Should You Attend College or a Coding Bootcamp?

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When you want to enter the coding industry, there are many things to consider beyond whether you pick a college or a boot camp. However, the choice will impact the amount of time you spend studying and the cost of your education. It is worth spending some time deciding which one is right for you.

Coding Job Outlook

The choice of education can also hinge on your career goals. Think of what you might want to be doing several decades from now and consider which education will best lead to that. For instance, if you want to head up a large tech corporation, you will certainly need to at least have a traditional college degree, potentially a specialized MBA degree. The commitment to complete a four-year degree and a graduate degree will better showcase your skills than a course over a few weeks. You can still get a great job without a degree, but it will be harder and often take longer to work your way up.

If you want to start your own business, however, you could consider a shorter boot camp. When you have a startup, your experience and skills will showcase your entrepreneurial spirit, which will be valued. You only need the skills, not a degree, to launch your app or website.


For some, the cost of college prohibits them from considering it as an option. You can still expect to spend a few thousand dollars on the shorter course, but you could be spending much more than that at college in just one school year. Plus, there are living costs to consider when you are at school, unable to have a full-time job. The longer college takes, the harder it will be to pay the bills on time.

However, that does not mean college has to be out of the picture for you. You could consider taking out a student loan from a private lender to cover the cost of your education. That way you would not need to worry about the cost of your tuition since it would be taken care of. And you would have enough money for living costs while in school.

Consider the Return on the Investment

Whenever making a large purchase, such as a home, car, or education, you should think about how much you will get back from the investment. Consider both the time and money investment into your learning. Often, you can get a job shortly after graduation if you study coding. You might think that several week-long programs are a much better return on your investment when it comes to the time spent on it. However, think about your long-term goals as well. For example, 10 or 20 years from now, you could be earning significantly more if you have a college degree under your belt. Check out the different coding bootcamps offered on, research the ROI on some of them, and see what makes the most sense for you.

Consider the Time Spent

You can get the skills you need at a coding boot camp in less time than it takes to go to college, but you will not have a lot of time to apply your skills. Some of these camps are only a few weeks long, so you will only have time to learn the most basic aspects of programming. You might take a month or so beyond that to develop your skills, but that will still not give you the time you would have if you went to college.

On the other hand, getting a computer science degree could take you up to four years or longer. You might be able to complete it in a semester less than that, but the program is difficult enough that you might not want to complete it in less than four years. However, since you are spending so much time on the skills, you will also get to practice it a lot more. A boot camp is not a shortcut to the commitment and hours you will spend in a computer science program. Once you have graduated, you will be much less likely to make amateur mistakes in a job setting.

What You Will Learn

The curriculum you will be used in computer science programs vs boot camps will vary, even if you are gaining similar skills. For example, in a college program, you will often learn Java programming, mathematics, system design, C++, and algorithms. On the other hand, a boot camp would focus more on programming languages, such as Python, Ruby, JavaScript, and APIs. There might be some career coaching near the end as well.

If you go the college route, you would get a much more well-rounded picture of computers in general. You would learn more about operating systems and how they work. The typical coding languages you would learn are not the typical ones used to build apps or websites. Still, they can provide a strong basic understanding, and you will get into the algorithms used for app scaling. A boot camp would not get into nearly as much detail since they are focused on helping you become a developer.

Consider How You Learn

If you are great at learning by doing and find that doing projects help you learn, you might want to consider a boot camp. You will not sit in on lectures, but you will watch intro videos instead, which explain basic concepts. You can then complete assignments to really delve into the material. The instructor will begin by showing the class the right way to complete an assignment. Then the class will do it together. In the end, your homework assignment will be to work on that concept. It can be a good option if you are not good at listening to lectures.

Are there Alternatives?

If you can’t decide which would be the better option for you, consider doing both. For example, some colleges have coding boot camps or partner with organizations offering them. You could get federal funding or receive college credit for your work. You can also consider getting your degree and a job and then attending a boot camp. Some people pick one of these options while doing the other and getting more experience in the process. Having both on your resume might also make the job hunt a bit easier for you.

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