Main image of article Evaluating the Best Bootcamps for You
For tech pros who want to quickly upgrade their skills, bootcamps are an intensive (and often expensive) route. In exchange for the opportunity to rapidly learn a new skill or programming language, bootcamp students must make some pretty big commitments. Unlike Massive Open Online Classes (MOOCs), in which students can often progress at their own pace, bootcamps demand full-time attendance for a few months (the current average is 14.1 weeks). Then there’s the matter of money: according to Course Report’s 2017 Coding Bootcamp Market Size Study, the average bootcamp costs $11,400 to attend. The technology industry’s low unemployment rate and high salaries have spiked interest in technology jobs over the past few years—and sparked an accompanying increase in the number of the bootcamps. But a new article in The New York Times suggests that hunger for technology jobs isn’t enough to fuel the rapid proliferation of bootcamps across the country: some are closing, including two prominent, well-funded ones (Dev Bootcamp, acquired by education giant Kaplan, and The Iron Yard, which had 15 campuses nationwide). The Course Report’s study states that six bootcamps have shut their doors over the past year, including Coding House and Silicon STEM Academy. Others have rebranded or merged with others. The bootcamps that continue to thrive, sources told the Times, are those that have embraced corporate training programs. That certainly makes sense: businesses can provide consistent streams of students (and income). As companies seek a technological edge over their rivals, educating staff in the latest and greatest tech skills will only increase in importance. That’s not to say that bootcamps as a whole are dying. Indeed, the number of students attending such programs continues to rise. Nonetheless, it’s important for any tech pro considering a bootcamp to carefully evaluate programs (as well as their own needs) before devoting the necessary time and expense.

Bootcamp Checklist

Evaluate Your Needs: Before you explore which bootcamps might work best for you, determine what you want to get out of the experience. What are your career goals? How will a specific bootcamp program help you achieve those goals? Evaluate Your Skills: Some bootcamps are meant for wet-behind-the-ears beginners; others teach new languages and methodologies to those who have been in the technology industry for some time. When evaluating programs, make sure they align with your skill level. (At some bootcamps, instructors may even allow you to sit in on a class before you decide whether to sign up.) Evaluate Your ‘Hidden Costs’: Can you really take 14 weeks off in order to attend a bootcamp? Can you balance your need to study with your other commitments? Bootcamps always have a cost beyond the financial; make sure you can reserve the time and energy to participate before you sign up. Review Completion and Placement Rates: Legitimate bootcamps will share their students’ course-completion and placement rates. You should also talk to program graduates (if possible) to see if the skills they learned at the bootcamp are really helping them meet real-world goals. You can also read online reviews of various programs, but do so with a skeptical eye—as you know, not every anonymous reviewer is trustworthy. As with any other educational opportunity, due diligence is necessary; but if you need to learn a new skill fast, and you have the money and time, a bootcamp may prove the perfect solution.