As technology continues to change and grow, the job market for professionals in technology-related professions is expanding alongside: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information technology occupations are projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, adding roughly 557,100 new jobs to the workforce.
With a rise in demand for professionals in this field, more people than ever are looking for ways to acquire the skills needed to excel and kickstart their careers.
If you aspire to build a successful career in the computer science industry, you may be wondering about the best way to kickstart your progress. There are several paths you can take to pursue your goal. One path forward is to earn a master’s degree in computer science; however, earning that isn’t your only option. Coding bootcamps can also help you determine whether or not computer science is right for you, without having to commit to earning an advanced degree.
Below, we discuss the factors you should consider when deciding between a computer science degree or coding bootcamp, to ensure you choose an educational path that will help you reach your career goals. Read on to explore what a coding bootcamp entails, what you can gain from one, how it compares to a graduate degree, and how you can determine which is right for you.
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Coding Bootcamp: Hard Skills in a Condensed Format
Coding bootcamps have gained popularity in recent years as an alternative to traditional computer science programs. Due to the differences in time and financial investment, bootcamps are appealing to many looking to advance their education. Before deciding if a coding bootcamp is the right path for you, there are some things you should consider.
1. What is a coding bootcamp?
Bootcamps can vary substantially depending on the specific program, both in terms of the material and course duration. Coding bootcamps typically span anywhere from 12 to 40 weeks. Some can even be as short as a single week or weekend.
Because they generally take less time to complete than a college degree, bootcamps are focused on rapid, high-impact learning. They are designed to give students skills that they can use in their jobs as quickly as possible.
It is important to note that the pace of these programs is generally much faster than a degree program due to the shortened duration. This means that students typically cannot go as deeply into a subject as might be preferred; it also means that it may be difficult to explore other areas of interest outside of what is covered by the coursework.
2. How much does a coding bootcamp cost?
Again, this will vary substantially depending on the program. Bootcamps that take more time to complete or offer in-person courses will often cost more, for example, than those that are shorter or completed entirely online.
According to Course Report, the average coding bootcamp in the U.S. costs $11,900 and takes more than 14 weeks to complete, but these prices commonly range anywhere from $5,000 to $21,000.
3. What skills will you learn in a coding bootcamp?
Before enrolling in a coding bootcamp, you should have an idea of the skills you hope to gain by attending. Otherwise, it will be difficult to know whether or not a particular bootcamp will help you reach your goals.
While coding bootcamps may sound appealing given the reduced time and financial commitment, they are not the right choice for everyone. Depending on your specific career goals and aspirations, you may be better suited to earning a graduate degree in computer science or a related field.
Master of Science in Computer Science: Deep Skills for Career Growth
Unlike a coding bootcamp, a Master of Science in Computer Science (MS in CS) will typically require a more substantial investment of both time and money. In many cases, though, the payoff is worth the added costs.
One important differentiator is that bootcamps generally teach a skill (e.g., coding in a specific language), whereas a degree teaches students fundamental skills and problem-solving techniques so they can easily adapt and learn new languages as they are developed. While coding bootcamps are designed to train attendees in specific skills quickly, an MS in CS can take anywhere from one to three years. This longer time frame gives students more time and freedom to dive deeper and explore concepts, information, and skills that they might not be able to pursue in a condensed bootcamp format.
Additionally, while both bootcamps and graduate degrees impart students with knowledge and skills that can be used to advance in their careers, it is often easier to parlay a degree into a promotion (or new job at a different organization) than it is to parlay a bootcamp or certification.
Most employers today see the value in bootcamps and other microcredentials. It is important to note, though, that they are still currently less widely accepted than full degrees, and are typically seen as serving a supplementary role to, rather than substitutes for, traditional degrees. This is why, across the industry, computer science professionals earn an average of $30,000 more with a master’s degree than without one.
Aside from increasing your earning potential, the process of earning any degree entails working alongside like-minded peers and faculty members, who may ultimately become a part of your professional network and play an important role in your career. While a bootcamp may foster some sense of community, the condensed nature of the programs can make it more difficult to build meaningful connections.
Which is Right for You?
To determine which path is right for you, define your career goals, and understand exactly what you wish to achieve by advancing your education. These goals will ultimately be the single most important factor in helping you know whether a bootcamp or degree is a better fit for your needs.
Generally speaking, a coding bootcamp may be a good choice for someone who would like to learn new skills to leverage in their current position or someone who is considering making a career change into computer science but isn’t sure that they will enjoy the work. A master’s degree in computer science (or similar degree), on the other hand, may be better suited for someone who would like more comprehensive training across a range of topics related to computer science.
The answer to the question of whether or not either of these options is worth it will come down to how you define the value you wish to receive upon completion. Make sure you have a clear understanding of your personal and professional goals while weighing your options so that you can make the decision that is right for you.