Programming code on a laptop screen

Coding Bootcamp vs. Degree: Building a Sustainable Career in Tech


If you aspire to work in the tech field as a computer programmer, software developer, or in a similar role that involves coding, there's a good chance you've heard about coding bootcamps. However, when it comes to truly mastering the foundational skills you need to succeed in the competitive tech industry, how does a coding bootcamp stack up to a formal degree in computer science or a related field?

With a better understanding of what coding bootcamps entail and how they compete with an actual coding degree, you can determine which path is better suited for your career goals.

What Is a Coding Bootcamp? 

Specifically, a coding bootcamp refers to a concentrated course (or series of classes) designed to teach students specific computing and coding skills that employers are looking for in the real world. Typically, these bootcamps can be completed in a matter of months and may lead to professional certifications — though they do not result in a formal degree. 

What Is a Computer Science Degree? 

A computer science degree, on the other hand, is a full-fledged degree from a college or university. Most computer science degrees are taken at the bachelor's level, though associate degrees and master's degrees may also be offered. 

A computer science degree may teach coding but will extend far beyond that to cover other important aspects of the computing and tech fields. Bachelor’s degrees in computer science are typically designed to be completed in about four years. 

Making the Choice: Personal Factors to Consider 

As you consider whether a coding bootcamp or degree is right for you, there are a few personal factors worth considering. 

Assessing Your Learning Style 

For starters, consider your unique learning style. Do you tend to learn best when you take things slow and steady — or do you prefer a fast-paced learning environment? If you enjoy fast-paced learning, a coding bootcamp may cater to your learning style. Should you decide to take things slow, a degree program may be the better option. A degree program may allow you to ask questions and take the time to master your new skills. 

Evaluating Your Career Goals 

Consider your short- and long-term career goals. Do you aspire to work as a freelance coder or programmer? Are you looking for more of an entry-level position? If so, a bootcamp may provide the basic skills you need to get started. 

Alternatively, if you're dreaming of working your way into a more prestigious position, then you'll probably want to have a formal degree. The same applies if you see yourself pursuing an advanced degree (such as a master's in computer science or a related field) in the future, as you'll need an undergraduate degree to be accepted into a graduate program. 

Understanding Your Time Commitment 

Finally, think about how much time you'll need to commit to the program of your choice. A bachelor's degree in computer science may take up to four years to complete — and that's if you're enrolled full-time. If you can’t make that kind of commitment, then a coding bootcamp may be a more feasible option. 

Comparing Coding Bootcamp With a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science 

Choosing between a coding bootcamp and a bachelor's degree in computer science depends on your career goals and learning preferences. While bootcamps offer fast-paced, practical training, a four-year degree provides a comprehensive foundation in computer science theory and principles. 

Entry Requirements 

Most coding bootcamps don't have admission requirements (aside from paying any applicable costs). In contrast, a degree program will typically require a minimum of a high school diploma (and possibly a minimum GPA). 

Cost and Financial Aid 

Bootcamps tend to be less expensive than full-fledged degree programs because these programs are much shorter and not as comprehensive. In the United States, the average cost of a four-year college degree is around $36,000 per year. 

Learning Style 

Coding bootcamps are fast-paced and typically involve covering a large amount of material in a very short period. A degree program moves at a much slower pace, with topics covered more extensively. 

Time Commitment and Duration 

Most bootcamps last just a few weeks or a few months at most. A bachelor's degree can take several years to complete. 

Online vs. In-Person Programs 

Coding bootcamps are almost always offered exclusively online, while college degree programs may be provided on campus, online, or a combination of both (hybrid). 

Curriculum and Depth of Study 

A coding bootcamp will cover only the basics of coding and programming that employers are most often looking for. A degree program will offer more in-depth coverage of the computing and tech industry. 

Instructor Qualifications 

The qualifications to become an instructor for a bootcamp program can vary wildly, whereas colleges tend to vet instructors more extensively. 

Acquired Skills 

You can expect to learn the basics of coding and programming from a bootcamp. With a degree program, you'll learn more hands-on skills, plus career tips and theories that can be useful in your future work. 

Support and Resources 

Available Most bootcamps offer limited resources or assistance to students outside of the classes themselves. A reputable college will provide resources for students ranging from professional development, tutoring, research support, and more. 

Industry Recognition and Reputation 

In general, formal college degrees have a better reputation within the industry than bootcamps. A degree is more widely recognized as a valuable designation, although bootcamp certificates can also be seen as beneficial. 

Networking Opportunities 

When comparing a bootcamp certificate vs. degree, both offer the potential for networking opportunities. A degree program is more likely to provide quality industry connections in the form of mentorships and more. 

Job Placement Assistance 

College programs typically offer career development centers and other resources to help upcoming and recent graduates find work in their field. Job placement generally is not offered through a bootcamp program, though some may have affiliations with certain employers or companies. 

Career Opportunities and Salary Potential 

Both bootcamps and degree programs can provide the essential skills you need to embark on a successful career. Compared to having no degree, bachelor's degree recipients make up to 86 percent more money per year

Addressing Common Misconceptions 

If you're still not sure whether a coding bootcamp or full-fledged degree program is right for you, there are a couple more things to consider — particularly in terms of common misconceptions about each option. 

Speedy Course Completion Equals Immediate Job 

One of the most common misconceptions about coding bootcamps is that they automatically fast-track your path to a job in the field. While it's true that you may complete your bootcamp courses in just a matter of weeks or months, you'll still need to spend time developing a professional portfolio and gaining hands-on experience before you're likely to find any work. 

Degree Is Mandatory for a Tech Career 

Meanwhile, many people mistakenly believe that you need a formal degree to work in tech. While it's true that some employers prefer to hire coders and programmers with a relevant degree, plenty of people do secure rewarding jobs in the field without a college degree. 

Succeeding in the Tech Industry: Beyond Bootcamp and Degrees 

Whether you opt for a bootcamp program or a formal degree, there are some additional steps you'll need to take to maximize your chances of success in the demanding tech industry. 

Importance of Continuous Learning 

The field is constantly changing and growing, so professionals need to be prepared to adapt to it. Rapid changes mean being open to continuous learning. Whether it means attending a coding workshop on the weekends or going out of your way to stay on top of the latest industry trends, continuous learning and growth is a must. 

Building a Robust Portfolio 

Regardless of whether you work in computer programming, software engineering, information technology, or a similar field, you'll want to continuously add to your portfolio throughout your career. A portfolio is one of the most useful tools for showcasing your skills and strengths, and it can come in handy when looking for work. 

Connecting With Industry Mentors 

Never underestimate the power of making the right industry connections. Ideally, you'll want to connect with a mentor as early as possible in your career, as this can be a great source of guidance and professional opportunity. 

Which Option Is Better for Building a Sustainable Career in Tech? 

Ultimately, the decision of whether to enroll in a coding bootcamp or pursue a formal degree is yours to make. That said, if you're looking to build a sustainable and long-term career in the growing tech field, it's always best to have a formal degree from a reputable college. 

The key is to find the right program for you. At Champlain College Online, we offer a bachelor's degree in computer science that can be completed in as little as 11 terms—with classes available entirely online. Get in touch to learn more about this program and all that our college has to offer. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can a Bootcamp Replace a Degree? 

No, a bootcamp is not a replacement for a college degree, but it can be a viable way to learn the basics of coding without committing to a long-term degree program. 

Is a Degree in Coding Worth It?

Yes, a degree in coding (or a related field of study) is worth pursuing for those who are serious about working in the field. Having a degree can make it easier to find jobs and get hired in a relevant role. 

Do You Need a Degree to Be a Programmer? 

You don't need a degree to be a programmer, but many employers do prefer applicants with relevant college degrees and the specialized programming/coding skills that come with them. 

What Can You Do with a Coding Degree? 

A coding degree can prepare you for work in many roles, including computer programmer, website developer, software developer, or software engineer. 

How Fast Can You Earn a Computer Science Degree? 

The pace of your degree can vary based on multiple factors, but Champlain College Online offers a bachelor's degree in computer science that can be completed in as little as 11 terms. 

How Much Does a Computer Programming Degree Cost? 

The cost of a computer programming degree can vary from one program to the next. Champlain College Online offers a bachelor’s degree in computer science for $335 per credit hour or $1,005 per 3-credit course. We also offer transfer credit for previous academic work and prior learning credit for professional, military, and other related experiences.

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Champlain College Online

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