Let’s face it: developers with relevant real-world skills are in very high demand. Learning those real-world skills is what many people strive after. Generally, there are two main reasons why people want to learn these technical skills.
Reason 1: Switch Careers To Be a Full-Time Web Developer
Being a web developer is awesome! You get to create and improve an application that helps countless (think: millions) of people improve their lives. You have direct impact, solve challenges daily and are well-respected for your contribution to any team. You are part of the technical team and feel the exact opposite of “stuck at a job that you don’t like.” You are important.
Besides the intangibles of feeling great about your job, you are also very well compensated for your skills and expertise. Although salaries vary depending on the city where you’re located, as an entry-level programmer, you can usually expect a baseline salary of $65,000/year in most cities (tech hubs pay you more) and a big pay raise after your first professional year. Most experienced developers will make between $75,000-$110,000.
Talented and experienced software developers are very hard for companies to find!
When tech companies raise millions of dollars in venture funding, they need to spend that money to improve their current application and product. The one asset that is valued most will always be technical experience, because the core product that drives revenue is software. That software needs to be constantly improved and updated.
After raising a round of funding, many companies are in a position where they need to grow their engineering team by 20 new members in just a few months. That’s a very difficult task, even for the best CTOs and VPs of Engineering.
When those CTOs and VPs of Engineering are making hiring decisions, they will care most about the positive impact a new hire can bring to their existing team. This means, they will look at the amount of relevant real-world coding experience a candidate has working on an agile team, and computer science fundamentals, such as algorithms and problem-solving skills.
Reason 2: Build and Launch Your Own Web Application Idea
The only thing more difficult than building a great web application is finding a person who can build it for you when you don’t know how to code. Finding a talented software engineer and convincing him or her to “make the magic happen” and build the entire product in exchange for a bit of hypothetical equity is almost impossible. Why? Because every good developer is pitched by multiple “idea people” every single week, and all the risk and effort of building an application rests on the developer in the early days.
Real entrepreneurs don’t let other people build their dreams for them.
Rather than searching for this magical person to help you build your own dream, it’s a much better investment of your time and energy to learn how to code yourself.
How Do I Learn The Skills to be a Web Developer?
You have several options: go the traditional route of getting a Computer Science degree at a university, or join a coding education program (most call themselves coding bootcamps).
At a high level, coding bootcamps teach skills that will help you be an effective developer who is capable of building applications by the time you graduate. They also teach you things that you will likely be asked in technical interviews, so you’re prepared for a potential job interview.
Most coding bootcamps will also provide coding challenges for students to solve, so graduates will be able to code complex applications, rather than just simple applications that don’t mirror the complexity of applications in the real world.
There are two varieties of coding bootcamps to choose from, each having its own pros and cons.
In-Person Coding Bootcamps
In most major cities, you will find a selection of different in-person coding bootcamps.
In-person coding bootcamps are generally taught the traditional, university-style way: one instructor stands in a classroom and teaches many students.
Almost all in-person coding bootcamps require you to be in the classroom on a full-time schedule, and you’ll most likely need to quit your current job to attend the program. Most students will live in the area where the coding bootcamp is, but you can also expect several students to have traveled and temporarily relocated to attend the coding bootcamp. Start dates for most in-person coding bootcamps are every 3 to 4 months.
The atmosphere of in-person coding bootcamps is pretty intense: work as hard as you can, out-code your fellow students and be the most competitive graduate for the job market in the city where your coding bootcamp is located.
Throughout each day you will typically listen to 1 to 2 hours of lectures in the morning and work on assignments by yourself for the rest of the afternoon. If you have questions or need troubleshooting help while going through your assignments, you will usually need to enter your error message in an online “ticketing system” and a TA – who often times graduated from the same bootcamp in the prior cohort – will review your question and write you an answer.
In-person coding bootcamps cost anywhere between $8,000-$22,000 in tuition. The courses will last anywhere from six weeks to multiple months.
Online Coding Bootcamps
The best online coding bootcamps give you the same end results as in-person coding bootcamps: they teach you the technical skills you need to land a job and/or launch your own web application idea.
Online coding bootcamps are taught in an apprenticeship style: one instructor takes a single student under his or her wing for the entire duration of the program.
Unlike in-person bootcamps, online coding bootcamps don’t require you to be in a classroom and anyone can join regardless of their location. Since the entire program is online and self-paced, you won’t be required to quit your current job and all virtual meetings can be organized around your existing schedule. The same applies to rolling start dates that allow new students to join at the beginning of each week.
The atmosphere of online coding bootcamps is collaborative: students from around the country share the same goal to learn technical skills to change their lives, and are willing to help each other reach that goal together. Since only a handful of students are located in the same city at any given moment, competition between students for jobs is almost never a factor.
Throughout each day you will typically focus on your assignments and work through exercises. Your personal mentor will guide you through the sections that you found difficult in personalized 1-on-1 mentor sessions, weekly office hours, and team meetings, and chat rooms will help you connect with your fellow classmates and give you the option to learn from what they’re working on. If you have questions or need troubleshooting help while going through your assignments, you can enter your error message in an online Q&A forum, and one of the code mentors will review your question and help you out.
Online coding bootcamps usually cost between $4,000-$5,000 in tuition. The courses will last anywhere from 6 weeks to multiple months.
The curriculum of online coding bootcamps is set around building several web applications that increase in complexity while you progress through the program. The best online coding bootcamps will use a combination of live instruction (mentor sessions, office hours, group meetings, etc.), text-based guides (to build the web applications), and pre-recorded lessons that describe technical concepts in more detail.
Mentors at the best online coding bootcamps are typically senior web developers with experience at leading tech companies.
So Do Coding Bootcamps Actually Work?
For most people, the answer is yes. But ultimately, it depends on the person.
Rather than thinking about coding bootcamps as traditional education programs – like a 4-year university degree – you should think of a coding bootcamp as a program that is selling you time and guidance.
If you’re organized and smart, you could go out on your own, dedicate around 30 hours per week in study time, and learn from free/cheap online resources for about 2 years to reach a similar coding level that you’d get to after 15 weeks in a coding bootcamp.
The biggest hurdle to making that happen – aside from dedicating 2 years of your life to the endeavor – is the struggle to learn on your own and without guidance. That means fixing a single error message could set you back 4 days, when an experienced developer could have showed you how to solve it in 3 minutes. Going through multiple rounds of error message struggles usually brings your self-confidence down to a level where you’re thinking about giving up or are about to throw in the towel.
Joining a coding bootcamp means you can achieve coding proficiency much faster and often times with better results than you could have achieved on your own. It works because you’ll be consistently pulled out of your comfort zone, and you’ll always have somebody course-correcting when you spend too much time focusing on things that don’t actually matter, giving you a laser focus on becoming a self-sufficient developer, who is able to efficiently solve any problem that comes your way.
The path to being a professional web developer and/or launching your own web applications isn’t necessarily easy, and it will likely be one of the most rewarding challenges in your life. But at the end of a leading coding bootcamp, you’ll be ready to conquer the coding world.
In order to tackle this challenge, you will want to join a leading coding bootcamp that focuses on a deep curriculum, puts an emphasis on coding fundamentals, and gives you a real-world coding education.
This post is part of a 4-part series. Click here to read the first post.