Guest post by Mary Bergeron, SwitchUp
The (very brief) history of coding bootcamps
Here at SwitchUp, we’ve seen coding bootcamps grow A LOT over the past few years. As recently as 2014, the model was so new that only a handful of bootcamps existed. We’ve since watched the bootcamp market triple in size, and research from SwitchUp shows that students can now choose from over 500 programs around the world.
Now that the field has matured, it is much easier than it once was for students to determine the quality of a bootcamp. Students can read through reviews on sites like SwitchUp, and some bootcamps even publish third-party reports to prove their outcomes.
Even with all the resources available, it is still difficult for students to know if a newer bootcamp is worth the investment. The coding bootcamp landscape is changing quickly, and many worthwhile programs have only been around for 1-2 years. These newer bootcamps might have less “social proof” from reviews, but they can often be a better financial, technological, or experiential fit for a student. For example, the new bootcamp CodingNomads provides a unique experience by teaching coding bootcamps while traveling the world.
So, how do you know that a school will be a good investment if it has limited reviews? We believe that as long as a student does their due diligence, a newer school my very well be the perfect fit for his or her learning style and goals. As you research newer bootcamps, be sure to look into the following:
Get to know the instructors
Bootcamps are very fast-paced and time intensive, and the quality of the instructor can make or break the entire experience.
If you can’t rely on reviews to learn more about an instructor, it’s important to gather as much information as you can yourself. Start by researching the instructor’s background to make sure that he or she has both professional programming and teaching experience. From here, you’ll want to set up a skype interview or call with the instructor. This is a great opportunity to ask about his or her teaching methods, and how they prefer to work with students.
Feedback from the instructor will help you compare the bootcamp environment with your own learning style. If it sounds like the environment encourages students to learn from peers and on their own, it will be a great option for students who are more self-directed. Students who are looking for more support will want to look out for programs with smaller class sizes and one-on-one work with instructors, mentors or TAs.
Know the curriculum/ job market for the curriculum
Software development is a very broad field, and it can be difficult for a beginner to know how well a particular skillset will prepare them to find a job. Before you commit, make sure that the skills taught at a bootcamp are in line with your personal coding interests and career goals, and will make you competitive in your chosen job market. Also consider the technology overlap between bootcamps in your desired location. If multiple bootcamps teach the same technologies, you will need to further differentiate yourself to stand out amongst other bootcamp grads.
We suggest using resources like Indeed and Monster.com to research the programming skills and roles that are most in-demand in your chosen location. Compare this market research against the technologies taught at a bootcamp to get a better idea of how competitive you’ll be after the bootcamp.
You will also want to request the curriculum from a bootcamp. Any bootcamp curriculum will be very fast-paced, but make sure that there is time built in to review key concepts, get extra help, and ask questions.
Seek out and talk to alumni
Even though a bootcamp might not be widely reviewed, you can still get feedback directly from alumni themselves. We suggest researching alumni on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. While you may need to reach out to a few contacts first, we’ve found that many alumni are happy to pay it forward to another bootcamper and chat about the experience.
Your bootcamp may also have a list of alumni who have agreed to be contacted. Since these students were given to you by the school, you’ll want to get a thorough overview of the experience. Be sure to ask them to detail the pros and cons, and anything they think the school could have done differently. And of course, be respectful of and grateful for their time by also having specific questions ready before you speak.
Understand how a bootcamp will meet your own career goals
There is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to bootcamps. Some people prefer a program to be intensive and short, while others may need to balance a bootcamp with an existing job. You will want to think carefully about your learning style and other commitments before taking the plunge.
Your decision will also depend on how the bootcamp factors into your career goals. Students who plan to begin their job search right after the program ends will want to make sure that a bootcamp offers excellent career prep. Make sure to ask your prospective bootcamp for specifics on how they prepare students for the workforce, including resume assistance, mock interviews, job placement / networking assistance, etc.
Even if the school does not have a complete outcomes report, you will want to get an idea of how long students typically spent on the job search, and a few examples of companies where alumni now work. If you bootcamp is truly dedicated to the advancement and success of its cohort, they’ll be happy to talk about the accomplishments of their previous alumni and provide all the details you need.
About Mary Bergeron
Mary is the Director of Community/Marketing at SwitchUp. She has helped lead marketing strategy for a variety of startups, in sectors ranging from e-commerce to social enterprise. After getting her start in design, she became passionate about combining visuals, writing, and analytics to connect with customers. She was drawn to SwitchUp after learning about how bootcamps are providing life-changing opportunities for a diverse range of people.
For more tips on selecting a coding bootcamp, check out SwitchUp. It’s a complete resource where you can read coding bootcamp reviews, compare programs, and get advice from experts.