Coding Bootcamp vs. Associate Degree

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By Kasia Kovacs

Published on August 26, 2021

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When it comes to starting a computer programming career, you may not find a one-size-fits-all approach to training.

For many, a more traditional computer science degree opens up many options. These programs include a broader curriculum, which means that students may be able to pursue more diverse career paths. Plus, associate programs can help learners make the leap to a bachelor's degree in computer science, leading to even more profitable careers.

Still, many students now opt for coding bootcamps. These training programs are often short and intense, allowing learners to get up to speed quickly and specialize in an in-demand area.

If you want to compare a coding bootcamp vs. associate degree in computer science, this guide can help you out. Read on to learn about which program may suit you and your career goalsthe best.

true Curriculum

Associate programs in computer science tend to take a general approach, teaching students to master a few different programming and markup languages, such as JavaScript, HTML, and C++. Students may also take related courses in software engineering and web development. During their two years of study, they may also enroll in general education courses in areas like writing and communication.

Bootcamps, on the other hand, usually focus on one specific area. For instance, students may develop skills in front-end development, data science, or UX/UI design. This hyper-focused learning appeals to individuals who know their specific career goals.

true Salary Potential

Many students believe bootcamps provide a good return on investment. They believe they will finish their program quickly, and find a well-paying job soon after graduation.

However, the reality is a bit more complicated. Salary potential for coding bootcamp grads depends on many factors, including previous experience, location, employer, specialization, and education level.

For instance, an entry-level web developer earns an average salary of $50,690, according to PayScale data from August 2021. In contrast, a late-career web developer makes an average annual income of $81,680.

Even though a bootcamp may prepare students to jump into the industry, a college degree may help them negotiate higher salaries. That is one reason why students might consider an associate degree as a better return on investment.

true Cost

Bootcamp costs vary but typically range between $10,000-$15,000. Some bootcamps can cost as little as a few thousand dollars, while the most expensive options charge over $20,000. Using data from 620 bootcamps, BestColleges found that the median bootcamp tuition in 2020 was $13,500.

When considering tuition, fees, and room and board for full-time students, the average cost of an associate degree surpasses bootcamp costs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, that average annual cost amounted to over $11,000 in 2018-2019. That is over $22,000 over the course of two years.

Keep in mind that many community colleges offer scholarships, federal financial aid, and other forms of financial assistance to help lower these costs. Some states offer programs that allow high-achieving high school students to attend community college at a lower price or for free.

There are scholarships for bootcamps, but they are harder to find. Bootcamps also do not qualify for federal financial aid programs.

Many students decide to take out bootcamp loans from private lenders or enter an income share agreement (ISA). These ISAs allow students to enroll without paying full tuition. After they graduate and find a job, they pay a portion of their salary for a set period of time.

true Program Length

One of the main distinctions between coding bootcamps and associate degrees is the time commitment.

Associate degrees traditionally take two years for full-time students. Learners who enroll part time generally take longer to graduate. Students who choose associate degrees usually attend class for only a few hours a day, completing homework assignments and projects on their own time.

Bootcamps follow a much shorter time frame, which appeals to many students who choose this path. Bootcamps often last 12 weeks, although timelines can range from a few weeks to six months.

The shorter time frame and more intensive nature of bootcamps mean that students remain in classes and work on projects every day, often for several hours per day. Therefore, this faster timeline usually requires a more significant commitment in students' day-to-day schedules.

Career Potential

Both coding bootcamps and computer science associate degrees can lead to lucrative careers.

Associate degree-holders can find work as programmers, web developers, and computer support specialists. An associate degree also lays the foundation for further education, such as bachelor's programs in computer science, web development, database management, and network administration. These degrees can lead to careers with even higher salary potential.

Coding bootcamps tend to offer more intensive programs that focus on specific skills, such as a specific coding language, front-end or back-end programming, data analysis, or UX/UI design. Coding bootcamp jobs, therefore, are closely related to those topics. Graduates become front-end, back-end, or full-stack web developers; data analysts; software engineers; and UX or UI designers.

Bootcamps also build in extra support in helping students launch their careers. They offer career preparation services and job search training.

Why Choose Between Coding Bootcamp and Associate Degree?

Sometimes, the question isn't about a coding bootcamp vs. associate degree. Many individuals decide to enroll in both to add an impressive edge to their resume. A computer science degree can provide a more general computer science foundation, while a bootcamp can help you specialize in a specific coding language or skill.

Additionally, bootcamps often provide career preparation. Bootcamp students participate in mock interviews, get feedback on their resumes and cover letters, and benefit from mentorship. However, colleges might host career fairs with potential employers, and professors can also help with professional connections.

Frequently Asked Questions About Coding Bootcamp vs. Associate Degree

true Is bootcamp better than a degree?

Many students prefer bootcamps because they can graduate much more quickly. Others might choose an associate degree because they want to learn in an accredited program, or because they prefer to gain a broader computer science education.

true Can you get a job with just coding bootcamp?

Yes. One of the main draws of coding bootcamps is their commitment to finding jobs for graduates. Students participate in career and interview preparation exercises, and some bootcamps maintain partnerships with employers in their local areas.

true Is a bootcamp considered a school?

A bootcamp is not considered a school in the same way that you might consider a college or university a school. Bootcamps do not go through the same accreditation and regulatory processes as higher education institutions.

Discover the various career opportunities available to coding bootcamp graduates. Learn how to determine whether a CS degree or coding bootcamp is the right choice for your career goals. Thinking about getting an in-person or online associate degree in computer science? Learn about this degree, the job prospects, and the salary potential.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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