Self-Taught Web Developer vs. Bootcamp
It’s no secret that technology runs pretty much every aspect of our lives these days. As a result, companies are becoming more and more dependent upon software, which is driving the demand for more developers in the job market. But what’s the better choice if you want to take advantage of this trend: self-taught web developer vs bootcamp for developers?
Generally speaking, you can gain the same skills in development bootcamp as you can by teaching yourself. Both methods will teach basic information about developing and help you practice your skills. What’s important is to determine your learning style and choose your learning methods based on that.
Developers can make a nice living with a steady income and a seemingly endless career path. If you’re ready to work in an exciting industry that is constantly changing, keep reading! We’ll discuss the differences between self-taught development skills and bootcamp skills, as well as how to determine the best path for you.
What is Web Development?
Web development is the process of building pages and applications for the internet or for a private intranet. These can include, but are not limited to:
- Ecommerce Platforms
- Web Applications
- Web Content
- Static and Interactive Pages
The skills to build such things are obviously in high demand because the world is powered by the internet. Most companies need websites and applications to do business with their customers and they are willing to pay for these services.
The Difference Between Self-Taught and Bootcamp
The self-taught method and the bootcamp method are two completely different styles of learning that come with their own sets of benefits and drawbacks. Knowing the difference between them, along with the pros and cons, can help you make a good decision for yourself.
The self-taught method includes a ton of planning and accountability on the part of the learner. Basically, the student will do some online research to find the materials they need to learn the specific skill set they want. The student can purchase these materials online and get to work right away.
Materials used by self-taught developers often include manuals, study guides, and practice tests. In addition, many self-taught courses will offer interactive elements that help the learner practice their skills. Most of these platforms also offer immediate feedback to let the learner know how they did on the assessment.
Another option for learning web development is to attend a bootcamp class. These classes are designed specifically for people who want to learn web development, but don’t have the time, money, or interest in going back to college for a four-year degree. Instead, they opt for a shorter bootcamp class that will focus specifically on the skills they are looking for without all the frills that a college degree will require.
Bootcamp classes are typically much shorter and can be completed within 4-6 months. Of course the length of each class will vary, based on who is offering it, but that’s an average timeframe. The courses will also vary in the number of hours spent each day.
Pros and Cons of Self-Taught Development
Let’s examine self-taught development a little more closely. You already know that it involves a series of online materials and planning, but let’s break it down into a pros and cons list to help you think through the process.
Learn at Your Own Pace
For many potential coders, doing a bootcamp is simply out of the question due to the time commitment. It can be really difficult to make time to go to class, study, and complete your assignments in a timely manner. This is especially true if you have a full-time job, kids, or other responsibilities.
Self-taught developers enjoy the flexibility of learning on their own time. That means you can study at night, on weekends, or whenever is most convenient for you. There’s no need to stress over class times or due dates.
The self-taught method for web development is generally more affordable than bootcamps. There are tons of tools available online for free. There are also a variety of fee-based learning programs at a fraction of the cost of bootcamp programs.
If you have the passion to become a developer, but lack the expendable cash to go to class, this is a great option for you.
Depending on your learning style, this can be a pro or a con. Many people who choose the self-taught option, do so because they prefer to be in the comfort of their own home while learning. The quiet space and ability to learn from anywhere is attractive to a lot of students.
The key here is to setup a quiet space in your home where you can study without distractions. Everyone has a different home life, so find a way to apply this to yours. If you can’t do your coursework at home, but still don’t want to go to bootcamp, try to find a place where you can be productive, such as a local library or coffee shop.
No Support from a Professor
Unlike a bootcamp, the self-taught method doesn’t come with access to a professor. Sure, you’ll have chat groups and online forums you can join, but it doesn’t always have the same benefits as an actual professor. If you’re learning on your own, you can often find yourself wander around on the internet, looking for answers to questions that could’ve be easily answered by a professor or fellow students in a class.
The majority of the time, an online self-paced course will not offer a certification at the end. If you find one that does, check out the certification first to make sure it’s a good one. Most employers will look for some sort of certification, showing that you have the knowledge and the skills to do the job. If you don’t earn one, you could lose an opportunity to someone who does.
You Build the Curriculum
If you’re teaching yourself to code, you will need to build your own curriculum. Although most of the materials you’ll find online will have a basic plan for your learning, it’s ultimately up to you what skills you learn first. This can be a great thing for someone with a lot of knowledge on the subject, but potentially overwhelming for a beginner.
Pros and Cons of Web Development Bootcamp
Now let’s talk about bootcamps. Many of the pros and cons listed here are the opposite of those listed for the self-taught method.
Steady Pace of Curriculum
One of the key benefits of attending a bootcamp is the steady pace of the curriculum. You will likely be given a syllabus at the beginning of the course and your professor will keep the class moving forward. This will help you stay on track so you can finish the course in a timely manner and move on with your job search.
Whether you love school or not, having the support of other students in the classroom, or virtual classroom, is always helpful. Since you’re all studying the same thing simultaneously, there’s no reason not to work together. Being able to talk through concepts with other students who understand what you’re doing can be a huge benefit.
The collaboration with other students often leads to much faster learning, as well. When students have the opportunity to teach one another the various concepts and talk through them together, they will often learn and retain the information better and more quickly.
This is also a really great way to start building your network of professionals. Not only will you have a built-in group of study buddies, you’ll also probably keep in touch with them long after you graduate from the course. This support can go a long way in your professional life, whether you’re looking for a new job, or asking for references.
Accountability from a Professor
No one loves the word “accountability”, but it’s important. When you have a professor who is keeping tabs on your progress throughout the bootcamp, you’re more likely to perform at a high level. Accountability can come in a variety of ways. Here are just a few:
- Pop quizzes in class
- Homework assignments with due dates
- Being called on in class to answer questions
- Exams at the end of each section
While none of these things sound exciting, they can be extremely helpful. If you’re a high performer, you will work hard to make sure that your homework is done on time and you know the answers to the quizzes and tests. Having that accountability will keep you moving forward.
Access to a Professor
In addition to accountability, your professor will also likely offer time. Most professors post office hours during which students can come talk to them if they have questions or concerns. This is an opportunity to get in front of your professor one-on-one and ask any questions you may have.
If you get stuck on a problem, or can’t seem to grasp a concept, just book some time with your professor to review it. Having this benefit can be a critical piece of your success during bootcamp. It will help you ensure that you understand the material and can master the skill, which will be important when you get into your first web development job.
Not all bootcamps will offer a certification at the end, but many do. If you find a great one that fits your budget and your schedule, check to see if they also offer a certification. This will be a great addition to your resume and will let potential employers know that you’re serious about your career as a web developer.
Most bootcamps focus specifically on employable skills. Since the world of web development is so big, it can be difficult to figure out exactly which skills employers will be looking for. Bootcamp providers often have first-hand knowledge of this issue and tailor their curriculum to help you become job-ready by the time you graduate.
Many bootcamps are just like being in college. There is a set schedule for your courses and you will be expected to follow it. Most professors offer a little bit of flexibility, but it’s up to you to keep up with the schedule and stay on task with your assignments.
Not only is the class schedule important, but your personal schedule is, too. If you’re working, raising kids, taking care of a house, or whatever, it can be difficult to commit to getting to class consistently. However, it’s usually within your control and it’s your choice whether or not you keep up with the pace.
Usually, in-person bootcamps are much more expensive than online learning courses. This is because you have all the benefits of an actual class that we just discussed. Many schools will offer payment plans and financial assistance, so be sure to look into it if you need it.
On the flip side, try to think of this as an investment in your future, rather than just a really expensive course. Finding ways to save money in order to attend a bootcamp can have a life changing impact on your career. But there’s no getting around the cost of the bootcamp. It will be significantly more than the self-taught method.
Prep for the Course
Depending on the bootcamp you’re interested in attending, there may be preparation requirements to be accepted. These can come in the form of work experience, prior schooling, or pre-course assessments. If you’re a beginner, it can be difficult to convince a bootcamp professor or school that you’re ready to take the course.
Best Development Bootcamps
If you’re thinking that a development bootcamp is exactly what you need to get moving in the right direction, keep reading! We’ve done the research already and have identified some of the best ones on the market. Take a look and see if any of these bootcamps match your needs.
With locations in several major metropolitan areas, there could be one near you! Flatiron offers courses in Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Denver, Houston, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and D.C. It is also available remotely in an online learning platform. You can also opt for full-time, part-time or self-paced schedules.
These bootcamps focus on cybersecurity, data science and software engineering. If you choose the full-time option, it will take you about 15 weeks to complete the entire course. Part-time and self-paced options will take longer, but will allow you to continue working while in school.
Offered both remotely and in-person in Chicago, this bootcamp has been ranked number one in the country by a variety of tech experts. It offers expert training in web development and is available on a part-time basis. It was designed for full-time working professionals who want to make a career change or get ahead in their field.
Classes are offered at night and on the weekends to accommodate full-time work schedules. Not only does this course focus of programming and web development, it will also help you find a job! The course has extensive career counseling and helps students build their resumes and online presence to attract potential employers.
Offered remote, or in-person in Chicago and New York, Fullstack academy has a ton of great features. For starters, it accepts the GI Bill, which allows veterans to go back to school and gain the skills they need to transition into a new career. The course can be completed on a full-time or part-time schedule.
This course is offered as a live class in New York and San Francisco. It is also offered online through remote learning. Students can choose between a 16-week course or a 24-week course, both of which require full-time commitment. App Academy places an emphasis on software engineering and job placement for its students.
One of the most unique features about App Academy is the deferred tuition. It does not start charging students for their course until they have graduated and begun their first job making at least $50,000 per year. To assist with this, they offer an extensive network of alumni, as well as online prep courses and career services.
If you’re into UX/UI design, this might be the perfect course for you. It is online and self-paced, which makes it much more comparable to self-taught coding than actual bootcamp. The average timeframe in which students complete this course is about 32 weeks.
This course specifically caters to beginners and allows to students to choose a specific “track” that suits their interests. Depending on the goals of the student, they will learn different concepts that are applicable to those goals. Support systems are in place for students, including mentoring and online communities. What’s really awesome is that they offer 100% money-back guarantee if you don’t find a job within 6 months after graduating.
If you’re still unsure about the time commitment or the money involved in a bootcamp, maybe self-taught is the way to go. There’s no reason why you can’t get the same great results for yourself that a bootcamp student would get. Here are some of the things you should do if you’ve decided that self-taught is the best option for you.
Choose a Discipline
Web development is a broad topic with a ton of categories beneath it. If you’re going to teach yourself how to do it, you need to focus on one area at a time. Here are some of the potential places to start:
- UX/UI Design
- Data Science
- Software Engineering
This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but it’s enough to get your mind moving in the right direction. Think about the career that you want and the skills you’re hoping to develop. This will help you narrow your focus so you don’t get overwhelmed by all the possibilities.
Build Your Curriculum
Once you’ve chosen a specific area on which to focus, you need to build your plan for how to learn all these new skills. When you go to college or to a bootcamp, you are given a syllabus that outlines the curriculum for the course. In the same way, you need to design one for yourself.
This may seem frivolous, but you’ll be glad you did it. This process can help you identify the kay concepts you need to learn and keep you on track to learning them in a timely manner. Trying to go through a self-taught course without a curriculum is like driving your car at night with no headlights.
Choose Your Study Materials
Now that you know exactly what you want to learn, you can get online and find resources to help you. Some will be free and others will be fee-based. Choose the ones that fit your budget and your learning style. This is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle.
For example, if you struggle with reading comprehension, the last thing you need is a huge study guide that requires you to read every single page. Instead, opt for some online learning resources that include videos and interactive assessments. This will help you learn the material in the way that works best for you.
Set Goals & Deadlines
After building your curriculum and choosing your study materials, come up with an estimate of how long it will take you to complete each section. Write a schedule that is challenging but manageable. You can download all the materials in the world, but if you never crack them open, you’re never going to reach your goals.
Give yourself a goal for when you want to be completely done with your self-taught bootcamp. Then back that up one week at a time and write in which section or sections you will have completed each week. Last but not least, hold yourself accountable to those deadlines.
The accountability piece can be one of the hardest part of the self-taught method. If there’s no professor holding due dates over your head, it’s easy to slip. Ask your friends or loved ones to check in with you periodically to make sure you’re progressing.
Test and Re-Test Your Skills
Just like with the study materials, there are lots of resources online to help you assess your skills. Be sure to check back in on a regular basis to practice your new skills. They won’t just stick in your head without additional practice. It’s best to do a little bit every single day if you can.
Once you master a new skill, try teaching it to someone else. That’s one of the best ways to retain information. Even if it’s your spouse, kids, or best friend – ask them if you can teach them something new and then see how you do.
Research Best Practices
Now that you’ve learned and retained all of this new information, it’s time to go back and learn about best practices. Employers aren’t looking for just a hard set of skills. They are also looking for someone who knows how to apply those skills in an appropriate way.
There are plenty of places to research this information online. Be sure to look into videos, blogs, business pages and other resources. Industry magazines are another great place to learn about best practices on a variety of subjects in the tech space. Remember that there’s no such thing as being too educated, so learn as much as you can!
Finding a community of others who are doing a self-taught curriculum can be like a gold mine for you! Just like in a bootcamp setting, having other students to collaborate with and talk to is a critical piece that will help you be more successful. Try doing a quick search for online communities and forums.
Once you find a community you want to be a part of join it, and start asking questions! The more you interact with others, the more you will learn. You will also make some connections that you would never have made otherwise and that will be important in the long run. Look specifically for people willing to mentor you or offer career advice as you grow in your new skill set.
When it comes to self-taught web development vs. bootcamps, there’s really no right or wrong answer. You are likely to learn a lot more in a shorter amount of time with a bootcamp, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never learn it on your own. It just might be a little more difficult.
If you have the expendable cash to go to bootcamp, that will be fantastic investment in your career and it’s not likely that you’ll regret it. But if not, don’t fret! You can do it on your own with a little pre-planning, organization, and self-motivation!