Is a Coding Bootcamp Worth It Compared to a Computer Science Degree?

When you’re in a position of wondering, “Is a coding bootcamp worth it?” you should look at several factors. Coding bootcamp costs, on average, around $13,000. This holds true no matter if you choose to attend coding bootcamp in person or online, though there’s a lot of variance in how much coding bootcamp costs, ranging from $3,000 to $20,000 depending on the language, the length, and who’s running it.

You should also look at alternatives. Maybe you’re asking “Is a coding bootcamp worth it?” because you’re at the start of your potential career in computer science. You’re looking at the obstacles in your way to learn computer science and you’re wondering if it’s worth surmounting them. $13,000 (or even $3,000) is a lot to drop on something that doesn’t work out in the end.

However, if you’re in the position of wondering how much coding bootcamps can cost, and whether or not a coding bootcamp worth it, you’re probably aware of the typical alternative: a Computer Science degree. Not only does it take a lot longer – at least two years, more likely four years – to complete, but it’s also usually much more expensive. A diploma costs more money than a coding bootcamp, normally.

This is part of the reason many people say yes, is a coding bootcamp worth it: because computer science employers have a problem with the price of computer science degrees. There is a sky-high demand for qualified, talented computer scientists. And the supply is low. In 2019, there were half a million job openings but only 72k graduates. Coding bootcamps helped fill that gap.

Computer science jobs are interesting because they’re some of the least traditional employers. What other subject can you imagine where a thirteen-week course could replace a four-year degree of structured learning? But they’re desperate enough – and open-minded enough – to judge applicants by skills, not by the name on a piece of paper that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and four years to accomplish. 

And the good news is that for people wondering about the cost of a bootcamp, you have a lot more flexibility than you would with other subjects. As long as you can prove you know what you’re doing, you’re in an excellent position to secure your dream job, with your favorite employer. 

Let’s get into how much coding bootcamp costs, how much a computer science degree costs, and whether they’re worth it for you. The short answer is that everyone’s circumstance is different, so everyone’s answer will be different. 

How much do coding bootcamps cost? Is a coding bootcamp worth it when you look at price?

One thing not enough people take into account when thinking about how much a coding bootcamp costs is the opportunity cost. Yes, there’s a direct monetary cost associated with it – and coding bootcamp isn’t cheap! You’re looking at a couple thousand dollars as a minimum. $3,000 is considered on the cheap end for bootcamp.

But only comparing money ignores the much greater cost of coding bootcamp: what you give up when you choose a coding bootcamp.

No matter how much or how little coding bootcamp costs you in terms of money, the one you choose will also cost you in time, which is another factor to consider in the question of is a coding bootcamp worth it. Coding bootcamps take less time than a computer science degree, yes, but dropping your life and spending several weeks or months on this coding bootcamp will cost you, too.

While a degree is tough to balance with a job or life, it’s possible. Coding bootcamps are so mentally demanding that you’re forced to dedicate all that time to the single pursuit of completing the coding bootcamp. Every hour you spend grinding through lessons could be hours spent getting job experience, watching YouTube tutorials, or even just spending time with your dog. 

Furthermore, coding bootcamps are specialized. Should you learn Go or Python? A computer science degree would give you a solid foundation with experience in many languages and technologies, while a bootcamp will instead focus on a single path to an entry-level job, even if that means cutting corners and making it harder for you to progress in the future. A coding bootcamp will cost you the option of learning other languages or skills, because you have to commit to a single topic early on. Most coding bootcamp students lack the fundamental knowledge to make the right decision.

Is a coding bootcamp worth it?

Honestly, it depends what you want. If you’ve done your research, and you’re dedicated to supplementing the streamlined education you get at camp with some online learning, then yes, a coding bootcamp is probably worth it, even with a high price tag. You can easily justify spending $20,000 and four months of your life to get your perfect job, paying $100k+ with amazing benefits and a fantastic work/life balance.

If not, then no, a coding bootcamp isn’t worth it for you. You run the risk of spending months and a ton of money on something that might get you an interview, but won’t prepare you for the actual interview’s demands. Worse, you might find yourself in the position of spending that time and money on a specific program, only to realize you actually want to learn a different skill or language.

It all depends on your personal circumstances. It’s also very important to consider the alternatives. If a coding bootcamp were the only path to getting your dream job, then it would be worth any cost. Luckily for you, the employment landscape is very favorable to applicants, which means there are multiple avenues of skill-learning you can use to snag a coding job.

How much does a Computer Science degree cost?

One such alternative is a computer science degree. Of course, if you’re reading this, you probably got a degree in another subject, or didn’t want a degree in the first place, which is leading you to research how much a coding bootcamp costs, and if it’s worth it. You might not even be considering a computer science degree as a possible alternative at this stage in your life. 

But that would be a mistake. Computer science degrees are definitely an option, no matter where you are in your life, and should be considered as an alternative to a coding bootcamp.

It used to be that you graduated college and used your degree to get a job. But the modern landscape has jobs that fall outside the traditional bounds of what degrees offer, as well as job opportunities that far outstrip the number of diplomas being handed out. Computer science is one such field.

Employers won’t look down on you if you are 50 and getting your first computer science degree. They won’t turn you down if you didn’t get it from MIT. Many local community colleges offer computer science degrees – my sister graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Computer Science that cost $40,000 for 5 years of education, including tuition, room, board, and textbooks.

Computer science degrees cost more than coding bootcamps, of course, and they also take more time. But they offer two distinct cost advantages. First, they’re more flexible. A degree takes years, but you can complete your courses online while working, saving up, living at home, and more. Furthermore, they offer a greater degree of knowledge. You learn more than just one set of specialized skills – you get a much broader amount of information, and the option to specialize once you have that foundation to build on.

This website lists the cost of computer science degrees from top universities online – depending on if you’re in-state or not, a computer science degree costs between $15,000 and $67,400.

Like a coding bootcamp, is a computer science degree worth it? Yes, under certain circumstances. If you have more time, you’re less sure of how you want to use your computer science knowledge, and you need a thorough grounding in the basics, that cost is worth paying. If those circumstances don’t fit your situation, a computer science degree may not be worth it for you.

You run the risk of spending years and a ton of money when you don’t actually need to. Even worse, you run the risk of spending money and time and then still dropping out before graduating, like 40% of US undergraduates do. 

Cheap and quick alternatives to coding bootcamp do exist.

If you’ve got this far and neither option is appealing to you, you’ll be glad to know additional alternatives exist. Again, I want to reiterate how open-minded computer science employers are. They don’t care how you got the knowledge or skills. These employers just want to know you have what it takes. A diploma or a certificate from a coding bootcamp is a helpful way to get those skills and prove it, but there are alternatives to coding bootcamps and degrees that take less time and money. Is a coding bootcamp worth it? Sometimes the cost is too high.

First, there’s always the option to become self-taught. Many universities offer lectures for free, and the wealth of information available on YouTube today is unimaginable. If you can put together a curriculum to learn computer science online for yourself, it’s extremely possible to receive free education and information from reputable and knowledgeable sources on the internet. 

The advantages are obvious – it’s free, or very cheap. It’s entirely self-paced. You can pick and choose the topics you cover. The costs are also pretty straightforward: it will take some time to get to the standard you’ll need to be interviewing, plus you’ll have to motivate yourself to carry on, where a teacher or lecturer may have motivated you in a degree track or a coding bootcamp.

Plus, you’ll have to do a lot of the legwork proving you’re worth a chance. The diplomas and coding bootcamp certificates do a good job of proving to employers you have knowledge and will get you through to the interview. Being self-taught means you’ll have to find another way to demonstrate your knowledge on your resume to get your foot in the interview door. In that regard, is a coding bootcamp worth it? Yes.

There are also places to get a computer science certificate online that are much more accessibly-priced than both coding bootcamps and computer science degrees. For example, Qvault is an online computer science learning platform that offers courses in coding fundamentals, computer science basics, Go, practical cryptography, and more. Qvault charges on a monthly or yearly basis, which comes to between $144 to $480 for two years’ worth of access. It also hosts a portfolio where you can show potential employers the skills and experience you’ve gained.

What’s the right choice for me?

At the end of the day, only you can answer that. Is a coding bootcamp worth it? Should you aim for a diploma instead? Can you lean into a self-taught curriculum? Is an online certificate enough for you? I can’t answer that for you, because the right answer differs for everyone. 

This guide is designed to help you provide an answer for yourself. By now, you should have a thorough grasp of the specific strengths and costs (monetary and otherwise) of each option. It’s worth thoroughly considering and investigating each option before you invest money, or time which is just as valuable.

You can choose to spend the cost of coding bootcamp in favor of relatively quick, extremely targeted knowledge. You can spend more time and money on a slower-paced, spoon-fed curriculum that gives you a degree and a thorough understanding of the basics of computer science from an accredited university. You can follow your own self-taught curriculum and accept the cost of proving your knowledge to employers. Or you can opt to go with a platform like Qvault that offers some certificates in fundamental areas of computer science that are self-driven.

No matter what, the crucial thing to remember is that you can be confident in the knowledge that employers are desperate to find qualified computer science employees. All you have to do is find the best path for you, and know how best to present yourself to that employer so they understand your skills and experience. That makes the answer to the questions of is a coding bootcamp worth it, or is a computer science degree worth it, into the proper context for you to make a choice.

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