This post originally appeared on Whats the Host.
Looking to start a career in computer science and development?
Investing in the training necessary to write code professionally could be among the most secure career decisions a person can make for their future.
The computer science and IT field boasts a projected job growth nearly three times the national average and a large salary to match. What’s more, American universities cannot seem to graduate enough Computer Science majors to meet the demand for qualified employees: in 2015, there were nearly 10 times more open positionsin this field than there were graduating CS majors.
So what’s keeping driven, capable individuals from this lucrative and in-demand profession?
4-year degrees aren’t the only option
Computer Science departments at colleges and universities across the U.S. have grown rapidly over the last decade or so. From 2006 to 2015, undergraduate enrollment for Computer Science tripled. Furthermore, demand for these coveted admissions slots always far exceeds the supply. Due to size and faculty constraints in higher education, not every qualified, aspiring CS major who applies will get in.
A Bachelor’s degree (at minimum) in Computer Science & Engineering or a related field was once considered the golden ticket to job security in a growing and well-paid field. But is higher education really the only way to a career in coding? And with exorbitant and increasing tuition costs, is a CS degree truly worth the debt? And for those looking to break into the field later in their career: does learning to code really require going back to school to get another degree?
If the booming market for coding bootcamps is any indication, no. A traditional degree is not your only option.
What are coding bootcamps?
Coding schools promise to be a viable alternative to accredited degree programs in Computer Science & Engineering. The coding bootcamp model is simple and innovative: in a fraction of the time and for a fraction of the price of a university degree, motivated individuals are taught the skills necessary to lead successful careers in computer, software, and web development. No previous knowledge or experience required.
Having first launched in 2012, the coding bootcamp model has really caught on. In the first five years after the first coding school was founded, coding bootcamp enrollment grew more than 1000%nationwide. More than 23,000 bootcampers completed their coursework in 2017 and joined the job market. This is a hugely impressive statistic when you consider that 80,000 CS majors graduate each year.
Coding bootcamp vs. computer science degree: which program is better?
It’s easy to see why a coding bootcamp may be an attractive option, but can a coding school crash-course truly stack up to a four-year degree? Which is the better option? The answer is complicated and depends on a lot of personal factors.
If you are weighing your options in the decision of coding bootcamp vs. CS degree, the following infographic is for you. We’ve broken down the biggest differences between a four-year degree and a coding school education to help you pick the right fit for your goals. From tuition costs to hiring prospects to diversity statistics, here is what you should consider when deciding between a CS Bachelor’s or coding school:
Coding school vs. bachelors degree: which is right for me?
Coding bootcamps are making computer, software, and web development jobs more accessible than ever. But while they may be a feasible option for aspiring programmers, coding schools never set out to replace traditional four-year programs. Rather, they are structured to meet the needs of students who don’t quite fit into the Bachelor’s degree mold.
If you fall into one or more of the following categories, coding bootcamp may be the better option for you:
You already have work experience and at least one degree
For people interested in making a career transition after years of work and study experience, the thought of going back to a college environment is understandably unappealing. Coding schools offer programming that is more suited for adults than for teenagers. According to Course Report, the average bootcamper is pushing 30 and already has a Bachelor’s degree and several years of work experience.
You are reluctant to take out loans
Student debt is 1.5 trillion dollar industry. The average class of 2017 grad left college with nearly $40,000 in debt, and this number continues to grow. More and more young people are questioning whether the high cost of a formal education is truly worth it and are seeking alternatives.
For aspiring programmers who are already strapped with student loans from a former degree, taking out more debt for a second degree could understandably be a deterrent. For high school grads weighing whether to attend a formal degree program or go to coding school, the prospect of graduating sooner and with less debt than their peers could be a competitive edge.
Coding school comes at a fraction of the cost of a university degree, which makes financing a bootcamp education without loans much easier. While 70% of bachelor students graduate with debt, only about 25% of coding school grads do.
Four years of full-time studies are not feasible for you
Putting your life on pause for four years and dedicating yourself to full-time studies is simply not possible for everyone. For those who are parents, need to be working full-time to support themselves and/or others, or simply can’t spend four more years in school, coding schools may be the better fit.
With a lean curriculum and fast-paced learning environment, the majority of bootcampers graduate in about 3.5 months. That’s the equivalent of a single semester at a college or university!
Because coding schools are more flexible and accessible to diverse life situations, their student bodies also tend to be more diverse than your typical university CS department. Women made up only 14% of graduating CS majors in 2015 but 36% of bootcamp grads. Similarly, blacks and latinos made up only 10% of CS majors but 25% of bootcamp grads.
Conclusion: pick the best fit for your ambitions
There are many factors that need to be weighed the decision of coding school vs. Bachelor’s degree. In addition to considering the price, time commitment, and your own life situation, the quality of the program should be among the most important factors in your decision. Which coding languages you’d like to learn, which corner of the industry you’d like to end up in, and what kind of experience your instructors bring to the table should play a decisive role in the institution you choose.
Picking the best fit for your ambitions can be a long process filled with uncertainties. Inform yourself as much as you can, and don’t lose sight of your career goals. But whether you choose to go the traditional route and enroll in a college or university CS program, or you take intensive courses at a coding bootcamp, one thing is clear: the future looks bright for those who can code.