Computer Programming Bootcamp Is A New Way To Change Your Career Practically Overnight

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Do you hate your job? Do you want a career change for whatever reason?

If so, you might feel like you have to stick it out, because living with no income is tricky and job experience doesn’t always transfer well to unrelated fields. But I’m going to share with you a new way to change careers, and do it fast. This option wasn’t even available until early 2012.

There is one big caveat – it’s computer programming only: if you are interested to learn programming, you can realistically change your career very quickly (and profitably) by enrolling in a programming boot camp.

If programming isn’t for you and you still want out, my offhand suggestion is to look into freelancing or consulting with your current skill set (at sites like Odesk or Elance). But if you are open to programming as a career, you’ll be acutely interested to read the next sentence.

Programming Boot Camps

What if I told you that you could spend three months training and afterwards have a more than 90% chance at getting a job with a starting salary of more than $80,000 a year?

I’d like to introduce you to programming boot camps, and yes, those numbers are for real.

Programming boot camps are popping up all around the United States, with most residing in San Francisco. There are now even programming bootcamps in Australia (Sydney Dev Camp, Polycademy) and Israel (10x.org.il). Boot camps lure in students by offering a big skill set (and likelihood of a big paycheck) in exchange for an average tuition of about $12,000 and 9-12 weeks of intense learning.

One boot camp, App Academy, is so assured of your job prospects, that they won’t even charge you unless you get a job after graduation. They take 15% of your starting salary in the first year at your new job. It appears to be working for them. “95% of our graduates have offers or are working in tech jobs now at an average salary of $91,000.” (App Academy’s Website)

Students are taught basic and advanced programming in languages such as Javascript and Ruby on Rails. The immersive learning environment includes one-on-one guidance from experienced programmers. The students’ life is programming during these 9-12 weeks, and boot camps expect them to clear their calendars to focus on learning.

Some boot camps offer unique perks. Hack Reactor in San Francisco includes a gym membership in their program, and gives students a mid-day break to exercise, which makes sense given the mental benefits of exercise.

When And Where Did It Start?

It all began in February 2012 with a start-up called Dev Bootcamp, located in San Francisco. A group of programmers decided that they could teach others the essential programming skills they’d need for a lucrative Silicon Valley job in just nine weeks. And so the first course was finished.

When their students started getting jobs with $80,000+ salaries in some of the hottest tech companies and start-ups, a surge of demand came and copycat bootcamps emerged. Some boot camps were founded from former Dev Bootcamp students. In it’s first year, Dev Bootcamp was able to boast the following impressive statistics:

“In 2012, over 90% of the graduates looking for a job found one within 2 months graduation, with an average starting salary of over $80k.” (Dev Bootcamp)

A year and a half after Dev Bootcamp launched, programming boot camps have multiplied like rabbits and there are nearly 30 now. But if you consider joining a programming boot camp, do your research and understand the risks, four of which are covered later in this article.

Avi Flombaum, Dean of Flatiron School in New York, gives this advice for choosing a boot camp:

“Lots of other programs seem to be started by people who can barely code or have never taught. Ultimately, whichever program you’re considering, find out who will be teaching you. How long has that person been teaching? What’s his/her philosophy? Do you connect with that person? Sit in on a class. Speak to students who learned with that teacher. Find out what those students are doing today. Find the person with whom you connect the most, who inspires you the most, and choose that teacher.” (From Quora)

Many new bootcamps recognize this concern, and commonly offer their first class of students a big discount on tuition. After the first graduating glass, the school will have job placement rates and starting salaries to prove their worth. Flatiron School certainly has that in spades – “Last semester we ended up with 100% job placement within 5 weeks of graduation,” said Flombaum.

It might be best to apply soon, before it becomes even harder to get in (and before the market is saturated with qualified programmers). Did I mention it is hard to get in?

An acceptance rate of 5-15% is common for these schools. App Academy accepts under 5% of applicants – less than Harvard’s acceptance rate – and that percentage will likely decrease as demand for these programs outstrips supply. Flatiron says they accept about 10% of applicants.

Do You Need Programming Experience?

It helps if you’ve had prior programming experience, and most (if not all) boot camps will test your coding prowess as part of the application process, but no bootcamp I’ve seen explicitly requires prior programming experience. “Former student backgrounds have ranged from pro-poker players and Major League Baseball Scouts to Wall Street Traders, Lawyers, and even Customer Service reps,” says Flombaum.

If you count bootcamps as job training – as prospective employers seem to, and as very high job placement rates suggest – you can orchestrate a significant career shift very quickly. Once you’re accepted into a credible school, and as long as you stay the course, you’ll have a very good chance to be employed if history repeats itself.

As for the determining factor for getting in, bootcamps all seem to say the same thing – being a self-starter with a strong desire to learn programming is the most important factor for admission.

An Interesting Choice For High School Graduates – College Or Boot Camp?

High school graduates interested in computer science now have a choice – four years of college followed by tens of thousands of dollars in debt with questionable job prospects or a programming boot camp for three months with an estimated 90% chance at making big money to wipe away their tuition fee very quickly.

As a former Computer Science major, I can tell you that these boot camps are night-and-day different from my steady-paced college experience. One advantage of boot camps is learning the exact skills that prospective employers are looking for, which could give them an advantage even over Computer Science graduates.  When I graduated with my Finance degree and bucket of potential, employers said, “yeah, but where is your experience?” It wasn’t what I wanted to hear after being led to believe my degree was a golden ticket for a good job. Now I’m happily on a different path, but that’s another story.

Computer science majors will gain a greater breadth of knowledge of theory and underlying principles, but how much does that matter?

“Employers on the other hand, are incredibly frustrated by developers coming to them for jobs that don’t know anything about source control, tdd, and other aspects of modern application development practices that aren’t taught in most colleges.”
~ Eric Wise, Founder of Software Craftsmanship Guild

Colleges at the moment appear to be slow-moving giants being circled by these agile boot camp schools. The pace of technology is outpacing the speed at which colleges can change and approve curriculums, and it’s the onus of the professor to keep up to date with the latest technology. If it’s up to me, I’m going to choose the team of guys working in the cutting edge, who can change their school’s curriculum in the middle of the semester to reflect changes in technology.

But programming boot camps aren’t without risks. Here are four big ones to consider.

Four Programming Boot Camp Risks

1. Not getting a job after graduation. “Dev Bootcamp starts you on the path of becoming a software developer but if you don’t get a job soon after graduating you can quickly lose most of the skills you learned.” ~ Dev Bootcamp

2. Can you handle it? “The attrition rate is approximately 10% – 15%. The course is intense, and though we make every effort to ensure that struggling students receive the support they need, not every student makes it through.” ~ App Academy

3. Be careful which bootcamp you choose. “Lots of other programs seem to be started by people who can barely code or have never taught.” ~ Avi Flombaum of Flatiron School

4. The Cost. It is not cheap to join a programming boot camp. Add in the cost of moving and finding a place to live, and it gets very expensive, which makes it a greater risk. Many boot camps do offer payment plans, but you’ll find some that require full upfront payment. I believe App Academy’s acceptance rate is so low because they only charge tuition after graduates get jobs, which decreases this risk and increases interest in their program.

Resources

If you’re seriously considering a programming boot camp, I recommend you check out the following resources:

•    Codeacademy.com – With this free programming tutorial, you can get a feel for what programming is like and prepare yourself for the application test.
•    Bootcamps – If you want to compare the different bootcamps by location, tuition, job placement policies, and more, I recommend this website.
•    This Blog Post (from a Dev Bootcamp graduate) – This is an honest discussion about one man’s experience and thoughts in a programming boot camp. He even includes his initial application.
•    Quora – Quora has the best discussions on programming boot camps and it is regularly visited by boot camp founders and staff to answer questions.

For now, this type of training is available for future programmers. I did find a similar bootcamp for marketing, but I’m not sure it would have the same job demand and value as the programming bootcamps, and that’s the big question – will this new format of intense apprenticeship be applied successfully to other job fields? If so, it could radically change the way education, jobs, and the entire world operate. At the least, it could provide students with an education alternative to college or frustrated employees with a viable way to change careers quickly.

While I have considered these bootcamps myself, my current career path is freelance writing along with teaching others how to stay focused at my blog, Deep Existence. If you sign up for the Deep Existence newsletter (Tuesdays), you’ll get two valuable gifts for free – my stress-beating eBook and an exclusive set of 1080p wallpapers (40 wallpapers with focus quotes + pictures). To find out more about these bonuses or to get updates, Click here and sign up. Cheers!

What are your thoughts on this new career possibility?

Written on 8/5/2013 by Stephen Guise. Besides writing for his own blogs Stephen is a featured writer here at Dumb Little Man. Be sure to stop by Stephen’s ‘featured writer page‘ right here on Dumb Little Man to find links to more of his articles.

Photo Credit: Pablo Ruiz Muzquiz

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