Students who want to pursue careers as software engineers, web developers, or computer programmers have multiple educational options that will give them the skills they need to qualify for these positions, including coding bootcamps and computer science degrees.
The right educational path for you will depend on individual learning preferences and career goals. However, there are certain factors that all students should consider, including how employable you’ll be after completing your training.
With a comparison of coding bootcamps and computer science degree programs based on graduate employability, skills taught, and potential career paths, this article will help students better understand which option is best for them.
What Are Coding Bootcamps?
A coding bootcamp is an intensive training program designed to teach students basic to advanced programming, software engineering, and other tech skills quickly. As the tech industry grew, coding bootcamps emerged as a fast, efficient way to train prospective coders and developers, with nearly 100 bootcamps operating throughout the U.S. as of 2023.
Coding bootcamps are usually full-time programs requiring anywhere from 20-40 hours per week of classes, assignments, and hands-on projects. Some bootcamps may offer part-time options. Program length varies from 12 weeks to six months, depending on how comprehensive the curriculum is.
The most common focus of bootcamp programs is software engineering, although some institutions have also started offering bootcamps in related IT areas like cybersecurity, data science, and UX design.
Bootcamp courses can be delivered in person, online, or in a hybrid format. Because these programs are explicitly designed to prepare graduates for jobs, many bootcamps include robust career support services. They may even make payment for the program based on whether students find work in the field after graduation.
Coding Bootcamps vs. Computer Science Degrees
The other option that students can explore when planning for a tech career is a degree in computer science, software engineering, web development, or a related field. Degrees in these fields are available at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s levels. While a degree program will take longer than a bootcamp, it will also give students a more well-rounded education that can prepare them for a greater diversity of tech-related jobs.
Coding bootcamps are best suited for individuals looking to build coding skills and prepare for jobs as quickly as possible. Most programs have few or no prerequisites for educational or professional background. Students may be required to take a basic evaluation exam or an introductory course before enrolling. Courses are intensive and fast-paced, so students should be able to dedicate sufficient time to the program and learn in this environment.
Computer science degrees are best suited for individuals who want a comprehensive college-level education that includes core courses, electives, and general education classes. Associate and bachelor’s degree programs generally have no prerequisites for educational or professional background. Students applying to master’s programs must have a bachelor’s degree. Although not as intensive as a bootcamp, students should be prepared to dedicate sufficient time and energy to their classes.
|Coding Bootcamp||Degree Program|
|Average completion time||3-6 months||Associate: 2 years
Bachelor’s: 4 years
Master’s: 2 years
|Offered by||— Private for-profit companies
— Private non-profit organizations
|— Public non-profit colleges
— Private non-profit colleges
— Private for-profit colleges
|Accreditation||No accreditation||All public colleges and most private non-profit colleges are accredited|
|Payment options||— Out-of-pocket
— Private education loans
— Income Share Agreement (ISA)
— Federal student loans
— Private education loans
|Learning formats||— In-person
|Curriculum||— Narrow focus on programming languages and coding skills
— Project-based learning, with supplemental readings, quizzes, and assignments
— May include an internship or culminating project
— No general education requirements
|— Broad range of topics and skills in computer programming and related areas
— Lectures and project-based learning; class structure varies by topic and instructor
— Likely includes an internship or culminating project
— Requires general education courses
Are Coding Bootcamp Grads More Employable Than College Grads?
According to research from LinkedIn, employment rates for coding bootcamps and computer science degree graduates are similar. Among coding bootcamp grads, 66.9% are employed in their field. For graduates with computer science degrees, 68.1% currently work in their field.
LinkedIn also reports that three coding bootcamps account for tech workers’ best in-field employment rates. Codesmith’s in-field employment rate is 92%, followed by Devmountain (87%) and Tech Elevator (85%). These rates are higher than those for prestigious schools like the University of Pennsylvania (84%) and Johns Hopkins University (82%).
Meanwhile, a 2022 Gallup poll found that 17% of bootcamp students worked in STEM fields before enrollment. Post-graduation, that percentage nearly tripled to 48%.
Employability also depends on what type of job a student is seeking. The skills and knowledge gained in a coding bootcamp or associate degree program are likely sufficient for entry-level positions. These programs train students in the basics, expecting they will gain additional knowledge and further develop skills on the job.
A bachelor’s degree in computer science prepares students for entry-level jobs. However, because this program has a more comprehensive curriculum, students may be prepared for a more diverse array of positions with more transferable skills. For some management or research positions, students will need a master’s degree.
Overall, for students who want to gain the essential skills needed to break into the tech field, completing a coding bootcamp appears just as attractive to employers as a degree in computer science.
Career paths for coding bootcamp grads
Now is an opportune time to develop tech skills, with jobs in the computer and information technology sector expected to increase much faster than average through 2032. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts about 377,750 new job openings, on average, per year for the next decade.
Students should pay close attention to which jobs are expected to grow. The BLS predicts that there will be an 11% decline in employment for computer programmers, a common post-bootcamp job. For those who do find work as computer programmers, it is a lucrative field, with a median annual salary of $97,800.
However, there are several career paths with a strong job outlook that are open to graduates of coding bootcamps:
Job outlook, 2022-2032: 25% increase
Median annual salary: $124,200
Software developers use their coding skills to create computer and electronic device applications. They may also build the underlying systems for operating devices or running networks.
Job outlook, 2022-2032: 16% increase
Median annual salary: $80,730
Web developers create and maintain functional, fast, and user-friendly websites using programming languages and skills. These individuals may work alone or in teams and may or may not be responsible for producing content for the websites they create.
Job outlook, 2022-2032: 8% increase
Median annual salary: $112,120
Database administrators work on the back end of websites and networks, creating and maintaining the systems that collect and store data. This position requires a strong grasp of programming languages and the ability to be detail-oriented, communicate and collaborate effectively, and solve problems.
Find the Online Coding Bootcamp That’s Right For You
With so many coding bootcamp options available, it can be hard to know which one to choose. Intelligent.com reviewed dozens of programs to create this list of the Best Online Coding Bootcamps.
Pros and Cons of Coding Bootcamps
One of the primary advantages of attending a coding bootcamp is how quickly students can complete the program and have the skills they need to apply for tech jobs. Most coding bootcamps take anywhere from 12 weeks to 6 months to finish, significantly less than a computer science degree program.
The table above notes that coding bootcamps are generally less expensive than a complete college degree program. They’re shorter and require fewer resources than degree programs at universities. Many coding bootcamps also offer a unique payment option known as an Income Share Agreement, or ISA, in which students only pay for their program after securing employment in their field. Students considering enrolling in an ISA at a coding bootcamp should read all terms and conditions before committing to the program.
Career support services
Because coding bootcamps are meant to prepare students for employment in the tech industry, one of the support services they offer is career advising and placement. Many bootcamps have career coaches who work with students throughout the program to help them develop resumes and cover letters and connect with potential employers. It’s common for bootcamps to continue offering job placement support for a few months to a year after students finish their programs.
By design, bootcamps are intensive programs that require a significant time commitment, if only for a brief period. Because they condense skills development into a shortened time frame, students must be prepared to prioritize their bootcamp to get the most out of it. Online students should be comfortable with independent learning and holding themselves accountable to stay on track, while in-person students may have to make arrangements with their current employer to take time off or work around other obligations.
Bootcamps have highly focused curriculums that don’t typically include options for electives or study in related areas. While this may be sufficient for students who want to develop coding skills, those looking to develop a more robust skill set may need more. Students should carefully consider their career goals and the skills they need for the jobs they want before choosing a bootcamp or a computer science degree.
Coding Bootcamps Frequently Asked Questions
How do employers view coding bootcamps?
If employment rates are any indication, employers are just as eager to hire coding bootcamp graduates as they are degree-holders. According to some employers, they like graduates of bootcamps because the fast-paced nature of the programs mean they get the most current knowledge and skills. Others appreciate that bootcamps give students more hands-on experiences and opportunities to demonstrate their abilities, making it easier for them to select quality job candidates.
How important is a coding internship for employability?
Employers like applicants who have hands-on experience in a professional environment. Internships provide this experience and can also be a way for students to connect with potential employers. Most computer science degree programs require internships, which are less common in bootcamps. Students who want an internship experience can consult with their bootcamps career support services to find out what opportunities are available.
How do I choose the coding bootcamp that's right for me?
The first step is to establish your career and educational goals, as well as any learning preferences and logistical needs. Setting parameters will help you narrow your search to bootcamps that meet your specific requirements. Research multiple programs by visiting their websites, speaking to admissions counselors, attending virtual or in-person information sessions, and reading reviews online. Compare programs based on curriculum, faculty, cost and payment options, course delivery method, and student support services to find the one that best meets your criteria.
Interested in a degree instead?
Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.