How Do Coding Bootcamps Compare To Traditional College?

Lili | July 30, 2019 | 0 | Traditional


I think this is one of the most interesting and prescient questions at the moment. In my opinion, bootcamps are becoming increasingly popular, constantly improving in their education programs, and producing very capable talent. But the phrasing of the question makes it seem like a choice between two paths towards a career in software engineering. I’m not sure how many face that choice and I think it would be hard to weigh in there, but both are credible paths. If you want a career in software engineering, go for it. The formal educational kindling is just the beginning.

What I can say is that I’ve always really loved that software engineering allows for non-traditional education, self-learning, and on-the-job training. I don’t have a traditional CS degree (I have a BA in Psychology) and I have a whole bookshelf at home of software books (languages, frameworks, design patterns, etc…) to prove it. I used to think I was keeping these books around for reference, but I think the truth is that I keep it as a matter of pride. When I look back and reflect on my career so far, the work I’ve done, the way I’ve grown, and the colleagues I’ve had the privilege to work with a few observations stand-out:

  • I’ve learned more in my time working than I ever could have in school.
  • Absorbing knowledge from everywhere is both a requirement and a privilege of any job and I highly recommend that everyone take as much advantage as they can of learning on the job.
  • Many of the best engineers, architects, managers, and mentors I’ve worked with have non-traditional educational backgrounds, from philosophy, to art, to psychology, to literature, to music theory, and beyond.
  • We all have gaps in our knowledge, no matter what. It’s easy, particularly early in your career, to feel a great sense of shame at these gaps, particularly when there’s an educational difference that “could” be the cause. But we all have gaps, that’s part of why we work as a team.

Where you start your career is just that, a start. Codebases are there for the exploration, and colleagues are there for questions. You can move up the stack, down the stack, left and right. So no matter what your educational background, or your initial technical exposure, you can move around. I recommend finding a place to work that will foster this exploration and growth, always be an active participant in conversation with your manager about your career ambitions, and always feel at home on the steep slopes of a learning curve.


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