We’ve taken good idea and made it into college again because that’s prevailing profitable model.  “Spend money and take this course, and we can guarantee you success in your career” this is the overall mantra that sells people on big ticket items like college or boot camps.  What it’s ultimately sub communicating is that you can buy something to remove a huge chunk of uncertainty from your life. Attend this process and you will be safe. Or at least you’ll get to defer having to fight it out in the real world for a little bit longer.

 

The obvious upsides

 

Structure and Accountability

You get a structured and rigorous curriculum aka lots of forced practice.   There’s something to be said putting yourself into a situation to be forced to practice and learn.  

 

Certificate of completion and job placement

A lot of these schools have good connections for finding you work after you complete the class.  Some would argue it’s worth it just to get your foot in the door for your first developer job.

 

The Downsides

 

Cost

Doesn’t matter what you’re spending it on, 20 thousand dollars is a lot of money to shell out for education when there are so many free and incredible resources available.

 

Value of education

For the amount of knowledge you actually get in such a short time, 20k in tuition just doesn’t sit well with me.  There’s not enough time to learn the fundamental skills that programmers rely on like algorithms, data structures, how the internet actually works, how infrastructure and servers work and on and on.  

 

Lack of Big Picture Knowledge

Top developers are so good not just because they can crank out a to-do list  Ruby on Rails app at warp speed, but because they have an intimate knowledge of the systems they’re writing code ON.  That kind of broad reaching knowledge is built up over years and years of hard work and learning. No matter what a school promises you, you just won’t have that kind of skill yet so don’t get fooled into thinking you can pay extra for it.

 

Getting a job

 

Most of these programs advertise that after 12 weeks with them, you can get an entry level programming job with the skills you’ve learned.  That may even be true for a lot of people, the demand for people with any kind of programming experience is extremely high right now.

 

The point I want to make though is this:

 

You could get an entry level programming job for free if you just built a small portfolio of apps and made it available online.  

 

You want to know what one of the biggest things small software teams look for when they’re hiring someone?  Open source contributions. If you are good enough to submit any kind of code or documentation that other people in the world use then you win huge points with the developers that will be interviewing you.  Oh yeah, and it’s free to contribute to open source. Actually that’s the damn point of it.

 

So overall coding bootcamps are not bad things and I’m not trying to attack them.  In fact I think they’re a huge step towards a world of focused and practical learning.  However I encourage you to think about the value they offer if you’re considering attending one that costs over 5 thousand dollars.  With a little personal accountability and acceptance of the unknown you could land yourself an entry level coding job within a year. For free.

Categories: Essays

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