The unaccredited education programs known as coding boot camps are proliferating, and gaining more students. This year the number of graduates from such programs is expected to hit 16,000, up from 6,740 in 2014, according to a recent survey by Course Report, a business that focuses on the sector.
At the boot camps, which are not affiliated with colleges or universities and which offer in-person instruction, students can work and study programming for 10 hours a day — or more — for months at a time. One such program, AIT Learning, based in Washington, D.C., says on its website that prospective students should expect to study 10 to 14 hours a day and to “work with peers till late and make some real-world programs.”
The programs aren’t cheap, either. A summary of the Course Report survey notes that the average cost of the courses is more than $11,000. There are about 70 of the programs in the United States and Canada today.
Many programs market themselves to recent college graduates who want to improve their job prospects and to people seeking to change their careers. Michael Kaiser-Nyman, founder of Epicodus, a boot camp based in Portland, Ore., estimates that two-thirds of students who have enrolled in his program have attended college before.
Gardner Campbell, vice provost for learning innovation and student success at Virginia Commonwealth University, says “it’s clear that the job landscape will require more people to do this kind of programming work for the foreseeable future.”
But the pool of enrolled students is broad. Last week Skill Distillery, a boot camp focused on Java programming, announced that military veterans may use their GI Bill education benefits to enroll in the program. In March, President Obama announced an initiative, called TechHire, to train Americans in technology jobs. Among other things, the effort encourages people to enroll in coding boot camps.
The Course Report survey estimates that nearly 49,000 computer-science majors graduated from accredited American colleges and universities in 2014. Computer-science courses tend to be more theoretical and in-depth, says Trace Urdan, an independent analyst, while coding boot camps tend to be hands-on and have a vocational focus. Mr. Urdan says that the coding-boot-camp “craze” is likely to level out in the future and that college programs won’t redesign their curricula to respond to that demand.
But boot camps have the potential to complement computer-science departments’ curricula if students enroll in a coding program first, Mr. Campbell says.
“In many respects,” he says, “computer-science departments will find that their own intellectual breadth increases as a result of students’ being immersed in this kind of learning before they come to college.”