The tech landscape continues to grow, adding jobs and opportunities for many individuals who wish to learn new skills but may still have other home or work responsibilities. For those who are trying to make a career change to tech, attending a part-time bootcamp or coding program is an effective way to make a career change without committing full-time.
The number of coding schools and bootcamps to choose from can be a little overwhelming at first, and it may be challenging to know which program will be the best fit for you. Thankfully, this post will help you learn how to choose the best part-time coding bootcamp to meet your specific needs. As you begin your search, keep in mind that individuals in part-time bootcamp programs choose part-time tracks for a variety of reasons. Some come with full-time jobs, some are stay-at-home parents, and many have other personal and professional responsibilities making part-time schedules the simplest to incorporate. Despite part-time coding programs taking longer to compete, they are just as robust and beneficial as full-time coding programs and may even work better for students who wish to digest and master content to show their highest skills when the time comes to find a job. In fact, a majority of Lambda School students are part-time, and many credit the added benefit of time in enabling increased confidence and competency.
Regardless of your schedule, there is a part-time coding program that can work for everyone. Consider the following questions when making your selection.
1. How will I learn best? Consider your learning style. Are you a self-directed learner, or do you work best following a structured schedule? Part-time coding programs offer a wide array of options, including pre-recorded lectures, live lectures, personal mentors, and even peer-to-peer online support networks. At Lambda School, students have the opportunity to work on real-world projects as a part of teams, which boost their portfolios and help them build crucial communication and leadership skills. Invest in a bootcamp that will keep you engaged at the pace that works for you.
As you research your options, think critically about your “soft skills” – the intrinsic qualities that keep you motivated and driven. Each online coding program will have its own idea about the type of student best suited for their program, but keep in mind that the program needs to be the right fit for you and you for it. For instance, Lambda School looks for student qualities such as, “determined, proactive, team player, digitally savvy, career focused, and gritty”. That’s because Lambda students provide continual feedback that these qualities best serve them when working through the curriculum.
2. How flexible will the program be? Part-time coding program schedules can vary greatly from completely self-directed to structured, with the most common structured schedule being evenings and/or weekends to accommodate students with full-time jobs. Some programs cover limited subject matter, like a specific language or framework, while others cover a broad range of subjects you will need to know to advance professionally. Decide early which will fit your learning and schedule best. For example, if you wish to become an iOS Developer, you may choose a program with a narrow iOS focus, whereas if you wish to become a Web Developer, you will require a more comprehensive range of skills. At the same time, with more skills, come more professional opportunities, so with every choice there are professional ripple effects worth considering upfront. Lambda School’s part-time Schedule is a great example of a structured, comprehensive program with two clear tracks, Data Science and Full Stack Web, geared toward mastery and employment. This schedule will vary depending on a student’s time zone, but will typically begin at 6pm with a “Warm Up”, which includes personal time to review the day’s instructional material, followed by “Guided Project Time”, and ending with “Project Time” at 9pm, which includes support from peers and students over a Slack platform. These schedules run Monday through Thursday, with an additional weekend day of choice for each Lambda student.
When making your decision, consider your current work and home obligations. How will part-time classwork impact your family life, social life, and free time? What will you need to give up to achieve your goals and what will you gain? During this pandemic, many individuals seeking a career change may find it useful to remain employed in a traditional nine-to-five “day job” while acquiring new skills in a part-time program in the evenings. This has resulted in an increased demand for part-time programs, with a growing number moving to offer online options. This means greater accessibility, variety, and competition.
3. How much value will I get for my dollar? There are stark contrasts in price between short programs covering less subject matter and larger, more comprehensive programs covering a broader range of skills needed in the field. While shorter programs may be less expensive up front, they may not allow you to build upon new skills by putting them to use directly in projects with teams and teachers. For those looking for a program through which to build a robust portfolio, look to schools that give opportunities for real-world lab projects, collaboration, and mentorship.
Online coding schools and bootcamps often carry a hefty upfront tuition cost, with 6-week to one year 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. As you factor in these costs, consider how this will impact your budget if you are still working or if you will be going down to part time work to accommodate the added mental workload. If you choose to pay for a program out-of-pocket or by dipping into savings, consider the benefit of using a budgeting tool or consulting with a financial advisor to ensure the option will be in your best interest.
Thankfully there are alternatives to traditional upfront tuition options. Consider Lambda School’s Income Share Agreement (ISA), which defers tuition payment until after students have graduated. Once students begin making a salary of $50,000 per year or more, they pay 17% of their post-Lambda School salary for 24 months (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. This means Lambda School has added accountability and buy-in related to their student’s learning, mastery of material, and job success.
As you weigh your options, remember that your needs are unique and it’s OK to take the time you need to make the best decision for you. When you’re ready to start working toward a rewarding new career in tech, you’ll have plenty of part-time study options to help you take your skills to the next level.