Boot camp or university education?

A $260,000 four year investment or a $15,000 15 week investment with potentially the same outcome? Some aspiring software developers would choose the $15,000 option. After all, $1,000 a week to learn how to code would seem much more reasonable than over $60,000 a year. I think the most reasonable solution, however, is a blend of the two options. In order to arrive at this conclusion, I weighed the benefits of a university level education with the downsides:

Benefits of College

Silicon Valley is looking for degrees: Perhaps I am biased as a soon-to-be university graduate, but I believe that I have an advantage in the job seeking field due to my college level education. One factor in this is due to what Silicon Valley seems to be looking for: according to the Wall Street Journal, 75% of Silicon Valley tech companies specify at least a Bachelor’s Degree level of education as a requirement while only 58% of companies in other industries seeking software engineers require a formal education. I think this is probably partially due to the fact that at these top tier tech firms, the average code school boot camp graduate is competing with thousands of students with top tier, prestigious and highly coveted technical university degrees. Companies rely on the well-established pedigree of these schools in hiring developers and are therefore biased towards these students rather than someone who just took a 4 month course in coding.

University education undoubtedly delves into the algorithms and data structures companies expect you to know: While I do find the lofty expectations of tech companies nowadays to have candidates memorize algorithms and various big-o runtimes, it is an unavoidable fact that these firms do evaluate candidates on how strong their foundational knowledge may be. The field of computer science is incredibly expansive and can be extremely technically challenging and complicated. This is where a solid four year college education comes into play: with courses devoted to foundational knowledge in a specific area and professors who are experts in their discipline, it’s hard to argue that a four month bootcamp course on the inner workings of Javascript would get you farther in an interview than a university education would.

Benefits of Boot camp

The right boot camp and the motivated boot camper might achieve the same results for much less money: On the other hand, I do believe that in certain cases, these bootcamp graduates may be as competitive and even potentially more knowledgeable than university graduates. This, however, depends on how proactive these bootcamp graduates are in developing a strong foundation for computer science algorithms and theory. While the average code camp might teach you the ins and outs of Javascript and help you get a web app up and running pretty quickly, I do think it’s still essential to know various algorithms and key data structures purely because that’s what tech companies expect nowadays. Since these do seem to be the expectations for the most part, I think it’s important to at least attend a boot camp that still considers these topics essential or devote hours of personal time to studying these topics. For example, in the blog post about what happened after a boot camp attendee graduated, he emphasized that preparing for interviews was essentially a full time job and the number of offers he received ended up only being 2.8% of the jobs he applied to.

Short time span: If one wants to get up and running quickly in coding, then a boot camp is definitely the best option. You can avoid spending hours a week for several months a year on seemingly less useful classes like Philosophy and Literature. This, however, would make more sense for someone who wants to specialize entirely in technology and doesn’t feel pressured to have a more rounded education.

Blend of the two

I think a more sensible option might be to combine the quick pace of boot camp with the comprehensive nature and prestige of college in a two year college degree in computer science. This accelerated degree would only be suitable for people who were certain that they wanted to do computer science as it would only require fundamental computer science classes. Despite its accelerated nature and lower cost, it would still provide important foundational knowledge and a degree to ensure that its graduates landed good jobs. One important consideration in this type of program though would be that it can’t just award you with an associate’s degree. Because these companies are looking for bachelor degrees, this program would somehow have to result in an accelerated bachelor degree. I’m not sure if it would be possible, but I do think cutting classes like Physics I-II and Chemistry would be a good place to start!

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