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March 10, 2024

Should You Attend a Bootcamp? An Honest Guide for Tech & Design Beginners

Should You Attend a Bootcamp? An Honest Guide for Tech & Design Beginners

If you’re considering a career in tech, design, or product, it’s almost certain you’ve heard of or have started thinking about bootcamps. And if you're considering a bootcamp program, you might be wondering if it's the right choice for you. Bootcamps can be an great way to learn new skills and advance your career, but they're not for everyone. This post isn’t about convincing you to attend a bootcamp. This post is also not about dissuading you from attending a bootcamp. In this post, we'll break down what a bootcamp is, the different types of bootcamps available, and the pros and cons of attending one. And we’re going to keep it all the way real!

What is a Bootcamp?

In short, a bootcamp is an intensive, short-term training program that focuses on a specific skill or set of skills. Bootcamps are designed to give you a quick and short deep dive into a particular subject matter and provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to start exploring a new career or advance in your current one.

The difference between a bootcamp and traditional schooling (such as college or university) really comes down to two things: time and money. Bootcamps by nature are short. Some are 3 months, some are 6 months, some are 9 months, and there are others with different but similar lengths of time. Bootcamps are also more affordable than your average college or university tuition for your traditional 4 year program.

Bootcamps have many success stories which they’re bound to have with how many people attend them. Bootcamps can be a really great option for many people. At this point in tech, there are many bootcamps, many different kinds of programs, and many different things bootcamp programs offer. So it’s important to make sure you do your research - extensive research - before making final decisions.

Different Types of Bootcamps

As just mentioned, there are so many different bootcamps these days with many different kinds of programs and many different things they offer. It’s super important to do your research and make sure you’re making the decision that’s best for you.

Here are some things to consider when evaluating bootcamps:

Program Environment

Different programs have different learning environments. Some programs are setup like classrooms (whether in-person or virtual) where you’re in a class learning alongside other students. Others are self-paced where you’re learning via pre-built modules that you read on your own time (usually fully virtual).

Program Support

Different programs also have different support systems. Some programs have instructors/teachers and others have mentors. Typically, the programs that have a classroom environment also have an instructor/teacher teaching the class and instruction assistant. And, also typically, programs that have a self-paced environment also have a mentor and a tutor.

Program Setting

Programs can be either in-person or virtual. Not many are hybrid where some days are in-person and others are virtual but it is possible! For the most part though, programs are either in-person or virtual (of course also considering the virtual asynchronous work and learning that can take place).

Program Commitment

Programs can vary in terms of commitment. Some programs are full-time (meaning a full-time commitment that you couldn’t do on top of a full time job) and other programs are part-time (meaning a part-time commitment that you could make work on top of a job). Part-time programs can also be offered in the evening to accommodate those who work 9-5.

Program Length

Programs can also cary in terms of length. Programs can be 3 months, 4 months, 5 months, 6 months, 8 months, 9 months, 10 months, and other lengths. These are some of the lengths we’ve seen multiple times.

When thinking about the length, regardless of how long the program you end up going with is, keep in mind that your learning journey shouldn't be confined to the length of time of the program you may choose to learn from. In other words, you will not learn everything you need to know in X month. In many ways, completing a bootcamp programs marks the beginning of your journey, not the end! A bootcamp teaches you the foundation, the basics, and all you need to know to get started. It’s not guaranteed that you’ll be job ready when you complete your program - even if the bootcamp claims you’ll be!

Program Outcomes

It's also important what you’ll walk away with at the end of the program as different programs will give you different things to walk away with. And this is in addition to the learnings. Some programs will have you walk away with projects you can put on your portfolio. Some programs will have you walk away with one big final project and others will have you walk away with multiple smaller projects. Some programs will even have you walk away with your entire portfolio ready to go. Ask specific questions to know exactly what you’re getting!

Program Network

Whether in-person or virtual, the program’s network will end up being an important part of your bootcamp experience. Every bootcamp institution, especially those who have been around for a while, have a network you can tap into. Understand how you’ll be able to access this network. Are there community events you can attend? Are they open to the public? Are they for students/mentees only? Is there a community on Slack or Discord? Do you have to tap into this network on your own or does the program facilitate the networking? Keep these questions in mind.

Program Cost

And finally, in many cases the biggest and most important considerations, the cost of the program. We won’t go into detail on this final consideration, but do know that different programs have different financial support programs.

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Pros & Cons to Attending a Bootcamp

Pros

As mentioned above, the difference between a bootcamp and traditional schooling (such as college or university) really comes down to two things: time and money. And these two differences speak to bootcamp’s main appeal.

Bootcamps are short by nature. From 3 months to 9 months, even the longest bootcamp is still shorter than a 2 year degree program and of course shorter than a 4 year degree program. Bootcamps can also be more affordable than your average 2 year degree program college and your average 4 year degree program (this mainly applies to those based in the US).

Aside from time and money, let’s talk about value. Bootcamps can be highly intensive, so you'll learn a lot in a short amount of time. Their intensive nature in a short amount of time make bootcamps a great way to get started in a new career or advance in a current one.

Cons

Ironically, the same ideas behind the first two pros, time and money, can also be viewed as cons. Most bootcamps being so short can mean that you won’t end up as prepared as you might be if the learning program was longer. And although bootcamp programs can be more affordable than your average 2 year or 4 year degree program (mainly applying to those based in the US), it doesn’t mean are entirely easily affordable by all. Bootcamp programs can end up being very costly for some.

Putting time and money aside again, let’s talk about value again. Especially with most bootcamps marketing “job guarantees or your money back”, it can be very tempting to sign on right away! We totally get it. However, keep in mind that everyone’s journey is different and it’s incredibly difficult to put a one-size-fits-all experience, program, and promise out there. The truth is that many are completing bootcamp programs only to realize they may not be as prepared as they thought they would be. And the projects and portfolio you walk away from the program with may not be in a state that will attract hiring managers. This point is less about the programs themselves and more about their marketing. But it’s important to keep in mind that these promises may not be kept.

Last but definitely not least, the learning structure of bootcamps may not be suitable for all learning styles. Especially when it comes to learning structure, learning environment, and support, not all bootcamps are created equal. It's incredibly important to do your research and choose one that aligns with your goals and learning style.

Final Verdict

It’s impossible to make a post that definitely says “yes, go for it!” or “no, don’t do it!” - but it is possible to advise research and careful evaluation based on individual backgrounds, current skillsets, career goals, availability, commitment, learning styles, and financial abilities.

If there’s one thing you take from this blog post, let it be this: If you’re interested in a career in tech or design, don’t immediately default to signing up to a bootcamp program. Before you look outward, look inward. Reflect on what we just mentioned (again, background, skillset, career goals, availability, commitment, learning style, financial ability, etc.). Then evaluate all of the different ways to learn about tech and design.

Read our post going over all of the ways you can learn about tech and design: https://www.ritalab.community/post/coming-up-in-tech-your-guide-to-learning-about-technology-design-and-product

Then if you still conclude that a bootcamp is right for you, do you research! Do extensive research. Again, not all bootcamps are created equal. Carefully decide where and how you want to invest in your future career in tech or design.

In closing, bootcamp programs can be an excellent way to learn new skills and advance your career, but they're not for everyone. Consider your goals, learning style, and commitment level before deciding if a bootcamp is the right choice for you. Do your research and choose a program that aligns with your goals, and remember, a bootcamp is just the beginning of your learning journey.

Written By

Michael A

Tech & Design Leader & Educator, Rita Lab Founder & Instructor

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