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What's the Right Path for You? A Computer Science Degree vs. a Coding Bootcamp

Justin McIntyre

Spaces vs. tabs. Vim vs. Emacs. A coding bootcamp vs. a 4-year computer science degree. These are the longstanding questions plaguing the coding world.

While we’re going to quietly abstain from the intense spaces vs. tabs debate, we’re happy to explore the pros and cons of computer science degrees and coding bootcamps.

After all, coding is one of the most in-demand job skills right now. Some reports assert that programming jobs are growing 12% faster than the market average.

Stack Overflow’s Developer Survey of 2016 gathered data from 56,033 developers and examined how this group got their start in the programming industry. 69.1% of respondents were at least partly self-taught, 34.8% had a B.S. in Computer Science, and 6.5% attended a coding bootcamp.

If you’re looking to jumpstart your programming education, you need to weigh the pros and cons of each. Get the lowdown below.


The Pros & Cons of a Computer Science Degree

The pros:

  • You learn to grapple with the theory of code
  • You can dive into more academic, theoretical topics
  • Your knowledge can adapt to many software platforms
  • You gain broader knowledge and social experiences at a 4-year university

The cons:

  • Concrete, real-world coding experience isn’t always part of the curriculum
  • Most university programs aren’t up-to-date with the latest industry trends and languages
  • Many Computer Science degree programs aren’t diverse; instead, most CS grads are male
  • It’s a large financial investment and can leave many graduates in debt


The Pros & Cons of a Coding Bootcamp

The pros:

  • Coding bootcamps are cheaper than a computer science degree and cost significantly less to attend
  • Bootcamps only last a few months and graduates enjoy high employment rates after bootcamp completion
  • The curriculum is always updated with the most current information on new languages and updates
  • Bootcamps are hyper-focused on hireability; your exercises prepare you for a job right out of graduation
  • You get real-world coding skills through features like industry-standard tools and pair-programming experience
  • Many coding bootcamps (like Hack Reactor!) offer career development services like mock interviews and resume assistance
  • Bootcamp curriculums tend to be more flexible and responsive to student feedback; for example, Hack Reactor reviews and improves lectures, exercises, and student experiences every 7 weeks
  • Flexible program options like part-time or remote programs make the experience more accessible
  • Coding bootcamps are typically more diverse and lead initiatives like Vision 2020

The cons:

  • If you’re interested in computer vision or artificial intelligence, a university’s academic focus might be a better fit
  • Since bootcamps only last a few months, the curriculum is extremely rigorous—and rewarding, of course

Shawn Drost, Hack Reactor’s Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer, sums up the benefits of coding bootcamps quite nicely:

“The outcome you want from a CS degree—a solid foundation for a career in software engineering, an ability to create amazing and world-changing software, a high-paying job, a peer group full of brilliant people—is available at a dramatically cheaper time/dollar cost.”

In 2015, President Obama also celebrated bootcamps. He lauded their affordability and high employment rate, stating: “It doesn’t matter where you learned code, it just matters how good you are at writing code.”


Which Path is Right for You?

Even though coding bootcamps are an incredibly effective way to launch a coding career, there is no 100% right answer.

If you’re excited about coding, your education will take off—no matter which avenue you take. When we’re talking about joining the workforce, both recent computer science degree grads and coding bootcamp grads have a lot to learn.

What matters the most is a willingness to learn, a passion for coding, problem-solving ability, and strong communication skills.

Interested in starting on the same path? It all began at Hack Reactor. Learn more about Hack Reactor's full-time and part-time programs. We're online in SFAustinNYC, and LA.


You can also contact our team; we love chatting about the ins and outs of bootcamps! (But don’t ask us our position on spaces vs. tabs. It’s taboo.)