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Are Programming Bootcamps Worth the Cost?

Shawn Drost

Are Programming Bootcamps Worth the Cost?

After this thread broke out on Reddit about the ROI of programming bootcamps, grads who have actually been through an immersive coding school experience flooded the comments.

Below we captured these coding bootcamp reviews. Pay close attention to not only the stories of landing amazing jobs, but the description of the experience and customer service they received. These stories help push the legitimacy of the industry forward, as do rave reviews from real press. The real question is, are programming bootcamps being scrutinized more than college? Just look at these three headlines from the past 12 months:

Bleak Future:  68% of Grads Saddled with $40K in Debt With No Jobs in Sight

7 College Graduates Whose Lives Were Wrecked by Student Loans

One Third of Millenials Regret Going to College

At the end of this blog post, we'll go over step-by-step how you should conduct a review of the immersive coding school you're applying for so that you end up making the most of your time and money. The information is out there, and it's easy to find!

1. "I graduated from Hack Reactor, a 12 week immersion program in San Francisco, in June 2013 and can say, without reservation, that it was the single most important thing I have done for my career.

I was an experienced developer, had studied CS for several years at University and had also been a technical trainer earlier in my career. So while many of the technologies I learned as I brought my skills up-to-date were new to me, I was still in the (perhaps unique?) position of being able to judge both the quality of content but also the competence of instruction. Both, at Hack Reactor, were extraordinary and well exceeded my expectations.

I am now the Lead Engineer for a startup in San Francisco -- well equipped to help them to develop their infrastructure and systems (both Internet facing and internal operations) to a level where they can save time, attract additional VC funding and provide a strong user experience using modern web technologies.

All that because I took the time to bring my skills current at Hack Reactor.

One thing to keep in mind... This is a young industry. There are leaders who provide an excellent, well needed service. Hack Reactor (I can't recommend them highly enough!), Dev BootcampApp Academy and Hackbright Academy in San Francisco are all schools I know to be "the real deal."

But it is important to know that anyone can purchase a domain, rent some space and open an immersion coding academy. People with no development experience may be particularly vulnerable to pitches from developers with professional experience pitching them on their school as a great first step for a career change. As with all things, it is important to do your homework, talk to graduates and caveat emptor.

Similarly, students who feel disappointed for whatever reason, often ascribe their disappointments to faults, real and imagined, to the school which failed to meet their expectations. Some students just aren't cut out for coding. Others don't thrive in the immersion learning environment. It's important not to paint a whole emerging industry with a broad brush of disappointment of some of those students. For every disgruntled student, know that there is likely a score of success stories.

In short...

Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

Feel free to PM me if you want to know more about my experience at Hack Reactor. "

2."I graduated from Hack Reactor's first class back in February and got a job at an AMAZING startup after interviewing with a couple companies. I'm extremely happy with the results, it's changed my life. Before Hack Reactor I was working some dead-end jobs (security, pizza delivery), trying to make ends meet. I was going to a community college who's CS program was worthless - and doing codecademy at night.

I started day one basically knowing nothing and left with enough skills to land a job and continue growing as a developer. Hack Reactor taught mostly Javascript but I'm working with Ruby and Coffeescript now (our app is rails/ember). It's been less than a year and I'm the happiest I've ever been."

3. "I can only talk to the program I completed. Like many people in this thread I attended hack reactor. I couldn't recommend it highly enough. I had very little coding experience going in, I think hack reactor took a bit of a risk with me, and I didn't come out of it with a six figure job. I'm looking at around 80 at this point (this number might have been hurt because i moved back to New York after graduating and lost some of the hack reactor clout). For me salary wasn't the most important thing in choosing a program. What struck me about hack reactor was the care they seemed to take in choosing students. The education they offer is incredible, I kill technical interviews. I feel like I have a really strong understanding and a lot of the tools I need to continue to learn, and most notably I take much more joy in learning programming then i did before the program. At a certain point something switched on in my brain and watching lectures and reading articles became fun and exciting instead of a chore. I haven't been working at the same fever pace since graduating but I've continued to improve at a much faster rate than I was before hand. What strikes me now about the program is how much every student loves it. You could not find an alumnus who wouldn't recommend that school. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm posting here because Hack Reactor sent out an email asking me to. I had no problem sitting down and writing this post and the other posts I made in this thread because, even though it was more expensive then other programs, I strongly believe I made the best decision I could have with my money. "

What You Pay Vs What You Get

When people ask about the ROI of programming schools, we assume they're comparing that educational path to college. If they're not, the decision is actually even easier.

Most people want the comfort of a four-year college degree, but if you're one of those anti establishment education people (and that is a large group that is also growing) then spending $19,780 to land a starting salary of $110k after three months is the definition of a worthwhile investment.

Those are our development bootcamp's official numbers (along with a 98% job placement rate), and while we can't vouch for every school (they can't beat our results), industry wide, starting salaries for graduates outpace college. One article recently reported that "good" programming bootcamps will land their graduates a $60k a year starting salary. The prices of attending one of these schools can range from $5k-$18k, so again, the ROI is enormous (500% on average).

To really examine what you're paying for when you sign up for a coding bootcamp, read from Marcus Phillips("How We Invest More Into Our Engineers Than All Other Programming Schools"), a former senior engineer at Twitter, co-founder of Hack Reactor, and creator of our curriculum.

Programming Bootcamps Vs College, CS Degrees

In past articles (here and here), we explained the declining value of a CS degree. College is roughly 156 weeks (or 36 months) and produces worst results.  The truth is that colleges don't teach the most up to date job skills in engineering (I know, what a surprise right?)

We recently shared a video of a former Hack Reactor student who asked some grad school engineering professors about their curriculum, and he couldn't believe their reply. They don't teach you tools that automate programming, nor do they mention crucial libraries that all programmers are using today. The software engineering world has changed, and unless you're working at a startup or tech company, there's no way for you to know what skills recruiters are looking for today.

Also, ask real software engineers and they'll give you the same advice: Don't worry about all the theory you learn in CS classes and start learning the application.

More Coding Bootcamp Reviews from Real Students

Are programming bootcamps worth the cost?

Coding Bootcamp: Real Reviews from Actual Attendees

New Engineers Share Their Immersive Coding School Stories

Development Bootcamp Reviews

Programming Bootcamps: Beyond Starting Salaries

What if I told you that Hack Reactor won't just land you a great starting salary, it will actually put you at the top of your field.

"Our grads can't keep recruiters off their backs. They're also learning much faster than people in their field," says Ruan Pethiyagoda, a former student,  and current member of the Hack Reactor team.

Ruan built a frickin' super computer and out of all the job offers he received, he took one with us because he believes in what we're doing.

"Hack Reactor alumni feel like they've been engineers for years. They fit in and they're active members of the engineering community in the Bay Area."

After Hack Reactor, you'll find jobs that you love, because our hiring days are stacked with companies that we know are awesome. Our founders are all actual engineers, and so are the instructors on our staff. They've worked in the tech industry, they know the recruiters and they know a good work environment when they see one.

What kind of school would we be if our graduates didn't find jobs? And we're not just good it, we're experts. Larry Davis, a member of HR's team and a computer scientist from Adobe, was recently featured in VentureBeat. The topic of his post was "The Developer's Guide to Interviewing."

This is Larry. Larry will hook you up.


How to Research for the Right Programming Bootcamp

Via Tony Phillips, Co-Founder of Hack Reactor:

Read as much as you can about all the schools you are interested in. You can find them on Quora, Reddit, LinkedIn, bootcamper.io, bootcamps.in, youtube, and by just googling the company. Read their stances on all the different questions that you see there and try to think about what your life would be like if you went to that school. Do you agree with what the people from the school are saying? Do you think the vibe would fit you well there?

Talk to graduates.

Anyone applying to any of these schools owes it to themselves to reach out to graduates and ask them the tough questions. You can find them on LinkedIn or Quora posting reviews. You can ask someone from the school to refer you to someone. You can find them through their blogs about their experience.

Make sure you don't just ask them things like "How was your experience?" or "Do you think it was worth it?" because happiness can be synthesized (http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy.html), but instead use them as a way to check facts. Ask them things like "Do you have a job?", "How many people in your class got jobs?", or "How many instructors were there during your class?"

Interview in person

It is important to make sure the the energy in the place you are going to be for hundreds of hours fits you. By interviewing in person, you will get a sense of what life will be like if you went to that school and you may even be able to chat up some of the current students.

In Conclusion

Find former students' blogs, online reviews, LinkedIn profiles. Ask about the environment, culture, and would they do it again. Ask them about students in the program who didn't like the experience. Use the most popular review sites (Quora, Yelp, etc.)!

Find out who the instructors of the school are. Check out their LinkedIn profile or GitHub. Look at their Twitter accounts. Imagine you're a technical recruiter - do that kind of research. If they don't have legit tech skills, they won't be able to teach you. If they've never worked for a legit tech company, that would be a red flag.

Here are our development bootcamp instructors' bios.

Find out the coding school teaches in their curriculum. The last thing you want is to spend two to three months learning a programming language that's not valuable.

Interview in person and make in person visits! It's as if you were planning to rent an apartment - scope out the building and meet your neighbors. If you still have questions, check out this post feature 5 FAQs on The ROI of Coding Bootcamps or feel free to email us at contact@hackreactor.com.