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January 18, 2024 - 6 minutes

Tech Bootcamps vs. Traditional Degrees: Which Is the Right Starting Point?

Let’s dive into the two main ways of getting into tech

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The time old question: what’s the best way to get into tech? Is there to take advantage of all that tech has to offer after you’ve started a career in a different area, or is heading back to school to get another four-year degree the only way? Depending on who you ask, the answer you get might differ, but we’re here to clear the air: tech bootcamps are a completely legitimate way to get into the field–and are even preferred by some hiring managers. 

We’re not trying to lessen the importance of getting a university tech degree; the four years you spend in a classroom learning both the foundational and practical aspects of your role are highly valuable and can serve you well as you begin your tech journey. But as the tech world is evolving to move at an incredibly fast pace, we’ve learned that preparing students to enter the workforce quickly and with practical knowledge in the most in-demand skills is key.

In this article, we’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of both university and bootcamp learning, highlighting the unique offers that bootcamps provide–and how they help you land a job in tech quickly after graduation. 

But before we get right into that, it’s important to discuss how bootcamps came to be and how they’re transforming the industry by providing hiring managers with candidates trained in the latest skills–not those of years ago. 

The Origins of Bootcamps 

Think about where you were five years ago, or maybe even just a year ago. Odds are lots of things have changed and the tech sector is no exception: just a year ago, ChatGPT was delivered to the hands of anyone with internet access and transformed the way we work. And that’s not all: the last few years have witnessed unprecedented growth and development in the tech sector. 

This is a good thing, right? Of course–these new developments have led to an increasingly wide adoption of tech solutions across the world, bringing crucial services like healthcare and financial institutions to people’s fingertips, removing lots of barriers. But skilled professionals who know how to use and develop these new innovations are sorely needed and here’s how bootcamps came to be.

University degrees, although thorough and full of incredibly valuable information, usually follow a curriculum that’s set at the beginning of the student’s course, meaning they’re learning about the technologies that were new almost four years before they graduate. And for a while, this was a completely legitimate way to train the next generation of techies because tech was evolving slowly and tech professionals were able to keep up. Today, however, the sheer number of new technologies that are unleashed in four years means that these recent graduates simply don’t have the skills that hiring managers are looking for. 

Because bootcamps are intensive and taught over such a short period of time and focus not on general education requirements and instead on the skills that the job market currently demands, students are able to learn what they need to catch the attention of hiring managers, filling this gap of what universities are behind on teaching and what the job market demands. 

Now that we understand how bootcamps came to be and why they’ve gained so much traction in recent years, let’s cover both university degrees and bootcamps and try to determine the right fit for you. 

Should I Get a Tech Degree From a University? 

As you can probably imagine, this question depends a lot on your specific situation: your age, current education level, career aspirations, financial situation, and more are necessary factors to consider when evaluating getting a university degree. But since you’re here for the nitty gritty, let’s cover some of the pros and cons of starting your tech career with a university degree. 

Yes, there are quite a few pros to getting your tech education in a four-year institution and don’t worry: we’re not going to push you right towards bootcamp learning. From a well-rounded education to valuable social exposure, attending a university can be an incredibly important part of many people’s personal and professional lives. Let’s discuss. 

The pros of a university tech education 

  • Receiving a diverse education: even if you choose to study web development or cybersecurity, you’ll most likely receive a thorough education in other aspects of tech, such as data analytics or artificial intelligence, which can help you be a better tech professional, and a better candidate in job applications. And in addition to your required classes for your field of study, you’ll probably have the chance to take completely separate classes, such as foreign languages, history, or sciences. 

  • Participating in extracurricular activities: most universities offer a wide range of activities outside of class that can help enrich your experience; from sports teams to clubs about niche interests, you can supplement your tech knowledge with other areas that interest you, in addition to trying new things. 

  • Expanding your horizons: your university years are a great time to meet people from all sorts of backgrounds as they tend to bring together a diverse group of people. Since universities offer courses in practically every subject, you’ll be able to find both people who are interested in the same things as you and other areas, allowing you to learn from new perspectives and experiences. 

The cons of a university tech education 

  • Paying an arm and a leg and possibly taking on debt: there’s no nice way to put this: universities are expensive and depending on where you’re planning on attending university, you might be facing debt to pay tuition. And if you decide to pay for it by working part-time after class, you must consider how that will affect your mood and energy levels for studying. 

  • Delaying your start in the professional world by four years: leaving internships aside, beginning a full-time university degree means you most likely won’t be able to work in your chosen field until after graduation, which could delay your plans significantly. And if you choose a part-time degree program, it could be even longer before you graduate. 

  • Learning an outdated curriculum: the coursework for most courses is set well in advance of the start of the class and since you have four years ahead of you with little to no option in what you’ll be learning, you could be faced with seriously outdated content that won’t actually prepare you for the real world.  

Should I Get Into Tech with a Bootcamp? 

When it comes to bootcamps, you’ll find that they’re efficient, intensive, and effective ways of learning what you need to know to get into tech in a short period of time. Just like with anything, however, there are some drawbacks, so let’s cover the pros and cons of getting into tech with a bootcamp. 

The pros of a bootcamp tech education 

  • Receiving a specialized education: for some, the allure of learning about a wide range of subjects may be the deciding factor in choosing a university education. But for those who are focused on getting into tech as soon as possible to take advantage of the existing skills gap, bootcamps let you choose the exact area you want to study, including only what’s necessary for landing a job. 

  • Entering the job market immediately after graduation: the vast majority of bootcamps are just a few months long, meaning you’re looking at entering the job market in a short period of time instead of a few years. In addition, many bootcamps provide career support and interview prep throughout your course, ensuring you’re job-ready post-graduation.

  • Benefitting from a more personalized experience: university structures are rigid and may not be able to meet your needs. Bootcamps, on the other hand, are flexible, offering in-person or remote classes, in addition to part or full time options so that everyone has a chance to benefit from tech knowledge. With smaller class sizes, students receive more 1-1 interactions with teachers as well. 

The cons of a bootcamp tech education 

  • Hearing about the stigma of bootcamp education: unfortunately, there are some hiring managers and people out there who think bootcamps don’t provide the proper education required for a job in the tech field and therefore won’t give bootcamp graduates a fair shot. This opinion is changing, however, as more people realize how effective bootcamps are. 

  • Less room for exploration within your field: because bootcamps are so focused on one specific subject area, you may not have the chance to fully explore the field; to ensure that your chosen subject is the best for you, make sure you take the time to fully research potential jobs, responsibilities, and career paths for this sector to ensure it fits with your personal and professional goals. 

The right starting point for you depends on your specific situation, but we urge you to check out our bootcamps in Web Development, UX/UI Design, Data Analytics, and Cybersecurity to discover the right fit for you. At Ironhack, we also offer personalized Career Support for up to one year after graduation, helping you find the perfect fit for you and polishing your interview skills. 

Bootcamps are here to stay: are you ready to get into the tech industry? 

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