The Dark Side of Coding Bootcamps To Consider When Entering
While coding bootcamps are worth trying to learn basics, there are some details that might prevent entrees from messing with them.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
Back in 2012, the learn-to-code movement arrived. The demand for complementary skills in many industries promised alternative sources of income together with a comprehensive experience, including soft skills like creative thinking, problem-solving, and critical judgment.
As some of you probably remember, the don't-learn-to-code movement came soon after. The backlash from experienced programmers and educators might have seemed malicious, but, emotions aside, their points were quite reasonable:
- Programming isn't as inviting as many believe but is much harder than newbies think.
- The industry doesn't benefit from crowds of novices: It needs trained individuals instead, and hordes of newcomers would potentially create a cheaper workforce.
2022 is outside, and the post-COVID economy and job market give a new lease of life to coding bootcamps, online and offline courses promising to turn you into a programmer for a relatively short time and money.
The pandemic led to job loss for millions of people; job recovery rates aren't as promising as experts hoped; such an insecure job market makes many think about reassessing their careers and jumping into the high-paid IT field asap.
And it's where coding bootcamps come in, promising a new profession and job placement within six months or a year maximum.
The good news is that some rigorous bootcamps deliver enough knowledge so a person can qualify for an intern or junior developer position after graduating. The bad news is that most graduates don't get what they hoped for.
For those still interested in entering a coding bootcamp, there are a few caveats to consider:
Student Reviews and Educators
One of the best indicators for understanding a coding bootcamp quality and outcomes is feedback from its students and alumni, right?
While finding stories about a negative experience with online bootcamps is not that challenging, positive reviews prevail drastically. Most of them come from review websites like Course Report, Switch Up, or Career Carma, and the catch with all those happy reports is that you have no guarantee they are unbiased and fair.
- First, it could be a bootcamp representative who writes positive reviews under different names to boost ratings and trust.
- Second, many reviews are generic, not fact-based. (Sure, you might try to contact the authors directly and ask for more details; but as students admit themselves, they are just lazy to spend time writing comprehensive reviews).
- Third, some students admit they prefer writing positive reviews to avoid confrontations with the bootcamp provider or not to devalue the time they spent on those courses. Again, it leads us back to the point concerning fairness.
But whatever the case, many student reviews include the criticism of individual instructors they met in bootcamps. Indeed, it's a pitfall of most coding schools.
Finding highly qualified instructors and teaching assistants is hard: Bootcamps can't pay much, while experienced developers ask for a fair wage for mentor positions. So, many coding schools practice hiring their alumni as teachers immediately after graduation to fill this shortage and improve their job placement stats.
As a result, newcomers get instructors who lack teaching skills, experience in tech, and specific knowledge to explain something deeper than coding basics in layman's language.
Speaking of job placement stats, by the way, if you checked cheap coding bootcamp reviews at different third-party websites, you'd notice that most of these schools claimed that 90+ percent of their students got jobs within 6-12 months of graduation. And while such numbers are promising and inspiring for those planning to enter a bootcamp, they can be misleading.
Only a few reputable bootcamps share annual reports on their student outcomes, but even they are hard to prove or disprove. Let alone those spinning out job placement stats of thin air to look more reputable in the eyes of potential students!
Another point to consider about job placement rates from coding bootcamps is that it is far from all their students come to start a coding career from scratch and get a developer job. Some are already employed professionals willing to acquire new skills, but bootcamp outcome reports will hardly mention that.
Specific Knowledge and Skills
Let's face it, an average coding bootcamp takes a few months to complete, presenting this fact as their advantage of college degrees. Together with a promise to help land a job after graduation, it sounds like a worthwhile investment for job searchers and career changers.
But if it's so simple, why finding a job as a junior software engineer is not as easy as it once was?
Coding bootcamps can do an excellent job teaching newbies how to code in a few months, but they don't (and can't) teach them what employers need: specific knowledge for fixing and improving somewhat obscure languages like old versions of Python or COBOL; experience with specific scripts for avoiding old browsers crash; quirks of distributed SQL databases, etc.
That's why job ads for programmers reek with specific buzzwords, asking for years of experience. And that's why many coding bootcamp graduates might get disappointed with their schools when they start looking for real-world jobs.
It takes years to get into details and correctly deploy all the variables and loops, and no bootcamp teaches these details. So, be realistic about their curricula and the length of training time you need to be eligible for programmer jobs.
Coding bootcamps teach basic programming skills to students. A few years ago, when entrepreneurs saw the shortage of professionals in the IT niche, those schools seemed a solution to close that gap.
But it happened that low-skilled developers continued to flood into the market, seeking high wages for zero experience in programming aspects that even a junior specialist needs to know.
Today, when new bootcamps pop up like mushrooms after a spring rain and hundreds of their grads hit the job market with no proper skills in the pocket, hiring managers aren't that impressed by this phenomenon anymore.
In plain English, coding bootcamps' reputation among top employers in IT isn't that rosy. Some bootcamp graduates are even afraid to mention going to a coding school when they apply for jobs, worrying about a stigma of sloppy coders some employers may attach to them.
Your Talents and True Needs
Many believe that it's a must to be a developer if you want to get a rewarding career in tech. It's not so.
Coding and programming languages learning aren't for everyone, and there's no need to torture yourself with attempts to master something that's not your strength. While it's not that challenging to complete a bootcamp's course, it would also help to consider your true talents and needs when choosing a path.
Otherwise, you risk spending time and money on something you believe is trendy just to find out it's not for you. Try taking a step back and check alternative roles in tech that might fit your specific strengths and become your first steps to a rewarding position in a tech company:
Thus, you might want to learn QA or System Administration, gain insight into what is SEO or tech marketing, try technical writing ideas or programming analytics, or become a community development professional. Product management, tech sales, technical account management – all these paths can take you toward career progression with no need to learn to code.
Just remember that programming is not your only way to a career in tech, granted that coding ability can be your advantage over other candidates when applying for jobs - it is not a reason enough to get caught up in bootcamp scams.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.