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Coding bootcamp vs. coding course: which is worth your time?

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay

With Australia’s programming industry at its peak – paving the way for developments in automation, artificial intelligence, edge computing, and more – it’s no surprise the field has experienced a dramatic upsurge in workers since 2016. 

According to statistics from the Australian Computer Society, nearly 33,000 jobs have propped up in the field during the last four years – a whopping 32% rise (Source: ACS).  

Those seeking a career in the thriving world of coding can enjoy the plentiful opportunities the industry has to offer. Below, SkillsTalk explore two common pathways aspiring programmers often take when starting out: coding bootcamps and coding courses – and which option may suit your professional goals best. 

What are coding bootcamps?

For beginners often pressed for time, coding bootcamps provide a “crash course” experience in the fundamentals of computer code; offering students with intensive, short-term training programs either in person or online.

Such programs have been growing in popularity – graduating an estimated 20,000 students in 2018 alone, according to Course Report (a website dedicated to coding bootcamp reviews). Online bootcamps also typically take an average of 15.4 weeks to complete, with in-person training taking an average of 14.4 weeks. 

Nationally accredited coding bootcamps in Australia may be rare to find. Regardless, the practical skills acquired through these programs can help one demonstrate the technical proficiency required to stand out in the job market. 

The advantages of a coding bootcamp 

coding concept

As mentioned, a massive advantage of joining coding bootcamps is the compressed, accelerated training experience it offers. Aspiring coders can dive straight into the general, technical, and in-demand skills required to succeed in the programming field; building their proficiency in a wide range of valuable programming languages and frameworks (with possible additional skills in web development, UX/UI design, data science, and more) by the end of their program. 

The entire experience is typically laser-focused on the specific languages and tools one needs to pursue opportunities in programming and development. It may thus be better-suited among those who value more practical, project-based, and specialised learning, as pursuing a qualification or degree may include more theory-based, conceptual areas of study (i.e. deep-dive course subjects into operating systems, information systems, and algorithms). 

Another striking benefit of coding bootcamps is the sense of community they provide – an experience more apparent, however, with in-person training programs. 

Upon joining a bootcamp, students have the opportunity to surround themselves with other like-minded, driven peers of varying skillsets; allowing them to not only learn from and collaborate with other experts, but also expand their network through both personal and professional connections. 

This environment helps enrich the learning experience, encouraging students to motivate and support one another as they strive towards their goals.

Things to consider

Though it stands out as an attractive career pathway with its time-saving, specialised, and collective experience – the option isn’t as simple as attending a bootcamp, and remaining a coding expert for life.

Because bootcamps offer an accelerated form of study, they typically focus on simply laying the groundwork; equipping you with the tools, skills, and general knowledge you need as a coder. These, however, need consistent practice and built experience to help you succeed in the job market. As such, bootcamp students will often need to set aside time to practice on their own, applying their newfound skills to personal projects and programming activities

Additionally, future employers may still expect you to understand or implement other computing fundamentals (i.e. how web development works, basic algorithms) – foundational concepts that are often overlooked in bootcamps. Bootcamp students or graduates may need to explore and study these on their own. 

Getting accepted into your desired bootcamp may also prove a challenge. Some are known to have a highly competitive admission process that require plenty of preparation and prior (basic) study. Applicants can expect three parts to the interview process: a written or video application, a culture fit interview, and finally – a technical interview that examines your knowledge of programming basics.

Depending on your chosen bootcamp and its concentrated specialty, the criteria for this process may vary. 

What does a coding course offer?

Coding courses provide students with a more extensive, comprehensive overview of both the fundamentals behind programming and software development; and the technical skills involved. 

These programs thus provide a lengthier (though more in-depth) study experience and come in a wide range of specialised areas and qualification levels. Among others, coding courses may have a concentrated focus on interactive games, web-based applications, software development, and digital technologies – ranging from certificate I programs to graduate certificates and bachelor’s degrees.

Coding bootcamps often culminate in a portfolio, though coding courses end with a “final assessment” – these may also take the form of a coding portfolio, but may also be a written examination, case study, coding project, or written report. 

While some may choose to complete these programs in person (typically in a higher education campus), there are now a vast number of online coding courses available in Australia. 

The advantages of a coding course

woman learning how to code at home

A primary advantage of pursuing a coding course is the broader foundation of knowledge it provides. As mentioned, coding bootcamps are effective for offering concentrated training in the specific tools and skills you’ll need as a professional programmer. 

Experts argue, however, that while bootcamp graduates have the sufficient, practical ability to build simple apps and programs – plenty still lack the “solid foundation” and knowledge to understand these technicalities. 

Coding courses offer just this, providing not only the practical training required to succeed in coding, but also the more theoretical competencies comprising the field; such as the ethics, copyright, and privacy issues surrounding an ICT environment; web technology trends; and the processes behind cloud technology and virtualised environments. 

Students are also far more likely to graduate with a nationally-recognised qualification after completing a coding course. Bootcamps typically result in a comprehensive portfolio, though are often not accredited. Coding course graduates have a greater chance of drawing in potential employers, as a formal, vendor, or industry certification is highly regarded by most companies. 

As coding courses take their time to explore all fundamental facets of programming; students can often enjoy a more self-paced, flexible learning experience. This is all the more prominent with online programs that offer students the luxury of studying in any location, and on a schedule that suits them best.  

Depending on the level of qualification, some coding courses may also have a lower barrier to entry than coding bootcamps. Some may even have no specific entry requirements to enrol in their program. 

Things to consider

Like coding bootcamps, students who undertake a full course are recommended to practice and pursue personal coding projects in their own time. Course activities and assignments may equip you with a new set of skills and experience, yes (and often on a more comprehensive level than bootcamps) – but to truly compete among others in the ever-changing landscape of IT, one requires persistence and consistent practice. 

That said – the lengthier, more thorough experience courses provide often has plenty of practice built into it, allowing students to fully grasp and absorb the new skills they learn.

Given their more extensive training process, coding courses also require more time commitment and energy.
With plenty of online options available, however, students can enjoy the flexibility to tailoring other work and personal commitments around their study schedule. Most in-person coding courses also provide students with the option to attend on a part-time basis as desired. 

While coding bootcamps have generally attracted current employees looking for a boost in skill – the rising flexibility among coding courses (paired with the growing versatility in specialisations) have made them just as an effective, convenient training option. 

Looking to launch a coding career?

The coding industry shows no signs of slowing, with plenty of exciting tech opportunities, high job security, and attractive salaries to offer aspiring professionals. With five million Australian jobs set for automation by 2030, general workers are also increasingly encouraged to brush up on their programming abilities.

Upskilled offers both beginner and intermediate coders with plenty of qualifications in IT – including the ICT40120 - Certificate IV IT (Programming). Students will learn the basics of database and application development; query and object-oriented languages; and professional conduct in an ICT environment, among others. Best of all, the course is delivered online, helping you study at a schedule and pace that suits you best.
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