The dark side of coding bootcamps

The “Learn to Code” movement has got everyone from primary school kids to retired grandpas start to spend their free time learning to code. And of course, this has led people to believe that programming is easy and that you can learn the skills required for a software engineering role in 12 weeks, and the result is a mushrooming of coding bootcamps across the world. But can you really go from Zero to Programming Hero in 12 weeks? Didn’t think so. I came across this Bloomberg article that exposes the dark side of coding bootcamps and provides caution to those looking to leave their current jobs in the hope of landing a six-figure salary in a matter of months: Want a Job in Silicon Valley? Keep Away From Coding Schools

I’ll post some key insights from that article here:

  1. Interviews with more than a dozen coding school graduates reveal that when they do land a job, often their engineering education doesn’t cut it. Many admit they lack the big-picture skills that employers say they want. Training them often requires hours of hand-holding by more experienced staff, employers say. The same holds true for graduates holding computer science degrees, but those employees generally have a better grasp of broader concepts and algorithms, recruiters said.
  2. Mark Dinan, a recruiter who works with Bay Area technology companies like Salesforce, said many companies have told him they automatically disqualify coding school grads. “These tech bootcamps are a freaking joke,” he said. “My clients are looking for a solid CS [computer science] degree from a reputable university or relevant work experience.”

This post is not meant to demotivate anyone, but to rather remind them that programming is hard, and like any other human endeavor such as music or sport, it takes years to get good at it. Every aspiring programmer should read Peter Norvig’s timeless essay on “how to teach yourself programming in 10 years”: Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years


This is coming from a pessimistic view, don’t you think?

No actually, if you ignore the edge-cases of beginning developers getting employed and focus on the bulk of job seekers I think this is in general a realistic view.

Students will get jobs, but it will take some real effort and grit. If you plan on walking through the coding challenges, doing the minimum to pass in the projects, etc., you will need some luck and good fortune on your side to land that good paying job.


This is a good article, but I think it’s important to place it in context with freeCodecamp and what we’re doing. The article talks about a few bootcamps that make misleading claims and try to cram a ton of education into 12 weeks. freeCodeCamp is about getting students to do actual projects that prove what they can do, and at the end of over 2,000 hours have an opportunity to do a real internship.

2,000 hours is about 250 full (8 hour) work days. That’s about 35 weeks - 3 times as long as Coding House. That’s way more experience, and judging from the article, these forums are more helpful than those scamcamps. Having a GitHub account full of projects helps, too. A six-figure salary is a ridiculous expectation for any junior web developer, regardless of education background, but you can still get a good living.

A very important point that I wish more people would keep in mind before starting (so they don’t quit after a week), but like any other skill, you can make impressive gains in a short amount of time. Being a grandmaster programmer isn’t the goal of the course, and while it will take lots of time to get good, you can be a productive and hirable front-end developer in under a year. @QuincyLarson is upfront about this when he says that learning to code is hard. What makes fCC different is that it reduces the overhead of learning by taking the guesswork out of “What next?”. If you follow the map and can produce the projects without cheating, then you’re job ready. Maybe not Google, but you can get a job.

What really sucks is that these crappy scamcamps are poisoning the well for the rest of us.


my radiator’s busted again, thanks !

Excellent comment, I agree 100%.

One of my favorite articles about learning to code is “Why Learning to Code is So Damn Hard” by Erik Trautman. It has an optimistic and yet down-to-earth kind of approach.


I’m content with doing freelance gigs, get a couple hundreds of dollars a month for beermoney. I know my code’s are not good enough right now (bugs, security hole, probably), so when my code’s improving, I’ll charge more. But still freelancing, never career.

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