be worth booking an appointment with a representative and carefully going over all the costs of the program, as well as any financial assistance programs or scholarship opportunities you might be eligible for. Many institutions offer robust scholarships for veterans, women, and other groups underrepresented in tech.

Will a Coding Bootcamp Get You a Job?

Most students get a job in the field upon graduation, but of course, no certification or diploma could ever absolutely guarantee that a person could get hired. Other factors like location, quality of a candidate’s portfolio, and other intangibles like personality and demeanor will also play a role in whether or not a student lands a job after graduating. Most institutions report their outcomes. A Course Report study of American bootcamps found that 75 percent of coding grads found jobs within 90 days of graduating. Other institutions manage even higher numbers; BrainStation, for instance, saw 95 percent of its Web Development graduates working within 180 days of graduation.

Based on a survey of nearly 2,000 coding grads, they saw their salary grow from $43,348 pre-bootcamp to $66,694 at their first job after graduating. In other words, their salaries rise by 51 percent on average after completing the program. With a few years of experience, an average Web Developer brings home nearly $80,000, while those with a decade of development under their belt make $100,000. Senior Web Developers make $107,115 on average, plus a $5,000 cash bonus.

Are Coding Bootcamp Grads Actually Getting Jobs?

Coding bootcamp graduates are indeed really getting hired in large numbers, but there are no guarantees and a small minority of graduates do report not being able to find work in their field.

According to Stack Overflow’s 2018 Developer Survey – the last year to specifically include a question about bootcamps – 45.5 percent of people who attended coding bootcamps already had a job as a Developer and were simply upskilling. 16.3 percent found a job immediately after graduating, while 33.8 percent got a job within three months. In total, then, nearly 80 percent of bootcamp graduates were employed in their field.

That said, out of 6,652 responses, 8.7 percent did report that they didn’t find a job as a Developer.

How Are Coding Bootcamps Perceived by Employers?

Coding bootcamps are well-perceived by employers, 84 percent of whom think bootcamp graduates are at least as prepared and likely to be high performers as candidates with computer science degrees.

According to a study by Indeed in which 1,000 HR managers and technical recruiters at U.S. companies of all sizes were polled, 80 percent of respondents have hired a coding bootcamp graduate for a tech role within their company. And they’re happy they did; in fact, 99.8 percent said they would hire a bootcamp grad again.

Coding bootcamps are also helping to create a more diverse tech workforce. Indeed’s survey found that 51 percent of surveyed companies said that hiring bootcamp grads is a good method to help get more people from underrepresented groups working in the tech sector. Many institutions offer scholarships targeting those groups, as well.

And 50 percent of respondents cited coding bootcamps as a good way to retrain workers who either don’t have college degrees or who could benefit from re-training.

That said, not all programs are created equal, and employers are noticing. In fact, 98 percent supported increased regulation for coding bootcamps. And the study also found that, depending on the role, some employers still look for candidates with computer science degrees.

Do Employers Think Coding Bootcamps are Worth It?

Yes, employers largely do consider these programs worthwhile, with some even covering the cost for their employees to attend coding bootcamps to boost their skills.

According to a study conducted by Indeed, 72 percent of employers think bootcamp graduates are just as prepared and likely to be high performers as candidates with computer science degrees, and another 12 percent think bootcamp grads are actually more prepared and more likely to be high performers than computer science grads.

Given that roughly 80 percent of bootcamp grads are employed full-time within a few months, it’s clear that employers do value this certification. And outcomes reports from most coding bootcamps show that the vast majority of graduates say they need the technical skills they acquired in bootcamp at their new jobs, so clearly this is a skill set that employers are looking for.

So, Is a Coding Bootcamp Worth It?

Yes, these programs are worth it for students who want to learn a skill very quickly in a focused environment, with the goal of getting completely prepared for a new career in a matter of months.

College and university programs are not necessarily the best fit for all learners. They’re also comparatively much more expensive, with a four-year computer science degree likely to cost upwards of $140,000 on average. That said, coding bootcamps cannot match the depth and scope of a four-year computer science degree.

Ultimately, it comes down to the way you approach it. If you apply yourself and make the most of every opportunity, it’s likely you’ll be among the roughly 80 percent of bootcamp grads who find themselves employed in the field with a higher salary after completing the program.

Our Tips: Making a Coding Bootcamp Worth it

To make sure you find a job after you complete a coding bootcamp, you should lean on your professional network, establish an online presence, and gain some real-world experience, any way you can. Over the course of most coding bootcamps, you will complete a project that could be the cornerstone of a portfolio site. Your website should be a showcase of your best work. Make sure the site is professional, attractive, and easy to navigate. Consider including some of the following: bio/about; resume; social-media profiles; contact information; responsive design; and past projects with documented source code. Also, you might want to be open to internships and apprenticeships, which are often a gateway to a job. Another idea is to volunteer. For instance, the Taproot Foundation helps nonprofits and social change organizations connect with skilled volunteers.

It’s also important to simply get out there. Attend networking events and Hackathons. Keep in touch with former peers and instructors from bootcamp – your personal network will often lead to opportunities. Also, be sure to keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date so recruiters can find you.

Here are four tips for making a coding bootcamp worth it.

1. Research Coding Bootcamps

If employers have a complaint about coding bootcamps, it’s that they want more regulation. Not all programs deliver on their promises, so do a deep dive into your research. Go through LinkedIn to find graduates of the bootcamp and see what they’re doing now – if you’re comfortable, reach out to them and ask their opinion of their experience. What does the curriculum look like? Which programming languages will you learn? Does the school offer job training or employment fairs?

2. Connect With Web Developers and Educators

Your classmates will likely be colleagues in a short while, and every person you meet could eventually be a contact who could help you land a job. The same goes for your teachers – who are also likely industry professionals – and any guest speakers who may come through the classroom. Most schools hold networking events, and it’s worth your time to attend.

3. Build Your Online Presence

Sharing your experiences – and projects – on a blog or website is a good way to begin to get your name and skills out there for recruiters and potential employers to find. It will show that you’re motivated and creative, and it’s a nice way to showcase a bit of personality.

4. Start Building Your Developer's Portfolio

One reason such an overwhelming number of students get hired after graduating is that they’re able to build an impressive portfolio over the course of bootcamp. Keep in mind that this is what you’ll have to persuade potential employers that you’re the Developer they need.

Choosing the Right Bootcamp for You

When you’re trying to decide which bootcamp is right for you, you must first decide what’s important to you. What are your learning and career goals? We recommend asking yourself the following five questions to determine which bootcamp is right for you:

1. Which Skills and Programming Languages Do I Want to Learn?

Although most coding bootcamps will teach programming languages like HTML/CSS, JavaScript and a backend language like Ruby on Rails, it’s not a given. Other schools specialize in certain languages, like Python. Take a look at the bootcamp’s curriculum and course package and see exactly what you’re going to learn from this coding bootcamp.

Next, take a look at some job ads for Developer positions that would appeal to you. Which programming languages and competencies do they call for?

Bootcamps have the advantage of being flexible and adapting their curricula on the fly to respond to industry trends. If the bootcamp you’re looking at doesn’t seem to align with what employers are asking for, it’s time to move on to another school.

2. What Are My Career Goals?

It’s time to take a hard look at where you’d like to see yourself in a few years. Are you looking to join an up-and-coming startup or hoping to be scooped up by an established tech giant? Are you anticipating spending most of your time designing on the front-end, or working server-side on the back-end? All of these considerations could affect how much you get out of any given program.

It’s also worth comparing the careers of alumni with your own career aspirations. Head over to LinkedIn and take a look at the resumes of past graduates. Where are they working now? What’s their role? It’s always a good idea to reach out to graduates to ask questions about their experience. Not only will you get unvarnished feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the program, but you form a potential professional contact too. You could also reach out to a recruiter or hiring manager directly and ask for their opinions on the program.

3. What’s My Financial Situation?

There are no two ways about it, affording coding bootcamp tuition can be a tall order. It probably shouldn’t be the only factor in your decision on which school to attend, but there’s no denying it plays a role.

Tuition costs at different coding bootcamps vary wildly, from $7,000 up to $21,000, though the average is around $13,000. Most schools will be happy to pair you up with a representative so you can get a clear idea of how much this is going to cost you.

You’ll also want to look into which scholarships the schools offer. Almost all bootcamps have a variety of scholarships available, so talk to a representative to see if you qualify. And most institutions also offer flexible payment plans that might make your life a little bit easier.

4. Where Should I Attend Bootcamp?

This might ultimately come down to where you’re already based, but if you are flexible about location, you might want to move to a bootcamp in a city like New York or San Francisco where the largest hiring networks are. Not everyone has the heart to leave their friends and family behind for a few months (at least), so fortunately coding bootcamps have opened in almost every U.S. state.

5. How Much Experience Do I Have?

Before you choose a coding bootcamp, consider your own background. Have you worked in tech before? Have you completed any free, self-guided online courses? Do you have any experience hacking on open-source projects?

Some programs are so comprehensive that they can take someone totally new to coding and turn them into a savvy pro in a matter of months. Others, like Hack Reactor for instance, are up-front about the fact that you do need some background in coding to thrive in the course.

Check any prerequisites carefully. Be truthful with yourself about where you are in your journey as a Developer to get the most out of your bootcamp experience.

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