Coding Bootcamp Scam

Over the last few days there has been debate on Twitter around Coding Bootcamps (and if you are interested in listening to one Twitter Space in particular then this one covers a few angles https://twitter.com/i/spaces/1mnxedwXerqJX ). While the debate was specifically focused on one US based bootcamp – which will remain unnamed -it was interesting to realise how many coding bootcamps share experiences. Not just in the same area but also across countries.

So naturally I thought I would add my own opinion to the debate.

As many of you will know I am a Coding Bootcamp graduate. Around three years ago now, I lost my job as a researcher and was offered a three week coding course for free. After feeling like those three weeks went well, I went forward for an apprenticeship with the same bootcamp – and the 12 week “classroom” time we had as part of the apprenticeship was combined with the 12 week coding bootcamp which could be privately paid for.

Minus the qualification.

Admittedly I didn’t research coding bootcamps in my local area. I could imagine what to expect from YouTube videos I had seen from USA vloggers but nothing from a UK point of view. And three years later, it intrigued me how similar the complaints and experiences are.

Let’s look into my three top points:

Not all teachers are made equal

I found you will come across three types of teachers at coding bootcamps.

1. Ex university professors/college teachers: these people are heavy on the theory of code as they have been focused on teaching a specific curriculum for universities and colleges. Personally I struggled with the theory side of what they were teaching as I was so new to coding, and also I generally learn from practical examples but I know some students who thrived from the intensity of being taught a three year degree in 12 weeks!

2. Recent grads: these individuals may have graduated from the same bootcamp as they are now teaching at, or have just left college or university. My experience with teachers who fell into this category was hit and miss as you could find that they were learning along with you.

3. Engineers who are transitioning into teaching: this category made up the majority of my teachers. And for a bootcamp specifically they were able to translate the curriculum into real world experiences. However, just because someone has the real world experience doesn’t always mean they are born to be teachers.

Leaving the weak on the wayside

It sounds harsh but I’ve heard this happening repeatedly. As I mentioned above, some coding bootcamps can come across as if they are trying to cram in a three year degree into 12 weeks. Bootcamps will also have students starting from different points so over the course, the slower learners will quickly feel overwhelmed and due to the short time limit teachers generally can’t give much one on one time to those students.

An example I heard from a friend was starting bootcamp and the teacher choosing to skip the first module. They said this was because it was basic information e.g. “hello world” to for loops and the teacher didn’t feel like it was needed. Then in the final three weeks of the course the students who had zero coding knowledge had to be taken aside and taught that first module to help clarify later sections.

Bootcamps are a goldmine

While I didn’t know about many UK bootcamps, I had heard in the US that the cost could vary massively. I generally put this down to how expensive tutorial fees were so a bootcamp would naturally be cheaper.

As I took the apprenticeship route I did not have to pay for my course, and I had a job going into the course. So I found the bootcamp valuable as it helped me get my foot in the door.

However, not all bootcamps have any sort of job guarantee. There is not always the same standard of learning or a qualification, in the US or UK, so a student can pay £16,000, for example, for a 12 week – 6 month course and find themselves only suitable for a completely unrelated role.

And the growing popularity of coding bootcamps is going to mean those numbers will grow. The number of bootcamps and the costs, and likely the turnover of bootcamp grads going straight into teaching the next cohort.

So are coding bootcamps worth it?

I did a short poll on Twitter and found that the majority of bootcamp grads took over a year to get their first tech role in comparison to university students generally having a job by graduation. To me, that usually indicates one main point:

  • Lack of support post graduation

Most coding bootcamps make money on you signing up to the course. Whether you complete the course or get hired afterwards is usually of little concern (unless the bootcamp has a deferred payment scheme or the bootcamp publishes the post graduation hiring stats).

So personally I think bootcamps are a great option to get your foot in the door. However, without a qualification or a job guarantee, it is no different to taking a free coding course online and teaching yourself.

I personally continued with the bootcamp route as I did earn a diploma from it, however private payers on the same course didn’t. I also preferred having the structure of the curriculum however I’ve since found out there are several alternatives such as FreeCodeCamp and several Udemy and YouTube courses.

So before you fork out a lot of money make sure you consider the alternatives, and if you do go with a coding bootcamp research any with qualifications or job guarantees.

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