Jul 21, 2016 — TrackFive

Breaking the Code: Hacking It At Hack School

Hack schools, also called coding boot camps, are popping up all over the country. The promise of a six-figure tech career has many adults paying thousands of dollars to learn. How can you make sure hack school doesn’t hack you?

We have all heard the hack school success stories. You know the one: some barista, or waiter, or a middle-aged guy that was laid off from his job takes a 3-month coding boot camp course and then – VOILA! They are now coding experts making over $100,000 a year, and working in what currently seems to be a booming tech industry. But how realistic is this situation?

If there is one thing we all know, it’s that technology is constantly growing and changing. In an age where other sectors are becoming automated and jobs or growth are stagnant, skilled developers and programmers are able to get well-paying jobs in various industries.

This had led to a large number of coding boot camps popping up online and all over the nation. Many of these schools claim they have students graduating from their programs with a 95% job placement rate and salaries averaging upwards of $100,000. If you’re an aspiring developer, how do you navigate through the endless sea of hack schools?

Grab Your Shades, The Future of Computing Is Bright

Tech company giants like Apple, Samsung, Google, and more will be creating all sorts of innovative technologies in the future. In the upcoming years, we will see technological advances in smart products, cars, robots, and even human-embedded healthcare technologies.

This will create massive growth in the tech industry leading to a greater demand for software engineers and developers. This growth is not limited specifically to the tech industry. The healthcare and automotive manufacturers will also need an influx of these software and web developers.

The Expanding Demand for Coding Skills

On Glassdoor’s 25 Best Jobs in America List, 8 of the top jobs in the U.S. are tech positions requiring coding or programming skills. According to Burning Glass, last year, 20 percent of career-track job openings, or about 7 million open job positions, valued coding skills. Jobs with coding skills are projected to grow 12% faster than the rest of the job market over the next 10 years.

Adults across the nation are attending hack schools to advance their careers and get paid more. In Course Report’s 2015 Coding Bootcamp Alumni Outcomes Survey, it found that most boot camp graduates receive a 38% pay raise or an increase of about $18,000. Software developer jobs have an average annual salary of $98,260.

Getting Schooled on Coding Schools

Hack schools or coding camps have garnered national media attention as a quick, cost-efficient way to advance your career without having to go back to school. With schools charging anywhere from $3,000 to $18,000 for 8-12 weeks of training, this is a profitable business to be in.

These schools have all sorts of claims about the success of their students. General Assembly claims that they have over 1,000 students graduating every month with a 99% placement rate in the field of study. Some schools come with a job offer guarantee, promising that if you complete their 12-16 week course, you will have a high-paying job offer within months.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of hack schools available across the United States and online as well. But not all are great, and some are just downright scams. Though hack schools may claim over 95% placement rates, Course Report’s Survey of 44 participating schools demonstrated that on average, only 66 percent of graduates are employed full time as a developer.

And those six-figure salary claims? Well, it’s actually a little less. People are actually earning between $65,000 to $75,000, and though less than 6 figures, it is more than these boot camp attendees were making before the course.

Hacking It Through Hack School

The thing is, we’ve seen this happen time and time again. An industry or service emerges, and very quickly, there are hundreds upon hundreds of firms that come one the scene trying to profit. On one hand, this means that some of these courses are legitimate and will really help you acquire skills and change your career.

On the other hand, for every hack school with genuine code training and successful job placements, there are probably 10 more coding camps that will not even exist in the next 3 to five years. There is a huge coding school bubble that will burst soon in the most Darwinian of ways, resulting in just a few schools that will control the market.

So if you want to advance your career with a coding course, what are you to do? You want to gain skills and make more money, but don’t want to waste valuable time and money on a course that will not actually help you. Read some of these tips to help you compare various boot camps and hack schools so you can make the right decision.

Check the Curriculum

What skills does this course or school offer, and how are you going to learn these skills? Which programming languages will you be learning and how do those align with the requirements most companies look for in a developer?

What level of knowledge do you need prior to enrolling in the course? What is the time commitment for the course? It may be a 10-week online course, but is that with the expectation that you’ll be spending 12 hours a day coding? How does the rigor of the boot camp compare to other hack schools?

Will the course also help you find a job afterward? Do they have tech company partners they work with that you have the potential to be placed in? Will they help with your resume or interviewing skills?

Check the Faculty

Who are the teachers in the hack school, and what experience do they have to make them qualified to teach software development? What is the student to teacher ratio? Will you be able to get enough one-on-one time with your teacher to get questions answered, or are they unavailable?

Check the Costs

What is the cost of the course and how does that compare to other coding camps? How do you have to pay? Do they have payment plans available? Are there scholarships? What are you getting for your money and is it worth it to you?

Check the Culture

What is the feel of the hack school? Are they welcoming of newcomers? Are people available if you need extra assistance? Do guest industry experts come in and teach or lecture?

How new is the boot camp? Is a seasoned school with documented success, or a new startup trying to get off the ground? Do the teachers and students get together outside of work for happy hours or organized outings?

Putting It Together

You can gather your info from hack school websites, comparison sites, blogs of former students, and admission interviews. Before you decide to spend thousands of dollars and move across the country to coding camp, you need to figure out what is important to you.

You can never do enough research on schools when you are picking which one to attend. While some factors matter more than others, make sure that the school you pick has the curriculum, learning style, and support that you need to be successful.

Do any of you have tips for others to hack it through hack school? Share in the comments below.

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