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Articles / Applying to College / Check the Pros, Cons of Bootcamps Vs. College

Check the Pros, Cons of Bootcamps Vs. College

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | Oct. 13, 2020
Check the Pros, Cons of Bootcamps Vs. College


No, I'm not talking about the military, although it can certainly be a viable option for young people. The term "bootcamp" today has come to represent a number of training resources that focus on technical skills.

Tech bootcamps equip their graduates with the kinds of qualifications that more employers are looking for these days. For someone who is not interested in, cannot afford, or for some other reason does not care to pursue a traditional college degree, a bootcamp may be worth a look.

The most common designation is a "coding" bootcamp. What exactly is that? According to The Firehose Project:

A coding bootcamp is a technical training program that teaches the programming skills that employers look for.

Coding bootcamps enable students with little coding proficiency to focus on the most important aspects of coding and immediately apply their new coding skills to solve real-world problems.

The goal of many coding bootcamp attendees is to transition into a career in web development. They do this by learning to build applications at a professional level which provides the foundation they need to build production-ready applications and demonstrate they have the skills to add real value to a potential employer.

On a personal note, that's the kind of tech "transition" I wanted to make when I was thinking about what to do after high school. Early in my senior year I interviewed at a company called Computer Systems Institute, which trained young people about the then fast-developing field of computer technology. I wasn't considering college and was ready to enroll at CSI until I was recruited by a small liberal arts college for my tennis ability. CSI didn't have a tennis team, so college won out.

Weigh Benefits of College, Bootcamps

Of course, college has a number of advantages. Many employers are looking for new hires who have been able to manage the numerous hurdles of a four-year degree to acquire that credential. Surveys show that across a lifetime, college graduates in many cases earn more than those who don't have a college degree.

However, as I have discussed here before, the ever-rising cost of college and the associated wildly increasing student loan debt have caused many high schoolers and their parents to think twice about the practicality and ROI of college. That's why a bootcamp may be a possible alternative for techies.

If you're thinking along the lines of "Is college really the right choice for me?" you should review this article: Coding Bootcamps vs College: What's the Right Choice? The information is balanced and quite rational, even though it's authored by the bootcamp company, Flatiron School.

Here are some excerpts that discuss both sides of the "college or not" issue for anyone interested in "tech," as they refer to it. There's a significant amount of text that discusses the following questions, but I'll cut straight to the excellent summary points. I especially like the opening statement:

College is no longer the de facto choice for a career in tech. Sure, you can still go to college and obtain a computer science degree, but coding bootcamps have emerged as a compelling alternative to get the skills and training you need to land a job in tech. If you're debating which path to take, we're here to help

How Do Bootcamps Compare to College?

  • College delivers a well-rounded education in a traditional environment.
  • Coding bootcamps provide practical training in a specific field or topic.
  • College undergraduate programs range from two years to four years.
  • Most coding bootcamps run for weeks.

How Do Costs Compare?

  • College requires a time and monetary investment.
  • Rising tuition and soaring student loan debt have led students to seek alternatives.
  • Coding bootcamps have emerged to offer a comprehensive but flexible education.
  • Lower tuition with the goal of landing a high-paying job has spurred the growth of bootcamps.
  • College and coding bootcamps have their own advantages and disadvantages.
  • When weighing your options between a computer science degree or enrolling in a coding bootcamp, remember there's no right answer. It's a personal choice that only you can make.

Should You Go to College?

  • College gives you the hard skills needed for a tech career and a well-rounded education.
  • A computer science degree is a standard many employers look for in a potential employee.
  • You'll learn underlying tech principles that are useful as you start your career.
  • College tuition fees have increased dramatically over the last 30 years.
  • Student loan debt has also risen over that time. What do you do if you want to gain the skills in a new field, but don't have an opportunity to do so? The answer can be found in coding bootcamps.

Should You Choose a Bootcamp?

  • Coding bootcamps train students and give them practical skills.
  • Bootcamps can adapt to changes in the industry faster than a college.
  • Bootcamps are rigorous and courses typically last around 12 to 15 weeks.
  • Bootcamps can be more expensive than the average tuition fee of a public college.

Deciding between college and a bootcamp can be a difficult decision. The social aspect of the college experience is a big plus, which can allow you to form friendships and relationships for a lifetime. Sports competition is another aspect that bootcamps don't offer. If you're an accomplished athlete, you may be able to promote your skills to the athletic scholarship level, although that level of athleticism is in the clear minority.

If you're trying to make this decision right now, you may want to test the bootcamp waters with some free courses to see what they're like. Flatiron, the firm that authored the article from which I have quoted above, offers an interesting free course (I have no affiliation at all).

I'm betting that other bootcamp schools offer something similar along the lines of sample or free courses to intrigue you. A quick web search for "free bootcamp courses" should do the trick.

Are There Bootcamp Rankings?

Like everything else it seems, bootcamps have been ranked. Just the other day, I received a message alerting me to SwitchUp's bootcamp ratings. Here's the deal:

Every year, SwitchUp collects and analyzes thousands of reviews from alumni and current students to bring you the top-rated bootcamps by subject, location, and learning environment. With over 20,000 reviews across 500 schools, SwitchUp has been an industry leader for technology bootcamp rankings since 2014.

Below, you'll find comprehensive rankings of the best schools in coding, data science, cyber security, and web design, as well as the best online bootcamps. You'll also find lists for over 40 locations worldwide

The SwitchUp rankings are extremely comprehensive and offer a look at multiple categories, such as Data Science, Web Design, Cybersecurity, Data Analytics, Digital Marketing and Product Management. As if that weren't enough, they rank bootcamps by location for U.S. and international cities.

Finally, SwitchUp offers their Best Bootcamp Highlights:

The "best coding bootcamp" can mean something different for each individual. To help you find the best fit, we have awarded the merit badges above to schools that stand out in key areas. As you browse SwitchUp's rankings lists, the merit badges will help to narrow your search for the best bootcamp for you.

Bottom line for the "Bootcamp vs. College" debate: Do your research. Check the rankings. The decision is yours.

Share Your Thoughts

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Check out our forum to contribute to the conversation!

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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