Are Coding Academies Worth It?

Matthew Browne

By: Matthew Browne, Division Manager– El Segundo, CA

Are coding camps worth it?  This is a question I am frequently getting asked by people looking to get into Software Development.  I’m not going to try and address which code camps are best/or most respected because there are many factors we can judge the program on and truthfully, I haven’t collected enough information to truly make that assessment.  If you’re looking to join a coding academy, you’ve got some research ahead you.  What am I here for?  I’m just looking to discuss what I see in the market as far as how often I see “boot campers” getting hired as well as the best way to discuss your code camp experience.  I have been in Software recruiting for over five years and it’s safe to say I have spoken to my share of fresh graduates from code camps looking for their first jobs.  Here’s my take on the pros/cons of taking this route.

Some of the Pros of Coding Academies:

  • Gives somebody with no computer science background an introduction to programming
  • Allows someone the opportunity to learn languages that aren’t typically taught in school such as: Node.js, Angular.js, React.js, Ruby on Rails, iOS development, etc.
  • Better than not having any education with those languages or being self-taught for the most part.
  • Can lead to networking opportunities with hiring managers that attend these code camps, do presentations, have agreements with the coding camp, etc.
  • Most are completed within 9-12 weeks (a relatively short amount of time to hopefully learn a new skill)

The Cons of Coding Academies.  academy

  • Can at times consist of group projects where individual hands on programming can be limited.
  • While a few may be free, the vast majority have a hefty price tag—charging at much as $14,000 for a 9-12 week course.
  • Lack of prestige. More often than not, hiring managers really are trained to weed these resumes out.
  • Can sometimes have to deal with hiring managers immediately dismissing a resume when they see the code camp experience on a resume
  • Can 12 weeks really replace 4 years’ worth of education? Most people are going to lean heavily on “no.”

You can take what you will from my opinion on what the benefits and downsides are of coding camps but if you were to ask me if it’s worth it I would answer, “It depends.”  Coding academies still fall in the ambiguous zone.  If you are serious about trying to get into the Software Development workforce, and ready to study in and outside of the class, it can definitely be beneficial.  I think you would be hard pressed to find anybody saying that having a 3 month crash course on programming wouldn’t help someone gain more programming knowledge.  The real issue is that these camps can be expensive and it takes time to become a professional with any skill and programming isn’t any different.

If you are looking to join a coding camp as an exploratory step and the only necessary step in becoming gaining employed in this highly competitive market? I would say not to do it.  Just completing a coding camp is usually not sufficient enough to obtain a job.

At the end of the day, if you’re considering a coding academy, understand that it’s not the answer to your money making dreams.  It’s not going to make you some kind of tech guru.  It will simply elevate you.  If you are serious, if you study, and if you can grasp the concepts and you have a thirst to continue learning—you will certainly find your place in this industry.

Lastly.

Let’s talk about how to talk about coding academies.  Let’s be frank and get this out of the way—no matter what your instructors tell you to do, please don’t commit the list the projects you worked on during camp under “Professional Experience.”  Hiring managers know that you don’t yet have any professional experience so doing this can sometimes be viewed as deceptive.  The best thing you can do is be upfront about the fact that up to this point you don’t have any professional experience.  You can list the code camp certification and projects you worked on under “personal projects”.  If you are able to include any projects that you worked on outside of the camp, github accounts, links to code, etc. that can truly help your cause.

Hiring managers are usually looking for anything that can help separate you from other graduates from the same camp.  If you are looking to get your software development career started, and considering attending a coding camp, hopefully you will find this information helpful.

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