Is the Flatiron School's online web development program worth it?
February 20, 2018 8:02 AM   Subscribe

I applied for and received a partial scholarship to the Flatiron School's online web development program; I still have to pay half which would be a lot of money ($750/month). As I decide whether to accept I want to make sure I'm finding out as much information as possible. I know that bootcamps are already extremely divisive. Is this worth doing?

The more focused on the Flatiron School's web development program answers are the better. General is okay but I know that some people think bootcamps are great and other people think they are terrible and what I really want to know is if this program is any good and if I will be able to get a job that pays well.

Main questions:

-Is this program any good?
-Will I be able to get a job based on this? In case it matters, I'm in Washington D.C.
-If I get a job, will I be able to do it, assuming I'm smart and pay attention to the coursework?
-How much would such a job make?
-If I got a web development job would that be likely to work for long term career stuff? Would I likely be able to switch jobs/employers later?
-I'm a woman and also I'm 33. Please tell me if this makes pursing this path dumb.

Thank you so much for any help you can provide!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Based on my boot camp experience--the boot camp that I did was one that I was incredibly happy with and I learned a ton from and I'm very happy with my new job. The boot camp that I did also just closed, because people like me are not the majority. I don't think the dividing factor is "smart"--I had lots of smart classmates who were great people who still struggled a lot. I think the dividing factor is how comfortable you already are with computers and tech. I'm to the point now where I wouldn't recommend them to people who aren't, on their usual OS of choice, comfortable doing at least basic tasks from the command line, navigating the file system, and understanding a text editor. I'd suggest to most people that they attempt to learn HTML and JavaScript on their own first, because there's a million resources out there and if you find that makes you deeply unhappy, you shouldn't continue. If you're enjoying it, even if you struggle a bit, then keep going. (If your current job is in databases and you know any SQL at all, you're almost certainly tech-aware enough to manage it, but still probably a good idea to dabble a bit first just to see if you enjoy it.)

Being a woman and 33--I was also in my 30s--are things that I would call potentially a problem if you desperately go want to work for a Silicon Valley startup. Not impossible, but something that might be a struggle. In other environments? Lots of big companies a) hire lots of developers, b) care about diversity numbers, and c) have HR departments that keep things from being too awful. I don't like being the only female developer in the room, but I don't feel unsafe or too particularly weird in my current job on the basis of my gender. My first job out of boot camp in Nebraska paid me $60k; I'm now in the 70s less than two years later. But many people I graduated with started at lower rates than that, though they're catching up; smaller companies don't pay as well but are more flexible about taking boot camp grads. If you do this, networking goes a HUGE distance to making up the difference between a boot camp grad and a CS student.

I don't think that the boot camps are going to wind up being viable long-term because I don't think that there are enough tech-competent people who aren't already developers (but want to be) to keep up, not because the actual educational experience has anything wrong with it.
posted by Sequence at 8:43 AM on February 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

I successfully used a bootcamp (nearly rhymes with "back compactor") to change careers when I was 31. If I had to make the same choice, I would do it again. I'm in a metropolitan area and my first job pays just shy of six figures. That is not to say, however, that the program was perfect, because it most certainly was not. I could go on for a long time about its flaws. Nevertheless, I had a fire under my butt and I made it work for me.

Because I didn't go to Flatiron in D.C., what I would suggest you do is reach out to a bunch of former students from the program and get coffee with them. Find people on LinkedIn; reach out to the campus director and ask her or him to put you in touch with some recent grads. That's the only way (barring connecting with someone here who did the program) you'll be able to get exactly the kind of information you're looking for.

If you'd like to chat with me more about my experience, please feel free to drop me a MeMail.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 8:53 AM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Two things to consider -

1) Flatiron was in the news a few months back for settling with the State of New York over misleading claims about it's graduates. Keep in mind that they disclosed that only 39% of graduates of the online program are employed in full time jobs (vs 58% for the in-person program).

2) They were recently bought up by WeWork, around the same time they disclosed the settlement with New York. Not sure how this has effected the school, but WeWork has somewhat of a negative reputation around acquisitions.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 8:54 AM on February 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

Also - I should say that in the event you do decide to go, you should be financially prepared for a realistically long job search. I was at the top of my class and it took me about two months. Four months seemed to be the average, but I know a few people who took as long as 6 and one who didn't find a job until 9 months later.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 8:57 AM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sorry, last comment and then I'll butt out - Fidel Cashflow's comments are important. If at all possible, I'd recommend you look at a program that is part of the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 9:00 AM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I’m vaguely skeptical of boot camps in general, but even so the benefits that they have (strong guidance, a cohort going through the same stuff as you, focused effort in an environment where that’s the only thing going on) seem to be completely lost if you aren’t doing an in-person program. There are enough excellent resources for learning how to program online for free or very cheap that there’s really not much of a reason to pay the crazy inflated rates that come if your online program is attached to a boot camp.
posted by Itaxpica at 9:41 AM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I want to address one narrow specific part of what's been asked:

If I got a web development job would that be likely to work for long term career stuff? Would I likely be able to switch jobs/employers later?

Obviously to some extent this depends on what exactly that job is, but by and large, the hardest part of breaking into tech is breaking in. If you can get that first job, you'll (probably) be okay - in fact, one piece of advice I often hear given to boot camp grads is to get that first job and then move on from it before too long, unless it's particularly great, because there's a good chance they'll be underpaying you since they 'took a chance' on an unconventional entry-level candidate. Once you've had that first job, you have a 'real' resume-worthy position and you can shift to a more 'normal' career progression. Tech in general has a strong culture of moving rapidly between jobs (relative to many other industries) and that's especially useful/important for folks further down the food chain in their first or second jobs.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:01 AM on February 20, 2018 [6 favorites]

I’d recommend looking at Hear Me Code right here in DC before you dip your toe into the bootcamp waters. PM me if you have any questions.
posted by evoque at 12:50 PM on February 20, 2018

Note the NYAG investigation. Any time you’re thinking about giving a lot of money to someone, you must train yourself to google “institution lawsuit” or you’re going to get ripped off.
posted by praemunire at 6:29 PM on February 20, 2018

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