Certificates and bootcamps pack in-demand IT skills into a self-paced or fast-tracked curriculum. Where you go and what you study depends on your career goals.

Coding Bootcamps and Certificates

Programs That Accelerate Your Career

  • Certificates and bootcamps can enhance your resume or help you change careers.
  • While flexible and affordable, these programs do not replicate a four-year degree.
  • Be sure to enroll in programs with accreditation or an established reputation in the industry.

Computer and information technology is one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative industries in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that occupations in this field will grow 12% through 2028, adding over 546,000 jobs to the U.S. economy.

Individual careers within the IT industry are poised for even greater growth. For example, employment of software developers is expected to grow by an astounding 21% — over three times the national average.

To take advantage of these job opportunities, you can pursue a traditional bachelor's in computer science or a related field. Alternatively, you can enroll in a college certificate program or coding bootcamp and learn some of the same skills in more condensed formats.

Aside from offering flexibility, these alternative tracks can help college graduates with unrelated degrees shift to computer science and information technology. But keep in mind that the best program for you depends on your interests, career goals, and schedule.

A man in thick-framed glasses and a striped casual sweater intently inspects lines of code on his laptop.

Certificate Programs

Technical certificate programs in IT and computer science typically take place over 8-12 months and are taught in on-campus, hybrid, or fully online formats. Certificates are non-degree programs that, in most cases, are offered through regionally or nationally accredited colleges and universities. It's never advisable to earn a certificate through a program that hasn't earned accreditation.

Certificate programs focus on a sub-topic within the larger field. Because of this, do not replicate the depth of a four-year computer science degree. However, they are certainly useful for beefing up or gaining introductory knowledge in a particular area. Certificates are typically offered in subjects such as the following.

  • Software development
  • Data visualization
  • Machine learning
  • Information security
  • C++
  • C# programming

Coding Bootcamps

Coding bootcamps, also known as code schools, prepare you for entry-level roles in IT or computer science through a condensed, rigorous format. These programs vary in length and quality based on their content, structure, and admission criteria. For example, Hack Reactor offers a 12-week accelerated program, Evolve Security's Bootcamp Pro track spans 17 weeks, and Turing School's comprehensive front-end development program takes a seven-month commitment.

While coding bootcamps are an effective introduction to IT and computer science and can secure you entry-level roles, they are not comparable to a four-year computer science degree. Bootcamps tend to cover particular skills needed within the industry, such as web development. They are also more practically oriented, focusing on real-world applications over theoretical problems. Below are some examples of the subjects you'd encounter in a coding bootcamp.

  • Front-end development (HTML, Javascript, CSS)
  • Back-end languages (Python)
  • Web development
  • UX/UI design
  • Data science and visualization
  • Blockchain
  • Machine learning and artificial intelligence

A woman in a comfortable turtleneck sits cross-legged on a bed, typing on a laptop computer.

Should You Enroll in Certificate or Bootcamp Programs?

IT certificate programs and coding bootcamps provide highly focused training in a relatively short amount of time. Your career goals, schedule, and finances will ultimately determine which option works best for you.

Technical certificates from accredited universities are sure to meet current industry standards. Bootcamps, however, are not regionally or nationally accredited unless they are affiliated with a university, so the quality of individual programs may vary. Some employers may value college credentials over private bootcamp training, especially if you have little or no relevant work experience.

Enrolling in a certificate program grants you the name recognition and resources of a higher education institution, but they can be more expensive than a bootcamp. Some bootcamps offer innovative repayment plans, such as income-sharing agreements, that are meant to guarantee job placement.

Technical certificates from accredited universities are sure to meet current industry standards. Bootcamps, however, are not regionally or nationally accredited unless they are affiliated with a university.

No matter which option you choose, the most important indicator of your success is your employment. To this end, bootcamps excel at helping you develop practical, in-demand skills in popular IT subfields. One drawback, however, is the narrow scope of bootcamp curricula. You may become competent in a particular skill without understanding the theoretical foundations of computer science, which can hinder career advancement later on.

That said, students who have already studied computer science can also leverage bootcamps and certificates to gain additional knowledge and further advance their careers. The utility of these programs will depend entirely on your professional background and ambitions.

Career Benefits of Certificate and Bootcamp Programs

Technical certificate programs and coding bootcamps are a cost-efficient way to pursue a wide variety of IT careers. As you decide between a certificate program and bootcamp, consider your desired career and how the program will help you develop the core skill-set that employers expect of entry-level professionals.

Train for a New Career

If you recently graduated from college, regardless of your major, certificate programs and coding bootcamps can help you jumpstart a lucrative IT career. If you are a seasoned professional looking to change careers, or if you are already an IT professional and want to add to your toolkit, bootcamps and certificates may enable you to continue working as you learn new skills.

The majority of bootcamps focus on full-stack web development, with particular emphasis on Javascript.

Both certificate programs and bootcamps cover fundamental topics like computer programming, coding languages, and IT ethics. However, a certificate program's curriculum includes theory alongside practical application.

Coding bootcamps tailor curricula to employer needs, sometimes altering content on the fly to cater to industry trends. The majority of bootcamps focus on full-stack web development, with many bootcamps also focusing on software engineering, data science, and cybersecurity.

In addition to skill development, certificate programs and bootcamps offer career support. Services differ by school, but this can include one-on-one coaching, resume writing assistance, interview guidance, and even job placement with institutional and commercial partners.

Evolve into a New Role

Programs and bootcamps are not just for people who want to break into IT. They can also benefit industry professionals who want to add skills to their repertoire. Rather than starting at square one with foundational curriculum, returning students can train in specialized areas like cybersecurity analytics or UX/UI design.

Many programs also allow you to defer tuition payment until after graduation, or pay with a part of your salary over time.

Another high-demand specialization for IT professionals is data science, which increasingly drives business. Data science skills allow you to capture, extract, and analyze useful information from vast data sets using mining and visualization techniques.

The ever-changing nature of technology rewards professionals who keep abreast of new ideas and practices through continuing education.

To recruit working professionals, certificate programs and coding bootcamps increasingly provide part-time, self-paced, and remote enrollment options. Many programs also allow you to defer tuition payment until after graduation, or pay with a part of your salary over time through income sharing agreements.

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How to Find the Right Program for You

  • Ask Your Contacts

    If you work in the IT field, consult colleagues about their experiences with certificate programs and coding bootcamps. You can also ask for guidance through LinkedIn forums and other online professional networks.

  • Talk to Your Current Employer

    Employers may also be able to give first-hand accounts of the certificate or bootcamp process. They may also offer financial support. Many companies will pay partial or full tuition for employees' continuing education, particularly if you're already in the teach industry.

  • Check Local Schools

    In addition to internet research, consult nearby schools about certificate and bootcamp offerings. Online learning platforms allow you to take classes anywhere, but by enrolling close to home you can access campus perks and lower tuition prices. Local schools can also help you network with IT professionals and employers in your community.

  • Find an Accredited School

    When looking at certificate programs, ensure the college maintains national or regional accreditation. While coding bootcamps that are unaffiliated with universities are not accredited, the best coding bootcamps are still licensed by their home state's regulatory body. You can also check out the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting, a nonprofit that maintains the common framework for reporting on, documenting, and auditing student outcomes among participating bootcamps.

  • Research Job Outcomes

    The diversity of certificate and bootcamp options allow you to be strategic. Look into the hiring practices of major employers in your industry. What experience and skills do they emphasize? Examine prospective programs learning outcomes for those skills, then check student success rates. If a bootcamp specializes in data science, figure out how many of their graduates now work in that field.

  • Find a Program That Works for Your Schedule

    Certificate programs (especially online programs) generally offer full-time, part-time, and accelerated tracks. Bootcamps also cater to the needs of diverse students, but the scheduling is more intense. If you work a full-time job, a bootcamp that requires 40-80 hours of work each week may not be feasible.

  • If It’s Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is

    Certificate programs through accredited colleges and universities are guaranteed to be legitimate. Coding bootcamps, which largely operate as for-profit entities, may need a closer look. Ask about graduation rate and how many graduates land an IT job. Keep an eye out for pushy recruiters and exaggerated promises. Don't enroll in programs without an established online and professional reputation.