Is Coding Bootcamp Right for You?

Photo by Natalie Grigorovskaya

How I Chose Bootcamp

My decision to attend a bootcamp was a long time in the making.

  1. I liked problem solving.
  2. I loved translating between business and technology needs.
  3. I missed building things.
  4. I preferred product-driven work. Intangibles are the enemy!
  5. I wanted to hit a reset button in my career.
  6. I missed being an engineer. So respected! So intellectually unquestioned! Love it or hate it, people treated me differently when I was an engineer. I didn’t feel like I needed to prove that I was smart because, duh, I’m an engineer.

Before Taking the Plunge

If you’re thinking, “Awesome! This worked for Hannah, so it will definitely work for me,” slow down! I would only recommend going to a coding bootcamp if you:

  • Enjoy coding.
  • Have budgeted how much it will cost for you to attend.
  • Are able to drop the rest of your life responsibilities for 12+ weeks.
  • Know that over 25% of bootcamp graduates do not become software engineers.
  • Are willing to let your ego get a bit bruised.

Do You Like Coding?

I am going to assume that you do. If you don’t, coding bootcamp is not the path for you. This may seem obvious, but the lure of a cushy engineering life can blind the normally rational decision maker. Much like trying on a pair of pants at the store: if you don’t like them in the dressing room, you won’t wear them at home. Sad but true, they won’t make your backside look better in different lighting.

The Costs of Coding Bootcamps

Now that you’ve decided to become a software engineer, let’s take a look at some important things to consider before applying to a bootcamp!


Let’s start with the obvious: bootcamps can be expensive, with many programs running between $15,000 and $20,000. You’ll need to pay for living expenses during the bootcamp and after while job-hunting.


  1. Most bootcamp grads who successfully get a job will make between $80,000 and $120,000 (in San Francisco). The average software engineer in SF earns significantly more than in any other city in the US. For comparison, junior developers make $105,000 in SF but only $71,000 in Austin. The SF cost of living is correspondingly outrageous, so pick your poison.
  2. A minimum of four months will be spent unemployed. Three for class and one for logistics. If you’re super lucky, you’ll be employed immediately. However, most job hunts take three to six months, so it’s safer to assume seven to ten months of unemployment.
  3. Loan rates are around 6%. If you plan to take out a loan, do more research. Interest starts compounding immediately, and rates can be as high as 12%.
  1. Food
  2. Housing
  3. Childcare
  4. Transportation
  5. Health insurance


Bootcamps are a major time commitment. You may be unable to go to weddings, childcare will be difficult, and commuting will come to represent a shocking percent of your me-time. It isn’t 24/7, but don’t be surprised by 12/6.

Bootcamps Expect You to Learn Fast

It’s cliche but true, bootcamp is like “drinking from a firehose.” You’ll be exposed to an immense volume of new material, and some programs cut students that can’t keep up. This can be both stressful and motivating. You’ll probably have to face your own personal learning limits, and your ego will suffer a few dings along the way.


Interpersonal Expectations

Speaking of not being alone, not everyone you work with is going to be on the same page as you; the range of people entering bootcamps is just too diverse for that to happen. This may have relatively little impact (so-and-so wants to found a startup after graduating, you want a full-time job) or immense impact.


As bootcamp graduates flood the market, it becomes harder to get a job as a fully-fledged software engineer. Not impossible, but definitely more challenging. Nearly 25% of graduates from “the Harvard of bootcamps” do not find work as full-time software engineers. Some programs fare worse.

The Bright Side

If you are comfortable with the trade-offs listed above, coding bootcamps offer an effective way of getting from Point A to Point B.



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Hannah Henderson

Hannah Henderson

Software engineer @CircleCI and cynical optimist —