Posted on October 12, 2016

Are Coding Bootcamps Worth It? A realistic way to determine the truth

While IT bootcamps have been around for a while, there has recently been an increase in the number of programming and coding bootcamps being offered. If you are looking into bootcamps for the first time, the choices available may seem a bit overwhelming—especially when it comes to pricing.

To put it plainly, bootcamp course prices can cause a bit of sticker shock.

But are they worth the price?

The answer to that question is a definite “Yes!” with careful consideration and a little practical calculation on your part.

Paying for Education + Time it Takes to Complete:  Quicker Learning Time = Greater Earning Time

Keep in mind that with bootcamps you should not just consider the cost of the education; you should also consider the time it will take to complete the course.  Considering both of these, helps determine the value of the bootcamp course. 

In essence, when it comes to coding and programming there are so many resources for learning that you can almost decide what you want to pay before you begin. The gamut runs from the free, self-taught to the hyper-expensive boutique-style education.

What you should pay truly comes down to what your time is worth.

Learning Time—Purchasing a book or using free online resources is one way many people try to learn, especially if they have the luxury of time. With a bootcamp, you get a structured course where concepts learned and skills acquired build upon each other with deadlines for completing lessons. This helps keeps you on track for learning what you need to know as quickly as possible.  If you are going the self-taught route with no deadlines, it is too easy for other work, family or life in general to get in the way and slow your progress. For those that are super motivated and diligent, this may not be a concern, but for most of us the extra help of an organized structure is critical for getting us across the finish line in the first place, let alone as soon as possible.

Getting help when you need it—With bootcamps, there is usually quick and direct help available, something you may not have if you are going the self-taught route. Bootcamp mentors also know where the challenges are going to be, so when you hit a snag, they can get you moving forward again.  Simply put, with bootcamp, getting help and getting “unstuck” can happen in minutes or hours, instead of the days or weeks it could take to find a solution to a particular problem on your own. Again, there are lots of great resources out there, but you won’t know what you don’t know. Getting rid of an “unterminated string constant” error might not be so easy, if you haven’t learned what it means yet.

Help Getting that First Job—Last but not least, another time benefit of coding bootcamps can be their employment assistance services. Can they help you get a job faster than if you were on your own? If they have a direct placement program with a good track record for helping students get good jobs then the answer it definitely yes.

The Bootcamp Value Calculation: Less Learning Time + Less Job Search Time = More Earning Time

Now that we have explained what we mean when we say bootcamps are about buying time as well as learning, let’s use that to come up with hard numbers to determine if a coding bootcamp is worth the price.

The key is to be brutally honest with yourself. Looking at the objectives and the things that are taught in the course, how long do you think it would take you to learn those things on your own? Will you procrastinate without an organized structure? Will you lose inertia over time without someone urging you on?

Let’s say you think it would take you five or six months at least to learn on your own, maybe seven or eight if you hit a snag. Compare that to three months for a coding bootcamp.  The difference is the learning time you can save.

Then there is the job search. If the coding bootcamp says that the average student finds new employment within 90 days of finishing the course, but you know on your own it might take at least six months to find a new position that utilizes your new coding skills. If you go the self-taught route, the time you spend learning and getting a new job would be closer to a year or more. Assuming there are no snags, by going the bootcamp route, you could expect to enter the job market SIX months sooner.

Are coding bootcamps worth it? The math is simple. At your new expected salary rate, would you earn more by obtaining a new job six months sooner than you will pay for the coding bootcamp? If the answer is yes, then you now have a very practical and reasoned method for valuing the cost of a bootcamp. 

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