Breaking into Tech: How to Choose an Online Coding Bootcamp
Nov 18, 2020
a woman works on a computer

The tech industry is an ever-changing environment, with job growth projected to rise by 8% for Web Developers and 22% for Software Developers within the next ten years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With that growth brings an evolving landscape of tech education to meet the growing demands and make the rapidly changing needs of the tech industry reflected within tech education.  We know that deciding on the best type of education for you is a difficult and personal choice, and we are here to make it easier. In this article, we will explore the best ways to evaluate what an online coding school has to offer.

Consider these five key factors when comparing online coding bootcamps:   

1.     Time Commitment. The most obvious benefit to an online coding school as a learning alternative to a traditional two- or four-year degree program is the time commitment and learn-from-home flexibility afforded through an online option. What you may not consider, however, are how much online programs differ in content and structure from a traditional degree program. While a degree program will cover fundamentals, it will be unable to adapt its curriculum as frequently to keep up with the changing landscape of emerging industry interests or new languages and frameworks as an online coding program like Lambda School does. This sets Lambda apart from many other online programs and bootcamps as well, due to an ongoing feedback loop from hiring partners and a commitment to continually refresh curriculum, thus always mimicking the changing tech landscape. 

Not all online programs are created equally as well. Some online coding programs have classes which are pre-recorded, where students learn solo at their own pace. These self-paced classes work best for students who need flexibility and are very disciplined and self-motivated in their own learning. Conversely, Lambda School’s classes are live and online, and students move through material with a cohort, allowing for additional peer support and accountability.

Many online programs like Lambda offer part-time and full-time options, while other online programs offer shorter, less immersive course experiences. Consider, for example, the Lambda full-time program web development program, which contains 6 months of coursework including coding fundamentals, languages, and frameworks (HTML, JavaScript, Python, CSS, React/Redux, and more), group labs projects which can be used for an individual’s portfolio, Computer Science coursework, and job preparation. Full-time schedules vary depending on a student’s time zone, but typically begin at 8am with a “Warm Up” to review daily materials and end at 5pm with a “Stand Up” together with your project manager and 6-8 others from your cohort. Part-time schedules vary depending on a student’s time zone as well, but typically begin at 6pm with a “Warm Up” and end at 9pm with “Project Time”. These schedules run Monday through Thursday, with an additional work day of choice for each Lambda student.  

Pro Tip: While a coding bootcamp might get you started quickly, many aspiring full stack developers will waste precious time and money burning out hard and fast within a 6-week session. These intense environments may tout quick competency, but may move too quickly through material for true mastery and will not cover enough to wow future employers.  

2.     Cost. Most online coding schools and bootcamps carry a large upfront tuition cost, with 6-week or longer programs varying greatly in price from $7000-$22,000. These up-front costs often require students to dip into savings, borrow, or take on significant debt, with coding schools and bootcamps additionally carrying no added accountability related to the student’s learning and holding guarantee of employment. Conversely, Lambda School offers an Income Share Agreement (ISA) option to cover initial tuition payment. This means that not only will Lambda School support their students in finding a job, but they have the option to defer tuition until the after graduation when a student is in a comfortable position to pay Lambda School back. Specifically, the contract allows a Lambda student to pay 17% of their post-Lambda School salary for 24 months, but only once a student is making more than $50,000 per year (or the equivalent of $4,166.66 per month). The ISA is capped at a maximum lump repayment of $30,000, so Lambda graduates won’t pay more than $30,000 under any circumstances.

Pro Tip: When considering the cost of your online coding program or bootcamp, don’t just compare dollar for dollar. Consider the length of the program (part time versus full time, 6-weeks versus 6 months), the breadth of content, and support you will receive for your dollar.

Sure, it is possible to self-teach the basics with YouTube, but is that going to keep you up to industry standards and get you a job? Consider what you will need to take you to the next level and keep you motivated. What is that worth, dollar for dollar? 

3.     Experience. While you may start out as a complete beginner, self-taught, or an experienced programmer looking for career advancement, consider what learning style you bring to the equation and what support you will need to stay motivated. While a self-directed coding program may let you work at your own pace, you may need additional administrative and peer support to master the subjects covered within your program. For instance, Lambda’s student community is intentionally organized for just this purpose, situated in supportive student cohorts, with access to Slack help channels and daily “Stand Ups”, not to mention Industry Mentors and Career Coaches. 

4.     Job Search Support. While no online coding school carries the promise of employment following graduation, it is worth considering whether the online coding school option you choose holds incentive toward your success. Since most traditional degree and online programs require upfront payment, there is little incentive, aside from notoriety and continued enrollment, for schools to refine their curriculum to meet the ever-changing needs of the dynamic tech landscape. However, programs such as Lambda School with an Income Share Agreement (ISA), have financial incentive to see students not just succeed, but excel in their field. This stretches throughout the Lambda coursework, and permeates through preparation from Student Success Coordinators, Career Coaches, and mentors who work to prepare students for employment throughout the program. When Lambda students complete coursework, not only are they prepared for coding challenges with potential employers, they have also received interview practice and ongoing feedback and support of their portfolios. In addition, Lambda’s Job Search program helps to connect Hiring Partners with new graduates.  

Pro Tip: Consider how your online coding school provides actual work experience in the real-world environment and if they give opportunity for mentorship in the industry. Make plans for your future self, not just your student self. 

5.     Student Outcomes & Reviews. After narrowing down the type of online school you wish to attend, next research outcome and job placement information at the schools which most interest you. Notice which are transparent, and which collect and report data regularly and publicly. How do these schools use what they learn to change their programs? Do they demonstrate a continual feedback loop of improvement, reflection, and growth? Does the school align with your values and reflect and represent an authentic message? Do they care about their students and is this reflected in what students report back? For instance, Lambda School’s Outcomes Report and Alumni Testimonials can be helpful in understanding both the big picture and the individual impact. Many Lambda students report having followed Lambda alumni on social platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn before making the decision to apply. Likely you will be as inspired as they were by the transformations taking place every day.  

Now that you have a greater understanding of the differences within online coding programs, it will be easier to select the right fit for you. Still, take note that each program will have varying admissions requirements or prerequisites. Although most programs will not require you to have any coding background to apply, there may still be a basic entrance exam you need to complete within a few days of receipt. For more information on how to best prepare for the Lambda admissions process, answers to frequently asked questions about Lambda School, or if you are ready to get started, start your application now

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