How 'coding boot camps' are succeeding where universities have failed

Nimble programs boast high job-placement rates, graduate salaries

For-profit coding boot camps are the vocational schools of the digital age, writes Tamar Lewin for the New York Times, filling a niche that higher education has yet to satisfy.

The programs are small, offer condensed classes two to four months long, revise curriculum as the industry changes, and ignore staple application requirements like SAT scores and diplomas.

Many are pricey. Most boot camps—many filled with career-changing lawyers or consultants and students who left college to learn coding—charge $1,000 or more a month. But some have developed nontraditional payment methods. For example, in place of tuition, some schools accept a percentage of their graduates' first-year earnings and charge employers a finder's fee. Others give discounts if students accept positions with partner businesses. Some boast acceptance rates of less than 10%.

Since 2012, at least 60 programs have been founded, and this boom challenges traditional assumptions about higher education, Lewin writes.

The boot camps are very successful at placing graduates into jobs. Course Report, an online boot camp directory, surveyed 48 camps and found three-quarters of graduates were employed and earning an average of $76,000 a year. The average pay raise from pre-camp to post-camp was 44%.

The elite boot camps do even better. According to self-reported data, the most selective boot camps have nearly 100% job-placement rates and average salaries range from $85,000 to $100,000. However, some boot camps categorize temporary positions and internships as jobs.

Today, higher education is supposed to train students for the workforce, but not many colleges teach students to write software, says Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce.

Carnevale expressed skepticism that boot camp-style education could work in a college context. "This is too applied, too hands-on, too small-bite to fit easily into a college curriculum," says Carnevale, "think of it as a place where technology outruns education."

At Dev Bootcamp, students cover a semester's worth of work in four days, spending up to ten hours per day in the lab. They spend nine weeks on self-taught fundamentals before beginning a nine-week residential program. Some attendees took coding classes in college, but still lacked fluency in the industry's preferred languages, Ruby and JavaScript, as well as hands-on experience.

Eventually, the market will fill up, but for now there are nearly five open positions for one developer, according to Bethany Marzewski, who runs an industry job website.

Critics say a few weeks in a program is not enough to learn how to develop software, but employers continue to hire boot camp graduates.

"It's very impressive to put your life on pause and learn engineering," says Victor Kovalec, VP for engineering at Indiegogo, a tech-company that hired six employees directly out of boot camp (Lewin, New York Times, 10/13).

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