Coding Bootcamps have a storied history for the relatively short time they’ve been around. Most of them have well-designed websites with fancy illustrations showing their commitment to getting you placed in your dream job. Yet, there are countless YouTube videos and articles contradicting those claims. Why? From my personal experience, having attended a bootcamp myself, I believe it’s due to unrealistic expectations.
Before I dive into my tips for success, I think it’s important to discuss what a coding bootcamp is — under the hood.
Understanding Coding Bootcamps
If I’m teaching myself, why go at all?
- Teamwork. This is something best learned in an academic setting. You will be working with people of roughly similar skill to complete projects by leveraging the strengths of everyone on your team.
- Motivation. Working in a team is going to help you stay motivated to complete your tasks — hopefully. When you work alone it’s easy to be distracted and lose sight of your goal. But when you have team members counting on your contribution to a project, you are more likely to hold your feet to the fire and get work done.
- Networking. I can’t stress enough how important networking is. Build relationships with your instructors, fellow students, everyone. Go to public or remote events and network with other professionals. The entire industry is built on referrals, and networking is your best chance at landing your first job. I’ve referred probably 10–15 people throughout my career so far — several of them bootcamp grads — and all but one position I’ve landed has been a direct result of a referral. Also, don’t discount recruiters. Some people see them as a nuisance, but I see them as an opportunity to grow my network.
Now that you know bootcamps provide value, let’s discuss the various schedules you can enroll in. Most bootcamps are typically structured in two ways: a 6-month part-time cohort or a 3-month full-time cohort. Both of them will cost similar and share the same material. There are variations on this of course, but this is how it works for most institutions. With that it mind, let’s look at the differences between these two schedules.
Full-time (3 months)
- Least flexible schedule.
- Class is 8 hours per day, same as a full-time job.
- Not recommended to have a job while attending this compressed schedule. You need the extra time to focus on studying and project work.
- You will need to cram an immense amount of knowledge without getting to spend more than a week on a single subject. This may be good for people that already have a technical background and want to move quickly.
- Your large projects will be given less overall time to complete.
- You will have the knowledge required to be a junior developer in a shorter period of time.
Part-time (6 months)
- More flexible schedule. If you miss a day it wont be the end of the world.
- Class is usually 3–4 hours and only 3 days a week.
- You can work a full-time job and attend a part-time bootcamp. Keep in mind you will still need time to study and work on projects.
- More time to understand each topic. Usually have a few days to absorb the knowledge from a 3 hour class.
- You’ll have more time to complete your main projects. On average you’ll get an extra week, maybe two, which gives you plenty of time to add features and polish your teams work.
- It will take longer to graduate, so you won’t be prepared to look for a development job as quickly as a full-time student.
No matter which schedule you choose, you will need to dedicate large amounts of time outside of class to be successful. The schools typically advertise that you need to spend 20–25 hours per week working outside of class, but I find this number to be low. I went into bootcamp already knowing how to code in C# for Unity (a game engine), but I still spent roughly 40 hours per week — outside of the classroom — studying and working on projects.
My recommendation is to enroll in the part-time cohort. The extra time you will have to absorb the knowledge and work on projects is invaluable.
Your total work load will likely include the following:
- Listening to lectures
- Reading about a topic or technology taught in class
- Writing micro-applications for homework
- Learning about technologies you haven’t been taught in class (APIs, build tools, terminals)
- Preparing for your large projects (planning, design, team building)
- Coding full stack projects (probably 3 throughout the course)
Should You Attend a Bootcamp and Become a Developer?
If you can answer YES to all of the following questions, then I think you should attend a coding bootcamp. If you answer NO to any of these, then I would reconsider.
- Are you good at solving complex problems? Take the sample test here if you aren’t sure. If I were to weigh these questions, this would be 80%. Problem solving is what we do as developers.
- Do you enjoy learning and are you willing to do it throughout your entire career?
- Are you willing to work in a fast paced environment, usually with tight deadlines?
- Do you work well with teams?
- Are you willing to move to find a job? (only relevant if you live in a rural area; also, remote work is a possibility)
If you’ve made it this far and decided that a coding bootcamp is right for you, then congratulations! I look forward to hearing about your journey and wish you well on your endeavors.
In the next part I will discuss my tips for success at bootcamp, and how to maximize the benefit you will get from the experience.