I came across the concept of web development bootcamps, these 9-10 week intensive crash courses claim to teach beginners web development and help them get 80k starting salary jobs. Many of you might have heard of these.

Is what the bootcamps promise feasible? Is it possible for web technologies like Ruby on Rails, HTML5, CSS, and Javascript to be taught from scratch in such a short period? And to people without a technical background?

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    I haven't been to a dev bootcamp. One thing I do know, however, is that it's impossible to master programming in 10 weeks. That's like saying you're going to go to a bootcamp to be a concert pianist in 10 weeks; it's just not gonna happen. Since you already have a degree, I assume you have some good fundamentals. I would recommend starting to write your own personal projects, and put them on Github for all to see. Show your prospective employers the code you've written. – dsw88 Sep 12 '13 at 18:48
  • Is it possible for people to get an 80K job after finishing such a camp? Sure, it is possible. Is it realistic for every graduate to find that kind of job upon finishing the boot camp? No, not in my view. It is possible to get enough of the basics along with some connections to possibly get a chance at that kind of job. How successful such a person will be is quite variable as some people can pick up things quickly and may well spend a lot of time beyond the classroom time studying so that they are spending 80-90 hours a week for that time learning which would add up in theory. – JB King Sep 12 '13 at 19:25
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    @yannisrizos, great edit – user53019 Sep 12 '13 at 20:01

Short version: Its possible to teach a person to write a simple ruby crud app in 9 weeks. This roughly mirrors the first semester college class. Many companies need that. The trick to getting them hired is to get lots of people with entry level skills in a room with lots of companies that want entry level people.

As mentioned in the wikipedia article for dev bootcamp (emphasis mine)

The program is 9 weeks of intensive training in professional web development, including Ruby on Rails, HTML5, CSS, and Javascript. The program takes students with little or no prior programming experience and teaches them the fundamentals of computer programming. The program's goal is to develop the necessary skills within the students to make them job-ready for an entry-level developer position

They're working on Rails (which is reasonable for CRUD apps), and a few basic bits of markup. Its designed for someone who has no experience in programing or familiarity with learning how to learn a programming language.

To this extent, yes, one could take someone who has no experience and make them an entry level CRUD web programmer. They can toss together a form with ActiveRecord and erb in Ruby, add some formatting in CSS and a little bit of validation in javascript. And do this in 9 weeks. Given the phrasing of "9 weeks" and "intensive training" this about matches a semester of college (with the 'intensive' part to get people to understand how to program).

tuition costs are $12,200 for the 9 week, 40 hour per week program. Although traditional class hours are 9am-6pm on weekdays, most students stay nights and weekends, which amounts to an approximate 70-80 hours per week

... well I know what my next job will be.

The key to the results is not the training. And quite frankly, if the person doesn't have the right mindset to learn how to program or the curiosity to do more and better - they'll remain forever at entry level. There is a call for that (in some markets there is a lot more openings than people filling them - which brings us to...)

Another point to consider when they advertise the average starting salary, one needs to look at salaries. For example in San Francisco the median pay for a person who sits at the front desk and organizes mail is $52k, and the person who sits in front of a director or C?O and does the same is $62k. A software engineer has a median salary of $93. $85k is not a lot in San Francisco. (see also cost of living in San Francisco - seriously, the rent in SF for a year is more than many people make elsewhere in a year) Similar things can be said of Chicago.

Dev Bootcamp organizes hiring days for technology companies to interview students. They then collect a referral fee from employers that hire their graduates, and they pass along part of that fee to the graduate in the form of a hiring bonus.

The key to getting people hired is getting them face time with the various companies. Its the connections in this case - of the recruiters who want the front line of coders and the dev bootcamp organizers. This can also be done outside of a boot camp (give your information to a head hunter - they have similar access).

The dev bootcamp is unlikely to get into data structures (its fortunate that Ruby has so few), nor various parts of theory that helps one write better code. They are teaching people to write simple applications. There are many times when companies are just after simple applications.

How well these applicants do long term is yet to be seen - dev boot camp was founded in 2012. Many of these students and new hires haven't even had their first year's performance reviews yet.

I will point out that this is based on dev bootcamp itself which is in SF and Chicago, and information relating to the skilled programer job market in those two cities. The job markets in other regions of the United States or other nations is beyond my familiarity.

It is important to engage existing career finding resources (like headhunters and friends who can get a referral bonus for giving a resume to HR). All of this is for naught if the market is over saturated with people looking for jobs (it is in some areas).

Going to such a class and expecting to find an $85k job afterwards in rural Montana won't happen.


I am in a 'bootcamp' style ruby program currently and I can tell you a few things.

  1. The length of the program matters. As does the stated intent. Our program is six months, fulltime intensive. Even still, from the beginning we're told exclusively that what we are learning is to be a good employee - we will be employees with good habits and best practices drilled into our heads - NOT master programmers.

  2. The guaranteed salary is legit. IF the school is legit. The class before us had a success rate of 25 out of 26 students getting higher that 60,000 a year jobs. Most much higher. But our program has a stellar reputation and the professors are well known and liked, so the jobs came from their personal introductions

  3. Can you teach someone without a development background? Yes. Half of our class has no background. That said, there are a BUNCH of tutorials online and if you are not the kind of person who was so interested in programming that you didn't dabble in them before you attended the bootcamp... you probably have a few other barriers to being a programmer that you should look at first.

Personally, I think a short bootcamp is only a good option if you have already worked very hard to attend MeetUps, work through tutorials, read about the language and work with other programmers to learn basics. The reason you want to attend a class is to learn the things that are harder to read about - like how to pair, what good manners are in the community, etc... and to build a network of students and teachers. So I would take a long, hard look at the reputations of the graduates and administration of those bootcamps. In the ruby world, that's pretty easy to do with github and twitter!


I completed one of the developer bootcamps recently and can say with confidence that it helped me solidify the fundamentals of coding web apps in Rails and then some. The instructors also shoehorned in a couple JS frameworks (Backbone and Angular), SQL, basic BASH commands used in development and some cursory data structure knowledge.

Most of the students had no background in coding other than a handful of online tutorials in the weeks prior to class beginning. The apps we created were mostly CRUD, yes, though I'd say a number of students crafted some really excellent specimens. There's only so much we could do given the time frame.

However, what's happening now, in the aftermath, is that a number of us are realizing that employers don't know what to do with bootcamp graduates: we're better than plucking your average Joe or Jane off the street, but not yet production-ready. We're attending meetups and finding that there's great demand for "rockstar" engineers, or that "junior developer" means one or more years experience in a production environment.

Perhaps the market's saturated here (SF Bay Area) with entry-level developers, or something else dire is turning off hiring managers to picking us up -- I really can't say.

The bootcamps feel like they're doing their jobs well, though.

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