Decoding the Dilemma: Bootcamp vs. CS Degree

A deep dive into whether you should do a Coding Bootcamp or get a Computer Science Degree

10/9/20235 min read

bootcamp vs cs degree
bootcamp vs cs degree

In an era where the demand for Software Engineers is soaring and diverse pathways into tech are flourishing, the question on every aspiring Software Engineer's mind is whether to embark on the traditional route of a Computer Science degree or to take the accelerated path of a Coding Bootcamp 🧠? Spoiler alert! The answer isn't one-size-fits-all; it's all about what suits you best. Let's decode this dilemma by reviewing some essential factors to consider.



🧠Learning experience

🧠Content / preparedness



Price 💰

You might assume that boot camps are the more cost-effective choice, but this isn't always the case. A standard bachelor's CS degree in the UK can cost around £30,000. It's also important to remember that with a degree, you can get a government loan however, with a boot camp, the money is coming directly from your pocket. But here's the twist: master conversion courses costing upwards of £9k are emerging as a compelling alternative. These 1-2 year programs cater to non-CS graduates and offer a great alternative to boot camps for those who already have a degree. The price of a bootcamp is less straightforward. Some are free, whilst others can set you back upwards of £5k. However, as a bootcamp is typically shorter than a CS degree, the value for money and the amount of content you learn for what you're paying must be taken into consideration. Ultimately, it comes down to what you can comfortably afford.

Duration/Schedule ⏰

A bachelor's CS degree is a marathon, requiring a commitment of 3-4 years. Bootcamps, in contrast, are sprints spanning from a concise 6 weeks to a still-manageable 15 weeks. The duration directly impacts the breadth and depth you'll cover so do keep in mind that faster isn't always better. Bootcamps tend to go in-depth in a selected few topics and touch the surface of others, particularly theory. With a degree, your breadth and depth of knowledge will be greater but not necessarily mandatory for the role of a software engineer.

Again the schedules of both degrees and bootcamps vary however, bootcamps typically offer more part-time options as they are aware that many of their students are career switchers and will be working full-time/ have other commitments. You need to be realistic about how much time you can commit to learning and let this inform your decision.

Quality of Teaching 👩🏽‍🏫

It would be easy to conclude that because a degree costs generally more than a boot camp, the learning experience is best but this isn't always the case. To understand which one works best for you, you need to understand your learning style. Some prefer fast-paced, practical learning. Others enjoy lectures and labs.

COVID has had a long-lasting impact on coding bootcamps with many solely offering fully remote learning. While online learning offers flexibility, it might limit your ability to network and build rapport with your cohort and instructors. In-person education allows for organic interactions that can't be replicated online. You may want to think about how this will impact your ability to grow a support system and access help/guidance when needed.

In terms of the quality of learning, there is no national standard that a coding boot camp has to adhere to therefore, thorough research is required before applying to one to ensure you will be satisfied with your experience. In contrast, university degrees tend to be established institutions with decades of experience teaching and refining the course.

Personally, I am a hands-on learner so being able to see and put things that I was learning into practice during my bootcamp, was a big driver in my success. Understand what type of learner you are and use this to guide your decision.

Content/Preparedness 📖

As described above in the 'Duration' section, a CS degree delves deeper into theory, offering a holistic perspective beyond just programming. If your ambition is to become an industry expert with a profound understanding of foundational concepts, a CS degree might be the right choice.

Bootcamps, on the other hand, often specialise in teaching specific "hot" programming languages and frameworks, which are in demand in the job market. The beauty of the internet is that you can independently explore CS concepts, ones that are of interest to you, even if they're not directly covered in your bootcamp/degree. But obviously, self-study always requires discipline and organisation which may not come easy for everyone.

Employability: The Final Frontier👩🏾‍💻

When all is said and done, your employability is what really matters. The overarching (and cushy) answer is that both CS grads and 'bootcampers' can find success at attaining job roles. Getting a job is heavily dependent on what you can do and how you're able to demonstrate your skills.

Ok, now to get real. I have seen discussions where some SWE hiring managers will straight out say that they wouldn't hire a boot camp grad for a role. The common reason for this is a lack of knowledge of core computer science concepts - knowing how to code in popular coding languages isn't enough. The real coding starts when you have to develop a complex algorithm or debug some code - this is where those with that theoretical knowledge, often overlooked in coding bootcamps, thrive. It's not all doom and gloom, as mentioned above, you can practice and learn all of this on the internet. It's just about taking responsibility for your development.

In addition, some bootcamps have partnering hiring companies. Therefore, you get exposed to potential employers with some even offering interview and mentorship opportunities.

Important points🤔

I think it's necessary to discuss that having a pre-existing degree in another subject (take pharmacy for instance) and then doing a bootcamp offers different challenges/benefits compared to doing a bootcamp with no degree. As someone who has experience of only the former, I can only speak from my experience. Nonetheless, I know of a few people who have entered into the tech world using bootcamps without a degree so it is possible, maybe just a tad bit more challenging.

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

Despite me having a role as a software engineer, I still think about whether I should pursue additional formal education in the computer science realm. There are two main reasons for this - a formal qualification will put an end to any doubts employers/managers may have about a bootcamp graduate. Secondly, it's a field I am generally interested in and it would be enjoyable to study as well as cover all the bases of anything I missed out on by being a bootcamp graduate/self-taught. However, being in pharmacy taught me that a lot of confidence and improvement in the work you do comes by practically applying it. (Although my pharmacy degree was great, I couldn't be a good pharmacist until I was actually a pharmacist). So regardless, my focus will always be on continued development and self-teaching.

In the end, the choice between a coding bootcamp and a CS degree depends on your individual circumstances, aspirations, and learning style. There's no one "right" answer, but armed with these insights, you can make a well-informed decision that sets you on the path to tech success.

Until next time,