5 Things to Consider Before Choosing a Developer Bootcamp

August 27, 2014

Man typing on a latop computer

Developer bootcamps are super hot right now, but which one is right for you?

In March of 2014 I decided to make a career shift from business development to software engineering, specifically web development. I had been learning to code since January, but I wasn’t learning fast enough. Frustrated, I began researching different bootcamps and was quickly overwhelmed.

Bootcamps are springing up everywhere! They each cater to a different demographic and have different teaching styles, curriculums, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s tough to make an informed decision with a limited understanding of the industry. Luckily for you I’m far enough into my career that my advice carries some weight and I’m new enough that I vividly remember the pain of switching careers and finding the right bootcamp. With that in mind, here are the five key points to consider when choosing a bootcamp.

  1. Pace: Some bootcamps proudly advertise that they will teach you for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. I’m not a fan of this lifestyle to begin with but let me explain why its not a great idea in a bootcamp scenario. If you fall behind at all you will not have time to catch up! My bootcamp* offered 8 hours a day of structured learning. This left me plenty of time to catch up, dive deep, or spend time enjoying life. Pay attention to the pace!

  2. Location: At least 90% of bootcamp graduates stay in the city where they attended their bootcamp. This means that going to NYC for a bootcamp and then moving to SF isn’t a great idea. I actually did this exact thing but I already had a strong network in SF. If possible, go to a bootcamp in the city you want to work after graduation.

  3. Focus: The vast majority of bootcamps teach Ruby. However, I personally think that there is more of a future in Javascript. Have a look at this. Also, be wary of a bootcamp that promise to teach you too much. You don’t want to leave your bootcamps as a “Jack of all trades, master of none”.

  4. Teachers: This one is huge! How proficient are your teachers? Are they industry professionals or recent bootcamp grads? Do they have experience teaching? How many hours a week will you have with the teachers compared to group work or free time? These are all important questions to consider. All teachers are not created equal.

  5. Difficulty: This one was the deciding factor for me. You can learn a lot about the difficult of a bootcamp from its application challenge. This challenge (or lack thereof) is indicative of the experience required by applicants, your fellow students’ knowledge, and the difficulty of the curriculum. If the application was too hard, don’t go. If the application was too easy, don’t go. If the application doesn’t exist, run! Find a school whose application process is difficult enough to challenge you, but not overwhelm you.

In closing, attending a bootcamp is a great experience - if you choose a good one. I put a lot of thought into the process and was very pleased with my choice!

*Disclosure: I attended Fullstack Academy in NYC from April-July 2014.