Is a Web Development Bootcamp Worth it in 2022? by@johnpalmgren

Is a Web Development Bootcamp Worth it in 2022?

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John Palmgren

If Spiderman worked in tech would he be a web developer? I'm a React developer with a degree in writing. Come say hi 👋

What is a Bootcamp?

A Bootcamp is a course that runs over a short period of time -- often around 3 months. It is normally full-time and intensive, with self-study also required (although part-time options are sometimes available). It is taught by industry experts with an emphasis on giving you the skills you need to land a job.

Types of Bootcamps

There are lots of different boot camps that exist, all with their pros and cons. If you are considering doing a Bootcamp then research is key. below is a list of some of the types of boot camps that you can take.

Commercial

The most common type of Bootcamp is a regular commercial Bootcamp. Normally set up by a group of individual programmers or by a company wishing to deliver a service. There is usually a large upfront cost for this but there is a lot of variation so make sure to do your research.

Job Guaranteed

Another increasingly common type of Bootcamp is a job-guaranteed Bootcamp. As the name suggests, they will guarantee that you get a job as a result of completing the course. If you don't get a job within a certain amount of time you will not have to pay for the course. These Bootcamps may be more selective about who they let on the course as they want to make sure everyone has the potential to become employed by the end of it. There are two types of job guaranteed Bootcamps, ones where you need to pay upfront, and will be refunded if you are not able to get a job and ones where you only pay when you get the job. Clearly, there is less risk with the second option.

Funded

Depending on where you are in the world there may be other options available to you. In the UK the government has funded many "skills bootcamps" to improve the employability prospects of people needing to change careers.

what's the alternative?

Degree

There is always the option of going down the traditional route and getting a degree. This is certainly not essential but is one way to get your foot in the door. The upside to this is that you will be able to enroll in a graduate program after finishing your degree, and some employers will only hire people with a computer science degree. The downside (the big one) is that it costs a lot of money. It also takes a lot of time and may be overkill to get your foot in the door as a web developer. That being said, if it's the kind of thing that would interest you anyway, and you've got the time and money, then this is worth considering.

self-taught

Another popular alternative to going to a Bootcamp is to teach yourself using online resources. There is certainly no shortage of resources, both free and paid. The upside here is that you can get an education in Web Development by spending very little money or even free. The downside is that some employers might not take you as seriously (but if you've got a solid portfolio, that will help). And you lack the format and direction of a formal course. You may also find it harder to make connections with others doing the same thing as you, but there are plenty of opportunities to do so if you look hard enough.

You can also choose to take a Bootcamp style online course. This may help give you a format of what to study and when, which is one of the hardest parts of self-study, but it will lack the in-person feedback you can get from a Bootcamp or degree.

My experience

I spent most of a year learning Python before switching and teaching myself web development for another year. After that, I joined a funded Web Development Skills Bootcamp.

I have enjoyed the journey of teaching myself. I find the thrill of learning and building new things satisfying in itself. That being said, it can be hard to maintain motivation when you're doing it on your own. It is also hard to decide what to learn when. There's no curriculum to follow and you have to decide for yourself whether to learn Tailwind vs SASS or, React vs Angular, for instance.

My personal bootcamp experience has been underwhelming. I don't want to put anyone off, and I'm sure this is not a universal experience. It's also worth bearing in mind, as shown above, that there are many different types of Bootcamps. The one I'm on is facilitated by a university and funded by the government as part of the Skills Bootcamp initiative. The program has been put together in a rushed way and there have been some poor staffing choices. There doesn't seem to be the drive to add value in the way I imagine a commercial bootcamp might, where the participants might have paid thousands of pounds to attend. But again, I must stress that this is just one experience and there are many other Bootcamps around.

Is it worth it?

There are many things to consider when deciding if a bootcamp will be worth it for you. Asking yourself the below questions can help you decide if it's for you

What's the cost?

The question at the front of your mind will probably be the cost. No matter how good it is, you need to be sure that you can afford it and that it won't leave you in a worse financial position.

What's the indirect cost? As well as the advertised price, there are other costs involved. Most Bootcamps run full time which will mean you will either need to leave your job or drastically decrease your hours. This might be the right thing to do, but take into consideration the income you will lose from doing less, or no work. If you can take a career break or a sabbatical, then this will be less of a risk than if you have to quit your job. But you will still need to find a way to support yourself while you study.

Is there a guaranteed job? Another factor to take into consideration is whether the bootcamp offers a guaranteed job at the end of the course. Make sure to read the terms and conditions carefully to be sure you're actually getting what you think you're getting.

What employers do they work with? One of the most valuable things about doing a bootcamp is the connections that the organizers have with employers. Before you start a bootcamp, find out what employers they work with and how you'll be able to interact with them. It's also worth asking how they prepare you for employment. Do they teach you how to write a coding resume? Will they invite local employers or recruiters to talk to you about the process?

Do they have experience running Bootcamps?

Are they a new operation or have they been running for a long time? Just because they've been around for a while doesn't mean they'll be better but they would have had more time to iron out any kinks in their operation. If it's the very first time they're running the course then be prepared to be a bit of a guinea pig while they figure out how best to run it. It will also be easier to find out what previous students thought of the course. Have a look around in a few different places for online reviews.

Who are the instructors?

Most bootcamp instructors will be industry experts but it is worth doing a bit of research and finding out what experience they actually have. Although it's tempting to think that the more experience the instructor has the better, the crucial thing is actually how experienced they are as a teacher. Someone can have all the experience in the world, but if they're no good at explaining it to you then you'll have wasted your time. Check to see if the instructors have experience in running previous Bootcamps or another teaching role.

Do you know the basics?

While lots of Bootcamps will say that you don’t need prior coding knowledge, you will be doing yourself a huge favor if you learn a bit before you start. That way you'll be able to hit the ground running when you start the bootcamp and use the first few days as a recap on what you've learned. I would recommend looking for some free tutorials on YouTube or a site like freeCodeCamp. Learn some HTML and CSS and if you've got time learn the basics of how JavaScript works. This will give you the best possible head start for your bootcamp.


Hopefully, this article has helped you decide if a bootcamp is right for you. Bootcamps are often very expensive. Even if it's free you're paying with your time and lost income. But the potential rewards for completing a bootcamp are also great. It can give you more credibility when applying for jobs, allow you to network with other programmers, and turbo-charge your learning.

John Palmgren HackerNoon profile picture
by John Palmgren @johnpalmgren.If Spiderman worked in tech would he be a web developer? I'm a React developer with a degree in writing. Come say hi 👋
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