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There are a LOT of coding bootcamps out there. How do you know which one to choose? Do you really know what to look for when choosing one?
We’ve put together this absolutely exhaustive guide to help you put together a list of things to think about when choosing your bootcamp, because they’re a big investment, and you need to choose the one that’s right for you.
So… let’s begin.
Things are tight for everyone at the minute, we get that, but what are you sacrificing for a cheaper price? Or what are you getting extra at the bootcamps that cost more? Here are some of the things you should be thinking about with cost:
If something looks too good to be true, then it most likely is. Be wary of bootcamps or online courses that are significantly cheaper than their counterparts. The reason coding bootcamps are typically quite expensive is because they have a high cost base - it costs a lot of money to hire instructors who are highly knowledgeable in the field of software development. This is because software developer salaries are so high. If the price does seem low then look into some of the points we raise in the rest of this article and see if any of them potentially apply. Perhaps the ratio of tutors to students is very high or there is only one tutor. Or perhaps lessons are recorded.
But that doesn’t mean to jump to the other end of the spectrum! Sometimes we are tempted to go for the more expensive option because we believe that it must be better. But ask all of the same questions, because that won’t always be the case.
Because bootcamp course fees can be quite expensive (though typically competitive if you compare to a University degree) - and because you’ll want to make the leap as soon as possible in order to enjoy the benefits of a new role in software development - it’s important to look at the funding options available to you.
Disclaimer: The following information does not constitute financial advice or recommendation and should not be considered as such.
Some bootcamps will allow you to pay for your studies in instalments over a period of time (usually between 6 and 24 months). Usually this will include some sort of upfront payment, which will reduce your monthly payments. The good news is that most providers who offer this method of payment don’t charge interest, so there’s no penalty on you for taking longer to pay.
An income share agreement (or ISA) is where you and the provider enter an agreement that allows you to only start paying for the course when you are in employment and earning over a salary threshold. Once you’re earning over that point, you usually pay back a percentage of your gross salary, and this amount is deducted from your bank account each month. The length of this agreement - how long you will make repayments for - will differ per provider but will be set out in advance.
Although it does offer more flexibility, there are drawbacks with ISAs. For example, providers typically still ask for an upfront payment even with this method, so you’ll still need to save up or raid the piggy bank. Ultimately, you’ll also end up paying more for this option than if you paid upfront or took out a finance agreement, as the percentage contribution will usually be worked out in a way which benefits the provider for offering the agreement. These agreements usually have a repayment cap i.e. you don’t pay back more than 200% of the course fee. Some providers might have higher caps than this or may not mention a cap at all. They can be sneaky, so watch out.
The other option is taking out a personal loan - either from a bank, or friend/relative. These will usually allow you longer to repay the loan than paying upfront or instalments. The interest rate is also usually quite low if you go through the bank, but beware of subprime and payday lenders who may charge significantly higher interest rates. Honestly, the risk probably won’t be worth the reward. With many bootcamps, you can pay some or all of the tuition using a credit card, but we really don’t recommend this. The interest rates are normally much higher than that of a loan, unless you’re in an interest-free period and/or can secure balance transfer offers in future to keep repayments down. If you do take this route, we really recommend coming up with a plan to pay the balance down as quickly as possible after finishing the course and securing a new role.
Nowadays, there are so many places you can find reviews. Head to the company’s social media pages, and look at their reviews on Google. There are also websites dedicated to coding bootcamp reviews and insight: CourseReport, Switchup and Career Karma. Different bootcamps will usually pick one of these, but some may feature across different sites, so be sure to look across all of them to paint as accurate a picture as possible. Make sure to read the reviews, as they give first hand experiences into what it’s like at a particular bootcamp. Here are some of the questions you should be asking:
Bootcamps typically take on multiple cohorts of students a year. If you can only find 1 or 2 reviews online, then perhaps the bootcamp is overstating its size, capabilities and/or experience. That’s strike 1.
More recent reviews will give you an idea of what it’s like to study at the bootcamp currently. Be wary of older reviews, as things can change quickly. Bootcamps may try to focus attention on platforms where they have older reviews that paint a better picture, when actually more recent negative reviews exist elsewhere, so search around! Covering up bad reviews, that’s strike 2.
Reviews should provide a recurring theme. This should ideally be positive. If you are repeatedly seeing the same negative points, then that should be a red flag: stay away.
Thankfully, we don’t see this a great deal with coding bootcamp reviews, but as with any product or service, fake reviews will always exist. Look at the tone of voice and the length of review. If the reviews all sound quite similar; there are lots of short reviews; or they’re all around the same date; then this could be a warning sign that something isn’t right. Students who have had good experiences will usually write thorough reviews in order to help others make informed decisions.
Don’t just rely on reviews. Check different social media platforms and see if students are sharing their experiences on these platforms. This will give you additional real-time insight into the bootcamp experience. Although they aren’t formal reviews, social media comments can be so helpful when choosing a bootcamp. People don’t tend to lie when they’re posting about a service or product on social media, especially if they aren’t being paid to do so. If something has angered or frustrated a customer, social media is usually the number one place they’ll tell you about it. Now, if you can see that the bootcamp has responded and tried to solve these problems - we’d cut them some slack and just keep checking back to see if it gets resolved. They may have had a random issue that has now been sorted. In which case - ok. But, if you’re seeing a huge amount of angry comments about a bootcamp or provider on social media, they haven’t responded, and the angry comments haven’t stopped - that’s strike 3. They’re out.
Gone are the days where you need a degree to get into tech. There are some exceptions, that job where you need a Computer Science degree, but for the most part, employers just aren’t interested in that anymore. In fact, according to Stack Overflow’s Developer’s Survey (May, 2022), only 47.9% of developers have a Bachelor’s Degree in any subject! Nowadays, employers value experience over qualifications, and motivation over academia. Bootcamps are an incredibly highly thought of route for this among employers. So, here’s some of the things you should be thinking about when it comes to degrees and qualifications:
Courses that offer qualifications or degree accreditations may not be teaching the skills and technologies that are currently in demand in the industry, meaning you won’t be getting the skills employers are looking for. This is because accredited courses have to have their curriculums developed and reviewed in collaboration with professional bodies - a process which can take years. Things move very quickly in the tech industry (something we all see in our everyday lives) and it’s important that providers can adapt to these changes as and when they happen. Even Computer Science graduates typically find they have to do a lot of additional study before they are job-ready, because their courses don’t teach the technologies that industry demands.
Thus, it’s worth carrying out your own checks that the curriculum is up to date. This goes for any provider, but is especially important if they offer a qualification. To check, simply ask the coding school (though beware, they may tell you what you want to hear); compare the course content with that of other coding bootcamps; or head to websites such as Stack Overflow, which will tell you which technology is most popular according to professional developers. We talk about this in more detail a bit later on.
If you’re looking at a bootcamp that awards a qualification, you may want to look at whether you’re paying more money to get it. Bootcamps offering qualifications tend to cost more as they need to cover the cost of administering these, so it is important to work out whether you need that specific qualification for the job you’re looking for, and whether that is something you want to pay more for. If you don’t need the qualification, and aren’t bothered about getting one, maybe other courses are better value for money.
When looking for developer roles, it’s becoming increasingly more common that a degree isn’t necessary. There are rare exceptions where employers may ask for a degree (in any field), or more specifically they will ask for a Computer Science degree. The key word here is degree. A University degree usually takes 2 to 4 years to achieve with full time study, and you’ll typically be awarded a Level 6 qualification. It’s highly unlikely that the qualification a bootcamp offers will match this, and you may end up with a piece of paper that has little to no benefit in your job search.
Just to be super duper clear: you don’t need a qualification to find a job in tech. If you still have doubts then we’d suggest taking a look at some job adverts on sites like Indeed and LinkedIn Jobs (try searching “junior full stack developer”, “junior frontend developer” or “junior backend developer"). This should give you a good idea of what employers are looking for when recruiting for that role. If you’re still stuck, head to LinkedIn and ask people in that role already! The tech industry is a generally talkative and welcoming bunch, they would be happy to help you.
Ok, firstly, let’s break it down. Websites and applications typically have a distinguishable frontend and backend. They are very different. Frontend is what you see and interact with. These days this typically happens on the fly - you click something and you get a response to that interaction almost instantaneously. The data that drives this experience comes from the backend. A layer called an Application Programming Interface (or API for short) is typically built on the backend, and is a set of instructions for what to do when certain requests are made from the frontend. E.g. if you search for a song on the Spotify web player, the frontend will send a request to the backend asking for results for that song. The API on the backend will retrieve relevant results from the database, based on its programming, and return those results to the frontend to display to you, the user. When you work on both the frontend and the backend then you are a “Full Stack Developer”. But you can always specialise - and it’s becoming increasingly more common to do so - in either a “Frontend Developer” or “Backend Developer” role.
Whilst many bootcamps solely offer a full stack coding bootcamp, some might offer a frontend development bootcamp as a shorter and cheaper option. It is likely that this option would consist of some of the material from that bootcamp’s more comprehensive full stack course, with the backend section cut out. This isn’t something that we personally recommend (or we’d have our own separate frontend course!).
Our opinion is that you should learn the full stack, because even if you specialise in either frontend or backend - and it’s probable you will - having the knowledge of the full stack will make you a better developer, and more importantly it will allow you to collaborate more effectively with your colleagues.
We know that the frontend only option can be tempting, because of the price, time to completion or just because it looks more appealing, but it could ultimately delay the time it takes you to land your first junior role. Not to mention the potential impact it could have on your salary progression throughout your career. You may also prefer backend development once you’ve tried it, and end up in a career you find more rewarding.
Take our word for it: invest the extra time and money, and go the full length. You won’t look back.
We’ll keep this short…they (we think) don’t exist. We can only assume this is because backend development by nature is less visual and more data focussed, and that frontend is easier to market to people because of this. If you do find one though, our guidance above re: frontend only bootcamps still stands.
On your hunt for a coding bootcamp, you’ve likely stumbled upon bootcamps for Data Science or Data Analytics. These aren’t coding bootcamps per se - they differ in that they’re focussed on the analysis of data. You’ll likely have much less (if any) focus on software development, and more focus on working with large datasets to gauge insights and information for companies. It gets a mention in this guide because there is some overlap in technologies i.e. working with databases, and SQL (more on this later). If you love nothing more than an Excel spreadsheet and formulas then this is definitely the path for you. If you’re a creative at heart then a coding bootcamp might be the better option.
Ok, so first - what’s a tech stack? When we talk about a tech stack, we are referring to a collection of technologies that - when combined together - allow us to build interactive experiences.
It’s important to choose a bootcamp which teaches a modern tech stack. You don’t want to learn an outdated tech stack that the majority of tech employers have moved away from. Especially at a junior level, as it can put you back in your career path and salary progression if you have to retrain later down the line. Essentially: don’t waste your time learning a tech stack that no one uses. Find a bootcamp that teaches a modern tech stack that you are actually going to use.
But, how do you know what’s outdated and which is popular? Well, we’ll talk about some basics below, but the StackOverflow Developer Survey 2022 is a popular benchmark for determining where the industry currently stands on tech adoption that you can use in future. Their survey of professional developers found that the 5 most popular languages were:
HTML/CSS - 54.93% of respondents
SQL - 52.64% of respondents
Python - 43.51% of respondents
TypeScript - 40.08% of respondents
SQL is short for Structured Query Language. It’s a language used to query and perform actions on databases. This complements your choice of programming language, allowing you to interact with databases from within your application. It’s no surprise that this is the 3rd most popular language, as the majority of user experiences are data driven and rely on databases. For us, SQL is key, and we’d recommend looking for bootcamps where you’ll get to have a look at this.
Again, bootcamps differ with employment outcomes and career support. Assuming you are looking at a coding bootcamp in order to change careers, we’d recommend paying attention to the outcomes, as these will give you an indication of the quality of the programme and how (if) it prepares you for the workplace. Here are some questions you might want to consider:
Coding bootcamps that work directly with employers can offer a quicker and easier route into a junior role, as those employers already trust in the quality of the graduates coming out of those programmes, and a lot of the red tape is removed from the process. Whilst this relationship is a benefit, it’s worth mentioning that these relationships (some bootcamps may refer to these as “hiring partners”) are typically casual. Employers may only hire at certain times of the year (or as a one-off), or offer a limited number of roles. It’s more likely that coding bootcamp graduates will secure employment through their own efforts (which is why it’s also important that a coding bootcamp offers some sort of careers service to aid in your search). This has its own benefits though, as you can find opportunities that align with your own goals, e.g. remote or flexible opportunities, higher salaries, products/services you are passionate about and want to work on.
One of the main reasons people join bootcamps is so that they can get a job. So you need to know how good that bootcamp is at getting people jobs, right? Yes! You do this by checking their employment outcomes. You may find these on their website or in their prospectus, or you may not see these mentioned at all. If the employment outcomes are really low, or aren’t published, you should start asking why. Does the company not want me to see them? Does this mean that their students are struggling to find employment after the course? That’s a problem, and could hint to other problems with the course such as an outdated curriculum or a lack of support. Singing it this time, red flagggg!
If you’re ever unsure about what the employment outcomes are, or where they are, just ask the bootcamp directly. They should be more than willing to talk you through them. If they are beating around the bush, then lots of red flags should be flying around you.
It’s also important to know how they’re measuring their employment outcomes. Some bootcamps may report incredibly high success rates in getting graduates into jobs, but it’s worth noting that they could be inflated by using different metrics. For example, some bootcamps base their figures off graduates who got a job in any field after the course. Not necessarily a job in the tech industry, or related to the course. This could make you think that the course is amazing, when actually, they had nothing to do with the jobs being secured.
You should look for bootcamps who update their outcomes regularly, to give a true representation. And should look for (or ask, if it doesn’t say), what metrics they use. We recommend looking for bootcamps that base their outcomes off of: students who have got a new job in tech, and students the bootcamp haven’t employed (more on that next). This will give you a more realistic picture of how likely you are to get a job after graduation.
So, this may seem a bit weird, but some bootcamps hire their own students straight from graduation to boost their employment outcomes. On the surface this may not seem like a terrible thing - after all you’re still securing a job. However, coding bootcamps are education businesses - they aren’t tech companies. You may not end up working on code at all, and more worryingly you may end up in a situation where you are teaching others, when you yourself don’t have experience in the field. Ultimately this can hold you back from where you want to be, so focus your attention on where graduates are securing employment.
Some coding bootcamps offer other courses such as UX/UI design or data analytics. It may be more beneficial for them to group their outcomes together or to show you outcomes (and companies that have hired their students) for one of their other courses. This might paint a better picture, but in reality it could be that the course you are signing up for isn’t as good as it seems. It could also be a more recent offering that the company isn’t as experienced in delivering. To check that the outcomes are for the course you’re looking at, read the fine print. It’ll have to say somewhere. And if it doesn’t, get in contact with them, you know the drill: any funny business, AVOID.
This is a really important one that not many people think about. This is how you’ll be learning, so you need to be comfortable with it. Even if you’re learning online, the number of people in your class compared to the number of staff, will impact how much time and attention you’ll have with the tutor, and the feedback you’ll get. And, you must think about how you learn best, whether this be in-person or online. So, here are some of the things you need to think about when it comes to the actual learning environment:
Ok. This might sound strange, but it is so important. Think about it - if there’s 15 students, and only 1 tutor, how much time are you going to get for questions and feedback? When you’re learning a new skill, you need to be able to ask questions and be supported. When looking for a bootcamp, check the teaching ratio (we’d recommend at least 1 tutor to 8 students), to make sure that you are going to be able to get timely support. You’re paying for a bootcamp because you don’t want to learn independently, right? You want support and the human approach. Don’t make such a big investment in time and money to find that it’s so hard to get help when you need it, that you are essentially learning on your own.
Probably one of the most important decisions you will need to make: do you want to study full time, or part time. At the minute, especially with the Cost of Living Crisis, many people are opting for part time courses. Because they can study around their day job, they can usually start on their journey much sooner, as they don’t need to save and can keep on top of their outgoings. They are definitely more accessible in this regard. However, part time courses do take longer, so if you want to become a software developer in the shortest amount of time, and can go without a full-time job for a few months (we’d recommend 6 months of runway to be on the safe side), a full-time course is the way to go. Of course that is personal to you, and depends on your situation, but something you need to explore when choosing a bootcamp.
You may see that some coding bootcamps operate in a fixed location / physical classroom environment. Of course - since 2020 - a lot of providers have moved to 100% remote teaching, or they offer this as an option. There are also hybrid courses - these allow you the option to go into a physical location, but study remotely on other days. This will ultimately come down to personal preference - if you already work in close vicinity to an in-person provider then it may be convenient for you to go there after work. If you aren’t working currently, you are able to work remotely, or you work shifts, then remote might be more convenient. Beware of the hybrid model - it isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be - you may find that often or always the support is still remote, and that more people choose remote than in-person for the convenience.
Now, one of the main reasons to choose a bootcamp is because you can learn and re-train much faster than traditional routes. This is true, and one of the reasons we love the bootcamp model (of course). However you do need to check how long the bootcamp you’re looking at takes. Although you want to learn and graduate as soon as possible, if the bootcamp isn’t long enough - are you learning all the skills you need in order to succeed? If some providers are offering longer courses, then they likely have a good reason. This could be a prerequisite for them offering a qualification, or - more likely - it will be because they’ve identified a need to extend the length of their offering based on student feedback, industry need and/or outcomes.
To give you an idea of the minimum length you should be looking for, ComputerScience.org reports that the average remote course lasts 24 weeks, with full-time courses lasting around 12 weeks (ComputerScience.org Staff, 2022).
We offer our own coding bootcamp here at Command Shift: BOOTCAMP. Here’s a breakdown of how we compare on each of the above:
Our BOOTCAMP course costs £6,000. We have spent 6 years refining our operation to ensure we can offer competitive pricing without compromising on quality. We offer an industry leading 24 month interest-free finance option, allowing you to get started with as little as £600 upfront.
You can find reviews of us on our website, Google, and CourseReport. Our students also talk about us a lot on social media, and you can read/hear about our students’ experiences both on and after our course on their blogs, or podcasts. We’ve put some links to them below.
We intentionally don’t offer qualifications at Command Shift - this allows us to constantly adapt and tweak our curriculum, to ensure that we are able to teach the most up to date technology that the employers who hire our students demand. Not only this, but we have staff dedicated to maintaining and quality-checking our course, who can adapt our curriculum whenever needed, to ensure that our students are getting the best experience possible. Something we wouldn’t be able to do if we were tied to qualification criteria.
Our employment outcomes are calculated by only counting students who have transitioned into a job in tech with our help. This means that you are getting a true reflection of graduate success on our BOOTCAMP course. We do occasionally work with hiring partners, but you do not have to choose a job with them. If there’s a particular company or job you’ve got in mind, go for it! The sky’s the limit here at Command Shift, and we want to help you get there. If you’d prefer to work with one of our hiring partners, we run regular events with them to give you an idea of what they’re about; what they’re looking for; and if you’re a good fit for each other. As an added bonus, as part of the cost, we offer dedicated career support. This includes: job search help, CV help, LinkedIn training, and regular events to help you get in front of different employers.
We operate completely remote at Command Shift, allowing students to join us from all over the world, and giving people back the time they may have otherwise spent on commuting to an in-person course. Our teaching ratio is 1 tutor for every 7 students, and for weeks where we’ve identified that students may need increased support, we have raised this to 1 tutor for every 6 students. Our classes are part time, which means that you can learn without giving up your job! Flexibility at its finest if we do say so ourselves. As a student, you would have 2 three-hour lessons per week in the evenings, plus Codehang - an optional 6 hour drop-in session that runs every Saturday for extra support. We also have Slack channels, where you can ask questions and get support whenever you need it outside of these sessions.
Just an extra point, because we want you to get the complete picture.
As part of the cost, you can access our community for life. You will always have access to our alumni Slack channel, which boasts a huge network of graduates and tutors, where you can always ask for help, advice, and even job searches. (Or friendly dev chat, because hey, we like to chat). We also hold in-person events on occasion, so you can meet your peers for those all important face-to-face moments.