- June
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The Pros and Cons of Self Taught Coding vs Bootcamps vs a Computer Science Degree

Want to learn how to code? It’s a smart move in today’s job marketplace. Compared to the market average, programming positions are growing 12% faster.

And if Barack Obama supports it, you know it has to be a good idea.

There are a few different ways to learn how to code, though. The choice between attending a college degree program, taking online coder camps, or teaching yourself can feel overwhelming. You need a guide to help you weigh the pros and cons of each.

Voila! Read on to learn about the essential differences so you can make an informed decision about your next step as a future coder.

Computer Science Degree

College degrees are a huge investment. There’s no getting around that investment unless you’re willing to put the time in to apply for scholarships. Computer Science degrees offer a whole host of benefits that the other contenders don’t, though.


The biggest pro to investing in a computer science degree is that you’ll learn coding theory. This theory is the foundation that various coding languages build off of. Without that knowledge, you’re building a house without any knowledge about the foundation.

Operating systems, databases, and algorithms are taught in computer science programs. There are whole classes dedicated to theory before you even start learning your coding languages. Understanding theory makes you a more versatile coder, which means you’ll be more competitive in the job market.

The second biggest pro is that you’ll be introduced to learning techniques that you can carry with you for the rest of your career. Technology changes fast, and you never know when a new language will be introduced. Employers sometimes prefer coders with formal education because it shows they’ll be able to adapt to a rapidly changing marketplace without missing a beat.


The biggest con is, of course, the cost. In the U.S., we harbor a casual $1.3 trillion in student debt right now. Too often, it takes students their entire lifetime to pay off their student debt.

It’s not a sustainable education system, and it’s not fun to deal with debt just behind you for your whole life. If there’s an easier way to get the programming jobs you covet, it should be considered very strongly.

And there just might be. No strong correlation has been found between having a computer science degree and a higher salary versus being self-taught or attending a coding camp.

College degree programs also take a lot of time, so your lifestyle and responsibilities should weigh into your decision as well.

Boot Camps

Coding boot camps are on the rise. They’ve become a $260 million industry. They’ve proven to create alternative and less expensive pathways to high-paying positions in the tech industry over traditional degree programs.


Perhaps the biggest pro for coding boot camps is the cost. You can learn the same languages that you will in a college degree program for a fraction of the cost. Since computer programming positions are on the rise, you could come out in a pretty sweet situation with minimal debt and a high salary if you choose this low-cost option.

They’re also great for those who need a flexible schedule. Most of these programs are online, so you get to design your dream school schedule and work it into your life however you like. This is an important facet for those with families or who are choosing a new career after they’ve already built their life up.

Those who learned to code in boot camp programs can make just as much money as those who learned in the traditional college setting. If you’re okay with online classes, this is a great option for you.


If you’re not great with online classes, you might run into some challenges with coding boot camps. They require strong self-direction skills and self-discipline to keep up with condensed, rigorous coursework. Programs are usually much shorter than typical college semesters, so you need to be on your game.

If you prefer face to face instruction and having a point person to answer your questions, a traditional degree program might be a better bet for you.

You also won’t learn as much in a boot camp compared to a college degree program. There simply isn’t the time.

On average, you’ll learn about 10% of what traditional computer science students learn. That’s okay since you’ll learn everything you need to know to jumpstart a successful career. If you’re looking for a more well-rounded education, though, boot camps aren’t your best bet.

Teaching Yourself

Some people just don’t like formal education, whether it be a traditional or alternative version. If that sounds like you, more power to you! In today’s digital ecology, it’s totally possible to build a successful computer programming career as a self-taught coder.


One of the biggest pros is, of course, that self-education is completely free. All it takes is time and a Google search bar to find all the resources you could possibly dream of to help you learn to code.

Another pro is the flexibility of your schedule. If you’ve already got a career and want to learn to code on the side, teaching yourself at night is the way to go. Educational programs can sometimes be too rigorous to enroll in with a lot of other responsibilities on your plate.


The biggest con is the lack of organized curriculum. You’re entirely responsible for your education, so you have to put the time in to find all your materials and resources. You also have to organize them so you’re sure you’re learning everything in the right order.

This takes hours of scouring the internet that could be spent actually learning your craft.

There’s also no accountability or community in a self-taught education. There are always groups and forums, but nothing in the way of peers. Accountability is integral to staying on schedule, and without assignments and due dates, it’s easy to fall behind on your goals.

Coder Camps, Self-Teaching, or College: Which is Right for You?

Hopefully, with this knowledge, you’ll be able to compare how the pros and cons of each educational avenue relate to your life. After all, they’re all great options with similar end-goals in mind; you just need to find what’s right for you!

Check out our other web development articles for more knowledge about the craft, too!