Are online coding bootcamps worth it?

If you’re thinking of taking an online bootcamp, don’t delay: you lose an average of $232 for every day you wait, considering our median salary for online Hack Reactor graduates. Our recent bootcamp students have claimed the program exceeded expectations in terms of rigor and structure. Remove sentence of question- should be a statement.

In recent years, online coding bootcamps have exploded in popularity as an alternative to onsite coding bootcamps. And now, with Coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns confining most of us to our homes, taking an online software engineering bootcamp may just be the wisest and most lucrative decision an aspiring software engineer can make.

These intensive online programs promise to deliver an experience equivalent to a live, in-person class, without the hassle. But if you go the online route, will you find yourself isolated from other students? Will you sacrifice the chance to socialize and make lasting connections with alumni? More to the point, are these online programs as effective at teaching you the advanced skills you need to land a software engineering job?

Continue below to see how online bootcamps stack up against the onsite versions.

1. There’s no traveling or commute required.

The most obvious advantage of an online bootcamp is that you don’t have to move to a distant campus if there isn’t one close to you. There are no housing costs. You don’t have to sleep on someone’s couch.

There’s also zero commuting time. An in-person class, even if it’s located in your home city, requires a commute that can easily be 20 minutes to an hour each way. When you add that on top of the 11 hours a day you’ll spend in the bootcamp, it can be punishing.

An online bootcamp allows you to spend that time learning, resting, or a dozen other ways that are much more valuable than sitting in traffic.

2. Online, you’re going to make just as many friends. Maybe more.

“Your connection pool is national and worldwide. You’re building connections to software engineers all over the country.  All over the world.”

“I don’t just think that; I know that for a fact. The community is actually stronger in a live online bootcamp than it is in-person because you are really invested in the people in your program,” Patel says. “Your connection pool is national and worldwide. You’re building connections to software engineers all over the country.  All over the world.”

Hailey Balestra-Foster, who is the Software Engineering Director of Operations for the Hack Reactor Immersive program, agrees completely.

“There’s a strong focus on the importance of community and the importance of supporting one another,” she says. “We do study groups together before and after hours. Activities where we get to know each other, collaborate and bond during the different classes. We sing happy birthday to each other, play games, or just have some informal conversations between lectures.”

Some of those relationships continue outside the virtual classroom.

“In general, I think remote students tend to get very close to each other. I can speak to that because I actually ended up marrying one of my cohort mates,” she says, laughing. “He’s actually Swiss. He was taking the program from Switzerland, and that’s how we met. So my short answer is, yes, people do form close bonds.”

3. Online programs can have teachers from all over the world.

When you take an in-person programming bootcamp, your pool of instructors is limited to those who are available locally. But in an online software engineering bootcamp, there are no geographical limits. The teaching talent could come from across the country, or around the world.

“The remote program is very purposefully designed to be the same curriculum, same content, and to mimic the on-site experience as closely as possible,” Balestra-Foster says. “Students still pair up, just doing it over a Zoom call instead of sitting next to each other. We do lectures in a Zoom call together, and we still have office hours, all of those same features. It’s the same curriculum and the same expectations.”

That leads to graduation rates similar to on-site programs. “There’s no significant difference at all between on-site and online programs. They’re pretty comparable rates of completion,” Patel says.

4. An online bootcamp could give you a huge jump on your local job search.

It sounds counterintuitive, but online programs can actually be better for boosting your local job search.

“Let’s say you live in Boise, Idaho or someplace where there are no nationally reputable coding schools with alumni bases of thousands of people. You still get the benefit of staying in Boise, which means that when you go job searching, you’re going to be a San Francisco or New York caliber software engineer living in Boise. You’re going to be better educated than the rest of the local talent pool,” Patel says. “And you’re going to get a job much faster because of that.”

That was exactly what happened to online bootcamp student Ian Salmon, who spent countless months before the program searching for a software engineering job, without success. However, after he completed an online bootcamp, he landed the job he wanted within a few weeks. He credits the online program for quickly training him in the skills he needed to make a huge leap forward in his career.

“I was already submitting applications before I even graduated. It was part of the curriculum, especially during those final couple weeks,” Salmon says. “Every single HR person I talked on the phone, every on-site interview I had; they all wanted to know about my bootcamp experience, for sure.”

Bottom line: online bootcamps do measure up against on-site bootcamps. And then some.

If you compare online versus on-site bootcamps just based on hard numbers alone—completion rates, average pay increases for graduates, and so on—they are pretty comparable.

But there are subtle advantages to online programs. Not only can you get the same quality training from the comfort of your home, but you can also expand your professional network to a global level. And because there’s no travel time, you can spend more time during the bootcamp focusing on what really matters.

That alone can make all the difference in your future career.

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