A Realistic Perspective Of The Pros And Cons Of Coding Bootcamps

Thoughts and considerations from a working bootcamp graduate

Braden Shipley
Jul 4, 2019 · 7 min read

Bootcamps are a great way to move into a new career with little experience. It was why I went to my bootcamp, and why I recommend them to others (with certain caveats and a hefty grain of salt). Being able to go from zero experience in technology or programming to working as a Software Engineer for a Fortune 500 Company in six months is enough to convince me of their value.

I knew I had to make a career change. I was working private security after finishing my military career, and was making ends meet just enough to support my wife and our three dogs. When we learned my wife was pregnant with our first child, that paycheck didn’t seem to be so large after all. I had planned on going back to school the coming fall, but suddenly I couldn’t justify the time commitment. After a lot of research and a lot of budgeting, I realized that if I started at DevMountain at the very next cohort start date, I could finish 7 days before my son’s due date. Plenty of time! Looking back on the course, there were a lot of things that proved beneficial, and some that were less so.

To be forthcoming, I am not bashing bootcamps as an alternative to formal education. I loved my experience at my bootcamp, but I’m not blind to the inherent flaws of such a fast-paced system. There are things bootcamps could focus on more. Or at minimum, there are things for a bootcamp student or aspiring student to try to teach themselves. Technology is constantly evolving and no single degree/course/what-have-you will fully prepare you for a job. You’ll have to learn how to teach yourself eventually.

TLDR:

Cons: Large upfront cost, focus on modern languages and frameworks, lack of emphasis on computer science concepts, sterilized learning environments, and overhyped job search assistance and alumni networks

You’ll notice some things are in both columns. Big shock, right?


The average annual in-state four year college tuition in Texas was $15,399/year for the 2017–2018 academic year.

-U.S. Department of Education

Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

The Cost

Is the cost worth it? Can you even afford it? Sure there are loans, but the grace period will end in a couple months and you’ll be required to starting chipping away at the payments regardless of if you’ve found a job or not. These are all things to think about, and if you don’t have the financial means to both pay upfront, and cover your financial needs during the course (rent, food, gas, etc) then you can spread yourself pretty thin. I happened to be fortunate enough to make it work, but living off only my wife’s income was a stretch for us. I think the cost is worth it in the long run, as I’m making over twice what I was making August of last year. Your results may vary.


React was a huge selling point for my bootcamp, but will the job you get have you writing React?

Modern Frameworks

“As a Lead JavaScript Engineer, I try to get my team to write as little JavaScript as possible.”
― Anonymous

React was sold to me as the end all be all of javascript development. And it may be! I think it’s a great framework, and I much prefer writing React code to vanilla Javascript. That might be because in my bootcamp I wrote no more than 50 lines of vanilla Javascript, and every single other piece of code was React. I was sure that when I went to interviews I’d be asked about React Hooks and Redux, but I wasn’t. The conversation regarding what I knew about React was brief, and quickly moved on to Object Oriented Languages. My job is almost 100% Java, which I knew absolutely nothing about prior to starting.

“Practical” Knowledge

I had no idea how to answer these questions. I knew how to do some things, but couldn’t really tell you the nuts and bolts of why. And whenever I gave explanations or examples, deep in my heart I felt like I was bullshitting. I walked away from that phone call with a large amount of homework.

I feel like a lot of bootcamps focus on specific languages or tech stacks without really focusing on the core fundamentals of what’s happening. The “rules” for coding are the same regardless of what language you write in, and more focus should be put on the theoretical aspects of software.

Sterilized Learning Environments

“Formal education will make you a living. Self-education will make you a fortune.”
Jim Rohn

Most students at bootcamps will make 3–4 smaller projects during their time. In three months I completed a simple “No Database” project, a full-stack personal project, and group project. All three were helpful learning experiences, and gave credibility to my resume when I started looking for work. I think projects like that are great, and I wish the bootcamp had been longer so that I could have done and learned more during the cohort. There were also daily labs and lectures that involved much more hand-holding, and where solutions were given ahead of time. Like many people, I find it hard to learn concepts deeply if all the answers are given to me. This is most likely a necessary evil due to the short time frame in comparison to formal education. If you are anything like me, you should expect to have to relearn things constantly until they stick.

Overhyped Job Search Assistance and Alumni Networks

To Sum It Up

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Braden Shipley

Written by

Husband and Father. Dog lover and Food Enthusiast. Software Engineer at IBM.

The Startup

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