There are Many Paths into Tech. Which is Right for You?

Careers in tech are among the fastest growing in the nation. All industries are the tech industry  –– from health care to banking, virtually all companies need tech talent. This results in a ton of career opportunities in a wide range of fields, and software development skills continue to be one of the nations’ most in demand talents. 

Let’s look at the industry by the numbers: 

  • Career opportunities for Software Developers will grow 24% by 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 
  • 4 of LinkedIn’s ‘Top 10 Most Promising Jobs’ require software development skills 
  • Software Developer is the #1 “Best Job,’ according to U.S. News 
  • Application Software Developers are among the highest paying positions in the nation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 

It’s not difficult to see why so many people  have made the transition to a career in tech. Companies have an increased need for these skills, career options are plentiful, salaries consistently grow and there are many options for how you establish your career. 

What are the different paths to earning a career in tech? 

There are three paths to a tech career: earning a computer science degree, self-taught or joining a coding bootcamp. Which is right for you is dependent on your preference, budget, desired timeline and the path’s efficiency. Let’s take a look at the options, advantages and disadvantages:

Infographic: Computer Science Degree vs. Coding Bootcamp

Computer Science Degree

Traditionally, software developers earned a Bachelor’s in Computer Science to jumpstart their tech career. While there are many great CS degree programs, most lack the practical lessons graduates need to solidify a career –– such as a coding portfolio. Colleges move slowly with long approval processes for new curriculum, and technology moves fast; this creates outdated lessons and a disjointed experience from what graduates will experience in the real world. With fast-moving technology, the job market also transitions quickly –– requiring guidance and clarity around opportunities. Many university career advisors are managing career goals of hundreds of students, and often lack meaningful real-world industry insights.  According to one study, college advisors might support as many as 1,200 students, with the national average at a 375-to-one ratio. 

Additionally, earning a CS degree requires several general education credits that aren’t directly applicable to the work you’ll do after graduation and rarely cover topics like soft skills or networking with employers. In fact, some CS graduates go on to gain these technical and soft skills through other mediums, such as a coding bootcamp. 

Big companies, such as Google, have increasingly recognized that this path is no longer necessary to earn a position. There’s a new understanding that an individual’s skills and ability to contribute to the company’s objectives are more important than a grade point average. For companies that do require a degree, many simply don’t care if it’s in CS or something else entirely.

Self-Taught 

This is a path of self-led study using a variety of free and paid resources such as Udemy. This variety gives you some flexibility in finding which is right for your preferred structure. It also allows you to learn and explore your interests at your own pace.

While there are some advantages to being a self-taught developer, this route can be a challenging way to earn a career in tech for two key reasons: 1. Soft skills are just as important in the job hunt as technical abilities and 2. Your career search is only as strong as your network. Making meaningful connections with companies and understanding exactly what they’re looking for is vital to helping ensure they eventually hire you. Unfortunately, the self-taught path does not provide a built-in network of hiring companies and does not provide you the needed career coaching to landing your first programming job. 

Coding Bootcamp

Within the last ten years, numerous coding bootcamps have been established throughout the nation to create an efficient, effective path into tech. This path is for individuals looking for a meaningful education that will properly support their hard work and dedication to the career. Everything learned is directly applicable to the career search and the technical abilities the job will require. This is a great option for students passionate about the industry who are also incredibly dedicated to getting there quickly. Bootcamps create a concentrated, fast-past learning environment, packed with information and valuable insights. Many bootcamps include both the soft and technical skills necessary and offer a variety of scheduling options (such as our Full Time and After Hours programs). 

Keep in mind, not all coding bootcamps are created equal and ample research to establish one’s credibility and outcomes is important. Because the demand for tech talent is high and there’s currently no regulation on the coding bootcamp industry, new programs arise frequently. Students should review Outcomes Reports, talk to alumni and understand the bootcamp’s Employer Network

Why is a coding bootcamp might be the best option for you! 

Coding bootcamps create a unique learning experience that often invites students from a wide range of backgrounds to learn collaboratively. A single classroom might include individuals who previously worked as baristas, bankers, teachers, psychologists and beyond –– some with college degrees, many without. In fact, nearly 47% of Grand Circus graduates join program with less than a four-year degree. No matter where students are before the bootcamp, everyone gets a fair opportunity to needed to earn their dream tech job. The hard work and hustle throughout the program and after graduation matter far more than prior degrees or professions. 

A few Grand Circus stats: 

  • Graduates make a median salary of $52,000 in their first entry-level tech career 
  • 89.1% of full-time bootcampers earn careers in tech 
  • Every year, the salaries of alumni increases, with 2015 graduates making an average of $83,514
  • More than 300 employers hire Grand Circus grads 

[Read more in our Outcomes Report

How to Prepare for a Coding Bootcamp 

We understand that not everyone comes from a background with technical knowledge. In fact, only one in four high schools has computer-programming curriculum. For some, it’s intimidating to start learning a new skill and might be confusing to navigate the path. We want to ensure everyone has accessibility to the opportunities throughout tech; that’s why we’ve created workshops to help individuals prepare for coding bootcamp and get a better understanding of what coding is all about.   

If you’re just getting started, these are a great way to explore if coding is right for you –– check out our guide: Step by Step: Becoming A Coding Bootcamp Student. No matter where you’re starting from, this path can help you prepare for a coding bootcamp and expose you to the opportunities throughout the tech industry.

Are you looking for an efficient path into tech?

Learn About Our Bootcamps
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Jennifer Cline

Content enthusiast. Data addict. Jewelry-Making Cat Lover. Jennifer Cline is our Senior Marketing Manager, happily managing much of our website and social presence. After earning her a degree in Journalism from Wayne State University, she stumbled into a love of marketing and has been having a blast ever since.

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