A coding bootcamp vs a computer science degree
Training and Development

A coding bootcamp vs a computer science degree

At the beginning of last year I took the train out to rural Bedfordshire to visit a beautiful old water mill which has been converted into an intensive live-in bootcamp for coders. The setting was glorious, it had plenty of industry links and the promise, for attendees, was decent, well-paid employment at the end of it all.

“I don’t think my computer degree got me anywhere,” Dan Garland Founder of We’ve Got Coders explained to me at the time. “After a three year degree I was flailing around. I would have got where I am quicker with [something like this]. And the [university] tuition fees [today] make it unworkable.”

The debate between the merits of degrees vs. hands-on vocational training is not a new one. Yet as each year education becomes more expensive, in the UK at least, and as technological change picks up ever more pace, you can see how it has gained relevance.

Indeed, at the start of August the Wall Street Journal ran a piece entitled “Coding Boot Camps Attract Tech Companies”. This focused on New York’s Flatiron School and looked at how employers are increasingly hiring graduates from non-traditional educational backgrounds.

This trend is the same everywhere. Hired – an online UK recruitment platform for tech roles – recently released research which showed that while developers are a highly educated group with 74% having an undergraduate degree or higher, compared to around 42% of the UK population, the numbers studying for a computer science degree have fallen by about 10,000 since 2002. It suggested this was because of the sheer volume of individuals who opted for bootcamps or self-study rather than formal training.

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Comments

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Marcel Ramaker on September 09 2016

A Computer Science degree lays the groundwork being able to better understand bootcamp courses.

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Darren on September 09 2016

I really hope that you've selectively quoted the comments in the article. If Mark Murphy's comment regarding discarding CVs of Bootcamp course attendees is indeed accurate, then I'm amazed at the narrow mindedness he's displaying. I did a computer science degree. I was taught to code in ADA, Pascal and x86 assembler. I've also attended bootcamps learning more modern languages, object orientated programming (yes, I'm that old) and more recently machine learning. They were an excellent way to quickly develop new skills, and skills I could immediately employ in my role. The best developers I know do not have a university education. They were too eager to make a difference, were excellent at self teaching and generally got a head start of others like myself who attended university. To be entirely close minded to employing non-graduates is setting yourself up to fail. A success team is a diverse team, with different backgrounds, cultures and skill sets. Forward thinking organisations are rethinking how they judge a 'suitable candidate'; even the big 4 consultancy firms are dropping their formal university education requirement. I hope Excell have the foresight to do the same and realise you cannot judge a candidate by whether they spent 3 years of their life being 'educated' on outdated material that they will never apply.

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Daniel von Asmuth on September 09 2016

A boot camp makes a nice way for farmers and housewives to learn how to write a simple app, but for a career in IT you need a real education. The author wrongly assumes that the pace of tenchnological innovation is speeding up and that the economy needs even more programmers and administrators

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Dennis Frailey on September 10 2016

I spent a 40+ year career in the hi tech industry and often hired software developers. I would sum things up this way: bootcamp will get you a short-term job or possibly an entry level but longer term job with a major company, but you will likely hit a career plateau after 10 years or so because you won't have the breadth and depth of knowledge to move up to positions of higher responsibility. Moreover, if you haven't kept up with the latest developments, your skills will be out of date. A computer science degree will get you a career. One of the people quoted in the article really sums it up for me: "when I'm looking for a programmer ...". If your potential employer is only looking for a programmer, beware. You don't want to be a programmer all your life, as much as you may like the idea today (trust me - I was in your same shoes once). An employer who only wants programmers is not thinking of you as a long term career hire but as a temporary solution to an immediate need.

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Paul Tiffany on September 10 2016

The choices are actually fairly straightforward. The purpose of the two types of education are very different and very clear. Also, someone with a technical degree like Engineering will often also get a Masters in Business Administration just like someone with a Computer Science Degree could and probably should invest in specific technical training if that person wants a quick job - i.e. it's not a one or the other choice for those with the capability.

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Mike on September 13 2016

Many of the graduates from my bootcamp are now working as senior and lead developers for large established tech companies. Most of the people we train have been to university but studied the wrong subject and are looking for a cheaper quicker alternative to university to get into programming. As for the tech industry speeding up, the demand for programmers has never been higher, the demand massively out-weighs the supply in industrial cities in the UK (London, Bristol, etc). Universities simply cannot produce developers quickly enough to keep up with this demand. My parent company who build web applications have doubled their development team in the last 12 months and plan on doing the same again in the next 12 months. Similar things are happening in companies all over the UK. Universities simply cannot cope with this level of demand.

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Salah Shakir on June 19 2017

As as a person who has over 30 years experience in technology and hired many developers in the past, I look for a combination of solid CS degree and certifications more than just higher education degrees. I agree with some of the previous comments that degree give you a foundation then you have to add experience and bootcamps.

no-images

Marcel Ramaker on September 09 2016

A Computer Science degree lays the groundwork being able to better understand bootcamp courses.

no-images

Darren on September 09 2016

I really hope that you've selectively quoted the comments in the article. If Mark Murphy's comment regarding discarding CVs of Bootcamp course attendees is indeed accurate, then I'm amazed at the narrow mindedness he's displaying. I did a computer science degree. I was taught to code in ADA, Pascal and x86 assembler. I've also attended bootcamps learning more modern languages, object orientated programming (yes, I'm that old) and more recently machine learning. They were an excellent way to quickly develop new skills, and skills I could immediately employ in my role. The best developers I know do not have a university education. They were too eager to make a difference, were excellent at self teaching and generally got a head start of others like myself who attended university. To be entirely close minded to employing non-graduates is setting yourself up to fail. A success team is a diverse team, with different backgrounds, cultures and skill sets. Forward thinking organisations are rethinking how they judge a 'suitable candidate'; even the big 4 consultancy firms are dropping their formal university education requirement. I hope Excell have the foresight to do the same and realise you cannot judge a candidate by whether they spent 3 years of their life being 'educated' on outdated material that they will never apply.

no-images

Daniel von Asmuth on September 09 2016

A boot camp makes a nice way for farmers and housewives to learn how to write a simple app, but for a career in IT you need a real education. The author wrongly assumes that the pace of tenchnological innovation is speeding up and that the economy needs even more programmers and administrators

no-images

Dennis Frailey on September 10 2016

I spent a 40+ year career in the hi tech industry and often hired software developers. I would sum things up this way: bootcamp will get you a short-term job or possibly an entry level but longer term job with a major company, but you will likely hit a career plateau after 10 years or so because you won't have the breadth and depth of knowledge to move up to positions of higher responsibility. Moreover, if you haven't kept up with the latest developments, your skills will be out of date. A computer science degree will get you a career. One of the people quoted in the article really sums it up for me: "when I'm looking for a programmer ...". If your potential employer is only looking for a programmer, beware. You don't want to be a programmer all your life, as much as you may like the idea today (trust me - I was in your same shoes once). An employer who only wants programmers is not thinking of you as a long term career hire but as a temporary solution to an immediate need.

no-images

Paul Tiffany on September 10 2016

The choices are actually fairly straightforward. The purpose of the two types of education are very different and very clear. Also, someone with a technical degree like Engineering will often also get a Masters in Business Administration just like someone with a Computer Science Degree could and probably should invest in specific technical training if that person wants a quick job - i.e. it's not a one or the other choice for those with the capability.

no-images

Mike on September 13 2016

Many of the graduates from my bootcamp are now working as senior and lead developers for large established tech companies. Most of the people we train have been to university but studied the wrong subject and are looking for a cheaper quicker alternative to university to get into programming. As for the tech industry speeding up, the demand for programmers has never been higher, the demand massively out-weighs the supply in industrial cities in the UK (London, Bristol, etc). Universities simply cannot produce developers quickly enough to keep up with this demand. My parent company who build web applications have doubled their development team in the last 12 months and plan on doing the same again in the next 12 months. Similar things are happening in companies all over the UK. Universities simply cannot cope with this level of demand.

no-images

Salah Shakir on June 19 2017

As as a person who has over 30 years experience in technology and hired many developers in the past, I look for a combination of solid CS degree and certifications more than just higher education degrees. I agree with some of the previous comments that degree give you a foundation then you have to add experience and bootcamps.

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