Coding as an educational area and subsequent career path has gone through three distinct boom eras; initially in the early 80's when the first wave of affordable personal computers broke upon homes around the world and made programming accessible to the public, then came the dot-com bubble in the late 90's with entrepreneurs creating websites that made them millionaires, catching the attention of the students of the day.
We are now in the third era and all signs indicate that the industry has now matured to a point where its upward growth trajectory is assured. As a result of this, the career development opportunities for students who hold coding qualifications are greater than ever. In short, if you have ever nurtured an interest in creating software, mobile apps or websites, it has never been easier to get qualified and become part of one of the most rapidly growing and in-demand professions in the USA.
Is this codings' Golden Age then? It might well be, consider the following*;
- 63% of coding school attendees reported a salary increase 6 months after graduating (the average for 2016 was $22,700 - this was up $4,599 from 2015).
- Since 2014 the total coding schools market has more than tripled in size.
- 2016 saw 68% of coding graduates working in IT within 6 months of graduation.
- Coding is becoming more diverse – with women now representing 43% of all graduates.
- The number of coding grads more than doubled between 2014 and 2016.
Contributing to this, is the changing perception of coding as a field. Long gone are the days where computer programming was considered the preserve of anemic and socially awkward teenage boys operating from the dimly lit basement at their parents' house. These days being a ‘geek' is cool. We probably have Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, amongst others, to thank for that.
Coded products are also reaching greater numbers of people in a more obvious and identifiable way. Smart phones are prevalent, with their huge universe of apps being the prime motivator behind their phenomenal growth and indispensable status in today's society. Social tools like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter have become vital channels within which we express ourselves and communicate with our peers. Finally, gaming has become a mainstream and gender neutral pastime, with game sales often out grossing blockbuster movies (together with their development budgets in many cases).
So, today's younger generation are growing up in an environment that lends the technology around them, and the people that work within it, in a completely different and more positive light.
This shift in perception has had the conventional educational community struggling to keep up with the surge of students looking to get into the coding field. Demand has been far outstripping supply, and specialized Coding Schools or ‘Bootcamps' have sprung up to fill that void.
What is a Coding School?
Coding Schools could be described as the manifestation of a conviction held by a group of key industry insiders. This was that students who wanted to work in the field didn't need to go through the conventional educational cycle (usually entailing 3-4 years of theory heavy study, with the attendant costs). Instead, they could just learn the operational framework of coding and then jump right into a career, growing in experience and expertise within the working environment. It is probably fair to extrapolate that some of these industry figures were keen to get key positions filled more quickly than was possible at the time, but whatever the motivation, institutions dedicated to a high-intensity, efficient and focused path to qualification for would-be coders started springing up. Coding schools were born.
Coding schools fully embrace the immersive learning philosophy. Their courses will typically last for just 12 weeks (but can vary from 6 to 28 weeks) and will suit those who prefer hands-on, project based learning and feel a sense of accomplishment from mastering a real-world concept. In addition to instructor-based learning, students are encouraged to explore concepts with others and on their own volition. Since students usually work in teams, much the same way as they would in the working world, participants learn first-hand the importance of effective communication and teamwork, as well as understanding the fundamentals and adopting best practices.
How should I choose the right Coding School for me?
The first two questions to ask yourself when starting down this path are:
- Am I looking to get into mobile, desktop or web development?
- Where do I want to go in my career after I get qualified?
These decisions will influence the language you learn, as each of the main languages relate to specific coding applications. Different schools and programs will specialize in specific languages, so it is important to do your research thoroughly before making your decision.
The third question is - ‘How do I want to schedule my study?' These are your options:
- The immersive ‘bootcamp'. These typically run from two to seven months and are full time. It's not uncommon for students to put in 80 hour weeks, so attending one makes unique demands on your time that may not be compatible with the schedule of some potential students, especially if they are looking to fit their education around an existing job. The great advantage of a bootcamp is, of course, the speed that you can go from novice to qualified - they are without doubt the quickest way for an outsider to gain access to the industry.
If you are thinking of attending a bootcamp, the location can be a factor and students frequently attend camps in cities other than their own in pursuit of the best possible education. While the usual suspects offer the most variety of bootcamps (San Fran, Seattle, New York etc), there are bootcamps in over 70 US cities. Some students find a change in environment can serve to energize and focus them on their new discipline.
- Part Time Schools. Students usually meet on a schedule of weekday nights or weekends and because of this, these schools cater to a more local student population. Students can expect to spend 6-15 hrs in classes and 10–15 hrs a week on other course related projects. This is a great option for students who have existing work commitments and want to schedule their education around these. Program length can vary.
- Online Programs. The most flexible format of all, but still necessitating some face-to-face interaction. Most students will still be expected to be available for (and benefit from) a physical meeting with a ‘mentor' one or two days a week. Online programs still offer full and part time options and the course completion time varies considerably.
Options abound then. For more information and inspiration, check out the schools on the right. Happy coding!
Article by Stephen Channon
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