The Coding Bootcamp industry is growing significantly. In it’s Market Sizing Report, Course Report found that the market was expected to grow by 1.7x in 2016, graduating over 17,966 students in 2016, up from 10,333 in 2015.

With more applications being sent to bootcamps, it’s becoming tougher and tougher for applicants to stand out. And the thing it, there is a big difference in curriculum quality, instructor credentials, and student outcomes across the coding bootcamp landscape. As a prospective student, you need target the top coding bootcamps and understand what they’re looking for in applicants.

If you think about the ideal bootcamp applicant, a few stereotypes might come to mind:

  • The applicant has already been programming on the side for years.
  • The applicant was the “math whiz” in high school.
  • The applicant studied something related to engineering, statistics, or mathematics in college.

Coding bootcamps certainly do attract these types of people, but these qualities are definitely not the main qualities that the best coding bootcamps in 2017 are looking for in students. In fact, there are 12 other qualities are actually far more important indicators of success for coding bootcamp graduates.

Here are 12 qualities that the best coding bootcamps in 2017 want from students.

best coding bootcamps in 2017

1. Amazing Critical Thinking Skills.

If you write a computer program incorrectly, you’re doing to run into problems and bugs. All great programmers need to be able to use critical thinking skills to question the functionality of the code they write.

If you love complex board games, sudoku, or building things in your free time, you’ll find that the strategic thinking that goes into those skills translates incredibly well to computer programming.

2. A Passion For Technology.

Bootcamps often attract people who are passionate about technology. This makes sense. It takes a lot of work with computers and different digital tools to build web applications, so it’s a positive sign if you already feel comfortable around technology.

Most bootcamp students already have plenty of experience using technology to accomplish tasks like:

  • Creating documents
  • Research topics on the Internet
  • Learn new things about the world

Maybe you’ve watched Apple’s WWDC. Or perhaps you were an early adopter of SnapChat or Instagram. Or maybe you followed Facebook’s IPO when it first went public. Given that technology is eating the world, bootcamps want students who are tapped into the world that is developing around them.

The best coding bootcamps in 2017 are definitely looking for students who have a passion for technology.

3. Experience in Automation and Process Development

Programming is very much about creating a ruleset that computers are able to follow. Given that, a big part of a programmer’s job is to create and follow repeatable processes to achieve specific outcomes.

Automation is helping us live more efficient lives. And you probably have more experience with automation than you might think.

If you’ve ever created a process to help streamline things to get them done in a more efficient way, then you should consider that relevant experience going into a coding bootcamp.

4. Some Prior Coding Experience

Most coding bootcamp students have tried coding before enrolling. After all, if you’re going to be investing the amount of money it costs to go to most bootcamps, you should find out if you actually like to program first.

That said, you absolutely do not need years of coding experience before joining a bootcamp.

Having a little bit of experience coding using any of the variety of places where you can learn to code online is helpful.

Here’s why this is important:

Not everyone enjoys spending time writing code.  Transitioning careers isn’t easy, so it’s important to know that you love writing code so that you’ll spend time putting in the work.

Not sure where to start? Some bootcamps are now offering bootcamp prep courses to vet students and make sure that the best of the bunch apply. At Firehose, we offer a free prep course to give students the background they need before joining our full online software engineering program.

5. Curiosity

Many of the students who succeed at coding bootcamps are naturally curious –  the type of people who takes things apart just to learn how they’re put together in the first place.

A natural level of curiosity is helpful in programming, a field where there is so much to learn. Your goal in attending a coding bootcamp should be to attain a level of self-sufficiency in programming, where you can teach yourself new things every day. If If you’re the type of person who is naturally curious, it’s easier to get into the mindset where you enjoy learning new things every day.

Many successful graduates of Firehose have gone through the experience of not being able to put a problem down without solving it. I remember one student, in particular, who told me that he was so determined to understand and solve our complex algorithm challenges that he physically locked himself in a room one weekend until he was able to solve the problems. This is an extreme case, but it’s a good example of the type of person who tends to succeed at a coding bootcamp.

Curious students are definitely ideal candidates for the best coding bootcamps in 2017.

6. An Interest In Entrepreneurship.

Many people who excel at coding bootcamps have an interest in entrepreneurship. If you think about it, it makes sense. Both web development and entrepreneurship involve building something from nothing.

People who are determined and focused enough to turn their ideas into a reality tend to succeed at coding bootcamps. And these types of people are the ones who willing to put in the work that it takes to transition careers.

Stephen Foung, an early Firehose grad, built a successful mobile app company while he was in our program. He could have landed a job as a developer if he wanted, too.

7. Willingness To Give Back and Help Their Peers.

Coding bootcamps love students who are eager to make their community as vibrant and welcoming as possible. It makes the experience better for every student.

8. Liberal Arts Backgrounds

Just because you majored in something in college that doesn’t directly map to programming doesn’t mean that you’re not an amazing candidate for a top coding bootcamp. Often, people with these types of backgrounds are super passionate, and they tend to pick up programming concepts pretty easily.

People who consider themselves “Not CS People” often have more luck learning programming than they expect.

9. Creative Backgrounds

People with creative backgrounds tend to have a lot of success at coding bootcamps. At Firehose, we’ve seen a lot of:

  • Musicians
  • Designers
  • Writers

If you are good at the skill of creating something from nothing, then you will probably find it easier to pick up programming.

We have so many examples of people with creative backgrounds having a lot of success. We recently hired a graduate for a technical role who used to play the saxophone professionally. And we have a ton of other alumni who come from creative backgrounds. We’ve had a former concert violinist, a music composer, even a former guitarist in a rock band.

10. Analytical Backgrounds

People who already have experience working in an analytical environment often perform really well in coding bootcamps and see success when switching careers.

Many people who initially pursued a career in law find that detail-oriented thinking that they needed to develop in getting their law degrees is incredibly useful in transitioning to a career in web development.

People with experience in QA or product management at technical companies also are attractive to coding bootcamps since they know what it takes to build features.

11. A Ton Of Motivation And The Discipline To Put In The Work

It’s not easy to gain all the skills you need to switch careers and become a web developer. So the people who have the motivation to put in the work and discipline to stick to their goals will see the most success in the coding bootcamp environment.

Sometimes it will be hard to stretch yourself to the limit. Focusing on developing the discipline to practice the craft and working on the edge of your comfort zone will push you to the limit you need to reach at a coding bootcamp.

12. The most important quality is knowing where you want to go.

The point is, there are lots of different types of people who will succeed at coding bootcamps.

There isn’t a narrow set of characteristics that can predict who will do well and who won’t. You can come from a variety of different backgrounds, and you can have a variety of different strengths.

The most important quality that students need to have is a clear understanding of what they want to achieve and the discipline to partner with their bootcamp to make sure that they achieve it.

It’s more about where you want to go, then where you’ve been.

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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