What Hiring Managers Really Think: Coding Bootcamp vs. Computer Science Degree
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So you want a high-paying tech job, and you're deciding between a computer science degree and a coding bootcamp. The real question is: What do hiring managers want?
If you are interested in becoming a web developer or a software engineer, there are a few paths you can take. Two of the most popular paths are getting a degree in computer science or earning a coding bootcamp certificate.
Comparing these two options isn't really comparing apples to apples.
A bachelor's degree in computer science takes about four years to complete. The curriculum is focused on providing students with foundational, theoretical knowledge of computation and problem-solving that will prepare them for a variety of careers.
What Are the Most In-Demand Careers for Computer Science Majors?
- Software applications developer
- Computer systems analyst
- Systems software developer
- Web developer
- Network systems administrator
- Database administrator
- Information security analyst
A certificate for a coding bootcamp typically takes between 8-16 weeks of full-time learning. Bootcamps are practical, project-oriented, and laser-focused on preparing students for job readiness in very specific roles.
Who Hires Bootcamp Graduates?
Bootcampers work at exciting companies all over the world, including some of the biggest tech companies, like:
Both options set graduates up for entry-level jobs as web developers or software engineers.
Deciding which option is right for you will depend on your stage of life, how much time and money you want to invest, and what your long-term career goals are.
If getting a job right out of the gate is what you really want, you probably also want to know: Who are hiring managers most interested in?
We got dozens of responses from managers about what it's like to work with bootcamp graduates vs. computer science graduates. Here's what hiring managers really think.
Computer Science Majors
"Computer science graduates have a strong grasp of software fundamentals like algorithms and data structures. Understanding how to use these and when they are applicable is very important for growing into a senior engineer role. On average, computer science graduates make stronger software engineers who grow further in their careers."
"At my company, I'm perfectly fine hiring people without degrees — if you clearly know what you're doing. That said, my company is significantly less likely to interview you or offer you a great starting salary if you don't have a four-year degree.
"You can't compare what you'll learn at a coding bootcamp to the fundamentals of computer science that you will learn in a college program."
— Shaun Poore, ShaunPoore.com
"A computer science degree will open a lot of doors. It's a common path into a development career and gives you great knowledge. The more complex your problems are, the more you're going to rely on the knowledge a degree gives you. You can gain some great skills from a bootcamp, but a degree will help you understand the theory and maths behind the code."
"Coding bootcamps teach you how to code in the real world, but they don't make you an engineer. Being a software engineer requires more than writing code: It requires calculus, linear algebra, operating systems, compilers, computer systems, and architecture — all of which you learn in a computer science degree. Those subjects are critical to understanding how software actually works and interacts with other domains."
— Gerrid Smith, CMO, Joy Organics
"I have hired three developers without formal degrees based on their skills and the certifications they have received. Coding bootcamp actually gives you more relevant and useful tools for a job than a computer science degree. While the degree sets you up with a solid foundation, a bootcamp teaches you specific skills that you can use immediately in a job.
"Both have merit, but from an employment perspective, bootcamps provide more concrete evidence of a candidates' skill than a degree does."
— Lundin Matthews, Founder, AdminRemix
"One of the biggest reasons for the gap in qualified developers and tech talent overall is that traditional education institutions have been slow to adapt. Often, the practices and training students learn in college aren't job-relevant, and they have to be re-taught on the job.
"People coming out of bootcamps and apprenticeship programs are often more capable than their traditionally-educated peers — but they are not treated that way."
— Jennifer Roane, Partner, Barokas Agency
"We've hired some truly amazing software engineers out of bootcamps. Folks who have previous experience and then choose to learn software engineering often have other skills from previous careers that translate extremely well: managing skills, people skills, leadership, etc.
"Bootcamp grads are more diverse in all metrics, including gender, race, and socioeconomic status. A diversity of life experiences is crucial for any workplace, but especially for tech, which is lagging behind.
"At the same time, bootcamps are still a bit of an unknown quantity. As a hiring manager, I don't know enough about different bootcamps offhand to know which have a solid curriculum and which are less rigorous. It makes me wary of hiring someone straight out of a bootcamp versus someone who has held at least one job in the field."
— Cedric Dussud, Co-Founder, Narrator AI
"Many employers are uneasy about hiring bootcamp graduates; while bootcampers are able to get through the interview process, they often have trouble hitting the ground running and being productive. Bootcamps, especially the short-term ones, have a bad reputation for not instilling the fundamental programming knowledge and problem-solving skills needed to work independently.
"You can still parlay a bootcamp into a job, but it is harder now. The interview process is far more intense than it was ten years ago, especially for the better jobs out there."
— Trevor Larson, CEO, Nectar
Either Way, Your Portfolio Really Matters
"Degrees and bootcamps don't hurt, by any means. But they don't matter half as much as your experience. When I'm hiring, I look at the real work the candidate has done — so I'd recommend contributing to open-source software. Skill comes from practice, and skill is what makes you marketable. Your portfolio is really what counts."
"At the end of the day, your portfolio or GitHub profile will mean more to a hiring manager. A person with a degree but no project work is going to look far less qualified than a bootcamp graduate with an excellent portfolio."
Hiring managers think computer science graduates:
- Are often the safest bet because they come from accredited programs with defined curricula.
- Are more likely to have the foundational knowledge required to be true engineers.
- Have the deep computational understanding necessary for more senior positions.
- Usually have more theoretical than hands-on experience, which means they have to learn a lot of new things on the job.
Hiring managers think bootcampers:
- May be more up to speed with industry-relevant skills.
- Have a lot of grit, discipline, and interesting work experience.
- Bring much needed diversity to the field.
- Have less regulated skills and training, which makes it difficult for managers to assess whether they truly have the knowledge required to hit the ground running.
Meg Embry is a Colorado-based writer for TheBestSchools.org covering higher education. She is an award-winning journalist who has lived and worked in Canada, the Netherlands, and the United States.
Header Image Credit: kate_sept2004, Maximusnd | Getty Images
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