Tech & Work

How to pick a coding camp: 7 questions to ask

Do your research before investing your time and money in a coding camp. These seven questions will help you make the decision.

pickcodingcamp.jpg
iStock/bowie15

If you really want to learn how to code, there are more than a few ways to do it. An increasingly popular option is coding camps- short term, intensive programs that teach specific coding skills.

One coding camp success story belongs to Smita Busar, who attended CodeFellows in Seattle, Washington and was able to find a job.

"The most important thing is you find what is your career aspiration, and then choose the coding camp accordingly," she said. "As I had lot of back-end experience and I wanted to become full stack engineer, I choose the JS Coding Camp."

Whether you're looking to learn to code from scratch, or update your skill set, consider a few important questions before settling on a camp, though. Here are seven to use as parameters for finding a good fit.

1. How intense is it?

Camps last on average between 9 and 12 weeks. Even the shorter camps are a big time commitment. Consider how intense is too intense and what you can handle. gSchool, which doesn't consider itself a bootcamp, as it's a 6-month immersive program. Still, gSchool's Kinsey Durham said to think about what exactly it is you want. Do you want to be a developer? A technical founder? Are you making a website for your parents' business?

"We really do take over your life for the months that you're with us," said Dev Bootcamp co-founder Dave Hoover, "Our students spent 60-100 hours a week with us, so it's a tough road for anyone in a relationship with one of our students. It's especially tough on students who are parents."

Along those lines, Dunham said when students ask if they'll be able to take a vacation or go on a honeymoon, the answer is essentially "no."

2. What are the camp's motives?

As coding camps differ in cost- some are free, most aren't - it's worth it to do some research and figure out why they're structured the way they're structured. A camp might be set up as a recruiting pool for a company or specific companies. Or maybe the camp is run through sponsorships or donations from certain people or organizations. Who are they and why are invested.

Busar also paid attention to the camp's reputation within the community.

3. What language(s) do I need to learn?

From camp to camp, languages and skills differ. Some might focus on mobile app development, some might teach Java. gSchool focuses on Ruby on Rails, and touches on JavaScript. According to a recent study from Course Report, 57% of camps offer Ruby courses, making it one of the most commonly-taught languages. Figure out the language that's going to help you accomplish what you need to professionally.

4. Where are the graduates?

A good indicator of the success of the program is the success of its graduates. Both Busar and Durham recommended talking to people who have been through the program you're considering. Find out not only what their experience was, but where they are now. Was it difficult to find a job? Did they feel well-equipped for the professional world? Go beyond the statistics on the program's website.

5. Who are the instructors?

"It's best to have a mix of teachers with strong software engineering experiences and teachers with strong backgrounds in education," Hoover said. It's also a plus to have teachers who are active in the field and can speak to what the current demands of the industry are.

6. What's the structure?

Hoover also said it's worth finding out how much time is spent in lecture. "You don't learn a new language - programming or human - by listening to lectures all day long. You learn new languages by conversing and writing in that language all day long," he said. Similarly, he suggested looking into if the classes are set up like a classroom, (rows of tables facing a professor) or, if it's set up more like a real-life working environment.

7. What are the job prospects?

Some coding camps have strong partnerships with potential hiring partners. There are also camps that offer rebates on tuition if a student doesn't find employment within a certain length of time - or only have to pay tuition if you do find a job.

Also see:

About Erin Carson

Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox