Explore the pros and cons of pursuing computer science degree versus attending a coding bootcamp. This comparison will help you make an informed decision about your tech education path.
A generation ago, a bachelor’s degree in computer science was the minimum requirement for finding employment as a computer programmer or software developer. But these days, a bachelor’s degree isn’t the only path into tech or the only way to learn to code. As more employers place a high value on relevant skills gained through hands-on experience, coding bootcamps have become a go-to solution for many who want to break into the tech industry.
If you’re not sure whether you need a CS degree, keep reading for our in-depth discussion of what you should consider when choosing your path into tech, the advantages of a coding bootcamp vs. computer science degree, and the questions you should ask yourself when deciding between these options.
Computer Science Degree or Bootcamp: the Major Considerations
If you’re looking into a career in software development, you’ve likely found two main options: getting a computer science degree or attending a software engineering bootcamp. As you consider a coding bootcamp vs. a CS degree, you should keep the following aspects of the programs in mind:
- How much the program costs
- Whether the return on investment (ROI) makes the program worth it
- The material you’ll be learning
- The length of the program
- Career and salary prospects after graduation
When making your final choice, it’s crucial to weigh each factor carefully. Here’s a little more information about how each facet might impact your decision.
Software engineering bootcamps usually cost much less than traditional four-year universities. While college students may pay upwards of six figures for their degrees, bootcamp graduates can complete their education for less than a quarter of the cost. This is good news for students and professionals on more of a limited budget.
Return on Investment
Many students wonder, is a coding bootcamp better than college? If you’re asking this question, it’s wise to consider the potential return on investment for both programs.
This factor is directly related to cost. While bootcamp and college graduates tend to make comparable salaries when they start their careers, bootcamp students usually pay less for their education, which results in a higher return on investment.
Most computer science degree programs are accredited and follow a standardized curriculum well-regarded by tech industry giants. Many employers, however, also recognize that university-level computer science programs heavily rely on teaching theoretical knowledge. While these concepts are valuable, they don’t offer too much in the way of practical application.
On the other hand, coding bootcamp curriculums often include some theoretical instruction, but they also focus on giving students hands-on experience in the most sought-after programming languages. This makes bootcamp graduates very attractive to employers who value new hires who can hit the ground running.
As you consider a computer science degree vs. a coding bootcamp and how long it takes to learn to code with each. remember that computer science degrees are usually a four-year, full-time commitment. This means that some people — like parents or those working full-time jobs — may not be able to devote the required time to their education.
On the other hand, coding bootcamps often offer both full- and part-time options. Additionally, coding bootcamps tend to be shorter in duration, so students learn the skills they need in months instead of years.
Salary and Career Potential
You may be surprised to learn that students with computer science degrees and those who graduated from bootcamps make just about the same salary once they enter the workforce. Because bootcamp graduates enjoy a shorter learning path, however, they can start their careers sooner and potentially make more money in the long term.
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What Employers Think
One of the most important considerations when choosing a computer science degree or bootcamp is what potential employers will think of your education when they see your resume.
Traditionally, many employers would give a strong preference to candidates with a computer science degree, but more and more employers are starting to recognize that coding bootcamps thoroughly instruct students and provide them with the relevant skills and hands-on experience.
While college graduates may have a stronger foundation in theoretical skills, bootcamp graduates are hard workers, trained in critical problem-solving skills, making them attractive hires, even without a degree.
Pros of Coding Bootcamps
If you’re thinking about a career in tech, there’s not necessarily a straightforward answer about the best path to take. But if you’re considering a coding bootcamp, there are some advantages to this option.
Many in-person coding bootcamps are located in highly-accessible or centralized locations. And for those who live too far away or otherwise cannot attend in person, there are usually virtual learning options as well.
This, in addition to the fact that most coding bootcamps are a lot more affordable than degree programs, makes coding bootcamps much more accessible to a wider range of potential students.
Many four-year colleges may require students to attend full-time, especially if they’re receiving any sort of financial aid. On the other hand, coding bootcamps often have programs with a variety of schedules available, including part-time offerings for those who may need a more flexible schedule to pursue their education.
Colleges and universities usually require computer science degree students to take classes outside of their major or main area of study. Bootcamps, on the other hand, focus entirely on material related to computer programming, making these programs a better choice for those seeking a relevant, targeted, skill-based course of study.
Pros of Computer Science Degrees
Just as coding bootcamps have their advantages, there are some pros to having a computer science degree from a traditional four-year college. When weighing a coding bootcamp vs. CS degree, what benefits come from studying at a university?
Increased Salary Potential
No matter how you break into tech, it’s a great choice for career stability and longevity. Obtaining a computer science degree may take four years, but it can pay off financially. Some employers may be willing to offer higher salaries for these sorts of credentials. A bachelor’s degree can also set the foundation for pursuing graduate degrees in higher education, like a master’s, which can further increase your earning potential.
Comprehensive & Well-Rounded Education
The computer science degree vs. coding bootcamp debate is not necessarily as straightforward as it sounds. Some tech companies may prefer to hire computer science graduates because they know those with a bachelor’s degree have received a well-rounded and inclusive education that goes beyond the practical skills and knowledge necessary for the field.
College curriculums tend to not only immerse computer science students in theory-driven learning experiences that can lead to a solid foundational understanding of software engineering, but they also often include general education requirements that drive students to become well-rounded learners and problem solvers.
Most colleges are accredited by third-party institutions. This means they follow a well-defined curriculum that’s consistent across the board and ensures students are well-prepared for their endeavors after graduation.
How to Choose Between a Computer Science Degree and a Coding Bootcamp
Choosing whether to pursue a CS degree or a bootcamp isn’t always easy. Your choice may be very specific to you and your circumstances. Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you think about your ideal path forward to achieve your goals.
Are You Starting Your Career or Switching Careers?
College-aged students may have the luxury of time and reduced responsibilities, which might make a computer science degree more possible to pursue. Those who are already established in the workforce, on the other hand, may need a different solution.
A coding bootcamp can allow you to work while you learn coding skills part-time. It’s also a more affordable route to a new career, so there’s less to worry about in terms of increasing regular expenses.
Do You Already Have a College Degree?
If you already have a college degree, returning to campus to pursue a second or advanced degree may not feel like it makes the most sense. Even if you already have a degree in computer science, attending a bootcamp after your CS degree may help you build specific skills and add real-world understanding to your theoretical knowledge.
What Are Your Career Goals?
As you consider whether you want to go for a computer science degree or a bootcamp, think about what you ultimately want to achieve. While a computer science degree will generally offer a foundational education, a coding bootcamp may be better for those looking to focus on building particular in-demand skills.
Bootcamps also enable graduates to start working sooner, since they usually take fewer than four years to complete.
How Much Time Can You Commit to a Program?
It’s important to consider how much time you’re willing to spend obtaining and honing your skills. After all, not everyone has four years to pursue a college degree full-time.
Bootcamps can be a more viable option for students who need or desire a part-time commitment. In addition, these programs often take just months to complete, which can mean a shorter school-to-career timeline.
What’s Your Budget?
According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of attending a public four-year university is nearly $26,000 annually. While financial aid can help, it may not cover everything. Bootcamps, on the other hand, can offer in-depth, skills-based education for a fraction of the total cost of attending a four-year program.
Learn More: Is a Software Engineering Degree Worth It?
Start Developing Your Skills with App Academy
So what’s the answer, a CS degree or bootcamp? When it comes to this coding bootcamp vs. computer science degree debate, the path you choose is really up to you. The right choice can depend on your circumstances, educational preferences, and career goals.
Whether you’re seeking a career change, to enhance your current skill set by enrolling in a bootcamp after your CS degree, or to kick start your career, App Academy’s proven curriculum can help you build the skills you need to become a successful software engineer.
Explore our programs to see which one might be the right fit for you.
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