Having a tough time choosing the best coding bootcamp for you? Not sure whether the bootcamp you’ve just been admitted to is legit?
As Codeup‘s admissions director, I speak to dozens of current and prospective students everyday. I’m here to help cut through the noise and share feedback from those students, and help you on your path to picking the best coding bootcamp for you.
Program fit and quality are key to launching a successful career as a software developer, and there are six non-negotiables to keep in mind as you make your decision.
6 Tips For Picking the Best Coding Bootcamp (TL;DR)
- Learn from the pros. Be sure you’ll have lots of access to experienced, passionate instructors.
- Quality over quantity. Be wary of schools with lots of campuses. You don’t want to end up at a diploma mill!
- In-person, not online! Schools with in-person learning environments produce better programmers.
- Do they put their money where their mouth is? Check out the school’s job placement opportunities and/or job guarantee.
- Networking! Ask about how the school gets students integrated in the local tech community.
- Keep an eye on funding options, especially those from non-profit sources. Even if you don’t qualify for a grant or scholarship, it means the school has been vetted by third parties.
1. Lots of 1:1 Time with Qualified, Experienced Instructors
We’ve all dealt with disengaged teachers, but at a good program, you shouldn’t have to. Be sure that there’s a full staff of bona fide instructors that maximize individual attention and mutual accountability.
College computer science courses are heavy on theory, light on useful applications. That’s great for some folks, but a good immersive coding program gives you the tools you need to get a job, and it’s best to learn from people who’ve been using them to build creations of their own. When reviewing instructors’ credentials, look past the fancy degrees and give brownie points for web development jobs and industry savvy.
With that in mind, some of the most brilliant software developers simply aren’t the greatest teachers. You want to be sure your instructors love interacting with students, explaining complex concepts to beginners, and offering one-on-one help whenever needed.
Also, when possible, be sure to do a campus visit and meet the instructional staff. The program staff should always be open to this.
2. Fewer Locations = Higher Quality
Alright, I’ll say it. Be wary of coding schools with multiple campuses. Some bootcamps are decent in one city and terrible in another. It’s much easier for a program to give you quality, individualized attention when the staff and instructors aren’t answering to people in a different time zone.
There’s decades of evidence for this. The country’s best universities hunker down in one spot and focus on student success. Money-hungry diploma mills have locations in strip malls from coast-to-coast, some of which are known for high dropout rates and have been banned from recruiting military personnel. As with any decision in higher ed, choosing a focused coding bootcamp makes all the difference.
You’ve probably heard people compare learning programming to learning spoken languages. There are lots of similarities, but there’s a big one to keep in mind: immersion. Both types of languages are learned best through using the language all day, every day, with other people, for an extended period of time.
A coding bootcamp worth your time should provide a collaborative environment that immerses you in code. You’ll be able to sharpen your new skills alongside a team of experts and vetted fellow students. Instructors push you to the next level, and when the going gets tough, you can always ask one of your bright classmates—a whole group of bright classmates, in fact!
4. A Stellar Job Placement Record
What’s the end game of any good coding program? Getting you a well-paid job at a company you like!
First, check out the schools’s job placement rate. If their admissions strategy and teaching are solid, it should be north of 90% over six months. This means they’re accepting students who will succeed as developers, not just anyone who can pay the tuition.
Next, take a look at the list of companies where alumni take jobs. Are they all funneled into one industry? What’s the ratio of startups to corporations? A diverse set of post-grad placements suggests you’ll learn the programming skills necessary to succeed in any work environment.
Also, make sure the school is willing to put its money where its mouth is. Good programs should guarantee you a job in a timely fashion or else give you a significant refund.
Would you rather start something of your own? Even better! Keep reading below.
5. Ecosystem, Ecosystem, Ecosystem
Collaborative workspaces, like Geekdom in San Antonio, allow entrepreneurs to build new business and products together. Notable local tech companies like Rackspace and top-tier startup accelerators are also key indicators of a healthy ecosystem and provide important funding sources for new ventures. Cities with diverse, technology-heavy industries (e.g., healthcare, military, energy, aeronautics, automotive, and advanced manufacturing) also offer a strong commercial base to support tech entrepreneurs and job seekers.
As you start to build things, it’s also nice to be in a somewhat smaller ecosystem. Getting in on the ground floor of a growing tech scene gives you access to willing and able mentors. Smaller tech cities also tend to have lower costs of living. A new software engineer often finds it helpful to be a big fish in a friendly, easy-to-navigate pond, where the tech community’s got her back in times of success and failure.
6. Ample Funding Options
Keep an eye out for schools with various funding options. Many offer loans that allow students to defer payments until after graduation. That’s a huge plus, but you should also ask about non-profit tuition grants and scholarships. And should you not qualify for these benefits, at least you can rest assured that third parties have vetted your school and its leadership is serious increasing access to education.
So…which coding bootcamp is right for you?
Immersive coding programs can get you started on an exciting new career path. That said, big life transitions aren’t easy. It’s important to find the right program, and we encourage all applicants to vet their options for how well each school teaches and accommodates their students.
If you have any questions or comments about Codeup, or anything else, we’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or schedule a phone call. We’ll be in touch shortly.