What to Look for When Choosing a Bootcamp
This piece was written by Erica Freedman, Client and Content Specialist at SwitchUp.org
For many, a coding bootcamp can be the perfect opportunity to switch to a tech career. These programs can be offline or online, part-time or full-time, and generally require far less time and investment that a four-year degree.
If you think a coding bootcamp could be a great fit for your career goals, you're probably wondering how to get started.. What do you look for when trying to choose a bootcamp? How do you know if it's the right fit? No matter the focus, the core components that make the best programs stand-out from the rest are consistent. To make things easier, we've compiled a list of the most important things to consider when comparing coding bootcamp programs.
What Are Your Goals?
Much like college or university, we ask potential students to consider their personal, financial and career-focused goals. Are you trying to:
- Acquire new skills?
- Increase your salary?
- Land your first job?
- Find more fulfillment at work?
These are all vastly different reasons to invest in bootcamp programs. Some bootcamps are focused on job placement while others are targeted at university graduates looking to transition into more specific career tracks.
Read school summaries or about sections as a first step towards understanding the program and school. You'll also want to weight whether the format of the school is the best fit for your goals, as bootcamps range from part-time, online programs to rigorous in-person courses.
Capitalize on Free Events
Don't be afraid to go to the school for a free coding session or info session. Often, code bootcamps have these events listed on Facebook and Eventbrite. Some schools host events on a monthly or even bi-weekly basis, and offer intro courses, basic code skills, or a deeper dive into their program.
Attending one of these sessions may enable you to:
- Connect with teachers or administrative staff
- Give you a taste of their learning process
- Clear up anything unclear on the school website
Such sessions are both cost and risk-free. Plus, many schools offer them in an online format, so you can easily attend from anywhere! You only have skills and experience to gain from attending.
Many schools boast one-on-one mentorship, a career services team or even a job guarantee after you graduate from their program. With a strong career services department, a bootcamp can help students land high-paying, quality careers that are aligned with their personal and professional goals. When you research a bootcamp, see if they:
- Offer mentorship
- Help you practice interviewing
- Aim their curriculum towards portfolio development
- Guarantee jobs after graduation
Note: We used the word quality when referring to job placement above. Transparency is key when looking at job placement statistics. Make sure you ask not only if students are being placed in jobs after graduation, but also typical job titles and graduate salaries.
When comparing job outcomes statistics, be sure to ask your school for a third-party verified outcomes report. These reports will give you a detailed breakdown about how a school reports and publishes outcomes.
Pricing and Financial Support
Compared with university programs, bootcamps are known for offering significantly lower upfront tuition. Many programs offer additional discounts or scholarships, or in-house financing that offers interest-free loan options. If you are intimidated by the thought of funding your dream, know that there are options.
The cost of the bootcamp itself can also play a huge role in determining your perfect program. Bootcamps can have very low costs depending on their location, level of one-on-one support and a slew of other factors.
Scholarships are also a great option for students in a financial bind. Many bootcamp programs offer diversity scholarships. This comprehensive Women in Tech Scholarship list offers bootcamps focused on bringing more women into the tech space.
Are you a veteran? There are bootcamps that accept the GI Bill as well.
See What Students Have to Say
Because regulations for tech programs vary, prospective students can depend on the experiences and feedback of alumni to find quality programs. "There are currently 120 in-person bootcamps and hundreds of part-time and online programs available worldwide," based on SwitchUp's research. While choice can be good, it can also make it difficult to find what is just right for you.
Many bootcamp alumni leave reviews on site like Quora, Google, Facebook and Medium, or on a review site like SwitchUp.
Personal accounts are important because they take students beyond marketing statsor publicity, and provide valuable first-hand experience. Their on-the-ground perspective is unlike anyone else's. It can help you understand the big picture, from the beginning of your research through to your career in tech.
The reviews on Switchup include how programs helped students before, during and after their attendance. If you're curious about pre-work, info sessions, career services or even the application process, all of these details can be found on the alumni reviews page for each individual school.
There is a lot to consider when choosing a coding bootcamp, but the research is worth it. This is a huge investment of time and money. A little effort will go a long way as you change careers and follow your dreams.