What Should You Expect From a Coding Bootcamp?

Coding bootcamps are a popular way to transition into a technical career. So, what should you expect to get out of one?

Written by Alex Zito-Wolf
Published on Nov. 18, 2021
What Should You Expect From a Coding Bootcamp?
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If you’re considering a career transition through a coding bootcamp, you may be overwhelmed with information and unsure of what to expect. Bootcamps are intensive training programs that promise to arm new developers with the skills they need to move into the tech workforce, but the specific offerings of each are quite variable. Bootcamps are both expensive and time-consuming, so if you’re thinking about taking one, you should know beforehand what you will and won’t get out of it. 

As someone who made my own career transition seven years ago through one of the first bootcamps in the industry, I understand how challenging this decision can be. Insider information like this will allow you to confidently take your first step towards becoming an engineer.

What Is a Coding Bootcamp?

Bootcamps are intensive training programs that promise to arm new developers with the skills they need to move into the tech workforce, but the specific offerings of each are quite variable.

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Question: What will I learn?

What you should expect

You will learn an astounding amount of material. One can absorb an incredible amount of information when they dedicate themself to it day in and day out, as is the format for most coding bootcamps. You will likely spend your time after class watching videos and reading about the material. You’ll need to stay up late working on assignments, and you’ll stretch your mind in ways you never thought possible. I recommend keeping a blog or writing a journal while at school, which serves the dual purpose of helping retain more information and giving you a resource to look back on after.

What You Shouldn’t Expect

To learn everything. Even the most thorough four-year computer science education doesn’t give students complete mastery of the topics in the field. So, you shouldn’t expect to be a senior developer after you graduate from a 12-week bootcamp. You’ll have the ability to put together the pieces of a web application and understand the infrastructure that hosts applications and makes them accessible to the public. 

Go in ready to learn and aware of how deep the field of computer science is and how much you won’t know.


Question: What Will I Do Next?

What You Should Expect

Your programming bootcamp will change your perspective. If you haven’t ever made a career transition before, you’ll find that an exhilarating feeling comes with taking a step out into essentially unknown territory and learning enough to make yourself a valuable asset in a new field. You’ll need to cultivate flexibility and adaptability to excel.

What You Shouldn’t Expect

Your bootcamp won’t show you what to do with your skills after you graduate. I’ve seen many programming school graduates who absorbed the lessons in class diligently and effectively, only to not take responsibility when it mattered most — after graduation. This hesitation about what your career should look like after the bootcamp can be self-destructive, so start focusing on your post graduation goals at least a month before your graduation date. 


Question: Who Will Your Teachers Be? 

What You Should Expect

Bootcamps are led by thoughtful, experienced and motivated teachers. Generally, they come from one of two places. Some come from industry, having already achieved some measure of success and wanting to further the field. Others, who generally serve as teaching assistants, have the same background as the students. They may have recently completed a course themselves and are ready to relay that same information to the next class.

What You Shouldn’t Expect

The greatest gift a teacher can give you is the ability to teach yourself, and your instructors at BootCamp will certainly teach you this lesson. Coding bootcamps are very demanding for both students and instructors, so you may not receive much one-on-one time with your instructor. As with all education, though, your own motivation and energy will draw teachers to you to give you more personal attention.


Question: What Are Remote Options Like?

What You Should Expect

In this day and age, it would be suicide for bootcamps to not offer an online format. This is a great thing for the industry, allowing bootcamps to save money on office and classroom spaces and students to enroll in otherwise inaccessible programs as well as to save money by not commuting. 

What You Shouldn’t Expect

All remote courses aren’t created equal. The downside of the ease of access remote learning provides is a flood of mediocre programs. Creating an online course requires just a few clicks, and some of these simply aren’t that good at teaching you to code. Before you pay for a coding bootcamp of any kind, do your research. Attend informational sessions and talk to a graduate of that program to get a feel for the experience and identify any red flags.

Following from the above point, some courses might sound appealing but, in practice, may not offer enough material to actually allow you to make a career transition. The best strategy to follow here is to look at some of the schools that have very well-regarded developer curricula (for example, Flatiron School) and to use their cost/offering ratio as a benchmark for your decision. As a rule of thumb, if the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.


Question: What Kind of Salary Increase Can I Expect?

What You Should Expect

The rewards of taking a bootcamp can be substantial. A study in 2017 found an average salary increase of 50 percent of the attendees’ previous incomes. Programming is a fairly in-demand skill set that can lead to some high-paying professions.

What You Shouldn’t Expect

You probably won’t be qualified right after graduation to land a high-paying job. The immersive learning that comes from a bootcamp is exponential, so if you come into the program with a solid background and understanding of basic concepts, you’ll get more out of your bootcamp and may be hirable directly after graduation. If you come into the program with only the minimum preparatory work finished, however, you’ll likely still need some time before you are ready to land your first job. There are internships and co-ops in some larger companies that will give you the freedom to learn more after graduation and get yourself ready for your first job.  

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The Takeaway

Immersing oneself in a new topic offers a plethora of benefits, and computer science and software development are areas that I personally believe are worth investing your time in learning. If you’re just beginning your research, I would recommend starting from some of the most widely known bootcamps, like Thinkful, Coding Dojo, General Assembly and Flatiron School, understand their offerings and then work from there to find a model that works best for you. Expectations are everything, and setting them straight before you start applying can make a world of difference.

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