23 Things Aspiring Developers Should Know About Online Coding Bootcamps
Coding bootcamps exist to help people gain the skills they need to transition into a career in web development. They’re designed to provide a more direct path to this goal. Instead of spending 4 years on a CS degree, you can work really, really hard for a few months in a bootcamp and put yourself in a position to get a developer job.
If you’ve looked at the different paths to becoming a developer, you’ve probably heard of a coding bootcamp. These days, the well-known schools include places like DevBootcamp, Hack Reactor, and General Assembly.
Online coding bootcamps- which require the same rigor and intensity of in-person bootcamps, offer a slightly different approach to the bootcamp model. Students can learn during hours that work best for them, since there are no defined school hours. Teaching can be provided through 1-on-1 mentorship with a professional software engineer, but some bootcamps don’t offer this. And students leverage an active community of other students to engage in peer learning and get answers to their questions whenever they are in need.
In general, there’s a lot less information out there about online coding bootcamps compared to their in-person counterparts.
Since a coding bootcamp is a significant investment, and making a decision on the right one has important career implications, it’s essential to know all your options to figure out what works best for you.
Given that, we wanted to highlight 23 of the most important things about online coding bootcamps to get more information out there. We hope that after reading this post, you’ll have a more complete understanding of how to pick the right bootcamp for you.
1. Not all online coding bootcamps teach the same way.
Most online coding bootcamps are designed to teach the topics that are relevant to switching careers. However, each online bootcamp is structured a little differently.
Some offer 1-on-1 mentorship and some do not.
Many online coding bootcamps set you up with a senior developer to pair program. You typically do this through Google Hangouts or a similar video chat. 1-on-1 mentorship is a strategy that bootcamps use to help students overcome areas they’re struggling in, and help them reach as many “a-ha” moments as possible. But while most online bootcamps offer 1-on-1 mentorship, other online bootcamps do not.
Some give students support when they get stuck and some do not.
Something as silly as a typo or wrong-case letter can be the difference between a working program and a non-working one. Because of this, it can be helpful for students to quickly get help on simple problems to allow them to continue to make progress.
Rather than struggling for hours on the same problem, reaching out and getting help quickly can give you the insight you need in 10 painless minutes. Without the proper support, that 10 minutes could turn into a frustrating 4+ hours.
Some guide people through written lessons, some use video lessons, and some use both.
The content that an online coding bootcamp provides can exist in a variety of different formats, including written lessons and video lessons. In-person coding bootcamps also often integrate recorded lectures into their instruction as well.
2. Depending on the bootcamp, the pricing models are different.
Some online coding bootcamps have a fixed-cost tuition. Others set a monthly fee for access to the curriculum and support community, since the amount of time each student spends coding could be different.
3. You can attend regardless of your geographic location.
Since the only thing you need to attend an online coding bootcamp is access to an internet source, your geographic location isn’t important. Obviously this isn’t the case with in-person coding bootcamps.
Most in-person bootcamps are located in popular cities, like New York City, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, or London. So if you want to attend one of these, you’ll have to move to the host city of your bootcamp and factor in commuting time. You can attend online coding bootcamps if you live in these cities, but ultimately, you don’t need to. You can really live and code wherever you want.
4. Most online coding bootcamps offer a peer community.
Most online coding bootcamps allow students to interact in different ways. Many use a real-time chat system, like Slack. Some will offer additional aspects to help foster the community and drive interactions between students at an even deeper level.
In can be helpful to interact with other students who are going through the same ups and downs of learning to code as you.
5. The online coding bootcamp industry is growing.
Recently, many in-person coding bootcamps have ventured into the online coding bootcamp space. Examples of companies recently moving into the online coding bootcamp space are:
- Launch Academy (Boston-based)
- Flatiron School (New York City-based)
- Hack Reactor Remote (San Francisco-based)
- Fullstack Academy (New York- and Chicago-based)
This means there are a number of coding bootcamps that focus part of their energy on teaching online, and there are other bootcamps that put all their energy into teaching online.
6. You don’t need to quit your job to attend an online coding bootcamp.
Since you can code on your own time instead of the fixed time required by an in-person classroom, you can learn web development when it works best for you. Generally, online coding bootcamps are more flexible. You can learn full-time if you want, but you can also learn on nights and weekends if it works better for you.
This means that you don’t need to quit your job to attend an online coding bootcamp.
7. They provide the structure for learning web development.
There are many different skills that aspiring web developers need to obtain. And there are various online courses scattered across the internet that teach different aspects of programming. But with online coding bootcamps, you don’t need to figure out a path and a plan on your own.
Most online coding bootcamps will teach all of these topics.
- The Rails Framework
- Test-Driven Development (TDD)
Since you get all of these topics at the right time, you won’t need to glue together separate courses.
8. Since online coding bootcamps teach all the aspects of web development, they can go much deeper than most other courses.
Most online programming courses are generally targeted at either:
- Absolute beginners who have no knowledge in the subject. This is done to reach the widest possible audience.
- Self-sufficient developers, who have a solid amount of programming experience already.
If you’re in the intermediate developer stage, it can be difficult to learn from these on-off online courses because it’s hard to explain exactly what an intermediate developer actually is. This means that it can be difficult to bridge the gap from surface-level knowledge to deep understanding.
By providing a complete learning path that spans a couple months, online coding bootcamps can help you slowly ramp up to more and more complex topics. Ultimately, they help students become self-sufficient developers.
9. Online coding bootcamps aren’t for everyone. Being successful in an online coding bootcamp requires motivation and work.
Universities and traditional coding bootcamps require attendance in a physical location. This is the place where you’ll spend time doing the work, learning, and coding. There is no physical place that you need to be in order to attend an online bootcamp. Online bootcamps are not for people who need others to force them to put in the work.
Students who attend online coding bootcamps must have the discipline and work ethic to do the work, even when someone isn’t looking over their shoulder.
10. After you graduate an online coding bootcamp, your coding routine doesn’t need to change.
Most people acknowledge you should continue to code during the time between attending a coding bootcamp and landing a job as a web developer. It’s important to continue to work on projects, solve coding challenges, and fine-tune your craft.
Graduates of in-person coding bootcamps need to adjust their routines after they graduate. Since they are no longer coding in the physical location of the bootcamp, they need to find a way to get into a new habit and new places to concentrate (like coffee shops) to keep their skills fresh.
On the flip side, graduates of online coding bootcamps develop the routines they need to thrive after graduating their program while in the program itself.
11. Most online coding bootcamps do not have job placement networks.
Most online coding bootcamps do not have job placement networks or career days where they help place students. Although the efficacy of the job placement of in-person bootcamps is debatable, students who graduate an online coding bootcamp will usually need to find a job using the skills and strategies they learn in the bootcamp.
Knowing how to tackle the web developer job search is something you should learn at any coding bootcamp. This is because after you land your first job as a developer, you’ll need to go through the process again if you want to move on to a second position.
This means that after graduating an online coding bootcamp, graduates will need to search for job listings, apply for positions, and participate in the normal interview process. This isn’t very different from the process that students with Computer Science degrees need to take to get their first job.
12. Good online coding bootcamps are designed to be as rigorous (if not more) than in-person bootcamps.
Many in-person coding bootcamps do not cover the fundamentals of computer science. This includes things like algorithms and data structures, which are key to standing out in the job search. Often, they don’t cover these topics because they are difficult to learn and people tend to need to learn them at their own speed.
In an online coding bootcamp, you can learn computer science fundamentals at your own pace.
13. Online coding bootcamps have less opportunity costs than in-person bootcamps.
In-person coding bootcamps require you spend specific times in a physical classroom. Opportunity costs refer to missing the opportunity to do something in order to do something else.
One of the biggest costs of attending a coding bootcamp is the loss of a salary in the time between positions. For example, if you’re currently making $60,000/year and you quit your job to attend a 3-month-long coding bootcamp, you need to consider the money you forego by not working for 3 months. In this scenario, it would be $15,000. If you factor in the time you’ll need to find a job, undergo the interview process, etc. this number will be even higher. And this doesn’t even include the actual tuition that you’d pay to attend.
If you’re able to keep your job while also going through a bootcamp, these opportunity costs, which are often significant, can be avoided altogether.
14. Online coding bootcamps are generally more affordable than in-person programs.
A big cost for brick-and-mortar coding bootcamps is paying for a space that is large enough to accommodate the students, instructors, and teaching assistants. By bypassing this requirement altogether, online coding bootcamps can be more affordable and accessible for students.
15. Future employers will care more about your technical skill than where you learned the skill.
Most employers will care a lot less about where you learned the technical skills than the technical skills themselves. This means that a big part of the technical interview is designed to tease out your strengths as a developer.
Your strength and performance in a technical interview is more important than the name of the bootcamp you attended. And the technical interview involves a process called whiteboarding, which is probably more comprehensive than you may be expecting. Your coding bootcamp needs to adequately prepare you to nail this difficult part of the technical interview.
16. The experience at the end of an online coding bootcamp will be similar to working remotely as a developer for a company.
Prior to graduating an online coding bootcamp, you should go through the experience of building out features on a web application without detailed instructions. Being able to add features to a web application on your own, without following any instruction, means you’ve successfully become a self-sufficient developer.
17. Some online coding bootcamps have group projects and some do not.
Most in-person coding bootcamps have students collaborate together and work as a team with things like:
- Code reviews
- Advanced use of git and GitHub
Some online coding bootcamps will also offer these types of experiences to students as well.
18. Some online coding bootcamps teach algorithms and data structures and some do not.
This is true of in-person bootcamps, as well. A mastery of algorithms and data structures is a key skill that maps to how the technical interview process works at most companies.
19. The level of experience of the teaching staff will vary greatly in different bootcamps.
The quality of the instructors will vary greatly. When evaluating the instructors at various bootcamps, you need to look at the time they’ve spent in the industry, how they’ve mastered their craft, and their experience working directly with junior developers.
There are some online coding bootcamps where most of the teaching is done by students who recently graduated the bootcamp themselves and don’t have any relevant real-world experience at all. This isn’t good. Other online coding bootcamps carefully vet their teaching staff and ensure that they have enough relevant real-world skills. These are the bootcamps that you want to choose.
20. If you drop out of an online coding bootcamp, the amount of money you’re refunded will be different.
Most online coding bootcamps offer some form of a pro-rated refund and will reimburse students if they need to drop out of the course. Dropping out of the course can generally happen in one of two scenarios:
- The student is dissatisfied with their bootcamp experience.
- Unexpected personal situations come up.
Most in-person coding bootcamps don’t offer these types of refunds. And some online coding bootcamps have fees, or scenarios where a pro-rated refund is not allowed. If you’re considering any type of bootcamp, you should ask about these types of things.
21. Some online coding bootcamps accept everyone. Others require students to prove themselves first.
There are some online coding bootcamps where you can just visit their website and enroll without any technical skill at all.
Other coding bootcamps require prospective students to prove themselves by solving coding challenges first. By requiring prospective students to solve certain challenges first, these coding bootcamps ensure that the students that enroll and pay:
- Have the work ethic and motivation to learn to code.
- Have spent enough time coding to understand whether they genuinely enjoy the craft enough to make a career of it.
The level of selectiveness online coding bootcamps have is directly correlated with the probability of a successful outcome after attending the program.
22. Some online coding bootcamps have pre-work and some do not.
Prior to enrolling and starting in a coding bootcamp, some have requirements that must be met first. Students who do work prior to their official start date have an advantage over students who don’t.
23. Most online coding bootcamps teach web development.
Most online coding bootcamps teach the same technologies. The most common technologies are:
The reason these technologies are taught is because they’re commonly used in industry. After attending an online coding bootcamp and becoming proficient in programming, however, many graduates get other types of development jobs including:
- iOS or Android development
- Development in different programming languages, like Java or C#
Overall, online coding bootcamps are a viable way to launch a career as a developer.
There are pros and cons to both online coding bootcamps and in-person bootcamps. For some people, in-person is the right way to go. But for other people, online is a better option. They might be the right answer for you if:
- You cannot afford the opportunity cost of quitting your job.
- You’d prefer to spend all of your time learning development and not spend any time commuting to a physical location.
- You’re productive when working remotely.
But know that the different online coding bootcamps on the market are fairly different. You need to do your research and find the best option for you.
If you’re interested in getting a taste of what online bootcamps are actually like, try our free 2-week Intro Course and see how you like it.
This post originally appeared on the Firehose blog, where I write stories about career advice, learning to code, and making it happen. To get these in your inbox about twice a week, just subscribe to our newsletter here.