The Explosion of Coding Bootcamps

Although we are likely in the midst of another tech bubble which some experts believe is worse than the 2000 dot-com bubble, a new, innovative model of education has arisen during this latest tech boom. As the costs to build software businesses have plummeted even further, there has been an explosion in the formation of early stage companies. Consequently, the demand for computer programmers outpaced supply. The markets responded with an explosion of a new model of technical education in the form of “developer bootcamps.”

“Bootcamps are full-time, intensive programs that take novices and transform them into employable software developers with $70,000+ salaries and the hottest tech skills.” – Thinkful.com

In early 2012, there were less than five programming bootcamps. This number has exploded to nearly 70 bootcamps in 2015. Here is a timelapsed heatmap of coding bootcamps since 2012:

Course Report, a think tank specializing in coding bootcamps, discovered that bootcamp graduates grew from 2,178 in 2013 to 6,740 in 2014 and will grow to 16,056 in 2015. Thus, by the end of 2015, there will be a running total of over 25,000 bootcamp graduates.

Amazingly, these numbers include only in-person, brick-and-mortar bootcamps. A similar phenomenon has exploded online, where technology is used to replicate the experience through a hands-on apprenticeship model. In an intense project-based curriculum, students build complex web applications with the help of a personal mentor. The most successful online Bootcamp, Bloc, has raised over $8M, achieved 400% YoY revenue growth, and graduated over 1,000 students.

There are all kinds of people joining these bootcamps: individuals looking to change their careers, entrepreneurs wanting to build and launch their own product, executives wishing to understand their own firm’s underlying technology, high school graduates looking to leapfrog expensive hi-ed programs, and even recent college graduates with computer science degrees looking to learn practical, job-ready skills.

This phenomenon has many implications for the online economy. Naturally, this is creating tesn of thousands of junior developers who will need to find ways to differentiate themselves from one another. Senior developers will still be in high demand until many of these new developers gain more skills and experience. We will see a rise in more specialized bootcamps. All of this will result in the creation of more software products and more start-ups. The rate of change in technological advancements of software will likely increase. In the long run, society will be the beneficiary as more innovative software leads to economic productivity. Software will continue to eat the world.

Naturally, markets are known to overcorrect their imbalances. There are already reports (many from graduates themselves posting on sites like reddit) of bootcamp graduates struggling to find junior developer jobs.  Not everyone can, should, or will be a computer programmer. The market is always chasing that dynamic, optimal number. After all, markets are made up of humans who will make faulty prognostications. However, a few years ago, the signal was loud and clear: we need more developers. The markets responded quite quickly and forcefully.

By: Austin Archibald


5 Comments

  1. John Watts

    Hi Austin,
    About the time your published this article, Arne Duncan (Education Secretary) came out in support of expanding federal education aid dollars towards these code academies. The arguments for it seem to be straightforward, that these academies have great educational training value and we could use more talented coders as the world continues.
    One commentator called this a terrible idea, worried about the impact on pricing and the perhaps lower quality, less scrupulous providers that would emerge with the increase in funding < http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2015/10/16/fi
    I find myself somewhere in the middle – if the government could create some sort of transparent standard of quality and steer dollars towards the best schools, this could be real winner. But if the federal government doesn’t control quality, chaos could ensure.
    What is your take on this?

    • Austin Archibald

      Hey John, I agree with the commentator that financial aid from the government will most certainly make it more expensive, much like they did with higher ed. Though their intention is to make education (programming in this case) more affordable, it will actually make it less affordable in the long run. Competition will force all firms in the industry to increase quality and stay competitive in cost. A government-created standard will muck everything up: they don't know anything about coding bootcamps. Even these schools are just learning about what makes a good bootcamp and what employers are demanding out of junior developers and how to bridge that gap.

  2. Aryan Sameri

    Thanks for the post, Austin! It’s amazing to see how quickly the number of these developer bootcamps has grown over the past few years.

    As a generalist/non-technical MBA wanting to enter the technology space, I’ve personally thought about joining one of these bootcamps this upcoming summer, mainly with the goal of “understanding the language” versus wanting to be a CTO one day. While the bootcamp could be helpful for someone like me, I’m starting to realize that the time and money invested is probably not worth it (at least personally). I could probably learn the basics of the language over time by working with my CTO or a development team, and at least for what I’m hoping to do, I’ll never need to be deep in the weeds with the code.

    Based on my general observations and conversations with others, I have noticed that an older (post-undergraduate) group of individuals are joining these coding camps, however I wonder if those people are too late to the game, primarily because they would be competing with others who would have spent their college years (and perhaps even earlier) developing their coding skillset. Four or more years of training and practice certainly outweighs 10 weeks. With the technical supply/demand gap starting to close, along with the need for rapid coding/development in an increasingly competitive environment, my hypothesis is that these bootcamps may need to focus their marketing efforts on undergraduates and high-schoolers seeking to develop coding expertise. By starting earlier, future students could possibly “opt out” of taking introductory coding courses, allowing them to spend more time learning advanced skills in college, while also perhaps giving them the skillsets to develop innovative technologies during a period of their lives where time is relatively more available/flexible.

    • Austin Archibald

      Aryan, I actually did a coding bootcamp this past summer… It is a big time commitment but cost was relatively cheap (I did Bloc – online – which I think has much more value than the expensive CA bootcamps). I'm really glad I did. Much like that TheLadders guy in our class a week ago, I think there is huge value in the ability to build your own prototypes. Once you learn one language, it's easier to learn others… These bootcamps give you a great foundation in ruby (backend language) and javascript (frontend language), and these javascript frameworks (Angular, Ember, React) are the future of web 3.0 applications.

      TheLadders guy isn't the CTO or spending all his time developing software… he just is hurdling that risky stage of prototyping an idea where outsourcing can be expensive, slow, and less iterative. I went to a bootcamp because like you I wanted a better understanding of the tech, but also because I wanted to work on side projects.

      The other huge thing is keeping up with the programming community… listening to a bunch of podcasts has taught me a lot about what is good tech, how to find good programmers, and what the future of the web looks like. These are all critical components of our small businesses.

  3. Sarah Zaidi

    Hi Austin,

    Thanks for such an interesting post! There's actually been a sharp increase in the number of women joining coding academies, thanks to initiatives such as "Girls Who Code" amongst others. Even if there is a tech bubble, and even if these 12-week-coders are competing with Computer Science majors who may have devoted years to studying programming, I still think the rise of these institutions is positive. For younger (school-aged) girls and women, coding is often the launch pad to being increasingly interested in STEM subjects–a development which is beneficial for society as a whole. For older women, coding camps provide them with the skills and confidence to return to the workforce after taking time off to have children. This point is especially important in developing countries or geographies where women's freedom of mobility is limited. Thanks to coding, they can access jobs from home, earning money for their family, and enhancing their status in their household. All in all, even if bootcamp developers are struggling to find jobs, as you say, for many women around the world, a coding bootcamp is exactly what the skill set they need to enhance their resume and return to (or join) the workforce.