Becoming a professional software developer seems like a daunting task. Thanks to modern technology, there are more ways than ever to learn how to code and become a professional. One of the most common ways is joining a coding bootcamps or schools that teach you these skills. This is not the only way to learn, though, there are plenty of options to explore in order to find the one that works best for you.
How and Where to Learn How To Code
With more than 500 coding bootcamps and schools worldwide, there’s an overwhelming amount of options to choose from. Schools like Lambda School, Microverse, and Le Wagon are helping people around the world land life-changing jobs, like Kevin from Kenya who now works at Microsoft.
However, many of these schools are inaccessible as they're expensive and lack financing options. Due to the high costs associated with having teachers and physical locations, most programs charge tuition fees of $20,000 - $30,000 USD upfront and are only available in large cities in North America and Europe.
Now, there are some programs and schools that are offering the option of no upfront payments in exchange for a piece of your future income (using Income Share Agreements, ISA’s). This is a great option but again most are only available to people in specific countries.
So what can you do if you don’t live in these countries but want to learn to code? Global remote schools, like Microverse, are a great option but like in-person courses, they require a full-time commitment lasting between 3 - 12 months. So we’ve shared some alternatives to coding bootcamps to help you make a decision on which is best for you.
Traditional Alternatives to Coding Bootcamps
There are some good, cost-efficient alternatives to coding bootcamps that can bring almost as much value as a course would. Here are some of them.
Online Computer Science Degree
If you don’t have a college degree yet, it’s now possible to get one online without being in university classrooms. Some can cost as much as a bootcamp, but you won’t need to cover any travel, accommodation, or visa expenses.
Learning on Your Own
There are many free and accessible resources online like freeCodeCamp, OSS University and the Odin Project. There are also free books on programming languages and online forums with frequent discussions about coding news and updates. The main issue is that it’s incredibly hard to learn on your own without support or accountability. It’s very easy to get bored or distracted while learning by yourself. Though you may want to try this way first, think about if you can stay productive and motivated for many months of learning. Many students start to learn this way before joining a school or bootcamp as they need that support.
Online Coding Courses
Some bootcamp instructors recommend participants go through free online courses on websites like Codecademy, Udemy and Treehouse to gain initial knowledge first. There are also a few schools, like General Assembly, that offer free or low-cost courses in addition to their full-time programs.
While there are a number of great free or inexpensive resources out there, to be successful in learning it’s not just about having the best pieces of content. Rather it's essential to have an outline to follow, support, and accountability in order to learn efficiently and land your first job. The support and accountability of a community and curriculum are what keep you learning, especially through the more challenging topics.
Non-Traditional Alternatives to Coding Bootcamps
The alternatives mentioned above all lack a key aspect of the learning process - interaction with others. One of the best things about coding schools and bootcamps is that they teach you not only ‘how to code’, but also ‘how to work with others’.
For most people, the main reason you want to learn how to code is to land a high-paying job as a software developer. While your technical skills are important for this, recruiters also focus on how well you work with others.
Learning to work as a team is something you need to develop and practice by doing often, over a long period of time. That’s where the best, non-traditional alternative to coding bootcamps comes in - learning through remote pair programming.
Pair programming is a method where two software developers sit in front of a computer and write code in turns, using the same keyboard. With modern technology, you no longer need to be in the same room to do pair programming. It’s a great way to learn both to code, and also how to work with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
That said, it’s really challenging to find a partner who is as committed and free to work at the same time and speed as you. That’s a key part of what we do at Microverse, matching you with great remote pair-programming partners.
Keys to your Success
Support and Community
Beyond choosing one of the alternatives to coding bootcamps, you need to think about everything that will set you up for success. Things like support and community are essential in order to stay focused and have accountability. You can have a pair-programming partner as mentioned above, or connect with people on Twitter or Facebook through hashtags like #100DaysofCode. There are also support systems for those learning to code like freeCodeCamp and Stack Overflow, among others.
Experience and Your Portfolio
While you learn, you should be applying your knowledge and creating or contributing to projects. You can use this to build up your portfolio, which you can share with future employers.
Which is Best For You?
As you can see, there are a lot of great options for learning to code beyond bootcamps or schools. While bootcamps and schools, like Microverse, are great, they're not a fit for everyone. They’re a big-time commitment, but if you can do them, you’re able to learn quickly and really develop your soft-skills in addition to your technical ones, with support along the way.
Learning on your own is possible too, like Austin who taught himself in 9-months, but takes a lot of work. The benefits of learning on your own are that your biggest cost is your time and you won’t have to pay anything to learn. The downside though is that you’re on your own. Meaning you have to decide which content to learn, which communities to join and which projects to create. You have to hold yourself accountable and be incredibly motivated, especially while learning very challenging skills. You also might not learn the crucial soft skills you need, like working with other people, or learning professional software development practices. Finally, you won’t have a go-to person to help improve your portfolio and resume, or to help you negotiate job offers.
Now it’s up to you to decide. Almost all of our students tried learning on their own before joining Microverse. If you decide learning on your own is not for you, we’d be happy to have you join our community of hundreds of students and become one of our alumni that are making 2-10x their previous salaries.