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A picture of two people looking at a laptop placed next to a desktop, both displaying code. Coding Bootcamp vs College

Coding Bootcamp vs College: What’s Best for Your Career?

There are countless educational routes that can help you land your dream tech, data science, FinTech, or business intelligence job. Among them are coding bootcamps and traditional colleges. 

This article puts coding bootcamp training and college education side by side so that you can draw your own conclusions regarding what’s the best route for you. We discuss average tuition costs, return on investment, and the advantages and drawbacks of each option, among other key factors.

Coding Bootcamp: An Alternative to Traditional Education

A coding bootcamp is a short-term tech training program that lasts from a few weeks to several months and prepares students for entry-level roles in tech. Most bootcamps offer ample career placement services in addition to project-based technical skills training.

You can attend foundational or advanced bootcamps depending on your tech background. There are bootcamp programs for the most in-demand tech skills, including data science, data analytics, computer science, web design, and software development. You can also find programs that cover FinTech, cyber security, business intelligence, machine learning, and product development. 

Can You Get a Job with Just a Coding Bootcamp?

Yes, you can get a job with a coding bootcamp education. Bootcamp graduates often land lucrative positions in the tech industry and work for leading companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, NASA, Dell, Deloitte, and JPMorgan Chase. 

According to Flatiron School’s job placement report, 86 percent of its global online and on-campus students are employed. Moreover, software engineering students that graduated from its Seattle campus earn an average salary of $77,164. Plenty of other coding bootcamps report similar statistics. A report from General Assembly shows that 90.5 percent of its 2019 full-time students got a job within 180 days of graduation. 

Coding Bootcamp vs College Degree: Side-by-Side Comparison

Coding Bootcamp Computer Science Degree
Average Tuition: $13,584 Average Tuition: $28,123 per year
Average Duration: 16.5 weeks Average Duration: Four years
Curriculum: Full stack development, software engineering, coding, and computer science fundamentals Curriculum: Foundational to advanced degree courses in information technology and computer science
Job Readiness: Bootcamps teach you relevant skills through hands-on project-based learning. Most also provide career placement services Job Readiness: Degree programs prioritize theory over the practical skills needed to gain employment
Repute: Bootcamps are a relatively new form of education and not as reputable as college degrees. However, a growing number of employers are hiring bootcamp grads Repute: Degrees are the standard educational route and employers highly value a college diploma

Coding Bootcamp vs College Degree: Factors that Matter

There are several factors to take into consideration when choosing an education pathway. You should look into the cost of each educational path as well as the curriculum, return on investment, and time commitment. Finally, consider also your career goals and how each option will help achieve them. Below you will find an in-depth description of these factors and a winner for each section. 

Cost

The difference between the average cost of a coding bootcamp and an undergraduate computer science program is massive. The cost of a coding bootcamp can vary widely. While you can find free coding bootcamps, some will cost more than $20,000. On average, however, bootcamps cost around $13,500.

Computer science degrees, on the other hand, cost an average of $28,123, which includes tuition, fees, room, and board. Take into consideration that this is a yearly figure. This means that to complete a four-year program, you will spend a total of $112,492 on average.

To help students finance their education, both bootcamps and universities have plenty of financing options. Bootcamps offer income share agreements, private loans, installment plans, upfront payment and military discounts, and scholarships. 

University students have access to many of the same financing options but they also can use federal and state student aid. However, income share agreements, which allow you to attend a program and only start paying once you land a job, are hard to come by in an academic context.

It is also worth noting that because university tuition is more expensive than bootcamp tuition, the interest rate and loan amount will differ significantly. All in all, when it comes to cost, there is a clear winner: a bootcamp education is much cheaper than a college degree. 

Winner: Coding bootcamp

ROI

The return on investment (ROI) for a coding bootcamp and a computer science degree program varies depending on your career goals, learning preferences, and financial situation. Other factors that influence the ROI are cost, career outcomes, and time commitment. 

Coding bootcamps are a cheaper and shorter alternative to a computer science degree. If you are looking to get job-ready quickly at an affordable price, then a bootcamp education has a higher ROI.

On the other hand, a computer science degree is currently the standard requirement across all industries and is a qualification trusted by all employers. You are more likely to land a well-paying job with a college education than with bootcamp training. In other words, if you have the money to finance a college degree and the patience to wait for years before joining the job market, then a college degree has a higher ROI. 

All in all, the return on investment of each education path will vary depending on your personal circumstances. However, given that coding bootcamps can help you land a high-paying job in just a matter of months and for a fraction of the cost of an academic degree, we have to declare coding bootcamps the winner for this section.

Winner: Coding bootcamp

Time Commitment

A coding bootcamp is an intensive program that can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to complete. The average time commitment for a bootcamp is 16.5 weeks. By contrast, an undergraduate college degree lasts an average of four years but can take longer depending on your major and personal circumstances. 

A bootcamp will help you qualify for a junior position. To access an intermediate position, you will need to get additional job experience, which can take an additional two to three years. Although computer science degrees take longer to complete, they can take you straight to an intermediate role without additional industry experience. 

To sum up, if you are looking solely at the time commitment involved, then coding bootcamps are the clear winner. Most coding bootcamps can be completed in under five months compared to the four years that it takes to finish a college degree.

Winner: Coding bootcamp

Curriculum

The curriculum is an essential factor in determining whether a bootcamp program or a college degree is for you. A computer science bachelor’s degree covers a wide range of topics and you will end up with a well-rounded education that covers both theory and practice.

Bootcamps courses, on the other hand, focus on providing specialized, industry-relevant training. You will focus primarily on the technical skills, tools, and technologies that will get you hired, with minimal attention paid to theoretical concepts.

If you are looking to gain skills in a specific tech field, then a coding bootcamp curriculum is a great fit for you. However, if you are looking for a broad tech education that will give you a deeper understanding of computer science, then a university degree is the best choice.

Winner: College degree 

Career Goals

It is crucial to take your career goals into account when deciding whether a bootcamp or a college degree is the right fit for you. A coding bootcamp prepares you for a junior-level position in the tech field. You can become an IT support specialist, junior software developer, database administrator, or network administrator by attending a bootcamp. 

On the other hand, if your career ambition is to become chief technology officer, head of cyber security, or vice president of information technology, then a college degree will serve you better. Typically, employers seek a candidate with at least an undergraduate degree to fill these senior roles. 

Winner: College degree

Coding Bootcamp vs College: Pros and Cons

A group of graduates throwing their graduation caps in the air. Coding Bootcamp vs College
Coding bootcamps and college degrees both have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Continue reading to find the pros and cons of a coding bootcamp and a college degree education. These concise lists are intended to help you determine which pathway is best suited for you.  

Coding Bootcamps Pros

  • Short time commitment: For those looking for a short-term intensive tech education that prepares them for a junior tech career, a coding bootcamp is the right option. You only need to invest a few weeks or months to complete a coding bootcamp. 
  • Affordable education: A coding bootcamp education will cost you an average of $13,584, which is much cheaper than a four-year degree. Several bootcamps also offer free courses that can help you penetrate the job market. 
  • In-demand skills training: Coding bootcamps follow a curriculum that incorporates the most in-demand skills in the industry. For example, at a front end development bootcamp, you learn JavaScript, CSS, development frameworks, and website performance optimization. 
  • Career placement services: Bootcamps offer a wide range of career placement services that help you land a job. They include resume critiques, portfolio development assistance, interview prep, and networking opportunities.  
  • Job guarantee: Several bootcamps also offer a job guarantee. This allows bootcamp graduates to get a tuition refund if they fail to secure a job within a specific period after graduation, usually six months.

Coding Bootcamps Cons

  • Narrow focus: Coding bootcamps do not offer the well-rounded education of a computer science degree. You will only learn topics that are specific to the particular subject you are studying.
  • Too demanding for some: Some students are not able to handle the fast-paced and intensive learning approach of coding bootcamps and end up quitting before graduation. 
  • Lower reputation: Compared to a computer science degree, a coding bootcamp certificate has less value in the industry. A college degree is still the standard educational requirement, though bootcamps are becoming more popular. 
  • Not as trusted among employers: Most employers continue to favor college graduates over coding bootcamp alumni.
  • Limited access to intermediate positions: A coding bootcamp generally qualifies you only for entry-level tech jobs. A college degree continues to be the standard requirement for intermediate and senior tech roles. 

College Degree Pros

  • Industry standard: A computer science college degree is the standard educational requirement across the majority of tech positions. 
  • Broad education: Degree programs cover a wide range of subjects in information technology. In a computer science degree, you will learn programming languages, computer science fundamentals, database management, software engineering, and cyber security, to name a few.
  • Diverse job opportunities: Because so many subject areas are covered in a degree program, graduates often have access to a wider range of job opportunities. After your degree, you can go into many sectors, including artificial intelligence, data science, software engineering, cyber security, or web design.
  • High salary: According to PayScale, the average salary of a computer science bachelor’s degree holder is $87,000. 
  • Career growth: A college degree in computer science can accelerate your career growth and give you access to senior tech professions. These include roles as a data scientist, cyber security analyst, senior software engineer, and information security expert. 

College Degree Cons

  • Big time investment: A college degree takes around four years to complete, which is very long compared to a coding bootcamp.
  • Higher cost: A four-year college degree costs $28,123 per year, which is much more than what you pay for a coding bootcamp.
  • Many graduates change fields: Many a college student ends up working in a field completely different from their major. Given the big monetary investment involved in completing an academic degree, this is an important fact to consider.
  • Fewer career placement services: Unlike most bootcamps, college degrees do not have a heavy emphasis on career placement services. 
  • No job guarantee: Although a college degree costs tens of thousands of dollars, it does not come with a guaranteed job. 

Coding Bootcamp vs Online Degree

The digital age has made college education more accessible via online degrees. If location is not a major factor for you, an online computer science degree is worth looking into. An online degree allows you to learn remotely while having access to the same curriculum and many of the same services you would enjoy in person.

Furthermore, online degrees are generally cheaper because you’ll save money on transportation and on-campus housing. Finally, some universities offer online degrees in a self-paced schedule, which is an ideal option for professionals with busy schedules. 

College vs Coding Bootcamp: Why Not Both?

The best educational route for you will depend on your career goals, financial situation, and learning preferences. Coding bootcamps are a worthy alternative to college degrees as they provide in-demand skills training within a short time frame and at an affordable price. However, college degrees remain the most common educational credential in the computer science field and will open up a wide range of career possibilities. 
But, who said you have to choose one or the other? Several industry professionals with bachelor’s degrees choose to attend a coding bootcamp to acquire specialized skills and enhance their professional profile. If you are a professional looking to advance in your career and finetune your technical skills, you should consider attending a top online coding bootcamp.

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