(Or not — it’s up to you!)
There are many people who have gotten their start in a coding career being nothing but self-taught. I don’t believe that’s the majority of coders though. Self teaching is obviously the cheapest path to this new field, but I think it may also be one of the longest.
I attempted this path in the first year I became interested in coding and I think the main issue for me was the lack of structure. I didn’t really have an idea of exactly what I needed to be learning nor a schedule or curriculum for learning those languages effectively. Say what you will about formal education, but the managed (both in time in subject) nature of a proper program with industry professionals can really prepare you for a coding career.
I’m glad I went self-taught for a year, because it allowed me to really decide, with no financial cost, wether this was something I really wanted to really dive into.
After I knew that this was something I wanted to do as a career, I realized I needed to do something more formal. I wanted that structure, I wanted professionals I could ask questions, I wanted connections to the industry. So the answer is obviously school.
I had a choice to make: A Computer Science degree or a coding bootcamp?
The upsides to a degree are pretty obvious. University is the classic way of any higher education and so the quality of your education will be high and of course the opportunities afforded to you will be greater. Most companies still give special consideration to those with degrees when hiring junior level roles. Some even make it a requirement.
Obviously that’s quite a time commitment (a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science here in the U.K. takes at least three years) and it’s quite a bit of money too.
In fact for me it was just too much time and too much money. So I opted for the other option: Bootcamp.
Bootcamps are kinda what they sound like. A course done in a relatively short amount of time that throws your right into the fire. There is very little to no theory. Typically from day 2 your will be coding for the whole day (with lectures occasionally), nearly every day for however many weeks the course is. They are stressful courses, but their methodology works. After completion of the course (anywhere from 9 to 15 weeks) you will be job-ready. As I said before, job searchers with a degree will have an easier time getting interview and landing jobs, but the trade-off in terms of time and money is well worth it in my opinion. So what if you have to spend a extra couple of months looking for a job when you’ve saved more than 2 and a half years.
So you know where I stand, but what bootcamp should you choose?
Other than location (maybe even not if the course has a remote option) you really need to only research two things: reviews and stack.
Looking up “best coding bootcamps in <your area>” is a quick way to gain a list of viable bootcamps to look at, but don’t stop there. Look for reviews for each of those bootcamps, look at testimonials from people who actually graduated there. Search out successful graduates and their thoughts and, maybe most importantly, look for testimonials from unhappy graduates. Every school no matter how good is going to have students that have had a poor experience and have talked about it. It’s important not to just look at the flowery stuff, but gain a realistic understanding of the good and bad and decide from there.
To end this blog, I’ll tell you a little bit about the Bootcamp I chose.
Overall, I’m happy with the school and what I learned, but I am still, nearly six months on, looking for a job. This, I believe is party due to the pandemic, but I also worry that it could partly be down to my learning Ruby, which is a fantastic beginner language, but there doesn’t seem to be much demand for it in my area at the moment.
Whatever you choose I hope you’re successful in it and find it worth your time and money.