Coding Bootcamps Versus College Degrees: How Do They Match Up

Are you concerned that coding bootcamps might be too good to be true? It used to be that wanting a career as a software engineer or web development professional meant attending a four-year college and graduating with a computer science degree. It sure can seem that somehow consolidating four years into a six-month bootcamps just won’t offer the same quality of education, and won’t be able to get you the job you want — but it can!  

Thanks to the unique structure of coding bootcamps, students are picking up the valuable skills they need to begin careers in tech. Granted, students will be making trade-offs if they opt to go the coding bootcamp route rather than attending a four-year college program. Let’s compare these two in order to isolate exactly what sets these options apart.  


Program Duration 

As we’ve already mentioned, the seemingly biggest difference between attending a traditional college program and a coding bootcamp is the amount of time required to complete the program. It’s typical for college to take four years to complete, though many students are now taking as much as six years, if not more, in order to complete a full bachelor’s degree. 

Let’s compare this to a coding bootcamp. These programs focus on the fundamentals of coding, which let students learn the basics of what they need to figure out if coding is a career they’d like to pursue. In some cases, very entry-level programs can be as little as four weeks. More in-depth programs that truly prepare students to switch careers generally last five to six month.  


Program Commitment  

Typically, any four-year college degree requires a 100% time commitment. Students are required to take a mix of classes that are focused on their major as well as classes that cover other subject areas. Once a major has been selected, students are obligated to complete the requisite classes, even if they find they no longer enjoy that subject area. This can be a major negative for students who try out coding and then realize it’s not right for them.  

Coding bootcamps offer an alternative to this approach. They absolutely require a strong commitment to learning. However, because of their relatively shorter duration as well as the flexibility some programs provide by letting students leave without further payment if it’s not a good fit means that they offer students much more educational freedom. Students can explore this field and job sector in a much more risk-free way.  


Program Cost 

Other than program duration, cost is likely the other biggest difference between these two types of education formats. Let’s start the costs associated with a college degree. While tuition fees certainly vary by institution, it’s not uncommon for a year’s worth of school to cost $30,000. Of course, this doesn’t include room, board, and other fees which can make the average price of a single year of college upwards of $40,000. Over the course of four years, that’s $160,000 for a complete college program! It’s no wonder many college graduates finding themselves deep in debt after completing their programs. 

Coding bootcamps offer a sharp contrast to this. Some of the more traditional coding bootcamps that offer training in a classroom setting can cost as much as $10,000. Now, with the advent of community coding bootcamps, there are programs that offer the same quality of instruction and skills attainment for less than $2,000.  


Program Subject Areas 

Of course, with coding bootcamps lasting only six months, they can’t cover the breadth of content you’ll find in a four-year computer science program. The biggest gap is in science and coding theory. Traditional four-year programs have the luxury of includes these areas which are dense and require lengthy instructions to fully grasp. Additionally, many college programs require students to take classes outside of their fields, like as coursework in the arts and humanities, in order to broaden their education. 

Coding bootcamps, by design, are far more tailored and focused. They teach students the ins and outs of coding, and particularly the fundamentals of coding languages that are most in-demand by employers today. They intend to give students the basic skills needed to find a career in just six months.  


Program Preparation For A Career In Tech 

There’s no question that either option will open up doors to jobs in the tech sector. The difference lies in the level within a field and often the salary range as well.  

After attending a four-year program and attaining a computer science degree, students enter into software engineering roles that comes with high starting salaries, often as much as $80,000. In contrast, students completing a six-month coding bootcamp will likely find themselves in lower-level jobs out of the gate as quality assurance or software testers. These rolls often pay at $50,000 per year. 

However, in spite of the short-term salary differences, both afford graduates strong long-term career opportunities. Under both circumstances, graduates get on-the-job-training and develop additional valuable skills, making them even more desirable to prospective employers. No matter which path someone chooses, their career potential is guided more by hard work and focus than education alone. 

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