Here’s the thing about coding bootcamps. There is a massive difference in quality across the bootcamp landscape. The best coding bootcamps are in it for the long haul. They’re committed to setting their students up for successful careers in software development. The worst coding bootcamps don’t hold themselves accountable. They fail to deliver on the promises they make to their students.

If you’re thinking about joining a coding bootcamp, it’s essential that you know what to look for in order to separate the best coding bootcamps from the rest. There are a ton of different criteria that you should be looking at to know if a coding bootcamp is worth it, but we boiled it down to the 9 most important criteria that you should be looking at first.

Here’s how to tell if a coding bootcamp is worth it. 

1. The coding bootcamp should teach computer science fundamentals.  

Fundamentals like algorithms and data structures are really important concepts to learn. You should make sure the coding bootcamp that you’re considering covers them.

Keep in mind, this stuff is pretty difficult to learn. Because of that, some bootcamps choose to skip it entirely.

Here’s why algorithms and data structures are important:

Many technical interviews ask questions about these topics to gauge a candidate’s technical prowess. Interviewers will often ask candidates to prove their ability with these fundamentals on a whiteboard. Too many bootcamps act like algorithms and data structures don’t matter, and it’s one of the worst mistakes they can make when it comes to teaching students.

On top of that, if you get a solid foundation in computer science, it will put you in an excellent position to land a job as a developer in any programming language. You don’t want to be pigeonholed into using a single programming language or web framework. The depth of your programming knowledge should go a lot deeper.

2. The coding bootcamp should help students when they need it.  

At some point, you’re going to get stuck while coding. This is inevitable.

You might see error messages or other small problems with your work that you need to correct. If you’re in a coding bootcamp, you should be able to get a quick response whenever you need it. It doesn’t matter if this comes from an in-person instructor or someone who helps remotely, it just needs to happen. There is nothing worse than getting stuck on a simple problem and losing all of your momentum.

You need to have the ability to get “unstuck” as quickly as possible. It’s on your coding bootcamp to have the infrastructure in place to make sure this happens.

3. The coding bootcamp should require students to complete work prior to the full course.

The best programs offer work that students can do prior to their first day in the full course.  Some bootcamps have free prep courses that students who haven’t signed up for their full course can try. Other bootcamps wait for students to sign up and pay for their course before offering prep work.

There are two main reasons why your bootcamp should offer prep work:

First, it ensures that prospective students actually enjoy the craft of programming.  

Some people love programming. But plenty of people don’t actually like it. If a bootcamp is willing to take your money, they should be absolutely sure that you’re the first type of person. It’s unfair to proceed if that’s not the case.

Second, it helps make sure that everyone starts the process on equal footing.

Given the nature of coding bootcamps, the programs that have prep work are able to cover more content in their full programs. Prep work allows instructors to assume that everyone is at a certain level of programming competency on day 1.   

4. Talking to a rep from the coding bootcamp should feel like talking to a great college student advisor.

Some coding bootcamp can come off as pushy or super salesly. But your experience in talking with the best coding bootcamps should feel like talking to a really great college advisor, someone who genuinely cares about your outcome whether you sign up for their course or a different one.

Choosing a bootcamp is a critical decision. You should be talking to someone who actually knows the industry and can advise you in the best way possible – not a pushy used car salesman who only cares about getting you to buy from him.

The coding bootcamp that you want to attend is one that doesn’t need to be super pushy in order to attract the students who will find success.

5. The coding bootcamp has individualized, personal attention for students.  

It’s essential to have the time to talk with instructors in an individualized setting. You shouldn’t have to compete with other students to get this attention.

Here’s the reason why:

Mentorship matters in coding. Your bootcamp should acknowledge this and support you through hands-on instruction.

Sometimes when learning to code, it can feel like things go too slow. This can get boring.

Other times, it can feel too fast and overwhelming. This can be intimidating.

Coding bootcamps that use individualized 1-on-1 mentorship prevent both the boredom and “being lost” aspect. This is because their instructors don’t need to teach to the “middle” of the class. Instead, they’re able to cater to the specific individuals that they are responsible for teaching.

6. The coding bootcamp’s founders and instructors should have real world experience.  

Many coding bootcamps simply hire their graduates to be the primary instructors for the course. While it makes sense to hire graduates for student support, for 1-on-1 instruction it’s important that students have access to instructors with real world experience as senior developers.

The top coding bootcamps have instructors who have been software engineers for top tech companies. While it might sound superficial, having instructors have worked or are currently working at some of the best tech companies really matters.  

Here’s why:

First, if top tech companies would hire the instructor to program for them, you know for sure that they know web development inside and out.

Second, it shows that the instructor believes in the course and the school they’re teaching at. Most senior developers wouldn’t help teach, or support a program they don’t believe in.

Finally, it allows you to get career advice from the very best.  This means you’ll be as prepared as possible to achieve success.

7. The coding bootcamp should let students work on a team.

In the real world, the best products aren’t built by individuals coding away by themselves. Instead, they’re built by teams of people contributing to the same project.

Working in a collaborative environment, where many people are building features at the same time, is a lot different than building projects in a vacuum. It turns out that working together on as part of a team of developers is a pretty critical skill to being prepared for the real world.

That’s why the best coding bootcamps team up their students and let them work together to achieve their goals.  

8. The coding bootcamp should have active founders.

Ideally, the founders of the coding bootcamp you enroll in should be invested directly in the student experience and involved in the actual education of their students.  

The best coding bootcamps generally have founders that are easy to build relationships with.

9. The coding bootcamp should have in-depth student stories.

Many coding bootcamps have student stories that seem to only scratch the surface of what the experience is like.

The best coding bootcamps help shine a light on what the student experience is actually like. Their students are so pumped about their experience that they write detailed blogs and posts about everything that they accomplish.

Each student’s experience and outcomes will be different.  The student outcomes might not map to 100% what you’re looking to achieve, but they can generally give you a good sense of what is possible if you attend the program.

All coding bootcamps are different, and they cater to different people.

There are a lot of coding bootcamps out there, and they’re all a little different.  

Some coding bootcamps are in-person and have live instruction.

Other coding bootcamps are online and have their learning materials available on an interactive platform.

Some coding bootcamps have the individualized instruction through 1-on-1 mentorship.

Some coding bootcamps offer a mix of these attributes, too.

If you’re truly serious about investing the money and time it takes to enroll in a coding bootcamp, you should make sure that they’re set up to give you the best possible chance of reaching your goals.

Make sure that they meet these 9 criteria. 

Are you seriously considering a coding bootcamp but still have questions that you want answered?

Schedule a call with us to learn more.


AuthorKen Mazaika

Ken Mazaika is the CTO and co-founder at Firehose. Previously, he was a tech lead at (acquired by PayPal) and a member of the PayPal/eBay development team in Boston.

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