CS Degrees Vs Coding Bootcamps

Posted by Jeff Pelliccio on Aug 31, 2018 9:00:00 AM

In ICS insights, Job Trends, Job Search Tips, IT, Candidate

Web developer bootcamps have become increasingly popular for those seeking a career in the tech industry. Almost every big tech hub offers more than a few of them, with some of the biggest ones offering dozens. These bootcamps are somewhat similar to military boot camps in that they turn a normal citizen into an intensive coding warrior in a matter of weeks. If this seems far-fetched, you can rest easy knowing you're not alone in thinking this. Still, we are seeing time and time again that many of today's tech firms would prefer a bootcamp graduate over a four-year university graduate with a tech degree. What is it about these bootcamps that draw such favor from tech companies?

One of the best ways to decipher the true value of web developer bootcamps is to take a look at how they compare to a degree in science programs from a four-year university. For now, let's take a quick look at the top five differences you will see when comparing a CS program to a web developer bootcamp. There are many other differences, but we want to focus on the top five to provide you with a thorough understanding of the differences between the two. In doing so, you will have a better chance of picking the type of program that is best for you and your career options. Most importantly, we want you to understand how computer science differs from web programming. 

Time, Cost, and Opportunity

When comparing the cost of a CS program to a web developer bootcamp, you must understand there are multiple layers. First, you have to take into account the length of time you train, the cost of your investment, and the opportunity cost of each program.

The average length of time that it takes to complete a coding bootcamp is a little more than three months (13 weeks). During this time period, you will need to be fully devoted to completing your studies and training. It's not for the faint of heart and requires a full-time commitment. There are some bootcamps that last as long as 28 weeks, which require an even more in-depth commitment. To earn a CS degree, you will need to spend at least four years in school, so from a time perspective, you can clearly see a bootcamp comes out on top as the winner. 

There is even a larger disparity when comparing the cost of each program. The average bootcamp will cost you somewhere around $10,500 for the entire program. A four-year CS degree, on the other hand, costs about $9,650 a year for in-state tuition and costing nearly $25,000 a year for out-of-state tuition at a university. This means, for an in-state student, you're going to pay around $38,600 for your CS degree. If you're an out-of-state student, you're going to empty your pockets by as much as $100,000 for your CS credential.

Now, let's take a look at the potential/opportunity cost. Once you graduate from a three- to six-month long bootcamp, you are likely to secure employment within six months. This means, within a four-year window of time, you will have already graduated from bootcamp with your certification and have required three years of employment and experience under your belt with an average pay of somewhere around $65,000 a year. A college student, however, will still be completing his or her courses during this four-year window of time, dishing out more and more money to pay for tuition and will not be acquiring employment and experience. This means the opportunity cost can easily exceed $150,000 during the time period of three years.

Job Potential and Career Growth

Regardless of whether you have graduated from a university or a bootcamp, the job market for those with a credential in web development or computer science is very lucrative. Even from a salary standpoint, both types of graduates tend to make around $65,000 a year. If you're looking for a career with a higher salary, you'll want to seek employment in the Seattle or Silicon Valley areas. Average salaries here tend to be upward of $75,000 a year. 

Research indicates those with a CS degree tend to pursue careers as a computer system analysts and web and application developers. Those graduating from bootcamps, though, tend to land jobs as front-end web developers and software engineers. Still yet, all of these titles are quite similar when comparing their job duties and compensation.

Another major selling point that you will find among bootcamps is their job placement numbers, with the majority of them boasting a 90%+ rate for graduates who have graduated within the last six months. Even better is that these graduates are landing employment with some of the world's biggest tech companies, like Google, Apple, Expedia, and Cisco just to name a few. When it comes to CS programs, though, you won't find publicly advertised job placement rates.

Still, CS degree graduates have an advantage of being able to land a higher number of specialized roles, like senior-level jobs, than bootcamp graduates. This is partly due to the fact that many senior-level roles require a person to possess, at a minimum, a four-year CS degree from a university. If you were to apply for a senior-level role and you didn't have a four-year degree, your resume is likely to be pushed to the back of the pile. 

Important note: A survey conducted in 2016 by Stack Overflow reveals nearly 70% of developers are self-taught with no CS credential. This means two out of every three developers do not, in fact, have a CS degree.

Chances of Being Accepted

Because there is such a high demand for CS programs, you might find it difficult to be accepted. To be accepted, most schools require you to have a GPA of 3.6 to 4.0. You will also likely need to have a long list of extracurricular activities. Furthermore, you may need to complete multiple math-focused courses before being accepted. Out of all the students who meet all requirements, the average acceptance rate is only 30%. This means you need to make your application really shine if you are wanting to get accepted into a CS program. 

One of the first things you will notice about bootcamps is that they are not as standardized as university programs. If you are looking for a quick change in your occupation, you will find bootcamps are much easier to get accepted into, especially if you lack experience and credentials related to web development. 

Goals of the Schools

When you go to a coding bootcamp, its curriculum is going to vary from one bootcamp to the next. All of them share a common goal, however, which is to make sure you are ready to effectively fulfill the job role of a web developer. More importantly, their goal is to train you to become a web developer in a very short amount of time. When attending a bootcamp, you will learn about various programming languages, followed then by carrying out exercises that allow you to create practical applications. Once you know how to create applications, you will then learn how to apply what you have learned on a larger scale. An example of what you would do at a bootcamp is as follows:

  • Learn the Python programming language
  • Learn Django (a Python framework)
  • Use what you learn to complete large projects

Some bootcamps put more of an emphasis on data science and provide you with in-depth training relating to algorithms, networking, and how to use the Internet. In steep contrast, CS programs provide students with a broader education in computer science. Topics of study in a CS program tend to include:

  • Bit manipulation
  • Computer logic
  • Data management
  • Data structures
  • Hardware workings

A primary goal of a CS program is to make sure you graduate thinking like an engineer. More so, to make sure you think as a computer thinks. A majority of CS programs are hosted out of a university's engineering department. And even though you will graduate from a CS program will a thorough understanding of computer systems, your portfolio is not likely to be well-rounded. Some of the tasks you will complete as a CS student include building terminal applications, working with various coding concepts, solving intricate algorithms, and building network systems. Still yet, your knowledge you acquire as a CS student is probably not going to be enough to land you a job right out of college. Instead of being able to seek employment after graduation, you will have to spend several months building a portfolio and networking with employers to find you an entry-level position. 

As you can see, the goals of bootcamps and CS programs are quite different. When you go to a bootcamp, you are being trained to land a job as soon as you graduate. Many of those who graduate from a bootcamp are able to secure employment as a web developer and then move into other tech-related roles. As a graduate of a CS program, you are more likely to land a job as a computer scientist or an engineer, both of which are different from the role of a web developer. 

Valuable note: Some CS grads take bootcamp courses to expand their knowledge, while some bootcamp grads enroll in CS programs to expand their knowledge of computer science. 

Diversity and Student Body

You are going to find that most of today's CS programs are dominated by males. In fact, according to research, only 15% of the programs are comprised of women, and nearly 60% of all CS students are white. 

When compared to bootcamps, you are going to notice a huge difference in diversity. Bootcamps are comprised of women at a rate of 40%, and the ethnic differences are large as well, with 20% being Latino. It's also important to recognize the age differences among CS students and bootcamp attendees, with the latter, generally, being older. The majority of bootcamp attendees range in age from 23 to 35 and already have at least seven years of experience in the tech industry. 

Make A Decision

If you're performing research and wanting to know whether or not it's a better choice to attend a bootcamp for coding or to go to a university to obtain a four-year CS degree, you will need to take into account several factors, with money and time being the most important. You're going to find bootcamps take much less time to graduate from and cost far less. However, if you are looking to work your way up to a senior-level role for a tech company, then earning a CS degree is definitely going to be of an advantage and may be the determining factor in being able to secure your dream job. Ideally, graduating from a bootcamp, securing employment, and then finishing a four-year CS program is the way to go; this way you can work as a web developer while you compete your studies. 

Either way you go, ICS is here for you when you're ready to start your search for a dream job. Our recruiters are here to make sure you find the perfect fit and a job that will further your career goals. Click below to check out or open roles. We can't wait to partner with you and simplify your search. 

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