Congratulations! You’ve decided to quit your job, switch careers, and pursue the path of becoming a professional software engineer.
Oh… not yet?
Well, by reading this blog you’re surely on your way to getting there!
Now comes the tough question: should you go for a computer science degree or enroll in a coding bootcamp?
Both paths can be good decisions depending on where you are in life, what you want out of a career, and a few other personal factors that we’ll go over in this blog.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both a computer science degree and a coding bootcamp and help you get closer to your decision of choosing the best option for you.
Coding Bootcamp vs. Computer Science Degree: The Basics
First things first, let’s talk about the basics of a computer science degree vs. a coding bootcamp.
The main differences between the two are going to come down to the length of the program, the material you learn, and money.
A computer science degree is similar to any other college degree. It typically takes four years to complete, and you’ll need to complete a lot of general studies as well (such as math, history, and English) in order to finish your degree.
On the other hand, a coding bootcamp has a much shorter duration, typically 3-4 months to complete, and you’re only there to learn code. No extracurricular activities are involved!
However, you do not end up with a university degree at the end of a coding bootcamp as you do with a computer science degree.
Does that matter? We’ll chat more about that later.
First, let’s look at the differences between these three topics in more detail:
Coding Bootcamp vs. Computer Science Degree: Length of Time & Commitment
As just mentioned, a computer science degree is a university degree that typically takes 4 years to complete. You’ll go to a few classes each day (depending on how you set up your schedule) and take exams at the end of every semester.
On the other hand, a full-time coding bootcamp typically only takes 3-4 months to complete and is solely focused on coding. You’ll need to commit 8-9 hours of your time from Monday to Friday each week. While you may also have exams, you’ll also have daily code reviews and quizzes to ensure that you’re actively learning along the way.
Coding Bootcamp vs. Computer Science Degree: What You Study
As with any university degree, a computer science degree requires you to take general studies classes that may not be relevant to your future career (think: math, art, history).
Coding Bootcamp vs. Computer Science Degree: Cost of Tuition
When it comes to money, the cost of tuition is going to vary for both a computer science degree and bootcamp, depending on the program you choose.
Typically, a computer science degree is always going to be more expensive. You can expect to pay $15,000-$20,000 every year, for four years, plus any additional expenses for room & board.
The good news is that you can usually find financing assistance available when paying for your college degree.
From student loans to scholarships, and third-party grants, there are many options to help you pay for your education.
Of course, the downside is that you’ll likely have to pay back any loans you take out, with interest. So make sure you do your research and understand the terms and conditions of any financing options you pursue.
On the other hand, coding bootcamps can be more affordable than a four-year college degree, but they still come with a cost.
The very best programs on the market typically run between $20,000 to $30,000 for the full program.
And like a college degree, many coding bootcamps have flexible payment options available.
Here at Rithm School, we have a deferred tuition model available, meaning you only have to pay back your tuition once you’ve landed a job making $60,000 or more! You can check out more about that here.
When Should You Consider a Coding Bootcamp?
Now that we’ve covered the basics of a computer science degree vs. a coding bootcamp, let’s go through a few scenarios where a coding bootcamp might be the best choice for you:
If You’re Making a Career Switch…
Coding bootcamps are the obvious choice if you already have a university degree and simply want to switch careers.
If you’ve already had the college experience, and simply want to become a software engineer as soon as possible, a full-time coding bootcamp is your best bet.
As mentioned earlier, it takes 3-6 months to complete a bootcamp program, and 4-5 years to finish a university degree. The decision is quite easy in this case!
If You Want to Land a Job ASAP!
Most bootcamps have high job placement rates (80%) and are comfortable sharing this information on their websites.
Here at Rithm School, we have an 82% six month-placement rate, and our students get an average of $107k for the first salary!
Unfortunately, computer science undergraduate or graduate programs aren’t as transparent with their job placement success rates.
Similar to many other university degrees, you will likely need practical, hands-on experience before landing your first 6-figure software engineering role.
If You Want Real-World Experience
One of the most common complaints about university degrees is that the curriculum doesn’t prepare you enough for the real world.
There are a lot of theories and textbooks involved.
On the other hand, coding bootcamps are designed to prepare you for the job market in just a few months.
At the best coding bootcamps, you’ll not only learn the most useful coding skills, based on what leading tech companies are after, but you’ll also put them into application.
Here at Rithm School, our students work on real-world professional projects with leading tech companies to get a sense of what it’s like out in the real world.
Rather than taking an internship after you graduate, you’ll gain real-world experience that you can put on your resume and take to an interview within the bootcamp itself.
In a nutshell, bootcamps teach you what you need to land a job. Whereas computer science programs have a broad curriculum that is less likely to land you an entry-level software engineering role, right out of the gate.
You Don’t Want Hundreds of Thousands of $$$ in Debt
If student loans scare the h*ll out of you, then a coding bootcamp is probably the best way to go. With flexible payment options out there, such as deferred tuition programs, you’re likely to make a lot more money (and keep it!) faster with a coding bootcamp, rather than a 4-year computer science degree.
When Should You Consider a Computer Science Degree?
On the other hand, coding bootcamps aren’t for everyone. Here are a few reasons why you should consider getting your computer science degree:
You Want the College Experience
If you value the full college experience at this point in your life, then a computer science degree may be the right choice for you.
There is tremendous value in the many factors that come into play when you’re a student on campus, especially the social ones! College years often create lifelong bonds and jumpstart great network building that will last for the rest of your career.
If you’re not quite ready to start your career, and instead want to get the full college experience, get your computer science degree!
You’ll learn a lot more than just coding in terms of life experience along the way.
You Value a Bachelor’s Degree
If you’re someone who does not necessarily need college experience, but you would like the certification of a bachelor’s degree under your belt, then a computer science degree may be the way to go.
However, it’s important to note that some of the most successful software engineers in Silicon Valley do not have a computer science degree.
Self-taught developers and boot camp grads are just as hireable as computer science grads these days.
So, perhaps ask yourself: is it a successful career you are after? Or the accomplishment of a university degree?
You Want to Learn More About Theory
If you’re someone who wants to learn more about the theoretical and foundational concepts of programming, then you may want to consider a computer science degree.
While some coding bootcamps, like Rithm School, put a heavy emphasis on foundational concepts and engineering foundations in their curriculum, many bootcamps out there do not. And even Rithm School does not have the time to spend months on end going through all of the theories and foundational concepts that you could learn during a 4-year degree.
If you value theory over practical skills, a computer science degree may be the way to go.
Coding Bootcamp Vs. Computer Science: Final Verdict
If you’re still torn between the two, we strongly recommend doing your research on both programs and on yourself.
Ask yourself: what is it that you’re really after?
Is it a high-paying career? Or the accomplishment of a degree?
Are you ready for the college experience? Or simply want to change careers.
With both options, there are actions you can take from here to help you gain more clarity around your decision.
If you’re leaning towards a computer science degree, we recommend attending all available information sessions and contacting any alumni in your LinkedIn network to ask their advice and what their experience was like with the program.
If you’re leaning towards a coding bootcamp, you can check out various reviews on Course Report, read a few forums on Reddit, and attend as many free events as you can.
You can even fill out our short application form here to chat with our admissions team and ask them any questions you have before starting.
It only takes 10 minutes to get started. Start here!
You’ve got this!