Imagine, like so many folks, that you decide what you want to study when you’re just 18. You go to college, finish a four-year degree in mechanical engineering, and then realize what you actually want to do is get a job in coding. There are tons of benefits – pay, flexibility, personal satisfaction. It’s a no brainer.
There’s just one problem. The last thing you want to do is go back to school for another two or four very expensive years. After reading a bit online, you see that a possible route for you is getting a job after coding bootcamp. It seems like a sweet deal – you pay a fraction of typical college tuition and then are on your way to getting a coding job with no experience or degree.
There’s just one problem: the path of getting a job after coding bootcamp leaves you really underprepared a for the programming job market. “We see more and more students coming to Qvault because people are having a hard time landing jobs after taking a bootcamp or doing some web development courses,” says Lane Wagner, engineer and founder of Qvault, an online computer science education platform. That’s why so many coding bootcamp graduates leave their 15-week course, thinking they’ll glide into a job offer, only to find the process of getting a job after coding bootcamp is painful, arduous, and seemingly never-ending.
It’s frustrating because it can feel like you’ve done everything right: you’ve realized getting a programming job can be beneficial to your career and happiness, you’ve picked a language, found a course, and completed it – only to struggle getting a job after coding bootcamp.
Coding bootcamps don’t give a great understanding of the fundamentals underpinning how programming really works. Bootcamps are great for a lot of different reasons: they’re cheaper than a degree, they’re up-to-date on modern languages, but they tend to focus on practical skills over understanding theory, which means even after finishing one, you might still not really understand the mathematical and statistical theory that underlies that code you’re doing.
If you’ve graduated a coding boot camp and you’re tearing your hair out in frustration because you can’t seem to get a job without having job experience yet, stop applying to 20 places a day. Try to identify what’s causing you to get stuck at this last hurdle, and then work on a plan to overcome it.
Coding bootcamps and college degrees both have downsides.
There are so many good reasons to become a software engineer – the pay, the flexibility, the job security, not to mention the personal satisfaction. That’s why it can feel so disappointing to struggle after finishing a bootcamp: you feel ready and excited, and you don’t understand yet what’s holding you back.
As I mentioned above, bootcamps are a really fantastic way to get your feet wet in the programming world. They’re immersive, they walk you through a project like building a website or an app start to finish, and they can at least give you a sense for whether this is the work you’ll enjoy or not.
But they have serious downsides, too. First, the nature of bootcamps is outright exclusive for a lot of folks – there’s a huge upfront cost, and you have to be able to give up around 15 weeks of your life, full-time. If you have a family you’re supporting, a current job, or just don’t have bundles of cash lying around, this means you’re going to struggle to even get into a coding bootcamp.
Assuming you are somehow able to clear three months of your life to do nothing but attend a coding bootcamp, you’ve still got issues. Because it’s such a sanitized work environment, you won’t often get the chance to do the less-sexy sorting, aggregating, and storing data efficiently that companies will absolutely require you to do. And after you graduate, you might get to the interview stage for a job, only to find that you’re getting asked questions regarding data structures and algorithms that coding bootcamp just didn’t prepare you for. Plus, security and cryptography are almost entirely dependent on math knowledge that you won’t get from a bootcamp.
In short, even if you can attend a coding bootcamp, it’s not the complete solution many people think it is – you’re still lacking the fundamental computer science knowledge that helps you stand out at job interviews and will let you actually do the job you want to be hired for. People who try getting a job after coding bootcamp will find it harder than they expect.
The obvious answer to this is to study computer science at college, but that’s even more expensive and time-consuming, and plenty of folks don’t realize they want to do computer science until after they’ve already graduated college.
So what’s the solution?
Round out your abilities with a self-taught computer science study.
Your ideal solution is something that lets you learn these fundamentals, still get your applied practice, and do it all while still working, or raising a family. Luckily, the internet is an enormous place and there is an unending amount of content that can help you learn the fundamentals of computer science. YouTube, Reddit, and Wikipedia are all completely free and comprehensive resources that allow you to get to work.
First, it’s best to get a grasp of the holes in your knowledge. Make a list of computer science fundamentals that underpin the language you want to focus on (or use someone else’s list, like this one).
Then, try to complete a pet project that’s not in the same safe environment you’d get in a coding bootcamp. To make this a truly realistic experience, find some raw data to practice getting into proper shape. You can use datasets from data.gov, as an example.
Finally, if you have a solid idea of what job you want to go for, speak to as many of those people as you can. Read what they’ve written, what resources they recommend, what they do at work. The better sense you have of what tools actually got them to where they are today, as well as what their responsibilities are, the better you’ll be able to plan your own self-taught structure.
Ultimately, what you want is a way to create your own course, that you can learn at your own pace. If it comes with a community of like-minded folks who can help you on your way, even better. This is a perfect way to get around the common constraints of getting a job after coding bootcamp while avoiding going to college again.
Getting a job after coding bootcamp is closer than you think.
If you’re reading this article after graduating from a coding bootcamp and struggling to get a job, you might feel like you’ve just wasted a ton of time and money and you’re lost as to what to do next.
It’s true that folks who just learn to code with a coding bootcamp are missing out on the structural fundamental elements that bring them greater understanding. And yes, the consequence of this is that they may have a hard time getting jobs afterwards because their comprehension is patchy.
But there’s a solution, and all it takes is some grit. You already know you want to code. You already know it’s the right path for you. All you’re missing are the building blocks that will support you for the rest of your career. The solution is to invest more time in computer science learning, that focuses more on the math and fundamental concepts, on your timeline, and your budget. Your future as a programmer is closer than you think.
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