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July 19, 2023 - 8 minutes

Learning to Code: Self-Taught vs Bootcamp vs CS Degree

There are lots of ways to learn to code, but which is best? 

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Making the decision to learn to code is a big one; you’re investing in your future, learning a skill that’s in high demand and will continue to be for years to come. But when it comes to actually learning to code, there’s a few more decisions to be made: how will you learn? Where do you start? Is one way better than another? 

We’ll cover the basics of learning to code, as well as three main methods (self-teaching, bootcamps, and computer science degrees), in this article. Let’s dive right in. 

Why Learn to Code? 

Every good decision is made with logic behind it; because of this, we need to answer one question before we start explaining the different methods to learning coding: why learn to code in the first place?! That’s easy: 

  • The future of coding is bright: web development skills are highly demanded across almost every industry; with coding skills, you’ll have a bright future ahead of you. 

  • There are tons of tech jobs available: hundreds of tech jobs go unfilled every year and that’s because there’s a gap between what companies need and what candidates can offer. As a skilled web developer, your application will be valued and you can find the right role for you. 

  • Tech salaries are, on average, higher than non-tech salaries: your investment in learning to code will pay off–tech professionals typically earn significantly more than roles in other industries and there’s lots of room for growth, meaning your earning potential is basically limitless. 

  • Web development roles offer flexibility: as most tech roles just require a computer, developers benefit from flexibility, such as hybrid and remote options or the option to make your own schedule and hours. 

  • You can finetune your creativity and reasoning skills: coding is made up of solving a lot of little, individual problems, such as finding bugs in code. Finding answers to your problems requires logic and reasoning, but also creativity; successful web developers are able to think outside the box and find creative solutions. 

Now that you’ve decided that coding is for you, it’s time to break down the three major ways to learn to code. 

Learning to Code: Self-Taught

So you’ve decided to teach yourself to code. Wow! That’s a brave choice and one that will require lots of work. Some may tell you it’s impossible and while it will certainly be challenging, it’s definitely an attainable goal. Luckily for you, there’s a large collection of online resources available to you, in addition to books, online courses, and videos. 

Teaching yourself code is the best choice for you if you can’t attend a bootcamp or get a university degree in computer science, for whatever reason. Maybe you can’t justify the cost or can’t take enough time off from your current role. No matter the reason, make sure you’re fully committed to self-teaching before you get started. 

Tips for teaching yourself how to code 

Your coding journey will be much smoother if you: 

  1. Have a clear understanding of why you’ve decided to learn to code: are you learning to code as a hobby or are you trying to get into tech? If your end goal is a career in tech, then you need to be very thorough in your studies, ensuring you’re ready to enter the workforce. 

  2. Choose a specific area: just like with anything, coding is broad and there are tons of different areas to learn. Do you want to learn a specific programming language? Or just coding basics? Figure out exactly what you want to learn and then ensure your materials are geared towards that specific area.

  3. Plan your learning: if you’re learning with a specific goal in mind, it’s especially important to make a plan. Give yourself checkpoints to make sure you’re learning properly and stay on track. If you find yourself falling behind or missing your goals, take the time to reestablish them and ensure they’re realistic. Remember, you’re learning on your own terms: be flexible with yourself. 

  4. Practice what you learn: coding is an area where practice truly does make perfect. As you learn new techniques and tools, put them into practice! Try to write your own code, debug it, and learn from your mistakes. Giving yourself tasks throughout your learning journey will also help ensure you’re truly learning. 

  5. Connect with others: whether your goal is to become a software developer or just learn a little bit about coding, there’s a large network of developers out there and connecting with them will both help you land a job and answer any questions that may arise.

Learning to Code: Computer Science Degree 

Long considered pretty much the only way to learn to code at a level where you’d be able to land a job, lots of today’s web developers have a computer science degree from university, where they spent four or five years studying the concepts and practical aspects of computer science. 

This path is ideal for those who are heading into university and are sure they want to work as a developer; those who, however, have a degree in another area and are considering returning to school to get a second degree or get their first at a later age should seriously consider the financial and time commitments of a four or five year degree program. 

Tips for studying a computer science degree 

As you begin your computer science journey, keep these tips in mind: 

  1. Practice constantly: especially at the beginning, your classes will likely consist of lectures and theoretical work. To ensure you’re keeping up with what’s being taught, give yourself lots of practice on the side. This will help you not only advance in your coding abilities, but also guarantee you’re not falling behind. 

  2. Connect with your classmates: networking in tech is very important; make connections with your classmates to get assistance when you need it and have contacts post-graduation. 

  3. Avoid last-minute cramming sessions: programming is complex and the skills you need to succeed can’t be learned in just a few hours before a test. Make sure you’re keeping up with assignments and test prep throughout the entire semester and use your last study session as a review, not the time to learn everything. 

  4. Stay up-to-date with the tech industry: tech is evolving incredibly fast and you need to know what’s coming next! Check out what’s happening in tech, the newest tools and technologies that come into the market, and, of course, what employers are looking for in candidates. 

  5. Familiarize yourself with general computer knowledge: sure, you don’t need to fully understand computer hardware to write code, but it certainly helps. Practical computer skills, such as how computers work and how they’ve evolved over time, can provide you with additional and valuable knowledge when it comes to working as a developer. 

Learning to Code: Bootcamps

Our last option is our favorite (shocking, right?!), but that’s because bootcamps are incredible ways to learn to code quickly and efficiently without the financial or time commitment that university degrees demand and a guided and structured curriculum that’s designed by experts. Typically taking place over the course of just a few weeks or months, bootcamps are highly intensive and focus on preparing you to enter the workforce immediately after graduation. 

Bootcamps are ideal for those looking to make a career change and can’t commit to a four year degree, but want the structure and guidance that self-teaching can’t offer. Because they’re focused on this specific group of career changers, bootcamps usually boast flexible options, such as remote, in-person, full-time, or part-time options, in addition to additional services like career support. 

Tips for taking a bootcamp

To succeed in your bootcamp, keep these tips in mind: 

  1. Properly prepare for the bootcamp: as we mentioned above, bootcamps are quite the time commitment, even if you choose a remote or part-time option. Prepare yourself for intense focus during class and studying in your free time; if you have a super busy life outside of the course, it may be nearly impossible to keep up. Making the decision to take a bootcamp also means being honest with yourself and your current responsibilities. 

  2. Take advantage of all the bootcamp offers: does your bootcamp have income share agreements? Or payment plans? Or maybe interview and CV prep? Many bootcamps, thanks to their main goal of landing you a job immediately after graduation, offer additional services–use them! 

  3. Network, network, network: bootcamp instructors are usually skilled and experienced industry leaders and are fantastic connections to have as you enter the tech world. Take the time to also connect with your fellow classmates; they’re also about to enter the job market and could be valuable contacts in the future. 

  4. Complete the pre-work: no matter your level of experience in coding, complete any pre-work that your bootcamp assigns. Even though it can be annoying to have tasks before you even start the course, starting the bootcamp with the necessary foundational knowledge is absolutely key. Take your time and complete the assignments–you’ll thank yourself later. 

  5. Prepare your CV and interview skills: switching careers is a big step; the more preparation you do during the bootcamp, the better off you’ll be once you start applying for jobs. Start building your portfolio from day one, updating your CV as you master new skills. 

As you can see, there are lots of ways to learn to code and the choice lies with you and your specific situation. But no matter what you choose, remember this: coding is an incredibly fast growing field with tons of opportunities and if you take the time to properly learn what you need to know, you’ll have the chance to truly transform your career. Ready to get started on that life changing decision? Our Web Development Bootcamp has everything you need: 

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