Off the beaten path: How alternative learning results in high-paying tech jobs

93% of tech students find employment after taking accelerated courses at the Flatiron School.

How AI will revolutionize education Shazam co-founder Dhiraj Mukherjee on the coming shift to lifelong learning in an interview at The Economist's Innovation Summit 2018.

Alternative learning methods work. Just ask the graduates of the New York-based Flatiron School, which saw a 93% employment rate in 2018, with an average starting salary of $74,566, according to recent data from Flatiron. 

The Flatiron School offers accelerated education programs in programming, data science, software engineering, and UX/UI design. What differentiates Flatiron students from schools offering similar coursework is that students graduating from Flatiron are able to complete coursework in as little as six months, as well as land jobs through the school's Career Services. 

SEE: Technology in education: The latest products and trends (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

"It is possible to reinvent your career, and by extension, your life––without following traditional paths of learning," said Adam Enbar, co-founder and CEO of Flatiron School. "Students typically attend Flatiron School for one of two reasons: They either want to change their lives, or they want to change the world. The former group may be unhappy in their career. Many are not earning enough or don't see a path towards meaningful career growth. But often, students who come to us already have great jobs with high salaries, but don't feel engaged. 

"The other reason students come to us is because they want to have an impact," Enbar said. "Technology skills uniquely enable people to build products that can touch millions of lives and solve meaningful problems. Our graduates go on to do that kind of work and that's compelling to a lot of people."

Flatiron's data considered the 813 students enrolled in the school's on-campus (553) and online (260) programs. Women represented 35% of students in the report, which is significant given that only 26% of all computing workers in 2018 were women, according to what the National Center for Women and Information Technology. This jump indicates that alternative education could be a successful avenue for women in tech, according to the report. 

Of the 769 students who graduated from the on-campus or online program, 86% completed a Job Search Cycle. The Cycle is defined as either having at least 180 days of continuous job seeking, accepting a qualifying full-time offer within a 180-day period, accepting a qualifying part-time job offer within a 180-day period, or accepting a non-qualifying job offer in the same time frame. 

While Flatiron has 12 WeWork campuses across the country and in London, the most popular campuses students attended included the Manhattan campus in New York City (40%), Brooklyn campus in New York City (12%), Washington, DC campus (7%), Houston campus (4%), and London campus (3%), according to the report. 

Job outcomes 

The majority (81%) of job-seeking students who accepted job offers within the reporting period took a job in engineering. While 93% of job-seekers reported accepting jobs within 365 days, more than half (62%) accepted jobs within 60 days, and 42% accepted jobs in just 30 days, the report found. 

The popularity in engineering jobs is reflected in the coursework Flatiron students studied. Out of all students, 98% graduated from a software engineering program. The other 2% were attributed to data science, the report found. 

SEE: Tips for building a successful career as a software engineer (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

With data scientists and software engineers making Glassdoor's 2019 list of best tech jobs, students are entering lucrative fields: The average starting salaries for Flatiron students was $72,259 for online students and $75,642 for on-campus students, according to the report. 

Not only are these graduates receiving healthy salaries, they also saved money by completing an accelerated program. The average cost of tuition, fees, room and board at public and private universities in the US in 2018 was $34,740 and $25,620 per year, respectively. The total average tuition bill for Flatiron students was $11,686, the report found. 

With the expenses of college and improvements in technology, alternative paths to higher education have become increasingly popular. Flatiron's report shows that not only are these paths easier to follow, but they are also effective.

"My advice is to not worry about your first job being a perfect fit ––focus on working hard and staying positive. The job you'll have in 20 years likely doesn't exist today. So optimizing for the perfect role or perfect company doesn't make a lot of sense," Enbar said. "Be great at whatever you're doing early on and opportunities will continue to open up to you. That's why at Flatiron, we don't ask for test scores or GPAs—we look for passion and grit. If you work hard and stay positive, you'll be able to learn and do anything." 

For more, check out 10 technologies that will impact higher education the most this year on TechRepublic. 

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