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Coding Bootcamp vs CS Degree vs Self Taught: Which Is Best For You

A comprehensive guide to help you find your way to learning how to code



Do you want to learn how to code? But you don't know which of these ways is the right one for you? Keep on reading. I got you!

There are basically 3 possibilities to choose from when wanting to learn how to code: studying for a computer science degree, becoming a self-taught software engineer, or attending a coding bootcamp.

I decided to compare these options based on 5 different criteria: cost, opportunities, efficiency, support, and speed. I will assign a score from 1 to 3 (1 being the worst, 3 being the best) to each of the three paths for the different parameters.

The main aim of this analysis is to help you find your way to learning how to code and ultimately becoming an employable software engineer.

Disclaimer: This advice is solely mine and does not represent the views of the publication.

1. Cost

The first criterion is cost. How much will it cost you? We can probably all agree that, in this case, the best option is the self-taught path (3 points) and the most expensive one is the computer science degree (1 point).


With the crazy amount of free resources out there, you could actually learn how to code for free. I would anyways recommend buying some courses on an online learning platform like Udemy,, or because those can give you a good structure and an idea of the path that you should follow.

The coding bootcamp gets 2 points here because it is not as cheap as the self-taught path but also not as expensive as attending a university would be. The average full-time coding bootcamp in the US costs$13,584, and the tuition fees can range from $7,800 to $21,000.

The costs are even higher for universities, where the average total cost of public colleges is $25,290 in-state and $40,940 out-of-state. For private schools, the total costs are $50,900 on average.

Beware, however, that there are many other factors to take into account. Regarding university costs, there is the possibility of obtaining scholarships. And if you study in Europe, most universities are for free. Bootcamps can also be more accessible because some of them have deferred tuition or offer ISAs.

Once again, with this analysis, I do not want to declare a winner but help you to think about making the best choice.

2. Opportunities

The second criterion is the opportunities. What do I mean with that? I refer to the possibilities one has to find a job as a software engineer. Although all three ways can lead you to get a job in the industry, it is certainly easier in some ways than in others. That said, I assigned just 1 point to the self-taught route and 3 points to the CS degree.


I awarded 3 points to the CS degree because having a CS degree has a very positive image and gives you high credibility.

Good coding bootcamps create different opportunities for you as well. They have partnerships with different companies, organize career fairs, and support you when entering the job market.

I think it is quite obvious that if you are self-taught, you will have a more difficult time finding a job. It will be more difficult to access opportunities and build a network and you have to prove your knowledge more than others.

What I am referring to is the current situation, but I think that in the future there will be more and more opportunities to get online certificates with the same value as a degree. An example of this is the six-month career certificates recently developed by Google, which will be considered "as the equivalent of a four-year degree."

3. Efficiency

The third criterion is efficiency, understood as "the ability to do things well, successfully, and without waste." Once again, the self-taught route gets 3 points being the best and the CS degree 1 point being the least efficient.


As a self-taught developer, you can teach yourself the skills that are in demand right now so you can get hired as soon as possible. I strongly recommend this guide by Andrei Neagoie, a senior software developer. He explainsthe steps that you should take if you want to learn how to code and how to become employable in5 months.

I gave 2 points to the bootcamp, because also in this case what you learn is very specific and design to get you hired as soon as possible. However, the program is not as customizable as the self-taught path is.

The least efficient is the traditional degree in CS, this is because of its long duration and the several classes that won't be of practical use.

4- Support

The fourth criteria is support. By support I mean the assistance that you can get during your studies. In this case, I assigned 1 point to the self-taught path, and 3 points to both the university and the coding bootcamp.


Bootcamps and universities, have both a very good support network as you can get help from professors or peers at all times.

For the self-taught path, the support is practically zero. If you have difficulty understanding a topic the only options you have are to google your problem or to search for an answer on a platform like Stack Overflow. If you're feeling stuck, down, or not motivated, the lack of support might cause you to get lost and to lose sight of your goal.

5- Speed

The fifth and final criteria is speed. How fast can you go from zero programming knowledge to being an employable software engineer? In this case, I awarded 3 points to the self-taught path and just 1 point to the CS degree.


The self -taught route is the fastest here because you can really go from zero knowledge to being employable in just a few months. For sure, you will need the right determination, discipline, and focus on learning only the most in-demand skills.

The second position and 2 points go to the coding bootcamp. It is just as intense and fast but not as customizable (even if you are faster than your classmates, you will still have to stick to the bootcamp's program).
The last place goes to the CS degree because in most cases it will take you up to 4 years to graduate.


With 11 total points each, the coding bootcamp and the self-taught route take the first place in this analysis.


But as I said before, the goal of this is comparison is not to declare a winner. At the end of the day, it all depends on the importance you give to each of these variables.

If for instance, money is not a problem for you, then surely you should attend a good coding bootcamp. If you are disciplined and have a good method of self-studying, then you could choose the path of becoming a self-taught engineer. If you have just gotten out of high school and are deciding on a university, then you should go for the CS degree.

There is no better way than the other, but it all depends on figuring out what option fits best to you. There are many software engineers who work for great companies and they all have various different backgrounds.

There is just one thing that they all have in common: they have worked really hard to get there!

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