There are a lot of learning opportunities available to beginning coders. But what kind of course should you choose? In this article, we discuss the differences between a few different learning models: online coding courses, coding bootcamps, and bootcamp prep courses.

What Is a Coding Course?

An online coding course typically covers a focused, specific set of computer programming skills in a relatively short amount of time. These courses may investigate a broad variety of topics, from basic coding to advanced topics in areas like data science, machine learning, and software development.

Online coding courses may use a self-paced format, or they may follow a set schedule with virtual meeting times. Most of these courses include a mix of video instruction, written instruction, and coding exercises. Some include bigger coding projects, as well as peer-based learning in group projects and community forums.

Many well-known platforms offer these courses, such as Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, edX, and Codecademy. Online coding courses are often relatively inexpensive, and sometimes they may even be free.

Because of their short timeframe, narrow focus, and low cost, these types of courses can be a good opportunity for students new to coding. Learners can try their hand at coding before committing to a longer, more comprehensive bootcamp.

Additionally, coding courses in specialized topics allow established technology professionals to hone a specific skill or learn something new. These students can pursue the professional development they need to further their career without having to spend a lot of time reviewing topics they have already mastered.

What Is a Coding Bootcamp?

A coding bootcamp is an intensive, career-focused program for those wanting to learn how to code and find a job in the tech industry. Coding bootcamps offer a path to a potentially lucrative computer programming career that can be quicker and more affordable than earning a computer science degree.

Bootcamps come in a variety of learning formats and schedules, including online, in-person, part-time, full-time, and self-paced options. These different formats offer flexibility for students who have a full-time job or want to finish coursework at their own pace. Most full-time programs take about three to four months, while part-time programs can take upwards of six months.

Coding bootcamp curricula usually mix skill-specific training with job placement support. Bootcamps typically include instruction in various programming languages like Python and JavaScript, while also emphasizing coding projects, portfolio-building, and interview training.

Bootcamps often focus on a particular technical skill set, such as web development, software engineering, cybersecurity, data science, or user experience design. In comparison to a short online course, bootcamps typically offer a broader foundation in these skill sets, preparing students for a future career in tech.

The median cost of a coding bootcamp was $13,500 in 2020, according to pricing data from over 600 bootcamp programs collected by BestColleges. Bootcamps offer a variety of financial assistance and payment options, including scholarships, loans, income share agreements, and deferred tuition plans where payment isn't due until after the graduate secures employment.

What Is a Bootcamp Prep Course?

Bootcamp prep courses lay the foundation for future bootcamp coursework by getting students up to speed and teaching them coding fundamentals. Prep courses are usually offered for free (or for a low cost) by a bootcamp provider, allowing you to make sure coding is something that truly interests you before you apply to a more intensive program.

While bootcamp prep courses may cover the same material as other online coding courses, the curriculum is often tailored to the skills you will need to succeed in a specific bootcamp program. Coding prep classes can also get you ready for entrance examinations, interviews, or portfolio reviews required for some more competitive bootcamps.

Bootcamp prep courses vary in duration. Flatiron School, for instance, offers a free coding prep course that includes about 75 hours of programming lessons. Prep courses often follow a self-paced format.

Frequently Asked Questions About Coding Courses vs. Coding Bootcamps

How can I learn to code for free?

You can learn to code for free by finding free coding classes online at sites such as Codecademy and Coursera. Many bootcamps also offer free bootcamp prep online that can help you learn introductory coding.

Is a coding bootcamp worth it?

Depending on your needs, coding bootcamps can be worth it. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that computer and information technology jobs will increase by 11% between 2019 and 2029, so the demand for coding professionals is likely to continue.

Bootcamps can help enhance the skill sets of seasoned professionals and help new coders break into a lucrative field. Many coding bootcamps offer career coaching and report successful employment outcomes for many of their graduates.

How can I teach myself to code?

Many online coding courses and bootcamp prep courses offer a self-paced format, so that you can direct your own learning. These courses often include instructional videos and coding exercises that you can use to teach yourself to code. You can find introductory coding courses for free on many online platforms.

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