How to Navigate Coding Bootcamp Outcomes Data
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When you're choosing a coding bootcamp, you're making a significant investment in your career. You deserve to know what your chances are of finding a tech job after graduating. However, understanding coding bootcamp outcomes data can be overwhelming and confusing. You might find yourself wondering, "Can I trust this data?"
Read on to learn more about student outcomes data, what data you can rely on, and how to use this information to find the best coding bootcamp for you.
What Is Student Outcomes Data?
Student outcomes data is a way of measuring coding bootcamp results. Outcomes data usually includes information like the percentage of students who finished the program on schedule, the percentage of graduates who found jobs in their field, and the average salary level of graduates who found tech jobs after completing the bootcamp.
Unlike traditional higher education institutions, coding bootcamps are usually unaccredited. Most bootcamps are for-profit organizations, although you can find a few nonprofit bootcamps.
Typically, the only body regulating coding bootcamps in the U.S. is the Attorney General of the state in which the bootcamp is located. In a few states, an educational oversight agency regulates in-state coding bootcamps, like California's Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) and the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
Many bootcamps display job outcomes on their websites. Unfortunately, some bootcamps manipulate the language they use in order to make their outcomes data seem better. So what student outcomes data can you trust to help you pick a top coding bootcamp?
Where to Find Student Outcomes Data
Student outcomes data may be published by coding bootcamps themselves, industry councils, and/or state boards. You can use this data to evaluate the likelihood of getting a job if you attend that bootcamp. Not all data sources are created equal, though. Here are the primary places you can find outcomes data.
Council on Integrity Results Reporting
The Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR) is a nonprofit organization that was created to establish trust in the coding bootcamp industry. Their mission: to set transparent standards and collect data from bootcamps that account for 100% of students, which allows for straightforward bootcamp outcomes comparisons. Bootcamps join CIRR voluntarily, and the organization has no regulatory authority.
With multiple reports, you can get a more comprehensive picture of the bootcamp's performance over time.
You can find individual reports from CIRR member bootcamps that show how many students started the program, how many graduated, how many obtained employment in their field after graduation, what kind of employment graduates found, and starting salary information.
Some bootcamps have only submitted data once, while others submit data multiple times a year. Finding multiple reports from multiple years is a better indicator of a bootcamp's overall trustworthiness than finding just one report.
With multiple reports, you can get a more comprehensive picture of the bootcamp's performance over time. If a bootcamp only has one published report, it may have had a single high-performing year and then left CIRR because the next year's outcomes were poor.
Additionally, while report auditing is one of CIRR's standards, the most recent reports published on CIRR's website may not have been audited yet — audits are only required once per year. If you're unsure if a report on CIRR's website has been audited, reach out to the organization to double-check and obtain more information.
Some states have their own governing bodies that regulate for-profit education, like California's BPPE. The BPPE requires coding bootcamps operating in the state to register with the bureau, follow specific guidelines and obtain certain licenses, and report student outcomes. However, despite these requirements, some bootcamps operating in California do not have outcomes data listed on the BPPE's website.
Looking up bootcamp alumni on LinkedIn is another way to learn about student outcomes. You can see where some alumni are now and what types of jobs they've had since they graduated.
To find bootcamp graduates on LinkedIn, search for the job title you'd like to pursue after completing your bootcamp and add the bootcamp you're considering in the "bootcamps" section of the advanced search filter options.
Don't be afraid to connect with these alumni and add a note to your connection request. If you let them know that you're considering attending the bootcamp they went to and would like to hear about their experience, many of these alumni will be happy to talk to you.
However, because LinkedIn is a self-promotion tool, it's important to avoid taking the alumni experiences you discover via LinkedIn as a guaranteed outcome or representative of that bootcamp's outcomes as a whole. For instance, bootcamp participants who did not finish their program or who weren't able to find a job in tech may not list the bootcamp on their LinkedIn profile.
If you're interested in a particular bootcamp, there is a strong possibility you can find some outcomes data on that bootcamp's website. However, if this data is not explicitly evaluated by a third party, take this information with a grain of salt. Some coding bootcamps have been called out for manipulating student outcomes on their websites.
How to Pick a Coding Bootcamp Based on Outcomes Data
Now that you know where to find bootcamps outcomes data, let's cover how to interpret it. While you should definitely investigate bootcamp outcomes when picking a program, you should also understand how these reports may be manipulated.
Also keep in mind that it's important to consider more than just outcomes data when picking a coding bootcamp. Just because a bootcamp boasts a high job placement rate doesn't mean the program will work for you. Every student has unique learning needs and prior experience. Understanding the other elements you want in a bootcamp before consulting outcomes data will help you narrow your search.
A bootcamp's outcomes data can be skewed depending on how the bootcamp defines different keywords in its report.
For instance, how a bootcamp defines "job" can inflate its employment rates. Any of these types of employment may be included in a bootcamp's definition:
- A job in an industry that the bootcamp does not provide specific training for
- Internship positions
- Contract positions
- Freelance work
- Part-time roles
The way a bootcamp defines "job-seeker" can also change outcomes data. Bootcamps may require "job-seekers" to:
- Complete coursework for their job search
- Follow the bootcamp's career advice criteria
- Apply for a specific amount of jobs per week
- Attend networking events, demonstration days, or hiring events
Using a longer or shorter reporting period can affect outcomes data, too. For example, a longer reporting period, such as a year, could result in a higher percentage of graduates landing jobs than a shorter reporting cycle of 3-6 months. Look out for whether the bootcamp specifies if its employment rates are within a certain period after graduation, such as 60 or 180 days.
Additionally, some providers offer self-paced bootcamps, which can make graduation data difficult to compare across programs. Without a fixed course length, self-paced bootcamps cannot accurately report an on-time graduation rate that is comparable to the graduation rates of other programs that have a fixed course length.
A bootcamp may or may not let you know what definitions it uses. If you find self-reported bootcamp data online that lack definitions or get confused about the definitions you see, reach out to the bootcamp directly with your questions.
Potential Red Flags
Not all bootcamps are honest about their outcomes data. Some bootcamps, such as Holberton School and Lambda School, have been called out for their inaccurate outcomes data. In order to make outcomes data seem better than it is, some bootcamps may massage data or look for reporting loopholes.
Here's how a coding bootcamp might manipulate its graduate data:
- Define "graduate," "job," or "job-seeker" in ways that are not straightforward or are counter to typical assumptions
- Not report their graduation rates
- Release data only from a time period when results was unusually good
- Not release data for time periods of relatively poor performance
- Release data for an extremely small sample size
- Expel underperforming students to increase graduation and placement rates
- Omit the number of students who failed, dropped out of, or withdrew from the program
Signs of potential data tampering include a bootcamp only publishing one data report over the course of several years or reporting an unusually high job placement rate.
However, it's also possible for bootcamps to manipulate data in ways that may go undetected to the average prospective student. Because of that fact, it's best practice not to rely on outcomes data alone when looking for the best coding bootcamp. Generally, data that has not been audited by a third party is probably not trustworthy.
Calculating Your Likelihood of Finding a Job
Another important thing to note is that a bootcamp's employment rate is usually determined based on the number of students who graduated. If you want a more accurate representation of your chances of both graduating and finding a job after completing a bootcamp, you'll need to multiply the bootcamp's graduation rate by its job placement rate.
You may find that this percentage is quite a bit lower than the advertised employment rate, depending on how many students successfully complete the program. Calculating this number can be a better way to use outcomes data to help you decide between your top bootcamp programs.
Of course, whatever rate you calculate isn't a guarantee — whether you are actually able to graduate and find a tech job depends on a variety of factors.
Why Some Bootcamps May Not Report Outcomes Data
Gathering and reporting outcomes data requires a lot of work. Bootcamps have to gather data from scattered alumni who may not be responsive, compile and analyze that information, and possibly get the data audited. This may explain why some bootcamps don't report outcomes data. You can always ask a bootcamp why it doesn't report outcomes, as well.