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Learn to Code: Which Path Should You Take?

Learn to Code: Which Path Should You Take?

April 11, 2017 in College Alternatives, IT Career Program / by Ted Parker

So you want to learn to code? Maybe you already have some experience building websites or writing minor programs, or maybe computer coding is a completely foreign language to you. But whether you are learning a new skillset or expanding on your existing hobby, an interest in coding can lead you into a rewarding full-time career. There are a number of paths you can take to learn to code, each have their benefits and disadvantages. What option is best for you and your goals?

Usually, when someone thinks about adding skills or knowledge for a new career, they immediately think of college or community college. But there are many new types of training that have gained popularity in the last several years that are changing the way people learn to code and start their careers in technology. These include coding “boot camps”, paid online programs – both live and self-paced, free online “massive open online courses” or MOOCs, and even internships or apprenticeships.

When you take into account the cost, time commitments, structure and results of these options, it’s clear that each offers a different path. When deciding which path to choose, the only real question is which one provides the best return on investment of time and money for you.

4 Year Computer Science Degree

When many people think about learning to code for a career, they picture themselves in a traditional, four-year college classroom. A Computer Science (CS) or similar degree is something that many coding enthusiasts decide to pursue, and there are obvious benefits to a program like this. This type of curriculum is generally designed to provide students with a broad overview of all aspects or areas of information technology – not just coding. This gives them the opportunity to identify their specific areas of interest, but most of their experiences are broad. If you pursue a CS degree, you will likely not develop a deep or comprehensive understanding or experience hands on exposure with any specific coding language. Regardless, many feel a four year degree offers a more well-rounded education and exposes students to concepts such as collaboration, critical thinking, business acumen and problem solving.

The primary advantage of a CS (or other technology) four-year program is that you earn a degree which is valued by certain employers. But, this comes at a cost. A college degree is major time commitment. Only 50% of students entering college graduate within six years, much less four. A lot of those 4-6 years are spent taking classes that aren’t directly related to coding and technology to meet broad graduation requirements. Also, because it takes colleges time to earn and keep accreditation for their courses, colleges struggle to remain up-to-date with technology. If new coding languages are released and updated, it may take years for their courses to reflect those changes. And, of course, the rising cost of college tuition makes the CS degree far and away the most expensive way to learn to code.

2 Year Community College (Associate’s) Degree: 

One of the most affordable options to learn to code today is the community college network with which most people are very familiar. A two-year Associate’s degree is obviously more attainable than a four-year Bachelor’s degree because of the shorter time commitment and the lower cost. However, like a four-year school, much of your education consists of general education classes leaving less time for coding or other technology classes. As a result, a community college curriculum often offers introductory looks (or general overviews) of various technologies and not in-depth coding classes. Also, employers often look beyond candidates with associates degrees, seeing them as incomplete bachelors degrees.

Code Boot Camp Program

One of the new types of training that has become popular in recent years is the “code school” or ‘coding boot camp.” These programs are designed for one purpose: to teach you the coding or programming skills you need to get a job in the coding industry. They do not offer degrees, meaning they can focus their entire curriculum on hands-on coding training. The most significant difference from traditional schools, however, is not the curriculum but rather the class structure. Boot camps are intensive, accelerated programs designed to teach you to code in a matter of weeks – not years. The schedules are generally 8-10 hours a day, five days a week. They last anywhere from 10 to 16 weeks. They focus on teaching job-relevant skills with the goal of getting their graduates hired into coding jobs upon graduation. Similar to vocational training, coding boot camps only teach skills that are important to employers.

However, not all of these types of programs are created equally. While many state they will teach students with no programming experience, they often require those students to complete online work demonstrating coding skills before starting the actual live program. They often require applicants to submit demonstrations of their coding ability prior to acceptance. Many even boast about their low acceptance rate. If you are a beginner or you don’t feel comfortable with your grasp of the fundamentals, you may be hesitant to enroll in this type of coding boot camp.

Centriq Training: A Different Kind of Boot Camp

The first thing to know about Centriq is that it is truly for individuals that have no technology or coding experience. Centriq has taught IT professionals and coders for over 25 years. It is the largest IT training facility in the Midwest. Centriq has developed proven, hands on methodology for training individuals new to coding. The second thing to know about Centriq is that it also offers a Systems and Security Administrator track in addition to the Full Stack Web Developer coding program. Centriq is the only boot camp in the country to offer both.

Centriq’s program is structured like other boot camps in that it’s the format is seven hours a day five days a week. The curriculum is 100% technology job skills. Each class moves through the entire program as a single cohort. At the end, Centriq’s full time Career Services department helps place graduates with companies that do their high end corporate IT training with Centriq. Centriq grads have worked at over 900 companies in the Midwest.

MOOC’s and Other Online Programs

Another way to learn to code is to teach yourself. There are many free or relatively inexpensive resources available for individuals that want to learn to code themselves. Perhaps the newest and most diverse are the Massive Open Online Courses , or MOOC’s. These are free courses – many from elite universities – that are available to anyone. Obviously, the benefit is the low cost. However, there are several downsides. One is that there is no clear pathway or pattern and no clear guides on the coding skillsets you need for your job market. Additionally, there is no real placement or job hunting assistance when you complete your training. Also, while there are some opportunities for badges or certifications, generally it is more difficult to evidence your skills or proficiency when you have self-trained.

In addition, there is a plethora of video and online training options available. While many are free, many are not. On the positive side, you can progress at your own pace and learn at the times you choose rather than on a rigid schedule. However, these options require significant determination and self-discipline to complete – especially in a timely manner. In addition, students may face similar challenges as with MOOC’s in determining the correct skills to acquire, have less direct instruction assistance and less placement support in finding employment.

Internships/Apprenticeships

Another possibility for getting into a coding career is an internship or apprenticeship. In these environments, you learn basic coding skills through free MOOC’s or similar online programs, and then apply for apprenticeships where you will work and be mentored by an employee. These programs are usually sponsored or created by government or non-profit organizations who arrange for the apprenticeships with corporations. Generally, the apprentice or intern works for a lesser salary during the apprenticeship as he or she is also learning to code on the job.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that if you want to learn to code, there are multiple options available for you. The right one depends entirely on you and your situation. Learn more from our complete guide on IT career training vs a college degree here. If you have any questions about a career in IT or coding, call Centriq’s Sr. Education Consultant Russ Mondry at 913-322-7044 or go here to contact Russ online.

Can you really learn IT or coding in just four months?