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The Cost of a Coding Bootcamp

October 22, 2019

When I was researching coding bootcamps, one of the scariest parts was the cost. 10k, 20k, even 30k, how could I possibly afford that? Not to mention if it was a full-time on-campus program, I wouldn't be able to keep my job. But on the other hand, how do you put a price on leaving a job that makes you unhappy to find a more satisfying career?

My solution was to make spreadsheets. I put in the cost of each program, the salary the program suggested I could make on the other side, how much I had in savings, and how much income I could expect to make while learning. I decided what kind of debt I was comfortable with (for me, very little), and ultimately decided on a lower-cost flexible and remote program. But in hindsight (even though I was happy with my program), I realize that a six-month full career change is worth more than I originally imagined.

Let's talk projected income for a minute

Glassdoor lists the average national income for the following job titles as follows:
Technical Support Engineer: 63k
Junior Developer: 66k
Entry Level Web Developer: 71k
Full Stack Developer: 80k
Associate Software Engineer: 83k

I followed up this data with a couple Twitter polls. The responses are international and have some of the usual downfalls of a basic Twitter poll, but I wanted to include them nonetheless.

Poll: What was your salary for your first full-time job as a developer?

Poll results: 60% of people said less than 50 thousand dollars a year.

As you can see, there is a pretty big discrepancy between this poll and the Glassdoor results. However, a lot of people in this survey answered that their first job was in the 90s, or in the UK where salaries are lower.

Poll: What should a junior developer expect to make for their first full-time job in 2019?

Poll results: 34% said 50-60 thousand dollars a year.

This poll feels more in line with my experience in Portland, Oregon. Of the very small sample size of 4 post-bootcamp devs who shared their starting salary with me, we all fell roughly in the 50-70k range.


There were a couple of helpful links left in those Twitter poll threads, so you can do more research based on your specifics: Stack Overflow Salary Estimator Payscale Salary Survey

Glassdoor also suggests that within 4-6 years as a software engineer, you should be expecting to make around 100k. Just something fun to keep in mind, in case you want to buy a boat someday or something.

Doing the math

I spent 14% of my starting annual salary on my bootcamp. That feels like a really small number to me if you think about it. Especially considering what I spent on a bachelor's degree, plus 7 years of work experience that got me to roughly the same income I have now. 6 months plus paying 14% of an annual salary vs 11 years plus 120% of an annual salary. That's a pretty quick return on investment.

Benefits count too

Tech companies (in the US, can't speak for elsewhere) that have gotten past their start-up phase can have pretty solid benefits. They want to attract top talent, and know that people care about benefits ranging from healthcare and 401k to free lunches and PTO. Don't be afraid to ask about those things in a job interview, because the cost of those benefits will add up to increase your salary. Right now, I have the benefit of getting medical and dental covered at 100%. I might as well add another 5k onto my salary.

The priceless stuff

I was really unhappy at my last job. I had no work/life balance, I felt underappreciated and overworked, and that unhappiness trickled out into the rest of my life. I took a bit of a pay cut to change careers and it could not have been more worth it.

Also realize that many tech companies are allowing more and more employees to work remotely, either part-time or full-time. How much is that worth to you? How much would that save you on gas, parking, or childcare?

To sum up

It's worth it (one woman's opinion). I could have spent twice as much on my bootcamp as I did and it still would have been worth it. Spending a lot of money can be scary, but if you really look at the cost/benefit analysis, it's a worthwhile investment.

Created by Caitlyn Greffly