Given how highly in-demand software developers are at the moment, it’s no surprise that an entire industry has developed around teaching people to code.
Massive online open courses like Codecademy—where coders learn at their own pace—and more intense, instructor-led coding bootcamps like Fullstack Academy are particularly popular choices for both career switchers and those who have always been interested in programming.
But when both routes can lead to a career in software engineering, how can aspiring developers choose the right type of education?
Let’s dive into the major differences between attending a coding bootcamp versus self-learning, including the benefits of guidance and structure, building your community, and more.
Self-Learning Only Takes You So Far
It’s true: Software developers never stop learning.
This is true whether you completed a computer science degree, are self-taught, or graduated from a coding bootcamp.
Bootcamp graduate Mark Wilbur believes that anyone who thinks learning ends with graduation or course completion “is going to be in for a world of pain.”
The best developers are the ones who continue studying throughout their careers, and it’s to this end that Wilbur spent hundreds of hours completing online courses to stay sharp even after graduating from bootcamp.
There are many free resources for self-learning—books, YouTube, online courses, and more—and because they are so readily available, these resources are natural starting points for anyone wanting to transition to a career in code.
That’s how career changers like Moses Skoda and Haseeb Qureshi, for example, started their programming journeys.
Skoda taught himself how to code in 10 months and secured a development job using only online courses.
But it’s important to realize he’s the exception and not the rule and that most aspiring developers do what Qureshi did—start by self-learning and then build upon that knowledge with formal training.
Create Your Own Coding Bootcamp
When you’re trying to become a software developer, Fullstack Co-Founder and Co-CEO David Yang recommends thinking about what you’d want from a coding bootcamp and cultivating that in a self-taught coding environment.
According to David, when you're trying to become a self-taught coder, there are five things you need to do to build your own bootcamp:
- Find a Great Coach
- Choose a Curriculum
- Build Your Community
- Commit to the Process
- Curate Your Path
Learn more about how to create the bootcamp experience at home by watching his full video.
Once you've tried out a free course like Fullstack's Intro to Coding or explored other free or low-cost self-learning resources, you may be curious to keep learning on your own—but if you’re interested in reaching your goals faster by opting for a tried-and-true coding bootcamp, here’s what the education model has to offer.
Guidance and Structure Help You Learn Quickly and Effectively
Experts Can Tell You Where to Focus Your Energy
The world of software development is massive. There are more than 200 programming languages, for instance. That means there’s a lot to learn, but it also means there’s a lot that beginners don’t realize they don’t know.
Which is the right language—or languages—to focus on? What skills are actually necessary for a career in programming? These questions are huge hurdles to overcome for someone who knows very little about the industry.
This is exactly how coding career-changer Laurence Bradford felt. The sheer number of online courses, books, and other free-ish material out there doesn’t help (and is even a little overwhelming) when you have no idea what you should be learning—let alone how to break into a new industry.
If you want to make sure you are focusing your time and energy on the right things, you need expert guidance.
A bootcamp led by experienced teachers and staff with a history of helping graduates secure jobs with top companies offers exactly that guidance. And coding bootcamps do far more than just point you in the right direction: The immersive environments empower students to commit the time necessary to become proficient at coding.
Immersive Environments Make You Commit Fully
One of the best ways beginners can truly become professional developers in just a few months is by fully committing to an immersive environment.
It takes exceptional levels of discipline and consistency when you’re self-learning—even the brightest and most dedicated students need help—and challenging yourself to do the near-impossible is a recipe for failure.
On the other hand, Triplebyte’s Ammon Bartram believes that the challenging nature of bootcamps is one of the main reasons their graduates are able to match the practical programming ability of CS graduates.
Bootcamp students are ready to rise to the challenge—and they have the support they need to do so successfully.
Bottom Line: Bootcamps Get You There Faster
An established curriculum, expert help, and immersive environment all add up to one big benefit: You’ll learn a lot faster in a coding bootcamp than if you were self-learning.
For Fullstack alum Shawn Wang, this made the investment in a bootcamp education worth it.
Before committing to Fullstack Academy, Wang tried several free courses that taught him the basics of programming, but it was a slow process.
Wang says if he had continued his goal of being a self-taught coder, it would have taken him at least a year to learn what Fullstack’s coding bootcamp taught him in three months.
Bootcamps Provide Community and a Way to Build Your Network
Being part of a community only bolsters the coding bootcamp benefits we’ve already covered.
The more experienced people you have around you, the more quickly you’ll be able to power through roadblocks.
As bootcamp grad Andy Coravos points out, “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.”
And because software development is often collaborative within the workplace, it’s important to learn how to code in a team environment.
The idea that developers prefer to work in isolation is a myth, says bootcamp grad Andreia Domingues. Coding bootcamps offer something that self-learning can’t: the opportunity to create a project together as a team—just as you would in a real work environment.
Being a part of a community is also a great way to boost your network.
The people you meet during bootcamp—classmates, instructors, hiring managers, folks at seminars and hackathons—will be the foundation of your tech network. This can be incredibly valuable once you’ve graduated and are making your way in the industry.
Senior web developer Kevin O’Shaughnessy believes a strong network of industry contacts is key if you want to build a reputation and keep growing as a developer.
With a strong network, you’ll learn more about the industry, find out about meetups, and get the inside scoop on exciting products and companies.
You’ll also open yourself up to job opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise have access to as a self-taught coder. Because software engineering is such a tight-knit community, developers will often recommend friends or colleagues for roles and vouch for their expertise.
Bootcamps Demonstrate Your Commitment and Help You Find a Job
Graduating from a bootcamp demonstrates to prospective employers your commitment to learning and drive to succeed.
Employers all know that bootcamps are tough. Proving that you can dedicate 60 to 80 hours a week to learn a new skill set says a lot about you. This is one of the reasons RankScience co-founder Dillon Forrest says bootcamp grads are among the top people he’d like to work with.
Bootcamps will also give you the opportunity to create a portfolio that will impress hiring managers.
As someone new to the industry, you won’t have work experience in web development for employers to evaluate, so you’ll need to demonstrate your skills another way. That’s where your portfolio will be invaluable.
You’ll create several fully functional apps during the bootcamp experience that you can use to get the attention of hiring managers and discuss during interviews. This, says bootcamp alum Doug Mill, is a “huge boost” when finding your first job.
Ph.D. student Kyle Thayer even found that some employers, particularly smaller companies, prefer coding bootcamp graduates over CS graduates specifically because of the practical abilities bootcamp grads have, their experience solving problems with teams, and their more up-to-date skill sets.
Further, many bootcamps dedicate significant resources to helping graduates find their first coding jobs. Bootcamp grad Tam Dang, for instance, attributes her success in finding a job to the resources provided by her bootcamp.
Self-learning is the starting point for many aspiring coders, and knowing how to learn by yourself will help you stay current in the future. But for individuals who are serious about building a career in code, there’s simply no substitute for the knowledge, resources, and opportunities that a coding bootcamp can offer.
Ready to take your self-learning to the next level? Apply to Fullstack Academy today and learn everything you didn’t know you didn’t know.