With the tech industry expected to continue growing over the next decade, now is an ideal time to learn the skills needed for in-demand jobs like software developer and web designer.

Students have various options for how to learn those skills, including degrees in computer science or related subjects, post-secondary certificate programs, and coding bootcamps. Each educational path has advantages and disadvantages; the one best for students depends on their needs, goals, and preferences.

Coding bootcamps and post-secondary certificates are the two fastest ways to develop programming and related computer science skills, but there are some key differences between the two. This article includes an overview of the differences between coding bootcamps and certificate programs and answers to frequently asked questions about career outlook, employability, and more.

What is a Coding Bootcamp?

Coding bootcamps are rigorous, intensive training programs that cover basic to advanced programming skills and other IT areas in an accelerated time frame. Over the last decade, they have become a popular way for students to prepare to start or advance their careers in software development and adjacent fields.

Most coding bootcamps are full-time programs designed to be completed in 12 weeks to 6 months of full-time study. Students in a full-time program can expect to spend anywhere from 20-40 hours per week in classes and completing projects and exams. Because they cover a broad range of skills in a short amount of time, bootcamps are fast-paced and require a significant commitment of time and energy. Some bootcamps offer part-time programs, which are more flexible but may take longer to complete.

The curriculum for a coding bootcamp depends on whether the program focuses on front-end, back-end, or full-stack skills. Front-end developers learn the coding languages for creating a website’s appearance and UX, while back-end developers focus on the languages needed for building and maintaining a website’s architecture. Full-stack developers learn both sets of skills.

Software engineering is the most common bootcamp focus, although some institutions now offer bootcamps related to data science, UX design, and cybersecurity.

Bootcamp programs are available online, in-person, and in hybrid formats. Although there are some bootcamps associated with colleges and universities, most are offered by for-profit companies. The average cost of a coding bootcamp is $10,825.

Because bootcamps emphasize job training, a key feature of many programs is robust career support services, including classes focused on career prep, job fairs, resume and cover letter assistance, and personal career coaching.

What is a Certificate?

Certificate programs blend elements of coding bootcamps and complete degree programs. Students can earn undergraduate or graduate certificates, depending on their education and experience level. Undergraduate certificates cover foundational topics and skills, while graduate certificates provide advanced or in-depth training for more experienced students.

It’s important to note that there’s a difference between post-secondary certificate programs and professional certifications. Post-secondary certificates focus on skill development and career preparation and are typically offered at accredited higher education institutions. Professional certifications, like the Certified Professional Coder certification, are credentials students earn by passing exams to demonstrate their knowledge of a particular area.

Certificates allow students to learn in a traditional post-secondary academic setting without enrolling in a full degree program. They typically require 12-24 credits and can be completed in 12-18 months, depending on the pace of study. Students can use a certificate program to learn more about computer science before committing to a full degree program or fill gaps in their knowledge to help them qualify for new jobs or promotions.

Certificate programs are more narrowly focused than complete degree programs as they’re designed to help students develop practical skills. The curriculum can favor depth in an area like software development, programming, or web design or give students an introduction to several different computer and IT-related areas.

Many certificate programs are designed for working professionals, with flexible classes and minimal time commitments. Courses are available online, in-person, and in hybrid formats. Students in certificate programs offered by higher education institutions may also have access to school resources such as libraries, career advising services, and tutoring.

Bootcamp, Certificate, or Degree — Which Is Right For You?

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 be able to learn in this type of environment.

Certificate programs are best suited for individuals who want targeted skill development in a traditionally paced, flexible package. Depending on whether students are enrolling in an undergraduate or graduate certificate program, there may be prerequisites for educational or professional background. Students should check with individual certificate programs to confirm they meet eligibility requirements. Most certificate programs are designed for working professionals and have a less rigorous workload than bootcamps.

Degree programs are best suited for individuals who want a comprehensive college-level education, including 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 more intensive than a bootcamp, students should be prepared to dedicate sufficient time and energy to their classes.

Coding Bootcamp Certificate Program Degree Program
Average completion time 3-6 months 6-18 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

— Private for-profit companies

— 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 All public colleges and most private non-profit colleges are accredited
Payment options — Out-of-pocket

— Private education loans

— Income Share Agreement (ISA)

— Scholarships

Employer tuition reimbursement benefits

— Out-of-pocket

— Federal student loans

— Private education loans

— Grants

— Scholarships

Employer tuition reimbursement benefits

— Out-of-pocket

— Federal student loans

— Private education loans

— Grants

— Scholarships

Employer tuition reimbursement benefits

Learning formats — In-person

— Online

— Hybrid

— In-person

— Online

— Hybrid

— In-person

— Online

— Hybrid

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

— Targeted skill development in a particular — 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


How to choose a coding bootcamp or certificate program

To find the program that best suits your needs, establish what those needs are. What are your career goals, and what type of education will give you the training necessary to achieve them? Can you accommodate a rigorous bootcamp schedule, or do you need a slower-paced certificate program? Do you want an in-person, online, or hybrid program?

Once you’ve set parameters, you can research programs that fit your needs. Visiting a bootcamp or school’s website is an excellent place to start collecting information. You can also contact program representatives or admissions counselors if you have questions. If there are information sessions or open houses available, either in-person or virtually, attending them can allow you to speak to faculty and current students. Gather as much information as possible about curriculum, graduation and employment rates, admission requirements, student support services, course delivery methods, cost and financial aid options, and faculty. This information will allow you to compare programs based on your needs and find the option that meets most or all of your criteria.

Career Opportunities for Coding Bootcamp and Certificate Grads

Whether you pursue education through a coding bootcamp or computer science certificate program, you’ll be training for a field with strong projected job growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there will be, on average, 377,750 new job openings per year in the computer and information technology sector through 2032.

However, students should be aware that some jobs within this field are expected to see a decline in employment during this time. According to the BLS, computer programming jobs will decline by 11%, although there will still be 6,700 new job openings per year for these roles. The median annual salary for computer programmers is $97,800.

Meanwhile, there are multiple career paths with a strong job outlook that bootcamp and certificate students can pursue.

Software Developers

Job outlook, 2022-2032: 25% increase

Median annual salary: $124,200

Software developers use their coding skills to create applications for computers and other electronic devices. They may also build the underlying systems for operating devices or running networks.

Database Administrators

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 firm grasp of programming languages and the ability to be detail-oriented, communicate and collaborate effectively, and solve problems.

Web Developers

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.

Coding Bootcamps and Certificates Frequently Asked Questions

Do employers like coding bootcamps and certificates?

In general, employers seek candidates with the right technical and transferable skills to fulfill the job’s responsibilities, regardless of how they developed those skills. While specific jobs may require the broad or advanced knowledge that only a degree can provide, many opportunities are available to individuals based on the knowledge they gain from a bootcamp or certificate program. According to a 2021 LinkedIn report, employers hired graduates of coding bootcamps at nearly the same rate as degree-holders (66.9% compared to 68.1%), with three bootcamps — Codesmith, Devmountain, and Tech Elevator having better post-graduation employment rates than prestigious universities like the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University.

Is a coding bootcamp or certificate worth it?

Coding bootcamps and certificates can be convenient, cost-effective ways for students to develop their programming skills, especially compared to full degree programs. With employment in the tech industry expected to rise throughout the next decade, various opportunities will be available to individuals with IT skills.

Jobs in this industry have a median annual salary of more than double the median annual wage across all occupations ($100,530 compared to $46,310). Because the cost of a certificate program or bootcamp is typically significantly less than college tuition, graduates of these programs stand to get a strong return on their investment into their education.

However, students should also keep in mind that these programs require an investment of time and energy. For students to get the most value, they should be prepared to focus and hold themselves accountable while enrolled in their bootcamp or certificate program.

How important is a coding internship?

Internships allow students to get real-world experience in the tech industry before entering the job market. Most computer science degree programs require an internship, while they’re less common in bootcamps and certificate programs. Some bootcamps may help students arrange post-program internships. Students interested in completing an internship as part of their certificate or bootcamp should speak to a career advisor at their institution to find out their available opportunities.

Learn More About Coding Education Opportunities

Discover the educational opportunities available for those interested in tech careers by visiting the following pages.

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.