The truth about whether 'coding bootcamps' that can get graduates $100,000 exit salaries actually prepare you to be a programmer

“Coding bootcamps” have earned friends in high places, including President Obama, who called them a ticket to the middle class.

These programs are designed to take in students with minimal coding knowledge and shoot them back out a few months later as employable software engineers. And the top bootcamps have enjoyed outstanding success, boasting over $100,000 in average exit salaries and up to 99% employment rates.

And there are anecdotal tales of life turnarounds, like this one from a community college dropout who went from working at Chick-fil-A to making $90,000 as a computer programmer in just 6 months. But are these bootcamp graduates actually prepared to enter a professional life of coding?

Triplebyte is a tech recruiting startup that doesn’t look at things like resumes. Instead, it performs blind technical screenings of software engineers, and then places them at companies (such as Dropbox and Stripe).

The company has placed both graduates of bootcamps and computer science college programs, and recently did an analysis of how these respective groups fared. They looked at 100 bootcamp grads and 150 college computer science grads.

The results

“We’ve found bootcamp grads as a group to be better than college grads at web programming and writing clean, modular code, and worse at algorithms and understanding how computers work,” cofounder Ammon Bartram writes. “All in all, we’ve had roughly equivalent success working with the two groups.”

But they are different. Bootcamp grads do as well (or even better) than college grads on practical skills, but they “lose out on deep knowledge,” according to Bartram.

Let’s look at design questions as an example. “Bootcamp grads do better on web questions involving web servers, databases, and load balancers,” Bartram writes. “College grads do better on low-level design questions involving bit/bytes, threading, memory allocation, and understanding how a computer actually works.”

Triplebyte only sees a sample of engineers who pass their initial test, so the startup doesn’t have a way of knowing whether there is a large percentage of bootcampers who failed early on.

But the results suggest that, beyond being better or worse, bootcamps provide a different skill set than a more traditional computer science degree.

Here is a graph of Triplebyte’s results:

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