Programming School Costs and Student Resources

This article was written by Marcus Phillips, Former Senior Software Engineer at Twitter and lead instructor at Hack Reactor.

Programming School: Factors That Determine Costs

The cost of attending programming school relates directly to the quantity and quality of resources provided to developers. This includes curriculum, facilities, instruction time, instructor pedigree, pedigree of your peers, employer perception of your pedigree for having graduated, placement rate (98% for Hack Reactor's developer bootcamp), and average placement salary (over six-figures in our case).

Programming schools are not commodities with roughly similar pros and cons - the curriculum and the experience is vastly different from program to program. It's fantastic to know that there are lighter weight programs available out there, that are focused on scaling to cities all over as quickly as possible. Since there is such a dramatic need for a reboot in software education, it's a very good thing that developers of every level have other options, and can pay less to get less. But they also face considerably more risk and struggle finding work as a developer once they're done.

Don't Shortchange Yourself

People applying to programming schools are putting everything they have on hold for several months to learn a new skill that will completely change their lives. As I see it, the last thing you want to do in that situation is to take risks with your future. You should make a point of investing deeply in those transitional months, and go with the highest quality program you can get yourself into.

Remember, you're trying to be competitive in the industry while sidestepping an exorbitant university degree that requires four years to earn--it's wise not to cut corners in that position. If you really want to succeed on such a compressed timeframe, you need every advantage you can get.

We designed Hack Reactor's developer bootcamp to be the best schooling experience available anywhere for bright coders, so we pour extra resources into every facet of it. Our tuition cost is just under $18,000 with financing options for all. For students facing large financial constraints, we also offer case-by-case financial aid packages to the most exceptional candidates.

Here's a breakdown of where our time, energy, and money goes.

Quantity of Our Curriculum

Although most developers wind up staying even later, the base class hours for Hack Reactor are from 9am-8pm for 12 weeks, totaling about 800 hours of official class time.

In addition, there are several more weeks of support and curriculum material before and after the course. As such, Hack Reactor simply provides more class overall. In your first week alone, I personally spend about 30 hours with you in lecture and discussion formats, to compliment the other 30+ hours you'll spend programming.

Our programming school's commitment to excellence is a two-way street though. While that intensity certainly isn't for everyone, the most successful graduates are consistently the ones who seek out that sort of commitment, and actually enjoy learning to code the entire time. This brings me to the issue of the people you'll be learning alongside.

Quality of Your Hack Reactor Peers

People learn a lot through osmosis, so it behooves you to surround yourself with the smartest, most dedicated people you can. Hack Reactor is a tiny school designed for the brightest applicants out there. Since we aren't interested in expanding all over the place, we have the luxury of accepting only the cream of the cream of the crop.

Interviews take a long time, and it's a big investment for us to get expert instructors evaluating so many applicants, but that means the tiny fraction of students who do make it in are a gang of superhero intellects.

Quantity and Quality of Our Instructors

For our part, we've chosen the least scalable model we could think of: lots of human care and attention. Despite being such a small school, our developers enjoy the assistance of eight full-time and nine part-time instructors - plus the help of a bunch of folks working in the background to their benefit, doing things like project management for your real-world contract work, and company relations to help connect you with the job you're looking for.

Our instructors come from companies like Twitter, Google, OKCupid, Adobe, and so on. It's hard to procure that level of talent for the classroom, but we think it's well worth the investment.

Practical Tools and Real-World Paid Contract Work

During the project phase, we coordinate with actual clients to match students with paid development contracts. An instructor reviews the student's code extensively to ensure that their customer will be happy with the product they produce, and to help the student learn the advanced lessons you only get from using your judgement on the job.

You'll be prepared for this level of responsibility, because from day one the curriculum is designed around tools in use in the industry like Git, Backbone, Rails, Unix, and TDD testing frameworks.

Hack Reactor Facilities and Location

We can't spare a minute of our students' time to something as unproductive as commuting, so we provide an office right on Market Street, the main drag in downtown San Francisco, about 100 feet from the BART & MUNI station.

Since our students spend all their time here together, we wanted it to be as comfortable here as at it is at home--which is why we chose such a large, bright, top floor space with an open floor plan. Personally, I find the energy in this building thrilling, and as the students can tell you, I spend all my days off here just because I like it so much.

Investment in Our Alumni

Our programming school has a strong alumni network who love giving back to the program, many of whom visit on a daily or weekly basis to support the next generation of HackRs.

Due to the seniority of the roles our alums have been able to procure immediately after graduating, they are often tasked with hiring within weeks of starting their new jobs. So we see their dedication to the community to be one of the best assets we have a chance of supporting.

As an example, last night we took a class full of previous students to karaoke because, 1) we love the heck out of them and, 2) we want to make sure they have every opportunity to stay close, collaborate, and help each other soar for the rest of their careers.

Quality of Our Curriculum Materials

Of everything we do though, the curriculum itself is what excites me the most. My job was to design the learning experience from start to finish, and I implemented it with the help of several brilliant engineers and teachers. Having taught and developed curriculum for so many years now, it thrills me to have an excuse to dote on the details of these materials as much as I do. Elsewhere in the tech industry, you're often asked to slap something together as fast as possible and move on. One of the major reasons I chose to work on the challenges at Hack Reactor over continuing to work on challenges at Twitter was the fact that Hack Reactor primarily needs me to hone and polish this learning experience to be as amazing as it possibly can.

I've heard from a number of students now that they wish learning on the job were as fast paced and well paved as the Hack Reactor curriculum is, which of course is always a thrill to hear.

I hope there's a chance to work with you on your hacker journey. If you're interested in playing with some of our instructional repos to test your hand at coding or find out how far you've come, feel free to contact me at, and I'll get you access to some of the same materials we use to teach every day.