Is coding bootcamp better than university?

13 August 2023 ยท Updated 13 August 2023

Hi Vadim, I'm 20 and want to become a software engineer, I'm at a crossroads in deciding the best educational path to take. I've heard a lot about coding bootcamps from some of my friends and their promise of teaching practical skills from the get-go in 90 days. On the other hand, universities offer a more traditional and comprehensive education in computer science, but it's 4 years? I'm unsure which option would be more beneficial for someone like me, who's never done any programming in the past. Would a coding bootcamp help me get a high-paying job? Would it give me the necessary knowledge I need to jumpstart my career? Will it be enough? Or would you recommend going to a university?


Thanks for the question. Navigating the crossroads of your budding tech career is no small feat, and the decision between diving into a coding bootcamp or committing to a university degree is a pivotal one. Not only because coding bootcamps are short and fun and universities long and stressful, there are a lot more differences than you can imagine. Let me share some insights from my years in the industry to help you make an informed choice.

Firstly, let’s address the elephant in the room: the allure of coding bootcamps. They promise rapid skills acquisition and a fast track to a six figure job. But here’s the kicker: while some bootcamp grads do land impressive roles, many of those that do already have a foundation in a STEM field โ€” some other heavy math/engineering education. So if a person with a degree in maths goes to a bootcamp and learns how to do web development โ€” they have a higher chance of landing a high-paying job, because their field of expertise was very similar to software engineering, albeit more theoretical. So, if you studied history and are thinking of a bootcamp as a golden ticket, it might be time for a reality check.

Now, let’s talk depth. A university computer science degree isn’t just about learning to code; it’s about understanding the very fabric of computing. This deep dive ensures that as technology evolves, you’re not left behind. Think of it as giving you the tools to understand not just the ‘how’ but the ‘why’ of technology. Whatever framework, library, project gets thrown at you โ€” you have the mindset and the skills to understand all the concepts, given enough time. And we’re not just talking about web development (the one bootcamps prepare you for), you can also go into game development, low-level computing, OS development โ€” there’s a ton of sub-fields in programming that are not related with web development that rely on the foundational concepts that you learn at school.

Considering a long-term view, a CS degree doesn’t just prep you for a job; it opens doors to a myriad of roles in the tech cosmos. From the intricacies of operating systems to the wonders of AI, the tech universe is vast and varied. A bootcamp might get you started on web development, but a degree equips you for a journey through the expansive tech galaxy.

Speaking of the tech world, it’s a very competitive arena. I’ve seen brilliant minds from diverse academic backgrounds pivot to tech via bootcamps. If your only edge is a few months of intensive web coding, you might find yourself outpaced by someone with a broader, and more stable, academic foundation. Imagine yourself as a checklist, the more things you can check off, the more demand the market will have for you, but if your only checked off thing is the coding bootcamp โ€” then there’s a fierce competition as there are tons of people just like you, with a single checkmark.

But here’s the crux: irrespective of the path you choose, the tech world demands continuous learning. Technologies evolve, new languages emerge, and staying stagnant is not an option. Whether you’re a bootcamp enthusiast or a university grad, the learning curve never really flattens.

It really all depends on you โ€” if you finished the coding bootcamp and have the fire blazing in your eyes to consume knowledge all around programming โ€” you will succeed, but if you really purely on the things that you learnt at the bootcamp โ€” you will fail.

While bootcamps offer a swift entry into the tech scene, a university degree lays a robust foundation for a long, dynamic and evolving career. As you stand at this juncture, ponder not just on the immediate but on where you envision yourself a decade from now. The tech world is vast, exciting, and ever-changing; equip yourself to not just be a part of it but to thrive and lead in it.

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  • Greg Nolan

    Absolutely, the decision between a coding bootcamp and a university degree stretches far beyond the surface considerations of duration and content. From my experience, bootcamps offer a sprint to technical competence, especially appealing to those eager to pivot quickly into tech roles. However, they do tend to narrow your focus primarily to web development, which, while lucrative, is just a slice of the programming pie.

    On the flip side, a university degree in computer science opens up the broader horizons of tech, from operating systems design to artificial intelligence. It’s not just about coding; it’s about understanding the principles that underpin technology, which can adapt as the field evolves. This comprehensive approach might start slower but broadens career prospects significantly.

    Moreover, the tech industry values continuous learning and adaptability. Whether you choose a bootcamp or university, the journey doesn’t end at graduation. The tech field evolves, and so must your skills, through regular learning and real-world practice. Ultimately, your success hinges on a combination of foundational knowledge, ongoing education, and practical application.

  • Ivo

    Bootcamp was just the beginning for me; the real growth happened when I committed to learning more on my own. The tech world moves fast, and staying relevant means continuously expanding your skill set beyond any formal education.

  • Lars

    Deciding between a bootcamp or a university degree in tech? Bootcamps offer quick, practical skills, perfect for immediate web development roles. However, a CS degree from a university provides a deep understanding of computing, essential for advanced fields like AI. Your choice should align with your career goals in the ever-evolving tech industry, emphasizing the importance of ongoing learning.