The learn-to-code movement has expanded well beyond the realm of hobbyists. As President Obama acknowledged just last month, the many coding bootcamps that speckle the country are becoming important economic drivers, helping train American workers in the skills they need to fill an ever expanding pool of tech jobs and in a fraction of the time it would take them to pursue a four-year degree.
But just who are these daring folks who drop their day jobs in pursuit of a career in tech, and what, if anything, do they get for the $10,000 price of admission that most of these bootcamps charge?
That was the question on Louis Beryl’s mind. He’s the founder and CEO of Earnest, an online lender that, among other things, partners with coding bootcamps to offer loans to their students. He wanted to know who the average coding student is and what becomes of them after graduation. So he and his team dug into the data from 10 different coding bootcamps to find out more about their students and their outcomes.
“What we wanted to do by showing who the typical person was, was help people in this generation understand this is an opportunity,” Beryl explains. “It’s like: ‘Wow, people like me are doing this.’ This is a way that the economy is changing. So I think that’s what we want to help people understand.”
According to Earnest, the average student made $45,000 a year before enrolling in coding school, but afterward, the average starting salary for graduates was between $60,000 and $80,000. What’s more, about 94 percent of students actually landed a job within three months of graduating, though Earnest can’t confirm how many of those jobs were actually in tech.
The data revealed that 63 percent of the students are male, and the average age is 28.5. But some other findings were actually quite surprising. The average coding student, for instance, owes $29,900 in debt before enrolling in a coding school, almost half of that from student loans.
For Beryl, that was a strong sign that it’s not just the people who happen to have the money to pay for one of these bootcamps who are enrolling. Instead, it’s people looking for ways to increase their earning capacity or, as President Obama put it in his talk, book “a ticket into the middle class.”
Beryl sees all this as promising, particularly given the rate at which tech jobs are expected to grow over the next few years. Still, there are those, like Kristen Titus, founding director of the newly created NYC Tech Talent Pipeline, who say that anyone interested in enrolling in one of these bootcamps should do so with a healthy bit of skepticism.
Not all programs are created equal, she says. That’s one reason why the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline was created—to make sure people are getting a quality tech education that will actually lead to a quality job in tech. “I have reason to believe that not every bootcamp program puts emphasis on that second piece,” Titus says. “Many of the bootcamps and training providers we’ve seen have not been built with employers in mind.”
That said, Titus believes there are plenty of reputable schools out there for people interested in a career in tech, as long as people do their research first to find out where graduates from any given program are landing jobs, how soon after graduation they’re finding those jobs, and what the quality of those jobs are. “We have a lot of work to do to define who’s doing what well,” she says. “If we had a perfect solution we wouldn’t see the dearth we do today.”