Thinking of a career change and not afraid of diving into the deep end? If you’re capable of learning quickly in a high-intensity environment, a coding bootcamp could get you working as a software engineer (and potentially commanding an impressive salary) within half a year – even if you’ve never programmed before.
If you enjoy things like maths and problem-solving, you’ll probably like programming. If you're not sure, however, most of the bootcamps on this list offer a free online coding course that you can take to help you decide if you enjoy it and have the aptitude to be good at it. You can also explore some other online coding courses, or work though some of the free courses on Codecademy, to get a sense of whether designing/making apps and website layouts is the right career for you.
Despite requiring no previous programming experience, some of the bootcamps on this list are extremely tough to get into. They require you to do some self-study to prepare for a rigorous admissions process that ensures they only take on people who can handle a very hard program. Others are less demanding and more suited to a range of ability levels.
Learning skills that will earn you a good salary doesn’t come cheap; most of these bootcamps require a considerable fee – but there are cheaper options if you don’t have the money. Some of them allow you to defer payment until you get a job, whereupon you make monthly payments. Sometimes there’s even an employment guarantee: if you don’t get a job as a software engineer within six months or a year you don’t have to pay at all.
01. Hack Reactor
- Price: $17,980 tuition fees
- Location: San Francisco, NYC, LA, Austin or worldwide via remote study
Hack Reactor is a bootcamp that teaches software engineering to highly motivated, highly competent students. It’s one of the larger, most well-known programs, and it puts students through a curriculum that’s been compared to ‘drinking from a firehose’.
A statistic that’s sure to grab your attention is the six-figure average starting salary of its alumni. There’s an impressive list of companies that have taken on Hack Reactor graduates, including the likes Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and PayPal.
With outcomes like that, it’s no surprise that this is a very tough course. The admissions process is highly competitive as only those who can demonstrate they’re likely to succeed with a very demanding program of study are accepted.
That said, you don’t actually need any prior programming or computer science experience; you can take the Hack Reactor Prep course, which is an online course that takes five to seven weeks and prepares you for the admissions process. Once you’re admitted, there’s another 80-hour self-study course to take before you start the immersive program, which is 12 weeks full-time either onsite in San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles or Austin, or it can be done remotely online. If you can’t do it full-time, there’s the option to study part-time over nine months while still working.
02. General Assembly
- Price: Various
- Location: Campuses in London, Australia, Asia and across North America
General Assembly is a global organisation that has campuses across North America as well as London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. It offers a range of full and part-time courses covering many of the skills required by a technology business, as well as coding bootcamps.
If you want to learn full-time, there is a 10- to 13-week immersive course on web development that's available in many of the campuses and can also be completed remotely online. The New York campus has an immersive Android course, and San Francisco has one on iOS development.
The admissions process for General Assembly isn't as competitive as some of the other bootcamps on this list, so it's more suited to people from a range of ability levels. Employment rates after completing an immersive course are good (you can read about them here).
03. App Academy
- Price: From $17,000 (or free if it doesn't lead to a job)
- Location: San Francisco and NYC
For the right person, App Academy is an exciting proposition: if you don’t get a job paying over $50,000 within a year of graduating the program, you don’t pay anything. You can also opt to defer your payment and pay by monthly instalments after you get a job; this enables the programme to select the students with the most potential as opposed to those who have the ability to pay.
If you take the offer to defer your payment, you do end up paying quite a bit more: it’s $28,000 total, compared with $17,000 if you pay upfront. There’s also a hybrid plan where you can take a middle route of only deferring part of your fees, paying $23,000 in total.
As you might expect, this is a tough program to get into – the acceptance rate is less than 5 per cent. But like Hack Reactor, it offers some impressive earning potential: an average six-figure starting salary for placements in San Francisco, with salaries in New York not far behind.
04. Le Wagon
- Price: Location-dependent (£6,500 for London)
- Location: Worldwide, but higher concentration of campuses in Europe
Le Wagon is a nine-week web development bootcamp that teaches you to think like a software engineer and prides itself on instilling smart workflow practices in its students and maintaining a community for its alumni. It is primarily a European venture but there are campuses all over the world (although none in the US).
Le Wagon places more emphasis on the social aspect of the experience than some of the other bootcamps. It is an intensive technical course, but all that's asked of applicants is that they're "very motivated, curious and social". No previous technical knowledge is required, but you have to complete the Ruby track on Codecademy before you get there, which takes 9-15 hours.
- Price: Full-time: $16,895
- Location: San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose
Hackbright Academy has one major difference from the rest of the bootcamps on this list: it’s for women only. Like Le Wagon, there’s an emphasis on collaboration and a community that persists after the program is completed.
You need to have some basic coding knowledge before you apply, and Hackbright offers a free online Python course to get you started. There’s also a four-week prep course you can take prior to the 12-week immersive program.
Results for this bootcamp look impressive: there's a 99 per cent graduation rate, and a sample of 51 graduates reported a median first-job salary of $88,000.
- Price: £8,000 (or free if you don't get a job)
- Location: London
Like App Academy, Makers Academy gives you the job guarantee: if you don't get a job building software within six months of completing the course you get your money back (as long as you've put proper effort into finding one).
Like most of the other camps, there's a pre-course to complete before you start the on-site program. It's anticipated that you could get a salary of £30k after completing the 12-week course.
If you opt for the Makers Apprenticeship scheme, you sign up for 12 months. You get paid a salary of £18k-£25k from the start and receive a qualification and hopefully a job offer from the employer at the end. As with most of these courses, you don’t need much prior knowledge but there's a competitive admissions process.