Coding Bootcamp vs. Master's Degree

Should you do a coding bootcamp or get a master’s degree in computer science? We look at a few factors like cost and what you’re hoping to achieve after the program.

Are you considering a bootcamp but worried about the tuition or living expenses? WeFinance for Bootcampers is the fastest way to crowdfund a personal loan.

1) Cost

The coding bootcamp route is comparatively cheaper. The average full-time coding bootcamp costs $9,900. Depending on the location of the bootcamp, your living expenses can range from $1,000 to $3,000 (San Francisco is expensive). Let’s assume $10,000 for the cost of the program and $2,000 of living expenses per month for 6 months (most programs are 3 months long and it typically takes 2-3 months after the program to find an ideal job).

Your all-in cost ends for coding bootcamp ends up being $24,000.

The master’s degree route is comparably more expensive. Master of Computer Science programs are typically 2 years long. Your expenses include tuition and living expenses during those two years. Depending on the program and your cost of living, your all-in cost is likely between $50,000 to $200,000. This is before considering the opportunity cost — the time cost of spending two years in school that you could have spent working.

If you’re considering these options, you need to crunch the numbers to see what makes sense for you. If your goal is to simply be a developer and minimize costs, the bootcamp is typically the correct route.

2) Learning to Do vs. Learning to Think

One of the biggest criticisms of coding bootcamps is that they teach you the skills you need to be a developer, but not how to think like a developer. People with computer science degrees have a better grasp of fundamentals and how to think through situations and problems.

Bootcamps originally focused on coding but many have added a focus on how to think like a developer and also the emotional intelligence required to work with other developers.

If your goal is to learn to do, a bootcamp is the right choice. If your goal is to understand fundamentals, you should do a master’s degree.

3) Joining a Startup?

Some startups love the idea of bootcamps. Others hate it.

For startups, data from Triplebyte suggests that it’s more about the role.

Bootcamp graduates get similar results as degree graduates in things like practical programing, systems design, and web design roles. Unsurprisingly, bootcamp graduates fare extremely poorly for algorithm and data structure roles that typically require a very strong foundation of computer science theory.

4) Joining a Big Company?

If you’re looking for a large technology company, the bootcamp route might still make sense but the process is more difficult.

The further you move away from tech, the more having a diploma will matter.

5) Starting Your Own Company?

If you’re trying to start a venture-backed company, it might make sense to go to the degree route, especially if it’s a top tier school. Schools like Stanford make it easier to get introductions and some VCs will judged you on where you went to school. The more established your product and traction is, the less things like this matter.

If you’re looking to build a lifestyle business, a bootcamp makes a lot more sense. Since you’re focused on building a great product that generates revenue, you don’t really have to appeal to investors.