Why Aren’t Bootcamps Accredited?

Coding bootcamps typically do not hold accreditation. Here's what prospective students need to know about accreditation before applying to bootcamps.
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  • Reputable colleges and universities hold accreditation from independent agencies.
  • Hardly any bootcamps hold accreditation, which has pros and cons for students.
  • Prospective students can use other measures to assess the quality of potential bootcamps.

Accreditation recognizes schools that meet high educational standards. But nearly every coding bootcamp operates without accreditation — even university coding bootcamps. Why aren't bootcamps accredited? Are there any accredited coding bootcamps? And does accreditation matter for bootcamp students?

The system of accreditation dates back over a century. And yet, the first coding bootcamps started in the early 2010s. In fact, until 2021, no coding bootcamps held accreditation. That year, the NYC Data Science Academy received national accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Continuing Education and Training. In the future, other bootcamps may also pursue accreditation.

Without accreditation, how can prospective students know whether a bootcamp delivers on its promises? Non-accredited coding bootcamps may provide information on their student outcomes, or an independent agency may report data on bootcamps. But can they be trusted?

The good news is that coding bootcamps must meet regulatory requirements to operate in certain states. However, before applying to coding bootcamps, make sure you understand accreditation and why bootcamps typically do not hold it.

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What Is Accreditation?

Accreditation ensures colleges and universities meet high standards for academic excellence. Institutions undergo a rigorous process to earn accreditation from independent accrediting agencies. These accrediting agencies review a college's graduation requirements, academic mission, and instructor qualifications. They also look at student learning outcomes and the school's graduation rate.

Institutions that exceed the accrediting agency's standards earn accreditation. Accredited schools must repeat the process regularly — typically every 5-10 years — to maintain their status. And if their quality drops, the accrediting agency can withdraw accreditation.

Why does accreditation matter for students? Accredited schools meet the requirements for federal financial aid programs. As a result, enrollees can receive Pell Grants, federal loans, and other forms of financial aid. Many professions also require applicants to possess an accredited degree. Teachers, nurses, and social workers must attend an accredited institution to receive their professional licenses.

There are two forms of accreditation in higher education: national and programmatic. National accreditation reviews entire schools and remains the gold standard. It also typically applies to trade or vocational schools and some religious schools.

Programmatic accreditation evaluates specific programs at a school. Business schools, education departments, and nursing schools hold accreditation from these specialized organizations.

Are Coding Bootcamps Accredited?

The vast majority of coding bootcamps do not hold accreditation. Why aren't bootcamps accredited? Most accredited schools offer degrees, while coding bootcamps do not. Coding bootcamps are also new compared to colleges — the first coding bootcamps opened in the 2010s.

If accreditation benefits students, does attending a non-accredited bootcamp hurt them? There are pros and cons to enrolling in a non-accredited bootcamp. Accreditation restricts the ability to change and modify teaching materials. Schools must submit their curricula to accrediting agencies. In the fast-changing world of tech, this can limit a bootcamp's ability to stay current. In addition, accreditation is expensive, so many bootcamps prefer to remain unaccredited.

However, there are downsides to an unaccredited bootcamp. First, students do not qualify for federal financial aid for bootcamps. Accreditation also offers an external review of academic quality and financial solvency. Learners must instead look to other sources to assess these critical factors.

University Coding Bootcamps

A growing number of universities offer coding bootcamps. Do those bootcamps hold accreditation through the school? No, university coding bootcamps do not receive accreditation. Universities categorize their bootcamps under professional development or continuing education programs. As a result, the school's accreditation does not extend to the bootcamp.

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Do Any Other Agencies Assess Bootcamp Quality?

Colleges developed the system of accreditation to demonstrate their quality. Similarly, bootcamps have their own agency to assess quality. The Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR), a nonprofit agency, reviews bootcamps and reports their results.

CIRR focuses on several key metrics to assess quality:

  • The on-time graduation rate
  • The number of graduates working full time in the field six months after graduation
  • The average salaries of graduates

CIRR also reports the percentage of students who take jobs outside of the bootcamp field and how many work part time.

Bootcamps report data to CIRR, which reviews the data for accuracy. Although CIRR is not an accrediting agency, it offers useful information for prospective students. The data helps learners make an informed decision about coding bootcamps. Major bootcamps like Fullstack Academy and Codesmith are CIRR members.

Other Ways to Research Quality

Prospective students can research quality in other ways. Coding bootcamps provide information on student outcomes, and alumni provide valuable insights. Before signing up for an intensive bootcamp, learners can also consider a shorter introductory class to determine the quality of a program.

Research Student Outcomes Data

Bootcamps provide data on their student outcomes. Most published information on the number of graduates who land full-time jobs within six months of completing the program. Many also report salary averages. Prospective students can ask bootcamps for this data or find it on their website. If a bootcamp refuses to turn over the information, take that as a red flag.

Reach Out to Alumni or Faculty

Alumni, faculty, and current students can give prospective students an insider perspective on the program. Use tools like LinkedIn to find current or former students. Ask them about their experiences in the program, and learn about their career progression after completing the bootcamp.

Enroll in a Prep Program

An intensive coding bootcamp can easily cost $15,000 or more. Before enrolling, sign up for a bootcamp prep program. For example, Flatiron School offers free prep courses, while Fullstack Academy charges up to $200 for a prep course. Ask prospective bootcamps if they offer a free or low-cost course to learn more about the rigor and expectations.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bootcamps Accreditation

Do coding bootcamps give you a certificate?

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Many coding bootcamps offer a certificate of completion. However, this differs from a certificate awarded by an accredited college. Certificate programs typically require students to complete 15-25 credits of college-level coursework. In contrast, coding bootcamps do not grant credit. Instead, learners complete lessons and assignments in their focus area, such as web development, data science, or UX/UI design.

Some coding bootcamps also offer courses in popular programming languages like JavaScript, Python, and the C-languages. After completing a bootcamp, which generally takes around 12-20 weeks, graduates may receive a certificate of completion.

Are bootcamps better than degrees?

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A bootcamp offers pros and cons compared to a college degree. Bootcamps take significantly less time than a degree to complete. Learners can often complete an accelerated bootcamp in as little as three months. In comparison, most certificate programs take 6-12 months, while an associate degree takes two years. A bachelor's degree generally takes around four years for full-time students.

A bootcamp often costs less than a degree as well. However, a degree includes a broader range of coursework and more extensive studies than a bootcamp. Bootcamps offer career-focused training, while degrees build a broader set of hard and soft skills.

Do employers hire bootcamp graduates?

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Yes, many employers hire bootcamp graduates, including major tech companies. After a bootcamp, tech professionals can work at smaller tech organizations, start-ups, and large companies.

In 2019, about 79% of bootcamp graduates found a job in their field within six months of completing the bootcamp. And employers report a need for bootcamp grads. According to the 2021 BestColleges Bootcamp Trends Report, more than half of tech business leaders say bootcamps will play a central role in meeting their workforce needs. With many tech companies facing a talent gap, bootcamps serve a vital demand.

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