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How to Choose a Coding Boot Camp hero

How to choose a coding boot camp? Seven things to look for in a boot camp

Are you considering a career shift into the tech industry? Before you start applying for positions, it’s important to review whether you have the skills to enter a new field or to pursue positions with different responsibilities. If you’re in need of an accelerated learning path to upskill, boot camps can be one way to help fuel career success. Coding boot camps in particular may be what you need to get a leg up on the competition. 

What is a coding boot camp?

Before you answer this question, it may be helpful to understand what a boot camp is. Boot camps are concentrated training courses focused on building in-demand skills for a specific field of employment. Learners explore fundamentals in their selected field, as well as industry-standard tools and leading practice methodologies. 

Boot camps are open to learners from a variety of backgrounds, and are often attended by beginners or those wishing to refresh their skills, providing project-based reinforcement of the skills learned in lectures and homework. These hands-on projects give learners the opportunity to apply their skills in real-world scenarios, while practicing their soft skills through collaborative teamwork. In addition, these projects are the foundation of professional portfolios that fuel the learners' job search, demonstrating their value to potential employers.

Coding boot camps specifically provide instruction on the basics of coding and data structure, giving you the chance to work with the applications and technology used by web developers, such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript. In these boot camps, you can learn about different topics such as databases, API design, deployment and delivery, and server-side development. 

Seven things to look for when choosing a coding boot camp

1. A university-backed boot camp

Leading universities value the reputations they’ve earned and the quality educational experience they offer their students. As a result, they take active steps to safeguard the quality of their curricula, thoroughly evaluating boot camps associated with their institution before introducing them to potential learners. The name value of having a recognizable institution on your résumé can be one of the more important benefits of a university-backed boot camp, building your credibility as a skilled professional. 

2. Professional and experienced instructional staff

When considering a boot camp, it’s important to understand the credentials your instructional staff bring to the classroom. Specifically, are they currently employed in the field they are teaching and, if so, for how many years?

Boot camps are based on practical, real-world learning. Your instructional staff is well-versed in current industry best practices and the day-to-day environment learners will be working in. 

3. A market-driven, skills-based curriculum

As part of your research, it can be helpful to review job descriptions for roles you are interested in pursuing, taking note of key skills they require or deem highly desirable. It’s important that, when considering potential boot camps, these skills are included in their curricula. 

Quality coding boot camps will cover the majority of general skills required, plus some exploration of niche skills as well. The strongest boot camp programs will often offer additional, specialized learning after boot camp completion (at no additional cost) to help you along in your career goals. For example, after completion of a coding boot camp, supplemental continuation courses in specialized languages such as C#, or additional skills such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) may be available. Of course, these vary by boot camp provider, so be sure to include this in your research.

4. Real-world projects to strengthen professional portfolios

Employers want to make sure that new hires can put their education into action. That is why coding boot camps offered through edX include hands-on projects that closely mirror the work you’ll do in the industry. These projects will help you build a portfolio and demonstrate to future employers that you can effectively use the latest technologies in both individual and collaborative scenarios to achieve project goals.

5. Academic support

Given the consolidated timeline and rigorous tempo of most boot camps, it’s important to understand the additional academic support available to learners beyond the classroom. Enrolling in one of edX’s university affiliated boot camps will ensure you have support from start to finish

High-quality coding boot camps offer access to instructional staff and assistant instructors through office hours. Weekly one-on-one tutor sessions should be available upon request. This is in addition to peer support, which is a key component of the boot camp learning experience.

6. Career Services support

To ensure you get the best return on investment from your coding boot camp, career support is essential to your success. Look for a boot camp that invests in your job search success through interactive preparation. Having this support behind you can help foster both your technical and soft skills to ensure you stand out in the job market.

High-quality boot camps offer career services such as:

  • Live office hours

  • Portfolio reviews

  • One-on-one career coaching

  • Soft skills training

  • Behavioral or technical interview training

  • Résumé and social media profile support

  • Customizable tools and templates

  • Career and industry events

  • Industry partner connections

  • Job referrals

7. Learner outcomes and reviews

Learner reviews and stories are a great way to understand more about the boot camp experience from individuals who have completed it. Not only can you get first-hand tips from boot camp alumni in terms of what was helpful for them, but you can also gain a better understanding of what it’s really like to attend prospective boot camps. 

As with all reviews, it’s important to carefully consider the majority viewpoint (positive or negative) and give less weight to the outliers. Because boot camp results are highly dependent upon the effort each individual invests, outcomes can vary widely.

Bonus: Three tips to consider when choosing a boot camp

Here are some additional tips to help you find the boot camp that’s right for you.

1. Time commitment

When considering boot camps, be sure to research how much time you will need to dedicate to class, as well as to homework and team projects per week. For example, a 24-week, part-time coding boot camp may require 10 hours of in-class time per week and a minimum of 20 additional hours be dedicated to boot camp activities outside of the classroom (e.g., homework, projects, tutorials). So, even though a boot camp may be “part time,” you will likely need to devote 30 hours per week, minimum, in order to take full advantage of your boot camp experience and receive the optimum benefits.

Understanding the time commitment will not only help you better organize your week to include class, work, and life activities more effectively, but it will also help you understand any potential changes you may need to make during your boot camp. For example, some learners enlist family members or friends to help them with such activities as school carpools, meal planning, or leisure activity schedules. Other learners may decide that virtual boot camps make more sense for them to eliminate commute times to and from class and maintain their work schedules. Regardless of your lifestyle or schedule, making sure that you choose a boot camp with the right time commitment for you is key to your success.

2. Learning style

Another important consideration when choosing a boot camp is your preferred learning style. Specifically, is a synchronous, asynchronous, or hybrid learning environment best for you? 

Synchronous learning 

Synchronous learning is the traditional learning experience where instructional staff and a group of learners meet at a regular time on a set schedule. This type of learning, sometimes referred to as “real-time” learning, can occur either in-person or remotely via Zoom or other video conferencing platforms. Learners are often required to prepare assignments prior to scheduled meeting times, when lectures or discussions will occur.

Asynchronous learning

With asynchronous learning, instructional staff and learners do not interact in real time. Rather, learning materials are available online, through pre-recorded lectures and digital lessons. Though learners are usually required to work through online coursework by certain dates, there is more flexibility around when learners choose to work on their coursework between deadlines. 

Hybrid learning

In hybrid learning, courses are contained within a specific number of weeks, with project and assignment deadlines set and many learning materials accessible online through asynchronous content. However, learners also engage with instructional staff and classmates at specific times on a live basis. This approach allows learners to interact in real time for some portions of the course, while preserving the flexibility to complete certain assignments anytime before the deadline.

3. Learning environment

Enrolling in a coding boot camp is a significant investment of money and time. Make sure you feel comfortable in the learning environment that will help you get the most out of the boot camp you select.

Attend an event or open house

Many boot camp providers will host informational events or open houses so prospective learners can gather more information, meet instructional staff, and even talk with boot camp learners who have completed the course. If you’re attending a virtual event, you can also often experience the interface you’ll be working with, as well as get a better understanding of how interactions will occur. 

Explore introductory courses that may be offered

Another great way to determine which boot camp is right for you is to take an introductory or “short course” that the boot camp offers. Not only can you get a hands-on understanding of the boot camp’s learning environment, but you’ll also be able to gauge your own interest in the subject matter and determine how coursework fits into your schedule. For example, a coding boot camp might offer an introduction to a specific coding language. 

Taking the next step

You’re now at the decision stage. Is a coding boot camp worth it? Which coding boot camp is right for you? These are important questions, so do not feel rushed. Take your time to review all the options, do your research, and take advantage of all the opportunities available to explore and experience how a boot camp will fit into your life. When you’ve come to a measured decision, you’ll be prepared to enjoy all the benefits a coding boot camp can provide to help you secure your future.

Last updated December 2023