Bootcamps vs. Other Learning Paths

March 07, 2020

There are many ways to learn to code. Each come with the their own pros and cons. It’s useful to explore the different paths so that you can choose the route that makes most sense for you, your preferences and your learning style. Learning to code is a challenge and picking the right path will help to make it a fun, rather than frustrating experience. Let’s look at a variety of ways people learn software development.

Self Directed

One of the most common learning paths is self-directed learning. This is self-paced study through books, tutorials and online. This often works best for people who have good focus and are able to self motivate. It is often the first way to try coding - to see if it might be something worth taking further. If you find an initial enthusiasm, you can dive in further.

A big benefit of self-directed learning is its affordability. A good textbook or tutorial can be free or very cheap, meaning there isn’t a large cash investment. Some people also prefer the ability to take on material at their own pace, without the pressure of others nearby. Finally, this can be the most flexible route for learning for those who might have a job, family or other commitments to keep up with.

Of course there is still a large time investment. In addition, self-directed learning does not come with any accreditation, so you’ll need a strong body of work to demonstrate your skills to hiring companies. Self-directed work can often mean working on your own. So if community and friendship are important components of keeping you motivated, another path may be better.

  • FreeCodeCamp - An excellent open-sourced curriculum to learn a number of coding fundamentals (and actually does give certificates).
  • Ruby on Rails Tutorial - Michael Hartl’s popular tutorial has helped thousands of people learn the powerful Rails framework.


Undergraduate degrees are still one of the largest gateways to a career in technology. The typical 3-year Computer Science degree covers a lot of theory as well as practical development modules. This can be powerful for students who want to build from the ground up and have an interest in learning computing fundamentals and algorithms.

A big benefit of the traditional degree is its credibility, its history and the brand of a good university. Some employers will view the traditional degree as a solid foundation. For students who like in person, directed teaching and the community and motivation of a cohort, this classic style of learning can work well.

On the downside, University is a long commitment at 3 years. It is also expensive. Often, there is formal testing which some people may not like. Finally, for people who want to learn practical software development without all the theory of computers, there may be a lot of content that isn’t completely required.


Coding Bootcamps

Coding Bootcamps have emerged as another popular way to learn to code. They have the directed teaching style similar to a University lecture, but in a more intense, development-focused three-month (typically) timeline. Essentially, they strip out a lot of the heavy theory and focus on practical development languages and frameworks that get you to job standard ASAP. The coding Bootcamp was designed with new developers and career changers in mind. It’s built for people who are prepared to commit to an intensive learning experience and make big changes quickly.

For people who are prepared to go full time, but can’t be out of work for significant time, the 12-week style course is often a convenient middle ground. The popularity of Bootcamps in the part 5 years means they are now a known quantity amongst companies, giving them some brand equity. Finally, there is a strong sense of community and camaraderie in a Bootcamp cohort, which cane make fo a more enjoyable coding experience.

But coding Bootcamps can be expensive. Whilst being cheaper than a formal degree, they are more expensive than self-directed learning. Also, they are very intense and fast-paced. Some people might prefer a more flexible approach.



Learn on the job. That is the main idea behind an apprenticeship, where you are stewarded by more senior members of a team at a company. This method was popular in several vocations and in many places in Europe (e.g. Germany). The UK government has recently created some incentives for companies to have apprenticeship programmes.

By learning on the job, the apprenticeships is the only method listed where you literally are paid to learn. The starting salary is low, but its positive if you don’t want to fork out for your learning. You also learn in a real work environment, making it focused and practical.

The negative of an apprenticeship is that they can be vary different depending on your team and company. Whilst there are check in place to attempt to standardize experiences, it’s an impossible task.



Massive open online courses are remote first, self-directed courses that teach and credential skills at scale. These companies have taken the best of classrooms and transferred them to video and community based online teaching.

Primary benefits of a MOOC are the affordability and flexibility. As they are videoed once and shown to thousands of students they are far cheaper than Bootcamps or degrees. You can study from home and take lessons when you want, making them a flexible option for those with other commitments. They also offer credentials that some employers will recognize.

They do require the student to me self-directed and self-motivated. And whilst MOOCs do offer digital community and some teacher contact but not at the same level of an in-person class.


As you can see, in 2020 there are a number of paths to learn coding. It’s important to know your own learning style. Are you someone who prefers self-directed learning? Or do you need the focus of a classroom? Choose wisely and it will help you to have a happier learning experience.

If you’d like further help, please ask any questions on Twitter or join our community on Slack. I’m always happy to help.

Stevan Popovic

Written by Stevan Popovic, creator of Code With Bootcamps, software developer and coding Bootcamp alum.

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