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The Rise of Bootcamps

Last month, education giant Kaplan announced its acquisition of a rapidly growing company called Dev Bootcamp. For those who don’t know, Dev Bootcamp is an intensive 9-week training program that turns webdev beginners into entry-level software developers.
DBC is the pioneer of what is now a cottage industry — vocational bootcamps and apprenticeships are popping up everywhere in the United States. Their promise is that late-bloomers or career-changers can get a job in tech only after a couple months of training (and after dropping several thousand dollars of tuition). Looking at the blogs of the top echelon of these apprenticeships reveals countless stories of lawyers-turned-engineers and DJs-turned-hackers.
Meanwhile, many critics state that Dev Bootcamp’s promise is a marketing scam, that 9 weeks is simply too short of a time, that the market now has too many inexperienced bootcamp graduates applying for jobs (and not enough experienced developers), etc.
There is merit to the claims of both sides of the aisle. But here, we’ll briefly discuss three important ways to view the rise of apprenticeships and bootcamps:

  • These programs fill a void.
  • Not all programs are built the same.
  • Tech recruiters now have another breed of candidate to consider.

 
 
These Programs Fill a Void
Due to the rising costs of higher education (as well as the debatable ROI of college itself), many people are staring down huge debts while realizing that their English major didn’t make them very employable. Whether college is a good investment or not is a discussion for a different day (there certainly is tremendous value to college if done right). But what is true is that planning a career switch can be prohibitively difficult– it’s easy to let inertia pigeonhole you into a particular profession you might not exactly enjoy. These bootcamps offer another way for those looking to break into a new industry.
However, a common argument is that coding programs come with a steep price tag and aren’t exactly as advertised. For example, Dev Bootcamp boasts that, as of 2012, graduates have a job placement rate of 95% and an average salary of $85,000. As DBC themselves will tell you, though, many graduates might spend several months working as interns or apprentices at partner companies/startups (and not making the advertised average salary right away).
So these programs are definitely not a silver bullet that transforms beginners into Mark Zuckerbergs, but they set them up for success– though the path to success might require more than simply graduating from the bootcamp itself.
Not All Programs Are Built the Same
Within this “bootcamp” world, there’s a lot of variation in approach and style. There’s the SF-based Hack Reactor, the Harvard of bootcamps that focuses on JavaScript and claims a median starting salary of $110,000. There’s its NYC counterpart Flatiron School. App Academy takes 18% of your first year salary in lieu of an upfront tuition payment. Fullstack Academy has a CTO leadership module built-in to its curriculum. There’s Hackbright Academy, a program devoted solely to women. There’s Thoughtbot’s Apprentice.io program for junior developers to build their skills at. Then there’s 30 Weeks, a Google-backed founders program for entrepreneurial designers. There are Ruby shops, JS shops, iOS shops, .NET shops, programs for beginners, for advanced beginners, for veterans, for experts, etc. Depending on what a student is looking for, there is something out there for everyone.
What This New Model Means for Recruiters
So now that there are more and more entry-level developers graduating from bootcamps and looking for jobs, life might have just gotten simultaneously more difficult and easier for tech recruiters.
What’s tough: quality control. Each bootcamp graduates a different quality of student. A savvy recruiter has done some homework on which schools have the best track record among employers. In addition, it would be wise to set up coding challenges that let candidates show how good they are.
What’s awesome: more pipelines. At the conclusion of most bootcamps, recruiters are invited to come speak with graduates and demo their projects. If a company is looking for someone who’s hungry and has a demonstrated ability to create something good in a short amount of time, these fairs are worth attending.
The bootcamp model isn’t perfect, but it has a promising future– a compelling supplement (maybe even a full-out alternative) to online education, college, or grad school. We’ll be eagerly watching how this model grows in the coming years. In the meantime, we invite anyone learning how to code to use our platform to beef up their skills.

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