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Boom or bust: The lowdown on code academies

Dan Tynan | Feb. 11, 2014
Programming boot camps are on the rise, but can a crash course in coding truly pay off for students and employers alike?

The first step on a long journey
Still, Johnson admits that "zero to hero" success stories are rare.

"Most people won't go from knowing nothing about computers to joining a startup as a Web dev," Johnson says. "The benefit of these schools over a traditional degree program is that they offer a more flexible option for people to reach their career objectives depending on where they are in life."

People with no prior coding experience are "not going to be great developers when they graduate — that takes years," admits Flatiron's Enbar. "But they will be productive and know how to continue their journey. After graduating from Flatiron our students will know enough to get an entry-level job, add value to their companies on day one, and have a foundation to build upon for years after they begin their careers."

Still, for people with little to no coding experience on their résumés, these schools can provide a foot in the door, says Paul Solt, an adjunct professor on iPhone app development for Rochester Institute of Technology. And that might be enough.

"I think the 12-week boot camp is a great way to get started," says Solt, who also teaches development courses online. "You work on building portfolio pieces, and that's really all you need to get a job in the tech industry. Showing what you can do is worth more than a résumé without proof."

Many businesses that are looking at a shortfall of more than a million programmers by the year 2020 are more than willing to give inexperienced grads a chance, even if some are destined to fail. The zero-to-hero success stories may be relatively rare, but they happen often enough to ensure that the boom in quick-and-dirty coding schools is only likely to accelerate.

For some people, it's not always about the money. Unlike many people who enroll in coding academies, Feore says she is making less than she did in her previous position. But that wasn't the deciding factor for her. She just wanted to build stuff.

"I am ridiculously, fabulously happy," she says. "I love the people I work with and I love the work I do. We have a lot of fun, and I learn something new every day. It's pretty awesome."


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