So, you want to attend a coding bootcamp.

macbook pro on brown wooden table

Deciding to attend a bootcamp is a huge decision. It’s a large investment of not only your time, but it can also get pretty costly. Before diving into the first one you come across on the internet, there are quite a few factors you should take into account. Let’s talk about a few of the most important ones to get the juices flowing.

1. In-person program

When I did my bootcamp, I did it in-person. For me, this was important because I know a lot about how I learn. I like to ask a lot of questions, I like in person lectures, and overall, I just really enjoy the energy of an in-person learning experience. However, this is not the only way or best way for everyone. I now work from home and have grown so accustomed to my own space that I’d probably do a program remotely if I had to do it again. And with the pandemic, a lot of programs went online for good, making it easier to gain access to great curriculums.

2. Online program

Online programs can offer a ton of flexibility. For caregivers, it can offer the ability to be home and work when you can. For folks who live a bit far from a major city, it can save time on travel. For people who find they focus better in a quiet environment, working from home can be huge for their mental health. Whatever your reason, there are tons of online programs available and tons of options for how fast you move through the program. Which brings us to our next thing to consider:

3. Intensive/immersive program

An intensive program tends to be somewhere around 15-18 weeks and moves pretty fast. Most of these programs will have prep work you do at home ahead of time to cover some basic skills so you can dive in on day 1. When I attended my bootcamp, we were expected to come in with a basic understanding of the languages we’d be working in as well as how HTML and CSS worked. Some programs are more advanced and have more rigorous pre-work and expectations of the information you bring with you. The ones that require you to take a test to get in generally also tout high job placement following the course, thought not all.

There are definitely downsides to an intensive program, they are pretty tough as you live and breathe code for 15 weeks. It’s difficult to have a job simultaneously if you plan on doing your homework or studying up on the day’s lessons at night. There really isn’t much time for anything else during the course, but, that’s sort of the point. They throw as much info as they can at you and you hopefully retain enough of it to get through an interview process and get a job. I found that with an intensive program, there were quite a bit of things I missed that I needed to spend more time gaining a deeper understanding on my own once the program was over.

4. Self-paced, part-time, flex programs

Self-paced, part-time or flex programs can offer the same course work to learners who like to take their time or don’t have the ability to take 18 weeks of work. These programs differ by length, some are referred to as part-time and run about twice the length of an intensive with classes in the evenings, and some offer you the ability to participate on your own terms as long as you need. A self-paced program may not have has easy access to a teacher to answer questions, but generally will have a Slack channel or something similar set up so the students participating can all help one another. There may be weekly lectures to attend and office hours to get help from a coach. Some may offer pair programming while it may be more difficult to work with others if you’re going at your own pace.

The benefits of going at your own pace can be pretty significant. Without a cohort of other people to give you the answers, you are stuck diving into the depths of Stack Overflow and Google to find the answers yourself. While this may sound frustrating, this can give you a much deeper understanding of why and how things work, because you had to figure it out on your own. You can leave with a deep knowledge of what you’re learning that will carry into any job you get. However, if you are the kind of person who loses focus in an unstructured work environment without deadlines, this might not be the best way of learning for you.

5. Diversity

The fact that men outweigh women in software engineering roles is not news. Many women find it discouraging to be the only one in a room full of men and are more likely to drop out of a program because of it. Luckily, there are bootcamps that offer all-female cohorts or ones that are directly geared toward women. They also offer mentorship and a space for women to openly discuss issues they may face in the workplace and offer advice on how best to navigate these situations.

Because there is such a gap in women to men, some programs have scholarships specifically for women to encourage them to attend their bootcamps. Diversity in tech is one of the main drivers behind bootcamps because they offer a way into tech to those who may not have grown up with access. Because of this, there are many scholarships worth looking out for.

6. Money-back guarantee

Some programs offer a money-back guarantee, just make sure you read the fine print. They may require you to partake in a certain number of activities daily and weekly while searching for a job. If you miss logging one day, you may no longer be eligible to receive your money back if you don’t find a job within the timeframe they’ve allotted.

7. Career coaching

Attending a program that had career services after the program was finished was extremely important to me. I was given the tools and support during my job search that were paramount to my success in finding a job. I practiced my HR interview with them, they set up a practice technical interview for me with a company that specialized in them. I was given weekly goals and taught how to use LinkedIn. I highly recommend finding a program that offers this service, it will set you above the rest and help you get closer to your goal faster.

As you can see, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made before deciding on which bootcamp is right for you. I’ve probably missed some, so feel free to throw what you’re considering in the comments below!

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