How do you test out learning a new skill for a career change on a budget? The good news is that web development is one of the easier ones to train yourself in at zero cost. In fact, there’s a diverse range of free coding bootcamps available at the moment, both online and in-person.
We’ve already assembled our list of the best paid online bootcamps out there right now, so this time let’s focus on the pick of those which don’t cost you a cent. For some, all you have to do is sign up with an email address; for others, you might have to apply and interview, as they are designed for people whose background is underrepresented in the tech sphere.
We’re going to start by exploring what a coding bootcamp actually is, and why you should take one if you’re interested in dipping your toe in the programming world. Then, we’ll look at the different criteria you should use when deciding how to choose a free coding bootcamp, and give you a list of the 11 best free coding bootcamps out there right now.
If you want to read one of these sections first, or you’re excited to get to the bootcamp list, you can jump ahead by using the clickable menu:
- What is a coding bootcamp?
- Why take a coding bootcamp?
- How to choose a free coding bootcamp
- Our best free coding bootcamps in 2021
- Next steps
1. What is a coding bootcamp?
Essentially a coding bootcamp is a short, intense course designed to give you the skills you need to transition into a job as a programmer. These days, in response to the overwhelming demand for people with web development skills, coding bootcamps come in many shapes and sizes.
There’s no set definition for what a “bootcamp” is—they can last as little as a few days to several months. Some can involve interactive teaching, the submission of assignments, online quizzes, or just instructional tutorials and exercises. Other bootcamps promise support in the job search through trainings and school connections.
Coding bootcamps often differ from web development courses in that they seek to teach you several skills to give you a working knowledge in programming, instead of just focusing on one specific thing.
2. Why take a free coding bootcamp?
When you think about it, there are so many different ways to approach learning a subject or skill in the 21st century. In the past, the most popular career advice was: “Go to a university and get a degree in that area.” These days, if you’re looking to start a career in tech, the rules are different.
For the world of coding, where a large number of professionals working in the field are actually self-taught, the rules are even more different. A piece of paper with an accreditation doesn’t matter so much here.
Thanks to the wealth of resources offered online, the biggest challenge you’ll have is picking the right training path for you. If you’re interested in stepping into the world of web development, but not so sure that it’s the path for you that you want to commit three of your most valuable resources—time, money, and energy—then free coding bootcamps are ideal. These short, practical courses allow you to dip your toes in the field of programming, without tossing you in at the deep end. If you just don’t know if you’re going to enjoy the process of coding, this is a great way to see if it’s for you.
3. How to choose a free coding bootcamp
There are several major factors that can help you decide which free coding bootcamp to choose, and most of them come down to your own personal goals. We’ll go over a few of them briefly to give you an idea of what to look out for.
Python, Ruby, Java, HTML…you’ll hear a lot of noise about different web development languages, and which are better than others. We’ve already picked out the easiest languages to learn for beginners, so this should definitely influence your choice.
Take time to work out whether you might want to just work on the frontend or the backend of websites, or if you want both, be sure to choose one that’s full-stack. Learning one language can also be the gateway to learning others later in your web development career.
Just because it comes at no cost, doesn’t mean that you have to accept whatever way the free coding bootcamp is taught. If you find just following video tutorials is not helping the information sink in, you might benefit from a bootcamp with more of a “learning by doing” or hands-on approach. Some provide lots and lots of educational materials to sift through, whereas others focus on just getting you coding right away. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, so figuring out what’s best suited to your own learning style is key.
Remember that the primary aim of a bootcamp is not simply to get you as proficient as possible in a language fast, but to get you as ready as possible to work as a web developer.
What a web developer actually does is much more than just coding, so make sure that the free coding bootcamp you choose teaches you about other aspects of the job as well. This can be how to use a version control system like Git, how to work with APIs, or how to function in an Agile workflow.
4. Our best free coding bootcamps in 2021
Now that we’ve learned what they are, why they’re so useful, and what to look out for when picking one, here are 11 of the best free coding bootcamps around:
A great place to start when it comes to free coding bootcamps, Codecademy uses a teaching formula heavy on the “learn by doing” approach, proving an invaluable teacher for budding developers. In fact, it was here that CareerFoundry’s own founder Martin Ramsin began taking free courses when he was learning to code himself. Offering a huge range of paid and free options, Codecademy’s web development courses are an excellent way to learn to code quickly.
Once you complete the beginners courses in HTML and Ruby, you can move onto intermediate classes in CSS, PHP, and the frameworks React, Node.js, p5.js, and AngularJS 1.X. We really like that there are cool other free courses included such as learning Game Development and how to program Amazon Alexa devices. If you’re a fan of the free courses, then sign up for their PRO plan, which lets you access hundreds more courses, as well as dedicated career paths.
Forced online by the Covid-19 pandemic, CodeOp offers free coding bootcamps for women, transgender, and gender non-conformative people who are looking to get into tech. As well as creating a comfortable environment for learning, this school concentrates on supporting and mentoring students through small class sizes.
What’s really neat is that you’ll learn a crucial part of web development these days: responsive web design. Despite the importance of making sure your website looks its best no matter what the size of device it’s displayed on—this is often overlooked. Responsive design isn’t just something that UI designers are responsible for—a good web developer actually makes it happen.
Once you’ve completed this Web Development for Beginners Course and enjoyed it, you can take the month-long Intro to Frontend Development Course, or the complete Full-Stack Web Development Program to complete your career change. For a taste of what the nano-bootcamp is like, in this opening video our in-house developer Abhi gets you started building your first website with HTML:
Similar to CodeOp, this non-profit school aims to break down the barriers preventing women and gender expansive adults from thriving in tech. Based in Seattle, their free coding bootcamp prepares students for the job market by teaching them not just to write code but also crucially how to debug and also discuss it. Knowing how to communicate about web development with others, whether they are colleagues, clients, or other teams, is a key element of web development that many bootcamps overlook.
This online learning platform does exactly what its name suggests, offering multiple free coding bootcamps. These can range from a Responsive Web Design Certification to ones in APIs and Microservices, Frontend Development Libraries, and Machine Learning with Python.
Perhaps even more useful still to budding web developers is the fact that freeCodeCamp boasts thousands of coding challenges. As well as rehearsing common web developer interview questions, this is an excellent way to prepare for job applications.
What we like about their free coding bootcamp is that as well as the almost obligatory HTML and CSS, you’ll also learn how to code with WordPress, a prized skill. WordPress runs so many websites and blogs (including this one), and proficiency in WordPress development could be ideal for a freelance web developer who wants to be constantly in demand.
What’s more, the camp also includes more of the visual elements as well, with a basic introduction to UX design as well. If you’re looking to learn what it is and why it’s important, here is a handy guide.
When it comes to free coding bootcamps, why not study at MIT? Their Introduction to Computer Science and Programming in Python course is conducted mostly over recorded lectures, with regular problem sets and quizzes being the main way of applying what you’ve learned.
While the academic setting may not be in the true “bootcamp spirit,” the course’s aim of teaching you to solve problems using computation is really useful for getting a job as a web developer. Allied to this is the fact that you’ll learn to create your own programs using Python 3.5, meaning you’ll be getting to grips with the most wanted language out there, according to Stack Overflow.
Similar to Ada Developers Academy, this 20- week, free coding bootcamp is based in Boston. Resilient Coders have the goal of introducing more equity to the tech world, and their bootcamps are for young people of color without college degrees. They recruit these through hackathons, and the successful cohort are then taught core and soft skills, in preparation for employment.
An in-person 16-week bootcamp before the pandemic, like a lot of physical institutions, School of Code went to remote learning and hasn’t looked back. Based in the UK, this one is a little different to the other free coding bootcamps on this list, most of which you can jump straight into. You’ll need to get through an application process which includes a recorded video, creating a trial program using Harvard’s CS50 course, and an interview.
The inclusion of APIs is a real treat. One of the web development buzzwords you should learn if you want to become a programmer, knowing how to code APIs is a great thing to know how to do when you’re working for a company. If you enjoyed the way this particular course was taught, then maybe you’d like to take some of their full paid courses in Software and Cybersecurity Engineering, which cost $16,900.
5. Next steps
Switching careers and learning a completely new skillset is daunting. However, the best free coding bootcamps are the ideal solution, creating an environment where you can learn, try things out, make mistakes, and then learn from them, all without judgement, pressure, or cost. They’re an ideal way for you to see if a career in web development is for you, without committing so much that the decision is irreversible.
Hopefully with this guide you’ll now have a much better idea of what to look out for as well as some potential free coding bootcamps to investigate further. If you’re looking to read some more about the world of web development or career change in general, check out these articles: