Choosing a coding bootcamp is tough. More now than ever. Before COVID, you just chose one in your local area. Today, they're all online – so you can go pretty much anywhere.

There's a fair bit of content on the internet about how to choose coding bootcamps. Most of it is written by coding bootcamps, which is a bit of an issue.


  • am a coding bootcamp graduate
  • worked in Senior Management for a coding bootcamp for five years
  • now provide services to coding bootcamps, and have spoken to dozens of them I know my way around the industry pretty well, and wanted to share a neutral perspective to help people who are thinking about this potentially life-changing choice.

I hoped it would be useful to share my honest feelings about how to decide where to go.

Not all bootcamps are created (even close to) equal

If you wind back the clock a little over a decade, there wasn't really any such thing as a coding bootcamp. But now there are literally hundreds.

The issue is that many of them make the same kinds of sounds – "we offer extensive job support", "expert trainers", that kind of thing. The trouble is, anybody can say it. But there's an enormous difference between a bootcamp that is updating its curriculum every month based on genuine employer feedback and who offer genuinely unlimited 1-to-1 career advice, and a bootcamp with a 2-year-old curriculum that offers a couple of lectures on how to write a tech CV.

Both kinds are out there, and both kinds may try to sell it to you as the best thing since sliced bread.

Question 1: What employer relationships do you have in my area?

Employer relationships are key. But don't be drawn in by seeing their graduates "work at" big profile companies like Google and Amazon. Don't get me wrong! That is a really good sign. But it's pretty irrelevant if 1% of their grads have landed jobs with these firms. It might not even be their first job after graduating. And schools will absolutely sell on this. In my opinion, this can be a bit misleading depending on the stats behind the claims.

What really matters is the real employer relationships they have, at this moment, where you live. They are the jobs you're in the market for.

Don't expect to be working at Google!

What you want to hear...

You want to know that they have an excellent network of employers who routinely interview and hire from that bootcamp, in your area. (Sure, devs do often work remotely these days, but especially in your first job, both you and they will benefit from some in-person time – you're far more likely to be hired locally)

Question 2: Tell me about your job placement stats?

Employment stats can tell you a lot about the quality of a bootcamp, and particularly the quality of the career support. But stats reporting isn't regulated, which means that what counts as "employed" for one bootcamp will be wildly different to what counts for another.

Are they counting people who are employed in non-developer positions still in IT, like IT technician or tech support? How common is this? In my opinion, if you've chosen the right bootcamp, you shouldn't need to go into a non-coding job.

Also, what's the timeframe someone needs to get hired in to count as a successfully hired grad? 90% hired within 8 weeks into software developer jobs is very different to 95% hired (in any job at all) within 12 months..!

What's the average starting salary? Remember - this might vary by location, so if a school in London and a school in Newcastle have the same starting salaries, that probably isn't a good sign for the London school.

A lot of schools will play with their numbers to spruce up their stats, so remember to ask exactly how they're calculating them.

What you want to hear...

At a good coding bootcamp, the vast majority (90%+) of grads should be going into junior-level software developer jobs. In the UK at the time of writing, outside of London, these could pay roughly £22-30K, or in London, £25-40K. I would be skeptical of a bootcamp with average starting salaries below the lower bracket.

At online bootcamps, stats might be worse – that's not necessarily to do with the quality of tuition, but more to do with the impracticality of good employer connections where people live.

Question 3: Is there a limit on the amount of career support I can get?

Policies between bootcamps differ widely. Almost all will offer some form of support, such as a CV workshop, portfolio review and careers session. I would say this is really the absolute minimum. Bootcamps do like to make their career support sound amazing, but it's important to know what commitment is behind that.

Watch out for things like "guaranteed interviews" and "guaranteed jobs". Don't get me wrong, this can be a great thing! In some cases though, these will be poor quality, low-paying jobs or apprenticeships. They might also be with the bootcamp itself or a sister company.

Some bootcamps, particularly larger ones, will limit support. For example, you might get a set number of 1-to-1s, or three months of support, or support providing you prove you are searching for a job. Be aware of these limitations before you apply.

What you want to hear...

Ideally, you want to see that the bootcamp can make introductions for you to real employers with companies in a wide employer network in your area. On the other side, you are looking for extensive support including 1-to-1 guidance where you still feel that human touch. Some larger bootcamps might have restrictive policies that you might not know about, like "1 CV review" or "we don't review cover letters". It's not necessarily a deal-breaker, but I would always prefer to hear that bootcamps take the simple human approach of helping where they can.

Question 4: What languages do your graduates go on to code in, in their first dev job?

In theory, after going to a coding bootcamp, you should feel confident in picking up a new language reasonably quickly. Coding bootcamps should not just teach a language. They should teach the underlying principles and thought processes. Learning coding languages is a big like fixing vehicles – once you've learned how to fix a Vauxhall Corsa, in theory you could learn much faster how to fix a Audi A6. It might be a bit tougher fixing a lorry, but you're closer.

What you want to hear...

You want to hear that grads go on to code in a wide range of languages, not just the one that is taught on the bootcamp.

Question 5: What proportion of applicants to your courses get offered a seat?

It can feel like a benefit when bootcamps have no application process at all, or are easy to get into – but this is a false economy. The truth is, coding isn't right for everybody. And in my opinion, it isn't right for coding bootcamps to take people's money if they aren't confident coding is right for someone.

This doesn't mean application processes need to be hard or scary. In fact, if you make it to the end of a bootcamp's prep work, there's already a strong chance you'll get a place. Prep work is usually designed to get the right people excited, and make the wrong people realise it's not for them.

What you want to hear...

Ideally, bootcamps won't just "take your money" – they'll help you discover if it's right for you first.

Question 6: Do your students pair programme and work in groups?

I genuinely hated the idea of pair programming before my bootcamp. I found it pretty offputting.

But I, like pretty much everyone, was converted pretty fast! I learned so much stuff I otherwise would have missed and went much faster with someone else to catch my mistakes (and you will make mistakes no matter how good you think you are).

Second, it simply prepares you for the reality of life as a developer. When you first pair, talking through what you are doing is surprisingly hard. It's a skill you have to learn. If your bootcamp doesn't allow those opportunities, you won't be prepared for life as a developer (never mind your technical interview!)

What you want to hear...

There are opportunities to do pair programming, and ideally a group project or two.

Question 7: How many of your tutors are full-time?

Part-time or freelance tutors are often sold as "real industry professionals". That sounds awesome, but it sometimes isn't. Industry professionals are not guaranteed to be good teachers. Bootcamps love to sell their part-time dev tutors. But teaching is a skill..! It's not ideal if bootcamps rely largely on part-time or freelance teachers who have a day job.

"Real industry experience" sounds cool, but good coding bootcamps can be so good at teaching best practice that, actually, industry professionals aren't actually as clued up about some of the basics as you might think.

There's a place for real industry professionals though – for example in developing the curriculum, running specialist sessions or if they have previous teaching experience. Similarly, there is a big difference between a genuine expert and someone who merely has "real industry experience" which does not necessarily translate to an excellent experience.

What you want to hear...

You want to hear that they mostly rely on full-time professional teaching staff. Personally, as someone who has been both a bootcamp student and a bootcamp employee, I think this is more important than live industry experience which can be a gimmick.

Question 8: How often do you update your curriculum, and how do you choose what to teach?

Some bootcamps teach things simply because either they always have, or because it's easy. Take Ruby on Rails – easy to teach, increasingly less relevant (A touch of bias here, but many are saying Golang is the new Ruby!)

Bootcamps' approaches to their curriculum vary wildly, and you can't tell just by looking.

What you want to hear...

Look for a bootcamp with a curriculum that is being reviewed regularly based on changes to tech and the skills employers want them to teach.

Question 9: If I'm stuck, how (and how often) can I get help?

The last thing you need is to fire off a question into a web form and hope that somebody will write back in the next couple of days. Some bootcamps will manage to make this sound good ("bespoke support personalised to you"), but what you really want is tutors on hand throughout teaching hours who are ready to spend time with you 1-to-1 usually within minutes, if not immediately, with no limit on the amount of times you can figuratively raise your hand.

When you're learning to code, you will get stuck. A lot. I sure did – and so did everyone else I know who has learned to code (which is a lot of people..!)

That's cool! You get used to it fast. What you need is someone to get you un-stuck ASAP (and show you how to un-stick yourself next time).

What you want to hear...

You don't want responses via a message – you want to be able to video-link (or see someone in-person) with someone within minutes who is able to show you where you're going wrong.

Two things you might think matter, but don't

Job guarantee

This one sounds SO GOOD, am I right?

But... there is no such thing as a guaranteed job. Unless you literally know what job you are going to get before starting (which does exist, but is usually a really low-paying role or an apprenticeship.)

Now, the fact a bootcamp is offering a job guarantee is definitely a good thing. It shows confidence it what it does.

But what you should really care about is the placement rate – and all of the other things we talked about above. Offering someone's money back if things don't go to plan is a good way for bootcamps to absolve themselves of responsibility if things go badly, and avoid bad reviews. Schools offering job guarantees might try to pressure you into low-paying jobs, or be happy to get you a job in IT support or something just to get you off their books.

It sounds good, but I firmly believe anyone who backs themselves is best off at an excellent school with excellent placement rates, but no job guarantee.


Ok, sure, not all certifications. But there are a few issues with certifications, especially the kind often offered by bootcamps.

The first is that they are often a box-ticking exercise that no self-respecting software developer would put themselves through.

The second is that they often require bootcamps to teach woefully, embarrassingly outdated or pointless information (I know this first hand through my work – though fortunately not from my own coding bootcamp experience!).

Finally, you absolutely do not need one to become a developer. At larger companies hiring managers might care, especially if CVs are filtered by HR, but at many modern or smaller businesses, I guarantee almost all hiring managers will not give a monkey's about most certifications.

Certifications are often used just to appeal to people who are thinking about becoming developers who don't realise how unnecessary they are in the industry, especially at this stage.

It's in your hands

It's always a good idea to do plenty of research before you commit to something as big as a coding bootcamp. It's not all about asking questions – it's also a good idea to read as many reviews as you can. If possible, speak to people who have completed bootcamps you're interested in. Some bootcamps might be able to put you in touch with their graduates.

Although it's a big decision, it's absolutely one you should be excited about. Going to coding bootcamp is one of the best decisions I've ever made, and learning to code has the potential to give people from all walks of life true fulfillment at work, financial stability and – ultimately – happiness at work.

I wish you all the best with your journey!