Coding Bootcamp vs Degree: Which is Better For Your Career?

Headshot for Piero Borrelli, CareerFoundry contributor.

In today’s rapidly evolving tech industry, there are multiple paths for you to launch a successful career. For those thinking about a programming career, two of the most popular options include attending a coding bootcamp or pursuing a higher education with a computer science degree. 

If you’re in doubt about which path will give you the highest rewards, this guide is the place for you. I’ll go through the pros and cons of coding bootcamps and degrees, compare their job prospects, and address frequently asked questions to help you make an informed choice.

To learn coding from scratch to see if it’s for you, there are tons of free classes out there, and we offer a great 5-day one here at CareerFoundry.

Table of contents:

  1. Coding bootcamps
  2. Computer Science degrees
  3. Coding bootcamp vs degree: Job prospects
  4. Factors to consider when comparing coding bootcamps vs degrees
  5. Where to go from here and further reading
  6. Coding bootcamp vs degree FAQ

1. Coding bootcamps

A coding bootcamp is a digital training aimed at teaching you to become a specific type of software developer:

These programs have been gaining significant traction in recent years thanks to the massive requests for developers, with companies needing people who can be trained quickly and on the specific skills required to succeed in the workplace.

There are many coding bootcamps available that allow learners to master the basics, get critical feedback on their work, and network with current and future programmers. We offer a top-rated coding bootcamp here at CareerFoundry, check it out more of the details about it.

Advantages of coding bootcamps

Cheaper price 

With the average yearly tuition in the US for a public college costing over $26,000, bootcamps offer a much cheaper training, usually averaging $15,000 for a full program. Unlike traditional college degrees, bootcamps often have lower upfront costs and offer various payment plans, scholarships, or income share agreements (ISAs). This affordability makes bootcamps more accessible to you in a situation where you don’t have the financial means to pursue a degree.

Flexibility with your time

Many coding bootcamps offer flexible learning options, including part-time and online programs. This flexibility allows you to balance your studies with other commitments, such as your current job or family responsibilities. Online bootcamps, in particular, enable individuals to learn from anywhere, eliminating the need to relocate or commute to a physical campus.

Career-driven curriculum

Coding bootcamps prioritize practical skills that will turn you into a specific type of software developer. The curriculum is designed to equip you with in-demand coding languages, tools, and web frameworks. Bootcamps often collaborate with industry professionals and companies to ensure their curriculum aligns with current market needs.

Portfolio help

to find your first coding job without experience, you will have a great portfolio of projects to showcase your skills. Coding bootcamps know this, and they will give you the chance of building real-world projects to showcase your capabilities to potential employers.

Collaborating with other students

One of the greatest challenges of professional coding is collaborating with other devs. Coding bootcamps can help with this, setting up an environment where you can learn collaboration by working together with fellow students, mastering those skills you will use daily in your job, like writing tickets, design documents and using Git.

Cons of coding bootcamps

Lack of accreditation

Unlike traditional colleges and universities, coding bootcamps are not typically accredited institutions. This means that, upon finishing the training, you will only receive a certificate of completion, rather than a formal degree or diploma. For this reason, you will have to rely on your portfolio and demonstrated skills to showcase your capabilities to potential employers.

Limited theoretical knowledge

Coding bootcamps prioritize practical skills over theoretical knowledge. While this can be beneficial if you’re looking for an immediate placement, it may result in a lack of deep understanding of computer science concepts and foundational theories (e.g data structures, algorithms, how compilers work). So in the future, you may need to invest additional time and effort in self-study to fill any knowledge gaps.

Varied quality

The quality of coding bootcamps can vary greatly. It is important to thoroughly research and choose a reputable bootcamp with a strong track record of successful outcomes. Consider factors such as instructor qualifications, alumni reviews, job placement rates, and industry partnerships when selecting a bootcamp.

2. Computer Science degrees

computer science lecture

Computer Science degrees offer a structured, multi-year exploration of computing principles, encompassing programming languages, algorithms, software development, and hardware architecture. This comprehensive curriculum equips graduates with the foundational knowledge skills required for diverse careers, from a more academic standpoint.

Advantages of college CS degrees

In-depth theoretical knowledge

Computer science degrees provide you with a deep understanding of computer science principles and theories. The curriculum covers a wide range of topics, including programming languages, algorithms, data structures, software engineering, and computer architecture. This strong theoretical foundation can be vital for you in tackling complex technical challenges.

Highly-specialized curriculums

Coding bootcamps give you great foundations to jump into more “general” coding jobs, like web development. However, you may want to specialize yourself in a subset of IT, like machine learning, data science, or cybersecurity. In these cases, pursuing a higher education can be invaluable, as it will give you all the time, mentoring and support you need to master these hard disciplines of computer science.

Widely recognized credential

College degrees from reputable institutions carry significant weight in the job market. Employers often value the comprehensive education provided by a computer science degree and see it as a testament to a candidate’s dedication, perseverance, and ability to learn complex subjects. A degree can open doors to a broader range of job opportunities and career advancement.

Networking opportunities

College provides you with a unique environment for networking and building connections. Computer science degree programs often have strong ties with industry professionals, alumni networks, and tech companies. You will have opportunities to attend career fairs, industry events, and internships, which can lead to valuable connections and future job prospects.

Cons of college CS degrees

Higher financial investment

College degrees, including computer science programs, can come with a hefty price tag. Tuition fees, textbooks, and living expenses can accumulate over the course of four years. While scholarships, grants, and financial aid options are available, you could graduate with student loan debt that may take you years to repay.

Longer time commitment

Pursuing a computer science degree requires a significant time commitment. Most programs take four years to complete, and you may need to dedicate additional time for internships, research projects, or extracurricular activities. If you’re looking to jump quickly into the industry, a college degree will significantly slow down your entry into the workforce compared to bootcamp graduates.

Less emphasis on practical skills

College computer science programs focus on providing a well-rounded education, including theoretical knowledge, general education requirements, and specialized computer science courses. While you will gain a solid understanding of computer science concepts, you may have limited exposure to the practical skills and tools used in the industry. So you will need to invest additional time and effort in building your practical coding skills.

3. Coding bootcamp vs degree: Job prospects

When considering the employment opportunities of coding bootcamp graduates versus computer science degree holders, several factors come into play. Here’s a comparison of the two paths:

Job prospects for Computer Science degree holders

A computer science degree is highly respected in the tech industry, and many companies still prioritize candidates with a formal degree. Graduates with a computer science degree can find employment in a broader number of positions, such as systems analysts, data scientists, or cybersecurity specialists.

As a computer science degree holder, you may have an advantage when applying to larger, established companies or pursuing research-oriented roles. The degree serves as a recognized credential and demonstrates your commitment to the field.

Job prospects for coding bootcamp graduates

Coding bootcamps have gained credibility in the tech industry, with many graduates successfully securing tech positions. Some companies specifically seek out bootcamp graduates due to their practical skills and ability to adapt quickly. Bootcamp graduates often find employment as web developers, full-stack developers or UX/UI designers.

Top tech companies, such as Google, Meta, and Amazon, have hired bootcamp graduates, showcasing the growing acceptance of bootcamp education in the industry. However, it’s important to note that job prospects may vary depending on the reputation of the bootcamp, the quality of the graduate’s portfolio, and their ability to showcase their skills during the interview process.

Companies which hire bootcamp grads

If you want an example of which companies are hiring bootcamp graduates, you can check out different bootcamps’ graduate outcomes pages, as well as looking up the bootcamp grads on LinkedIn to easily see where they work now and their pathway. Proving how much bootcamps are affirming themselves as a great opportunity to find amazing jobs for you, and as a great pool of talent for big tech companies.

Companies which hire college grads

College graduates with computer science degrees also have a wide range of job opportunities in the tech industry. Here are some notable companies that actively hire college graduates:

  • Microsoft: Microsoft is known for hiring computer science graduates for various roles, including software engineering, data analysis, and artificial intelligence. The company places value on strong technical skills, problem-solving abilities, and a solid understanding of computer science principles.
  • Apple: Apple seeks computer science graduates for software engineering, user experience, and hardware development roles. The company places emphasis on innovation, creativity, and a deep understanding of computer science concepts.
  • Amazon: Amazon hires computer science graduates for a range of technical roles, including software development, cloud computing, and data engineering. The company looks for candidates with a strong foundation in computer science principles and the ability to work in a fast-paced, customer-focused environment.

coding bootcamps can be online or in person

4. Factors to consider when comparing coding bootcamps vs degrees

When deciding between a coding bootcamp and a computer science degree, it’s important to consider several factors. Here are key considerations to help you make an informed decision:

Cost

Coding bootcamps, on average, have lower upfront costs compared to college degrees. Bootcamp tuition can range from $10,000 to a max of $30000, while college tuition for computer science programs can exceed $20,000 per semester. Consider your financial situation, available scholarships, and potential student loan debt when evaluating the cost factor.

Time commitment

Coding bootcamps typically have a shorter time commitment, lasting a few months, whereas computer science degree programs span four years. Assess your availability and willingness to commit to a longer program, taking into account personal responsibilities and career goals. Plus, take into account the flexibility offered by a bootcamp, since you will be able to pursue this kind of training even part-time, or at your own pace, allowing you to maintain your current job or attend to other duties you may have.

Course composition

Evaluate the curriculum of coding bootcamps and computer science degree programs to determine which aligns best with your career goals and learning style. Bootcamps focus on practical coding skills, and aim at shaping you quickly into a specific type of developer, while degrees provide a comprehensive education in computer science principles and theories, giving you also the chance to pursue a deeper specialization of certain computer science branches like AI and cybersecurity.

Return on investment

Consider the potential return on investment for both coding bootcamps and computer science degrees. Look at job placement rates, average salaries, and long-term career prospects to assess which option offers the best financial outcome.

Career support

Examine the career support services offered by coding bootcamps and universities. Bootcamps often provide job placement assistance, resume building, and networking opportunities, while universities may have extensive alumni networks and career fairs.

5. Where to go from here and further reading

In this guide, you learned about the differences between a coding bootcamp vs degree in Computer Science, hopefully understanding how to make the best choice for yourself. If you’re convinced you want to change things up and start a new fulfilling career by becoming a developer, then CareerFoundry is the online bootcamp for you.

With CareerFoundry, you can choose the best learning path for yourself in our Full-Stack Web Development Program. Once you choose what you want to learn, you will be able to follow the program online, at your own pace, with no tight schedules or previous experience needed, mastering the latest technologies and skills that will jumpstart your career into the tech world.

You can check out our graduate success stories, where you’ll hear the voices of some of the over 7000 students we’ve helped achieve a new career in tech, including companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon.

If you’d prefer to read up more on the subject matter first, check out these articles:

6. Coding bootcamp vs degree FAQ

What kind of degree is a bootcamp?

Coding bootcamps do not offer degrees. They provide intensive, practical training programs that focus on teaching coding skills and preparing students for careers in the tech industry.

Is it better to get a certificate or a degree?

The answer depends on your career goals and the specific industry requirements. While a degree from a reputable institution offers a comprehensive education and broader job prospects, a certificate from a coding bootcamp can be valuable for those seeking immediate job placement and practical coding skills.

How much do you make in coding bootcamp vs degree?

Salary potential varies depending on various factors such as location, job role, experience, and market demand. Both coding bootcamp graduates and computer science degree holders can earn competitive salaries in the tech industry. Research industry salary trends and consider the long-term career prospects when evaluating salary potential.

Is coding bootcamp better than a degree?

There is no definitive answer to this question, as it depends on individual circumstances and career goals. Coding bootcamps can provide practical skills and faster entry into the job market, while degrees offer a comprehensive education and broader job prospects. Consider your personal preferences, financial situation, and desired career path when making a decision.

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