Understand The Different Coding Bootcamp Options

When you are looking at the best options to accelerate your coding skills you have several different options. We can break your options down into 3 big categories - online coding lessons, in-person coding bootcamps and online coding bootcamps.

Cost: Free-$100

Online coding lessons

Online coding lessons are often times self-guided coding videos that teach you how to walk your very first steps as a web developer. Popular resources to get your first understanding of how code works and learn how to build a very simple web application are TeamTreehouse, Udemy, Codecademy, OneMonthRails and Michael Hartl’s Rails Tutorial.

It’s important to understand - despite what their marketing team tells you - that all of those resources are purely introductory level coding classes that will help you make the first step, but won’t give you the necessary technical skills to build and launch your own ideas - or land a job as a web developer for that matter.

Cost: $4,000-$20,000

In-person coding bootcamps

Generally a 12 week long intensive program that teaches you the technical skills to land a job as a junior web developer through in-person classes and one-to-many, regular classroom style, teaching.

Cost: $3,000-$10,000

Online coding bootcamps

Generally, comparable to in-person coding bootcamps, but completely online, using self-paced guides and on 1-on-1 mentor driven teaching style.

While online coding lessons provide a great introduction to coding, the path to accelerating your own coding skills to a level where you can build and launch your own web application features with speed and confidence usually means enrolling in either an in-person or online coding bootcamp.

Pros and Cons of In-person and Online Coding Bootcamps

Since the online coding resources in the Free-$100 price range won't give you the same level of skill as the in-person and online coding bootcamp options, we're going to focus on comparing in-person and online coding bootcamps.

Let’s look at the pros & cons for both coding bootcamp options. In-person coding bootcamps are up first:

In-person Coding Bootcamps

In-person coding bootcamps typically last from 10-12 weeks and require you to be on location and code full-time. Most in-person bootcamps work like a traditional school: a single teacher, teaching a classroom of 20-30 students how to code. After class the students get homework in the form of coding assignments that need to be completed in a set period of time.

Most in-person bootcamps will have you sit in class to listen to your teacher and complete homework assignments for about 40 hours a week. Some claim that students put in over 70 plus hours per week, but realistically no real learning progress happens with a tired mind. Especially when it comes to learning technically challenging content like database structures or web development optimization techniques.

Since most in-person coding bootcamps require at least 40 hours a week of undivided attention, you typically cannot rely on any other sources of income and typically have to quit your current job and - in the worst case - move to another city and add rent and increased living costs on top of the in-person bootcamps tuition costs.

Let’s look under the hood a bit more and find the pros and cons for in-person bootcamps:

Pros for In-person Coding Bootcamps


Let’s face it you’re in a room with a bunch of other people who all just paid over $10,000 to learn to code. Since you are already here, you might as well stop checking facebook and write some code. In an in-person bootcamp it’s not that easier to give in to distractions and actually focus on learning how to code. If you lack motivation and self-discipline that this is a big plus for you.

Direct Peer Access

Learning how to code is all about staying motivated and working on what you think is interesting on your own time. Being in a room full of other students makes it a lot easier to talk about coding ideas and try your luck at working on an interesting side project together.

Opportunity to Teach

If you’re one of the better students in your class you will undoubtedly be asked for help with coding error messages by your fellow students. As much as this might be annoying, it’s also a great opportunity to actually teach back some of the skills that you just learned to somebody else. Explaining to another student how a specific section of code works can help you a lot in understanding it yourself better.

Cons for In-person Coding Bootcamps

Competition for Instructor Attention

Let’s be honest here, no matter how nice all your fellow students are you’ll always be competing with them for the attention of your instructor. That’s just how things go in any classroom, when everyone has a lot of questions - and you will have a lot of questions when learning how to code, trust us. This means that you need to be ok with not getting every single of your questions answered or error messages resolved. Your instructor simply can’t teach a new coding concept and also troubleshoot 10 error messages for 20-30 different students.

Competition for Jobs

Whether you like it or not, you will compete with your fellow students for the same pool of junior web developers job opportunities and many of you will interview at the same place. This can be a rather harsh experience once the first people receive job offers and you feel like you have to get a job, right now, too. This “I need a job right now” pressure, often leads you to do a less than ideal job search and sell yourself short (eg. accept a lower than normal salary).

Misaligned Incentives

A large part of an in-person coding bootcamps revenue comes from getting about 10 percent of your first year salary as a flat fee as soon as you’re hired. So if you’re making $65,000 per year, the in-person bootcamp would receive a check of $6,500 as a recruiting fee. This means that it is in the best interest of any in-person bootcamp to get you a job as fast as possible - to close the sale (of you, that is). The big problem - and where the incentives are radically misaligned - is that making $10,000 to $20,000 less in yearly salary doesn’t really make a big difference in the recruiting fee to the in-person bootcamp. It’s $1,000 or max $2,000 less, so better to close the deal now. However, for you there’s a huge difference in income between a $45,000 and $65,000 a year job. Not to mention that all future jobs will try to align your salary on what you’ve previously made. Obviously, not a lot of in-person bootcamps talk about this openly, which is even more reason for you to ask for at least 50% of the “recruiting fee”.

Zero Time Flexibility

You don’t like learning at nine in the morning, every morning or you rather take a two hour break in the afternoon and continue coding late into the Night? An in-person bootcamp gives you a set schedule and if you’re missing a few scheduled sessions you can be sure to fall behind rapidly. Sticking to fixed schedules can be hard for some people and if you like to mix it up, then this point is a big one for you.

Online Coding Bootcamps

Online coding bootcamps might seem very similar to in-person bootcamps, just online. But that’s not necessarily true. The best online coding bootcamps distinguish themselves clearly from in-person bootcamps as apprenticeships and not traditional classroom style teaching centers.

In other words, online coding bootcamps base their entire teaching experience around a self-guided curriculum and dedicated 1-on-1 code mentorship instead of 1-to-many classroom style teaching.

Since anyone can participate in an online coding bootcamps, there’s no reason to relocate or take on the risk of quitting your job to learn how to code. Because of those two reasons and the much smaller tuition (up to 60% less expensive) more and more people are looking to get their coding education from an online coding bootcamp.

Let’s look under the hood a bit more and find the pros and cons for online coding bootcamps:

Pros for Online Coding Bootcamps

Apprenticeship Style 1-on-1 Teaching

Having access to your personal coding mentor comes with multiple benefits. Most importantly, together with your mentor you can focus and strengthen the technical skills that help you achieve your personal and professional coding goals - the skills that will help you land a job as a web developer or enable you to launch your own web application idea. Having a personal mentor also means that you never have to compete with any other students for individual attention, while focusing on exactly what you care most about - be it a specific feature on your app, another programming language or algorithmic problem.

Flexible Curriculum

The leading online coding bootcamps designed their entire experience to be the opposite of the general cookie-cutter curriculum that most of the in-person coding bootcamps still use today.

A flexible curriculum consists of two parts, a core curriculum and multiple flexible coding modules that are added to the core curriculum by your personal coding mentor. The core curriculum teaches each student the fundamentals of web development and guides them through coding and launching several different web applications.

The flexible coding modules contain advanced lessons that are added to tailor the curriculum to each student’s personal coding goals. In practice this means, that an entrepreneurial student with the goal of launching her own web application idea will get more training in user experience and usability testing than a job-seeking student who needs more training on database structures, algorithms, and technical interview questions.

Combining a strong core curriculum and flexible curriculum with 1-on-1 mentorship sessions is one of the key reasons why online coding bootcamps experiencing such an overwhelmingly strong demand.

Less Risk

Enrolling in an online coding bootcamp, comes with an order of magnitude of less risk. Learning how to code through an online bootcamp means, you don’t have to quit your job and lose 3 to 5 months of income, while most certainly paying a three times higher tuition.

Opportunity to Test Drive

If you don’t like what you get with an online coding bootcamp you can always terminate and get most of your money back. Once you quit your job, moved to another city and paid a hefty tuition, you’ll have a really hard time to drop-out after 3 weeks in an in-person bootcamp. The opportunity cost of quitting is just too big, even if you can clearly see that they in-person bootcamp isn’t doing everything it can to make your education their most important focus.

Cons for Online Coding Bootcamps

Self-Discipline Needed

While online coding bootcamps and its mentors are checking in with each their students consistently, you are not inside a room where you have a group of people making sure you’re not leaving your seat before you completed your coding exercises. This means that you need to have more self-discipline going through an online coding bootcamp than an in-person one.

Pro-active Collaboration

The leading online bootcamps connect you with other students to work on exciting group projects to gain real-world coding collaborations skills from the get go. However, since you’re not in the same room as many other students, you need to actively participate in web developer meetups and hackathons to find interesting side-projects and extracurricular learning opportunities to challenge you further.

There are many different options to learn to code. If you're looking for just a simple introduction to building applications, there are many resources out there that you can find for free, or under a hundred dollars.

If you're looking for a more in-depth experience, and to either learn the skills to build your own fully functional product, or have the skills to get a job as a junior web developer a coding bootcamp is for you. There are pros and cons for each, but you should consider both.

Chapter 4Alec Babala