The tech industry continues to grow, making it an appealing profession for anyone just beginning their careers or embarking on a career change. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of software developers could increase by 22% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average projected growth rate across all professions.
Many in the tech industry make relatively high salaries, too. BLS figures show that the median income for software developers reached $107,510 in 2019.
Programming professionals -- such as web developers, software developers, and software engineers -- work at major technology companies, like Facebook and Google. Others choose the self-employed route, which allows them to set their own schedules.
For these reasons, many people decide to make the career switch to programming. However, for some, this can seem like a daunting step; after all, changing professions means investing more money and time into training. An increasing number of career switchers are asking the question: Can you learn to code for free?
These days, the answer is yes. Coding bootcamps often offer free introductory coding courses in addition to their months-long programs that can cost thousands of dollars.
This guide features a list of reputable free coding bootcamps. You can also learn about the advantages and disadvantages of free coding courses, and whether they're worth your time.
Browse All Free Coding Bootcamps and Courses
- Alchemy Code Lab
Alchemy Code Lab offers software development training based in downtown Portland. Among its programs, it offers a week-long course that is completely free. This virtual course includes 30 hours of instructor-led training. Since the course follows an online format, students can live anywhere in the U.S.
Distance learners log on from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST Monday through Friday, and learn about the basics of coding. The course can serve as a foundation for more advanced bootcamps. Students also need to complete "pre-work" before the class begins.
- App Academy
Students can receive support by chatting online with the App Academy coder community. However, individuals who sign up for the free plan do not have access to other benefits like job placement services, instructor support, and the alumni network.
- Code Platoon
The course follows a self-paced format and includes 12 sessions. Students watch 2.25 hours of instructional video and complete 140 coding challenges throughout the course. Learners can enroll in this remote program from their homes.
Codecademy's free classes generally offer introductory knowledge. If students want to learn more, they can upgrade to a pro account for a monthly fee. Pro classes cover more advanced material and a greater variety of skills and programming languages.
- Eleven Fifty Academy
Eleven Fifty Academy operates as a nonprofit coding and cybersecurity school in Indianapolis. Students may enroll in classes locally, or they can take advantage of free online courses that last 2-3 hours. Eleven Fifty Academy hosts these courses as livestreams during evenings and weekends so that working professionals can join.
These courses take an introductory approach to programming, covering skills like HTML, CSS, cybersecurity, and UX/UI design. Students also receive information about the paid bootcamp options available at Eleven Fifty Academy.
Epicodus offers coding bootcamps in Seattle, Portland, and online. Individuals interested in coding can take advantage of Epicodus' one-day free coding workshop, which lasts for four hours. Epicodus facilitates these workshops online, and they allow potential bootcamp students to take a sample class to decide whether they are interested in enrolling. Students who participate in this free workshop are generally new to coding.
- Flatiron School
Flatiron School runs multiple immersive bootcamps in specialties like software engineering, data science, and cybersecurity. Students can also enroll in a free online coding bootcamp meant as a preparatory course for its more intensive bootcamps.
Courses last 300 hours and require five hands-on projects. Students receive a certificate upon course completion that they can add to their resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Additionally, students can work through a coding interview preparation course. Students also have a chance to connect and network with other coders through the school's online forum, GitHub, and Twitter.
- Fullstack Academy
Complete beginners may benefit most from this course. Additionally, this class can serve as a first step to enrolling in one of Fullstack Academy's more intensive bootcamps.
- General Assembly
General Assembly offers immersive bootcamps focusing on topics like software engineering, UX design, and data science. Although General Assembly charges tuition for its bootcamps, it also publishes several free resources online.
Students can find classes, guides, and other tools in an online database of free educational resources. For instance, they can view an introduction to coding livestream, read an ebook called "A Beginner's Guide to SQL, Python, and Machine Learning," and take a free online course teaching web development basics.
- Hack Reactor
The free version follows a self-paced format, and it can serve as a good option for anyone who works well independently. The premium prep course costs $250 and comes with real-time, one-on-one support from teaching assistants.
- Hackbright Academy
Hackbright Academy provides software engineering courses for women online and at its San Francisco location. For students who do not necessarily want to commit to an extended bootcamp, Hackbright offers a free online learning module. The six-week course introduces students to the basics of Python programming. Each lesson lasts about 1-2 hours, which students can work through at their own pace.
Springboard offers a free online Python course that focuses on Python for data science. The program uses a real dataset, and learners solve problems as they make their way through four units. Students learn about data science tools, transforming data for analysis, and exploring data through plots and statistics.
Students can enroll in the course any time and work through it at their own pace, without an instructor. This course is not for complete beginners; although students do not need advanced knowledge of Python, they should have some foundational skills.
Are Free Coding Bootcamps Any Good?
Free coding resources vary in quality. The programs listed above fall into two main categories: free preparatory courses and free learning resources.
Many reputable bootcamps offer free introductory or prep courses intended to get those new to programming up to speed before they apply to the bootcamp's paid programs. Anyone can enroll in these programs to learn about the basics of programming. They are also a good way to find out if a specific bootcamp is a good fit before you apply. However, if you enroll in these free prep courses with the intention of becoming an expert programmer within a few weeks, then your expectations may be too high.
Other organizations, like freeCodeCamp and Codecademy, offer completely free resources for people who want to learn coding. The entire purpose of these organizations is to help people learn programming skills for free, and they're funded through alternative means like donations. freeCodeCamp even grants certificates of course completion so that students can use these free courses to help launch a programming career.
You may find other free coding bootcamps or classes not included on our list. However, some programs lack substantive learning resources, and some may include unadvertised fees. Make sure to go over course descriptions thoroughly and read reviews to ascertain these programs' legitimacy. You can also reach out directly to the schools or organizations offering these bootcamps and ask them questions about outcomes and costs.
Pros and Cons of Free Coding Bootcamps
- Free coding bootcamps are a low-risk way to dip your toes into the coding world and see if programming is a good career option for you. Enrolling directly in a paid bootcamp requires investing thousands of dollars and dedicating several months to studying. Choosing a free bootcamp eliminates the risk of losing the money and time you could spend on a paid bootcamp if it turns out not to be the right career choice for you.
- Free bootcamps are usually self-paced and flexible. Instead of having to attend class sessions at specific times and following a structured schedule, students usually work through the material at their own pace. This means that students who work full time, care for families, or attend school can fit these free programs into their schedules.
- Students don't need to commit to any financial investment. Free bootcamps allow students to start their studies without any payments. They can decide whether they want to invest thousands of dollars in bootcamp tuition later on.
- Free coding bootcamps generally do not offer live support. Many free coding programs employ a self-paced format, and students can access the course materials at any time. But students also typically do not have access to the lecturers, advisors, or mentors that would come with a paid bootcamp.
- Free bootcamps usually only offer foundational training, not the in-depth training needed to land a job. If aspiring coders go this route, they may need to enroll in a more immersive bootcamp that offers advanced training later on, or pay for advanced coding courses offered by other educational providers.
- Free coding bootcamps typically do not offer job placement assistance or career counseling. Almost all bootcamps that charge tuition include these services as a part of the program, which can help students get a good return on their tuition investment. But if students rely on free bootcamps, they must prepare their job search materials and make industry connections on their own.
Will Free Coding Bootcamps Help Me Get a Job?
You can land a programming job after attending a free coding camp. However, this requires significant self-discipline and hard work. Since these programs typically use a self-paced format, students cannot rely on an instructor or schedule to keep them on track. Instead, they need considerable motivation and a solid work ethic to succeed.
It also requires you to choose a bootcamp that adequately prepares you for a job. Although many well-known coding bootcamps offer free preparatory courses, they often will not teach you all of the skills you need to begin a tech career.
Instead, consider a more comprehensive resource like freeCodeCamp. Each module requires 300 hours of study, and students can learn advanced programming skills. Plus, students receive a certificate once they complete each course, which can be added to a resume or portfolio.
Enrolling in a bootcamp that charges tuition may be a surer route to getting a job with maximum salary potential. Although these programs generally cost thousands of dollars, many offer income share agreements or deferred tuition plans that don't require students to pay until after they have graduated from the program and found a job.
Students can also pay for a bootcamp through monthly installments or loans, and some bootcamps even grant scholarships. In addition, a graduate's increased salary potential may help offset bootcamp tuition costs. Many bootcamps and the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting publish data about employment rates and average earnings for bootcamp graduates, helping prospective students decide whether to invest in these programs.
Frequently Asked Questions About Free Coding Bootcamps
- Are free coding bootcamps worth it?
The answer to this question really depends on you, the student. Think about your goals: Do you know for sure that you want to start a career in programming? In that case, enrolling in a free prep course might not be for you. But if you want to enroll in a free bootcamp as a test run to evaluate coding as a potential career, then introductory courses can certainly have value.
- Are there free online coding bootcamps?
Yes. Several organizations offer free online coding bootcamps. In fact, free bootcamps delivered online are often easier to find than free in-person bootcamps, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Are there free in-person coding bootcamps?
You may be able to find some free in-person bootcamps at local schools, libraries, and community centers. However, these are less common than online options.
- How much does a bootcamp cost?
According to data collected by BestColleges in 2020, the average coding bootcamp costs $13,579, but tuition can vary from just a couple thousand dollars to over $20,000. To find out more about how much bootcamps cost -- and how to pay for them -- visit this resource.