Coding bootcamps have exploded across the nation, with thousands of people flocking to these schools—and paying top dollar—each year, to gain the skills needed for high-paying jobs in the tech field.
However, bootcamps are not accredited institutes of higher education, and some have been accused of making false claims about the number of students that are placed in jobs after graduation.
This week, the National Consumers League (NCL) launched a website and consumer-friendly guide to help people identify fraudulent coding bootcamp job placement claims, and choose the best education option.
"With tuition costs ranging from $5,000 to as much as $21,000, it's clear as to why administrators would be tempted to stretch their job placement claims," said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the NCL, in a press release. "It's become exceptionally frequent to see bootcamps boasting job placement rates of well over 90% with 'guaranteed' high incomes upon graduation - a [disappointing], but common, reality."
Coding bootcamps first arose in 2012, promising to quickly teach people tech skills needed to work for major tech firms. The bootcamps last an average of three months, and cost an average of $11,451, according to Course Report. In 2016, 91 bootcamp providers were operating in 69 US cities, compared to 67 schools in 2015.
An estimated 17,966 students graduated from bootcamps in 2016, according to Course Report. In comparison, there were 61,408 undergraduate computer science graduates from accredited US universities in 2015.
The NCL's guide is meant to bridge the knowledge gap between what bootcamp advertisements claim and the reality behind the program's numbers. It urges people to consider the following three steps when considering a coding bootcamp:
1. Beware of too-good-to-be-true job placement claims. Placement rates in excess of 90% are likely to be exaggerated and rely on cherry-picked data.
2. Make sure the schools you're considering are licensed in the state in which they operate. These bootcamps are required to be licensed in the state in which they operate, but recently, many have been investigated for operating without a license.
3. Don't rely solely on advertising materials provided by the bootcamp operator. Use independent information to evaluate your options—alumni references, services offered, and quality and qualifications of instructors.
If you have been—or suspect you've been—defrauded by a coding bootcamp, you can file a complaint at Fraud.org, where the NCL shares complaints with a network of more than 200 federal, state, local, and international law enforcement and consumer protection agency partners.
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Alison DeNisco Rayome has nothing to disclose. She does not hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.