Learning to code can get spendy— in the range of several thousands of dollars –– if you’re looking at an accredited university. While the payoff is great, what it can do to your wallet is less so. If you’re a budding web developer or data scientist looking for a less expensive way to learn to code, a free coding bootcamp could be a great option.
Free code camps give you a basic introduction to computer programming and machine learning. They offer several of the benefits a paid program does at zero percent of the cost, and because most are held online, they’re easily accessible. In some cases, a free coding bootcamp can put you on the path to a career in tech without the cost and time commitment of a college or university program.
1. Your career goals
The most important thing you need to consider when choosing a free code camp or free coding school is what exactly you want to accomplish in the long-run. Is it your dream to be a full-time data scientist or web developer, or are you wanting to compliment the skills you already have? Is working with computers and data your dream job, or is it more of a hobby?
These questions matter, because while free web developer courses and free data science courses are good primers, they aren’t going to give you great real-life experience or be the immersive deep dive you need to kickstart a career in tech. Careers in data science and web development in particular require learning a variety of programming, scripting, and markup languages, and they demand a significant amount of time and focus. You may need additional training on top of your free bootcamp experience if you’re seriously considering making coding your career.
That’s not to say free bootcamps aren’t useful, or that they can’t give you a big leg up. According to a survey conducted by Indeed.com in 2017, 72% of employers thinking coding bootcamp students are “just as prepared and just as likely to perform at a high level as computer science graduates.” Those are solid statistics.
A free coding camp can be an awesome way to learn coding languages and try computer programming out to see if it’s something you’d even be interested in doing. You’ll just need to vet courses carefully to find one that gives you the quality of instruction and breadth of education you’re looking for.
2. What coding languages or skills you want to learn
One thing that typically separates a free code camp from a paid code camp is that a free camp will give you language-specific or topic-specific tutorials. It won’t give you as wide a breadth of education as a paid course will, which is why it’s important to know what skills you’d like to develop before you join one.
If you’re wanting to learn Python, some free bootcamp options that give you solid practice are Kaggle or datacamp’s Introduction to Python Course. Maybe you’re more interested in the data science track and looking for a course to learn SQL. Udemy offers an Introduction to Databases and SQL Querying course that’ll give you a helpful overview. There are literally hundreds of courses to choose from out there and lots of code camps where you can find them. You just need to do a bit of digging.
3. Your learning style
There’s a bootcamp for every kind of student. To get as many benefits as possible out of yours, you should find one you can gel with. Do you like more structure in your learning, or is self-paced instruction more your style? Are you highly motivated, or does it take a little extra to push you? Do you do like hands-on learning, audio/visual learning, or reading best? These are all things to think about as you pick your bootcamp.
Self-paced bootcamps are incredibly popular for students with busier schedules or individuals looking to casually learn coding in their free time. If you’re looking for a bootcamp where you can set your own pace, FreeCodeCamp is a good choice. We’ll talk about some more structured options later.
4. How much time you can commit
Most coding bootcamps that have any kind of stricture last from about six weeks to six months long. You should think about what your schedule looks like and how much time you have to commit to a bootcamp. The more time you can commit to attending class and practicing on your own, the better. The upfront time investment will ultimately make you a better coder, help you build your portfolio, and lead to better job opportunities in the future.
Free bootcamps make a great sampler for prospective web developers and data scientists, but most of them aren’t exactly resume or CV material that will blow away potential employers. To get solid experience and career prep beneath your belt, you may need to explore paid options.
Some bootcamps give you a great comprehensive education but cost thousands of dollars up front. Others are free but offer additional paid certification that becomes really useful when you start looking for jobs. An example of the latter is HarvardX. Their 12-week CS50 Introduction to Computer Science is a free course that gives students a broad look at concepts, frameworks, and languages. Students wishing to pursue a verified certificate proving their competency upon completing the class will have to pay $199. That’s a fairly straightforward option for certification, but like most free bootcamps, the depth and breadth of the skills you learn will remain limited.
If you’re looking for an alternative option to the four-year track that won’t break the bank and will give you an immersive, well-rounded coding education with real-life experience, Lambda School is an option to consider.
At Lambda, students learn full-stack web development and data science from some of the top experts in the industry. Students also model the skills to learn new languages and frameworks so they’ll have an edge in the field. In addition to completing a comprehensive, in-depth curriculum on their chosen subject, Lambda students are given hands-on experience to beef up their portfolios so they’re ready to hit the job market running.
Lambda courses are more structured than free bootcamps are, but students have the flexibility to choose between part-time courses that run for a period of twelve months or full-time courses that run for a period of six. These longer tracks give you the time and work to become a coding pro.
One of the biggest things that sets Lambda apart from other coding schools and bootcamps is that you don’t pay for your course until you get hired. Our Income Share Agreement tuition option gives students the opportunity to get an in-depth, hands-on education without having to pay for it until they’ve been placed in a qualifying position making at least $50,000 a year. For real. Once you’re hired, you’ll start making monthly payments based on your income. If you’re not hired, you don’t have to pay a dime.