State of the Bootcamp

A friend recently considered enrolling in a bootcamp and asked me for some input on my experience. Five months ago I would have raved about the wonderful people I met, the volume of information I digested, and the quality of my portfolio when the program was said and done. Today, after seeing so many bootcamps in the news going through acquisitions and changing their business models, I had to be more careful in how much praise I heap onto bootcamps.

The thoughts below are not well researched, and mostly just a stream of consciousness from media coverage and conversations with recent graduates. The bootcamp was definitely worth it for me and the rest of my cohort; all of us got jobs relatively quickly and we were getting paid well above the advertised average salary. Please research your programs and check employment status of recent graduates to vet your own bootcamps before committing to a substantial amount of debt.

I think the bootcamp business model is beginning to show its cracks. When I attended App Academy, tuition was a predictable 18% of your starting salary. As I graduated, bootcamps were exploding in popularity and AA experimented with raising the tuition to as high as 25% of your starting salary. However, they have moved away from the “deferred-tuition” model to a “pay us first” model – what seems like signal that something is amiss with graduate success.

My theory is some companies have gotten burned by illegitimate bootcamps. A lot of bad bootcamps have come up, and a few bad experiences with bootcampers means a company will never hire from the pool again. It doesn’t matter if School For Kids Who Can’t Code Good And Want To Learn How To Do Other Stuff Good Too churns out a bunch of trash developers while Hack Reactor produces really high quality people. Recruiters can’t be bothered to browse the rankings at SwitchUp every day to figure out which programs are good/legitimate – they just see “bootcamp”.

Bootcamps also seem to be flooding the junior developer market. Think about it: a bootcamp enrolls ~40 students and is able to complete a cycle in 9-12 weeks, many programs run several cohorts simultaneously, and there are dozens of programs in the city. This means that every three months a few thousand junior developers flood the job market. Even in a city like New York with an awesome job market, there are many times more candidates than open positions. New graduates are not only competing with their cohort, but also with graduates from several months ago who have not yet found jobs (and who have had many more months to polish their portfolio and prepare for interviews).

Doing the bootcamp curriculum gets you to a good baseline – an excellent jumping-off point where you feel confident enough to learn anything else on your own. Having said that, it does take a lot of struggle and effort to go above and beyond to stand out.

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