Choosing the Right Path: Comparing Software Engineer Bootcamp vs. College Education
The software industry is calling your name. More than 400,000 jobs for software developers will become available between 2021 and 2031. The median pay for a software developer is $109,020 a year, making it a great job choice for anyone.
However, you can’t just enter a software company and get a job. Pursuing an education can boost your resume, develop your skills, and connect you with great professionals. You can pursue bootcamps or college education, each with advantages and disadvantages. Here’s how you should decide what education to get.
Software Engineer Bootcamps
Bootcamps are intensive programs that train students in a few months, teaching them how to code and find careers in the software engineering industry. Every bootcamp is different. Some camps are for young people, including high school students, while others are for older professionals. Some programs focus on web development, yet others focus on more technical aspects of software engineering.
Related: Best Coding Bootcamps 2022
Bootcamps offer hands-on, interactive instruction. You can receive lectures, but you will make codes and websites with help from professional teachers. At the end of the coding bootcamp, you will have a portfolio of projects you can use to get into college or obtain a job.
Many camps have partnerships with schools, career centers, and other institutions, giving you access to their resources. Some have their own career support services that can help you with writing a resume and portfolio. If you need tutoring help, many camps have networks where you can get assistance for free.
Your numerous options for camps give you flexibility. You can select a part-time or full-time program. You can attend classes and workshops on weekends, at night, and in the morning. You can attend online classes, many of which are more affordable than in-person programs.
All camps have structured curriculums and courses. You will learn the basics at first and then develop your skills over time, learning more technical details.
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The main drawback to bootcamps is the cost. Camps can cost thousands of dollars, even if you’re taking part-time online classes. You can get coding bootcamp loans or apply for a scholarship to cover the cost. Talk to the camp administrator to see how you can pay your bills.
Even part-time camps require a significant time commitment. You should expect to put at least 25 hours a week into your projects. Many camps have homework assignments with strict deadlines. If you have a 40-hour-a-week job, you may not have time to fit a part-time program into your schedule, let alone a full-time one.
Bootcamps can boost your resume, but some employers prefer to hire people with college degrees. There is no guarantee that an employer will hire or promote you after you complete a boot camp. You may need to take multiple boot camps or perform self-study to create a full resume.
Software engineering remains extremely popular, with colleges awarding more than 4,200 degrees during the 2020-2021 school year. You can get an associate degree in a two-year program from a community college or a bachelor’s degree in a four-year program. Two-year programs are more affordable, and some community colleges let you earn credits toward a bachelor’s degree. Four-year programs are more in-depth, covering computer architecture, mathematics, and other important concepts in computer science.
60% of computer programmers have bachelor’s degrees. You will have more job opportunities and credibility with employers after you earn a degree. Some companies have repealed requirements for bachelor’s degrees, but many companies require applicants to have them.
The programs you complete will be more in-depth than bootcamps. You will also have time to explore your other interests. You can take business, communications, and finance classes. You can minor in a subject unrelated to computers and join clubs to explore your hobbies. Nearly all colleges have career centers and alumni networks you can use for networking and career development.
You will learn skills gradually over time. The first year of your courses may cover coding and teamwork skills, giving you a foundation to learn about database architecture and algorithms. You can build a portfolio, especially in your fourth year, as many schools require you to complete a capstone project to graduate.
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College degrees are expensive, even after factoring in scholarships and student loans. In-state public colleges and universities are your cheapest options, but you may need to pay thousands of dollars a year. Out-of-state private colleges cost tens of thousands. To make money, you can perform tech side gigs or take a work-study program.
You need to pursue a major related to computer science or engineering to become a full-time software developer. Few people in the humanities, natural sciences, or social sciences transition to careers in the computer industry. Switching majors during your college experience can keep you from developing the skills you need for a prosperous career.
Very few students graduate early from four-year programs. You will work 40 or more hours a week, including on weekends. If you pursue a double major or a minor, you can expect to work even longer.
If you’re in the middle of your career or have a family to support, pursuing a four-year degree may not be viable. Even online classes are expensive and time-consuming. You can teach yourself how to code or attend part-time boot camps with free coding courses.
Related: Free Coding Courses