How to Spot the Bootcamp Myths from the Bootcamp Truths
When it comes to investing in a web development and coding course, how do you know what’s myth and what’s truth during your research? We want to make sure that the wool isn’t being pulled over your eyes, so we are throwing the whole thing wide open and giving you it the way it is. Then you can make a better decision.
Here are 10 of the most common myths, that we want to make you aware of:
“You can learn to code in a day/week/month/three months/six months”
You mustn’t take these claims as gospel. It’s simplifying the role of a web coder when in fact, it’s an incredibly complex one. From the numerous skills, techniques, programming language and tools that need to be learnt, all the way to getting to grips with the way in which a real software house works - it’s all part of learning to code. Ask questions around what the course actually entails and the minimum viability you can expect to walk away with after the course. We make it clear to those applying for our fast-track course that it is designed to be six months in length and it includes three months of work experience. This means that when they complete the course, they will have already worked in a web developer role (and may still be). It’s certainly enough to get them started and earning money.
See also our other blog post on this topic
“We can offer you a consistent learning experience/curriculum/syllabus”
No matter what size the school is, find out as much as you can about what is included in the course and the type of learning experience you can expect. Different instructors work in different ways - some bring their own ideas and exercises which may or may not have been planned in advance, yet others will work to a syllabus. We believe in having an online syllabus with learning objectives, which our instructors have freedom to work within. That way we can ensure that the right information is covered, yet the learning format is fluid enough to keep things dynamic and interesting.
“We have world-class instructors”
Quite often, the bigger the school the less idea they have of who is going to fulfil the courses. It’s also not unusual for instructors to stop after 1-3 classes. Once a coding bootcamp expands beyond its founder and original location, it effectively works like a franchise. During your research, ask who your instructor is and check whether they have taught before. When reading reviews, ask which ones refer to the instructor who will be teaching you. Our founder Dan Garland continues to teach at We Got Coders, and only hires instructors with teaching experience. Our roster only includes developers who have taught at other bootcamps, taught overseas or have spoken at key industry conferences. We can honestly say that our instructors are experts and are great at what they do.
“We can get you a job in web development”
Naturally, the more trainees a school has, the more job placements they have to fill and the more competition there is for the same beginner roles. Therefore, when they say they can get you a job, take it with a pinch of salt. It’s certainly not a guarantee. If a bootcamp turns out 300 junior developers a year, not all of them are going to get hired. If you define ‘getting hired’ as getting hired into an agile, Ruby development position, then it’s even less likely. Again, do your research and find out how many of those jobs were the right jobs, full time roles and paid roles. Instead of onboarding as many trainees as possible, we take on around 20 full-time Ruby developers a year. This works because they are good, they work for us, and they get jobs at the end of it. The rest of the trainees find roles directly with clients and they are typically very good web development roles, all in Ruby.
“We have small class sizes”
Once you get beyond a class of about 10-12 people, it becomes a struggle for an instructor to manage alone. They will require teaching assistants, who can be unqualified and made up of students from the last round who didn’t get a job at the end. Not getting the face-to-face time you need with the instructor will slow you down and you can’t afford to take the risk. Double check the size of the classes before booking a course to make sure that you are not one of 30 people contending for the developer’s time. We can say outright that we really do have small classes, because we are onboarding candidates for our own consultancy. Therefore regardless of the outcome, we refuse to turn out as many people as possible. For us, this works. And it works for our trainees too.
“Our bootcamp was rated the best on that reviews website”
Reviews are incredibly important when it comes to reading from first-hand experience. If you are looking at review sites that list the best rated bootcamps, just keep in mind how impartial it is. There are bootcamps out there who also own review sites, so check before taking the list at face value. Check whether they are vetted and whether they have a way of blocking malicious feedback. You will want to find genuine reviews on social media and other forums that are unbiased. It’s also worth taking into account the capacity of the courses as the smaller ones will naturally have less ratings and may not be able to get onto certain review sites. We Got Coders may choose to onboard less students, but we believe that the great feedback from our trainees speaks for itself.
“It’ll be awesome, all of the time”
You are likely to find that most bootcamps make everything appear rosy and that you won’t just glide through the course, but you will enjoy every minute of it too. And when it gets tough, they will cheer you on all the way to the finish line. It’s best to take this attitude with a pinch of salt. Let’s be realistic; not everyone is going to thrive in this environment or get along in coding. It’s important to check that there are things in place to ensure that you have somewhere to turn if it doesn’t work out. Experience has taught us to have regular one-to-ones in place with an instructor as well as your admissions tutor. We also have a refund policy where a portion of the fee is returned depending on the week of study completed with us.
When you see bootcamps claiming that they are selective, ask yourself how many developers they take on each year and whether they could have been as selective as they claim. In reality, bootcamps that run courses as a single revenue stream are not going to be able to afford to be too selective. If someone is ready to pay, it’s likely they will take them on. We actually do screen out a lot of people. We have a thorough selection process which includes: high entry requirements, groundwork to undertake before the interview, a programming challenge, and then the interview. And with our small class sizes we can only take on a certain number. This means that those who get through are likely to be accepted as they meet the criteria. We would rather someone come back in a year, than to join us before they are ready.
“Our course is 12 weeks long”
When you’re carrying out your research, look closely at the format of the course and how much of that time is face-to-face learning compared to projects. Projects are a good learning tool but you need to have the balance. Check that project weeks don’t outweigh the face-to-face training with the instructor. For example, we offer 12 full weeks of tuition, where one week is a supervised group project run as a mock-agency, where the instructor is the lead developer and is engaged on the project. Our final project is two weeks long and runs after the 12th week is over; so really you are in for 14 weeks and get 12 full weeks of tuition for your money.
“You’ll earn 50K”
When you see claims like this one, it’s worth delving in a bit deeper. Find out what you can expect to earn as a minimum and what previous candidates are earning in their new roles. We explicitly tell our students to expect between £25-35K and on average they earn £31K. We pay £22K during the second half of the course when they are on site and working for a client.
The best advice we can give you or anyone you know looking at learning to code, is not to take things as face value. Ask the right questions and don’t stop until you have the information you need to make an informed decision. Good luck.