Are Coding Bootcamps Worth It? A Cost-Benefit Analysis

By: Fullstack Staff

It’s one of the most popular questions: Are coding bootcamps worth it?

We know they’re a great way to learn valuable programming skills, grow your network, and help you land a high-paying tech job.

So why is there even a question here? Simply put: Coding bootcamps are a major investment—and not just from a financial perspective.

While attending almost any coding bootcamp is going to cost you less than getting a master’s or a four-year degree, it’s still worth considering the opportunity cost of spending several months out of the workforce (if you choose to attend full-time).

All potential bootcamp students should look at the total costs and benefits of a bootcamp experience and decide if it’s worth the chance to change careers and pursue a career in tech.

We’ve spoken with applicants, students, and grads to understand what drew them to bootcamp and what made them think twice to help you make the choice that’s right for you.

The Benefits of Attending a Coding Bootcamp

  1. In-Demand Skills in Less Time
  2. A Ready-Made Professional Network
  3. Career Counseling and Job Search Help

The Costs of Attending a Coding Bootcamp

  1. Tuition
  2. Living Expenses
  3. Opportunity Costs
  4. Social Costs

The Benefits of Attending a Coding Bootcamp

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1. In-Demand Skills in Less Time

The next big question after “Are coding bootcamps worth it?” is always “Can’t I just teach myself?” And while there are plenty of (often free) resources for self-study, that method isn’t always the most efficient.

Developer and career changer Andy Coravos says she tried a number of self-study courses, but none of them stuck.

It takes an inordinate amount of time and self-discipline to learn by yourself—and while many people may think they can do it, it gets discouraging fast, and it winds up taking a surprising amount of effort to stay motivated.

Having that network of teachers, experienced developers, and peers that coding bootcamps give you access to can help you get over hurdles faster than you could alone.

“You can save hours of your life by working near someone who can skim your work and let you know that the problem in the code you’ve been working on for the past five hours is a missing semicolon,” Coravos says.

BigTalker founder Dave Sloan says he found the in-person bootcamp experience invaluable.

Sloan doesn’t believe he ever would have learned as much studying on his own. Face-to-face tutoring was by far the best way to start his journey to becoming a developer, he says.

Coding bootcamps are also incredibly intensive, with many requiring students to commit 40-plus hours a week to their software engineering program.

The intensity of the course will help drill the material into your head, says Topcoder—just one more way coding bootcamps are focused on helping students learn and retain the most relevant skills.

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2. A Ready-Made Professional Network

When you’re just starting out in a new industry, it can be really daunting to build relationships, and it usually takes years to develop a network organically.

Even as you make connections, it’s really hard to make the deep, long-lasting personal and professional connections that will enable you to build a career.

When you attend a bootcamp, though, you surround yourself with like-minded, motivated people who can help you both during bootcamp and for years to come—and whom you will be able to support as well.

For bootcamp grad Charlotte Davies, her cohort of bootcamp students became her new professional network once they all ventured into a new industry.

“Those are the people that I will go to conferences with, recommend for jobs and even ask for help when it’s too scary to ask my colleagues!” she writes. “We are all learning to be new developers together.”

Copywriter Raghav Haran agrees that one of the best things about coding bootcamps is the communities they build.

All the bootcamp students in a given program are in the same boat—all totally overwhelmed but also all driven to succeed and ready to lift others up to ensure success for everyone. 

Haran writes that this shared experience results in a strong support network that allows students to progress more quickly and overcome those moments of doubt and imposter syndrome.

Fullstack Academy alum Stella Chung writes that the community she found at the Grace Hopper Program was essential to her learning and success. 

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3. Career Counseling and Job Search Help

Simple Programmer founder John Sonmez describes the placement rate of bootcamps as an “insanely valuable advantage”—placement rates being a measure of how many of a coding bootcamp’s grads get jobs in software engineering following their bootcamp experience.

If you’re wondering how to benchmark those numbers, Sonmez encourages you to start by comparing them with college placement rates.

You’ll find that coding bootcamp rates can be significantly higher because most colleges leave you to job hunt on your own and don’t spend a ton of time preparing you for the job search process.

Coding bootcamps are laser-focused on one area of expertise and on teaching students only exactly what they need to know to get hired ASAP

That’s due in part to the strong relationships coding bootcamps build with recruiters and employers and in part to the experienced career counselors bootcamps employ to help students craft industry-standard resumes, optimize their LinkedIn profiles, build good networking habits, navigate the hiring process, and more.

This is one of the biggest advantages of joining a bootcamp, writes front-end developer Jam Creencia.

Looking for a job in tech is different than pursuing a job in another industry, and a good bootcamp will help you navigate that process.

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For example, Fullstack Academy hosts an in-house job fair exclusively for Fullstack and Grace Hopper Program students.

All students speed-interview with a number of different recruiters and learn about the companies they represent.

The goal of the event is to kick-start students’ job searches by helping them practice their interview skills and make connections with recruiters. Plenty of bootcamp grads make valuable connections there—and some even actually receive offers from those interviews.

Coursera Chief Product Officer Shravan Goli specifically recommends choosing a bootcamp with existing industry relations to increase your chances of finding a job you’re passionate about.

The Costs of Attending a Coding Bootcamp

Now that you know all the value coding bootcamps can provide, let’s take a look at the associated costs, including tuition, living expenses, opportunity costs, and social costs. 

1. Tuition

One of the most important costs to consider is tuition.

Costs vary across coding bootcamps, but most run between $10,000 and $20,000 for anywhere between 12 and 20 weeks, depending on what works best for your schedule.

While that amount is significant, it will still usually cost you less than a CS degree or master’s program—for a more practical skill set and career services to go with it.

Course Report founder Liz Eggleston writes that the average cost of a four-year computer science degree is $163,140.

And while CS graduates, on average, earn salaries in the $60,000 range, according to Eggleston’s data, bootcamp grads earn just over $70,000.

This means that for almost $150,000 less in education costs, bootcamp grads can end up earning the same as or more than CS grads.

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2. Living Expenses

Because bootcamps are immersive, students must also be able to cover the costs of living during bootcamp.

Living expenses can include rent, health insurance, transportation, meals, and more, depending on your situation and the type of bootcamp you plan to attend.

Check with the coding bootcamps you’re considering to see whether they partner with a lender that covers cost-of-living loans. Fullstack Academy currently partners with Skills Fund and Climb

Keep in mind that while a coding bootcamp may only be between 12 and 17 weeks long, you’re still going to be out of work during the subsequent job search.

While most bootcamp grads at top coding bootcamps get work within six months of graduating, that can still amount to nine months out of work, and University of Washington Ph.D. student Kyle Thayer advises that the actual time it takes to change careers can be a year or more, so bootcamp hopefuls should aim for a year’s worth of savings.

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3. Opportunity Costs

This idea that we touched on earlier—of the opportunity costs involved when you try to save money on your education but end up missing out on getting a higher-paying job sooner—also applies in the other direction.

It’s going to take you around three months to complete bootcamp, and then another several to find a job, so the opportunity cost is the amount of money you’ll miss out on making while you’re a coding bootcamp student and then afterward, as you look for work.

And it isn’t only financial—you’ll miss out on the experience in the workforce that you would have gotten were you to continue on your current path.

That’s actually a big concern for many bootcamp hopefuls: You’re leaving a field you already have experience in for one that’s totally new to you.

While most folks want to leave their current field, it can still be scary to think about missing out on nearly a year of additional professional growth in your current field in order to essentially start over in a new field.

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4. Social Costs

The social costs of attending a coding bootcamp are the most easily overlooked, says fullstack developer Joanna Gaudyn.

Attending a bootcamp can mean putting your life on hold for several months to a year, which is going to be more difficult to manage if you have a spouse or kids.

While social costs might seem insignificant compared to financial concerns, having a strong support system is critical to your success at bootcamp.

Before you apply to a bootcamp, talk it over with those who are closest to you. Including them in the conversation can help set expectations up-front and help others know how to manage what will likely be a change in their lifestyle as well.

Being clear with your social network can avoid misunderstandings and emotional labor that will only make your bootcamp experience more difficult.

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Summing It Up

Coding bootcamps are the fastest way to skill up for a job in software engineering and build a strong network of connections—plus they include career counseling that’s invaluable to anyone entering a new industry.

But all of that doesn’t come cheap. Tuition alone can cost a good amount—and that’s before factoring in cost-of-living expenses and the social toll an intense bootcamp experience can take.

If you’re serious about becoming a software developer and want to make that change ASAP, coding bootcamps are by far your best path to an informed, supported career transition.

If you’re on the fence about coding bootcamps and need someone to answer your questions, book a call with us todayWe’ll help you make the decision that’s best for you.


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