Chapter 3: How to Choose the Right Bootcamp (pt. 2)
Length & Intensity
Bootcamps vary in length and intensity with programs ranging from eight weeks to a year. Shorter, full-time programs tend to be more intense, while longer, part-time programs allow more flexibility for those unable to leave their job or have personal obligations that can’t be put on hold.
If the prospect of quitting your job and learning full-time doesn’t jive with If you, part-time options might be the better fit. But don’t forget that even a part-time bootcamp is going to require lots of work. It may be too difficult to keep up if you’re trying to balance learning part-time with a demanding full-time job.
If you want to learn to code as fast as possible, a full-time 8-12 week immersive program is the way to go. It’s no cake walk, though. At a full-time program, you’re going to have to devote the majority of your waking hours to learning. Most full-time bootcamps aren’t casual 9-5’s with leisurely weekends and extended holidays, so be prepared to spend nights and weekends programming in addition to regular working hours. You’ll need to be ready to live and breathe code alongside your fellow classmates. By graduation, you’ll be exhausted, (possibly) delirious, and immensely proud of what you’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time. You’ll be ready to completely change your career. Pretty awesome, huh?
Consider student-to-teacher ratio. If you’ve attended a large lecture class, you’re well aware how difficult it can be to access your instructor when you need help. Same deal with bootcamps: some have more teachers per student than others. A bootcamp with a smaller student-to-teacher ratio will be able to offer you more individual attention and provide qualified people ready to jump in when you are stuck. As you’re doing your research, try to find out how a bootcamp is calculating their ratio, because some are a bit more…creative in their calculations than others. This actually applies to all statistics a bootcamp releases, so make sure you’re examining the methods used to find their numbers.
Relative to traditional higher education, bootcamps are a nascent phenomenon. Bootcamps are start-ups—every one of them. To say any differently would be dishonest, and there is no such thing as a “well-established” bootcamp. Start-ups have a tendency to change quickly in quality and performance. Change occurs due to factors like aggressive growth plans, changes in leadership, and strategic decision making. This means that it’s entirely possible that the program considered the “industry darling” last year, may have taken its eye off of its customer’s experience this year because the investors came calling.
Be sure you’re researching each bootcamp’s reputation outside of experiences shared on their website (yep—this one too). Seek out recent alumni and learn from their first-hand experience as a student in the bootcamp you’re considering. Try to talk to them personally and ask your own questions. Many are accessible via Linkedin and are usually happy to reply to prospective student inquiries and share advice. If you can’t speak with one directly, fire-up The Google and see what they’ve said publicly about their experiences attending various bootcamps. Quora, Switchup, and Course Report are all great resources for alumni reviews and anecdotes. Are most alumni generally happy with their experience? What are some negative things that have been said about the bootcamp and have they addressed the issues?
A bootcamp should offer dedicated support to its students during the job-search process. Most reputable programs will have dedicated full-time staff who are there to help you put your best foot forward when you enter the job market. A career support staff that’s doing what it should will spend time learning your strengths, weaknesses, and career goals
More real talk: the technical skills you learn at a bootcamp don’t entitle you to a job. Yeah, those skills are the crown jewels on your resume, but if you want a chance at landing the best jobs out there, you’re still going to have to show employers that you’re more than a set of skills. If this is your first time diving into a tech role, you might not know what to expect. Leveraging the career support services of a bootcamp will greatly improve your odds of obtaining the job that most interests you. It’s critical that as a student you possess a strong work ethic when it comes to finding a job after you graduate. A program cannot help a student who puts in minimal effort to find a job after the end of the program.
How do you assess the quality of a bootcamp’s career services? A somewhat universal metric used by most bootcamps is job placement rate. But before you buy in, channel your inner Mark Twain and remember, “there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” It’s critical that you understand how each bootcamp calculates its placement rates. Ask this question specifically during your application process, and if you get an answer that’s full of obfuscating, confusing language instead of a candid discussion of exactly how that number is calculated, nope the heck out of there.
Most of the highest rated bootcamps host a well-attended Hiring Day at the culmination of the program. Hiring companies come to meet with newly graduated students in-person, so it’s important that a bootcamp provides you with non-technical career education that allows you to put your best foot forward with hiring companies. Things like technical and non-technical interview prep, professional preparedness (like resume guidance), and contract negotiation assistance, will ensure your career gets off to the right start.
Some bootcamps offer continued support to alumni. They’ll help you with your job search, put you in touch with the school’s extended alumni network, and a few bootcamps even offer technical help to their graduates after they land a job so that they can really impress their new employer. This is valuable time that you’ve already paid for, so make the most of it!
Wise words, Red Cafe, Fabolous, and Diddy. Wise words. Let’s talk about money, because bootcamps ain’t cheap. The most expensive ones are priced at over $18,000—that’s some serious money, and it still doesn’t factor in other expenses like, you know, eating. You’re also not going to be earning any money while you’re studying (‘opportunity cost of forgone wages’ for the bussing economists out there).
Some bootcamps offer payment plans to students, while others will require you to pay full tuition up front. If you can’t pay in full or through a payment plan, you might consider third-party financing companies such as Pave, Earnest, Upstart and Lendlayer. They can offer loans to bootcamp students with varied payback options after graduation based on your new job’s salary. Just be careful before you make a major financing commitment. Read the fine print and make sure you’re not signing a loan with impossible repayment terms. We’ll get into more detail about paying for your bootcamp in Chapter 5.