Career shift: Coding Camp?
March 26, 2022 2:36 PM   Subscribe

I don’t want to work tax season ever again. I can go part time in the fall to (a) finish my accounting degree, (b) take some exploratory classes with intent to switch majors, or (c) try a coding boot camp. Looking for more information on the coding option.

I really like the idea of taking a class for some months (not 4 years) and then graduating into a higher paying job without an insurmountable amount of student debt. Is it as good as it seems? Will it work for me?

My more specific questions are:
  1. Is this even a decent option?
    • (a) How do I know if coding is right for me? (I tried one aptitude quiz but I got scared off by a “red pebbles are worth three blue pebbles, blue pebbles are worth eight green pebbles” question because it seems like math and I have some math fear.)
    • (b) Seems like coding bootcamps are really big right now. Are we going to see a surplus of recent bootcamp grads flooding the market in a year?
  2. How do I pick a school?
    • (a) I do best in in-person classes. I have always struggled with homework, so I shouldn't try fully self-directed learning. (Potential workaround: Body doubling with a classmate or pay someone to babysit me)
    • (b) How do I choose a discipline? Web dev, software engineering, UX/UI?
  3. Money?
    • (a) I hear there are scholarships for people who are women, queer, “older” (over 25), which I am.
    • (b) I may have to use up a large portion of my savings to pull this off. Scary!
    • (c) Note: Full time work + night school is not an option. This would be giving it my very worst shot.
Anything else I need to know?

Location: San Diego, CA, USA
posted by meemzi to Education (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 1a: Play around with

If it clicks, then you can probably do some type of coding job.
posted by flimflam at 3:23 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]

Best answer: 1a. 2b. I would try some free online courses first and try to get a feel for it. I googled 'free coding bootcamp' and found a few.

1b. I would guess success rates depend hugely on the bootcamp. I can tell you that my employer regularly hires from bootcamps (AppAcademy and FullStack) and we're having great success with this so far, and I get a sense the graduates are in high demand. But I'm sure there are bootcamps out there that are scammy or predatory. I would try to go with a 'name-brand' one if you can.

2a. I think the major bootcamps will have you spending a lot of time in courses and on group projects, very much like a work environemnt. Some are actually in person though I don't know about San Diego.

3a. Two of our women engineers came via Grace Hopper Academy and I see they offer a half scholarship for LGBTQ+ women. (Base tuition $18K)

3b. AppAcademy has a 'deferred tuition' model where you don't have to pay until after you're hired full-time. I think other bootcamps have options like this too.

I do want to emphasize that our junior devs that came out of bootcamps are doing great. They are earning more than $100K. We literally can't afford to hire senior devs right now because the job market is such that they can command high salaries so we tend to hire junior ones and let them advance internally. I'm sure many will eventually leave for higher paying jobs. Also, we try to hire in ways that increase team diversity and I think many companies aim to do the same. All this to say that this career transition does seem like a good idea to me! Good luck :)
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:31 PM on March 26 [7 favorites]

An accounting degree plus a familiarity with programming (NOT computer science, which is its own beast) will probably be attractive to a prospective employer. I'd suggest looking into SQL and database programming, which is where analysis of numbers comes in.

I might suggest becoming familiar with a presentation tool like Microsoft's PowerBI, which can generate useful charts, graphs and reports from numbers extracted from a database. (You can get a PowerBI account for free, apparently. You might consider trying it out to get a feel for the product and see if that's the kind of work you would like.)
posted by SPrintF at 3:34 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]

1a) I took a portion of a 100 Days of Code Python Udemy Course. Although I had some programming (Comp Sci 101), I thought it was a really good intro to programming overall. Wait until it's 80% off and give it a go.
posted by ellerhodes at 3:34 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]

What exactly is your goal?
graduating into a higher paying job
is pretty vague. My husband is in public accountancy and I did a stint in tax prep so I can relate to the "no more tax seasons" thinking. But are you trying to leave accountancy altogether or enhance your skills to a better job in the same field (or financial services at large)?

I will say that I did a SQL coding bootcamp and discovered that while I liked it, I didn't want it to be a major part of my job. I struggled to stick with online courses in Python. It turns out I learn better by doing it in relation to actual work, not isolated.

The role I am in currently is a crossroads of business and tech, which is where I think I shine the best. I have worked primarily in public service and quasi-governmental organizations where bootcamp + no other experience will probably be business analyst roles, which can be "well paid" but that's all relative, isn't it?
posted by sm1tten at 5:22 PM on March 26

Best answer: As a graduate of such a coding bootcamp, it seriously depends on how much of a go-getter you are. You won't magically happen upon a great job, and you'll land in the bottom tier "junior coder" and there's tons of you plus more churned out by similar academies elsewhere trying to find their own niche. Try some of the free lessons at freecodercamp, the ODIN project, and other free resources before you jump all-in and pay out big bucks for the 9 week wonder version. You may not like the idea after trying it out.
posted by kschang at 6:25 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I am a recent bootcamper and now junior software engineer. Happy to talk over Memail if you would like!

(a) How do I know if coding is right for me?
You don't have to be "good at math" per se, but I think you do have to find logic-type math puzzles intriguing. You have to be willing to follow a thread sometimes for hours to solve what seems like a simple problem. In your previous work or school career, what projects or tasks have you been most passionate about? Do you like taking on problems by yourself? Do you like making something work?

I also suggest that you work through a free "Intro to Python or Java" course, online or a book, and see if you like it.

(b) Seems like coding bootcamps are really big right now. Are we going to see a surplus of recent bootcamp grads flooding the market in a year?
I think this has been An Opinion since at least 2015 and you will find varying advice. Yes, there are a lot of bootcamp grads, but not all of them did well and not all bootcamps are good. If you do well, I think there are jobs.

How do I pick a school?
There is a ton of info out there from people before you! I spent many hours just googling and reading "how to choose a bootcamp." The CSCareerQuestions reddit has an excellent wiki.

(b) How do I choose a discipline? Web dev, software engineering, UX/UI?
Many camps advertise "full stack" which is going to give you an overview of front end, back end, and database language. In my experience/research, this is the way to get the best prep for a variety of entry roles, and an idea of which areas you prefer learning more about. And you will have to keep learning after the camp, even as you job hunt.

(a) I hear there are scholarships for people who are women, queer, “older” (over 25), which I am.
There are! If you are willing to temporarily or permanently relocate, I suggest looking into Ada Academy in Seattle, or Apprenti which has locations across the US. I don't know much but have also heard good things about Prime Digital Academy.

(b) I may have to use up a large portion of my savings to pull this off. Scary!
This scared me a lot too. All I can say is I knew I could fall back on my old job skills if I absolutely had to, but the reward would be having a lot more savings in the future if I could get a job.

You will work very hard. I quit my job and spent about 60 hours a week doing just bootcamp. I took two days off during twelve weeks. You may not work SO hard after your camp ends, but you will need to continue learning, working on a portfolio, and doing interview prep.

A good analogy, I think, is: a freshly graduated computer science major will know more than you, academically. You have relevant job background and soft skills that also make you a good interviewee. The bootcamp is to demonstrate that you know how to learn fast and work hard to close the academic gap.
posted by nakedmolerats at 7:24 PM on March 26 [6 favorites]

Some coding bootcamps are funded by tuition; others get paid on a commission basis by the companies who hire their students.

It’s generally been my impression as a developer with a more traditional background (undergrad CS degree) that the bootcamps which do not charge tuition are a better bet. Ada (mentioned above) is one of them, I don’t remember others off the top of my head but I do know they exist.
posted by elanid at 11:21 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]

Best answer: > How do I know if coding is right for me?

There are several puzzle games that put many people in the same head space as programming. is a free demo for one. If you love it / hate it, might be worth considering (with a big grain of salt).

It's hard to pick up an intro book for most programming languages since they assume a background in a different language, like picking up a book on Spanish with all of the examples assuming you know Latin. Head First Learn to Code should be a decent intro to programming in general, with the examples and exercises in one of the most useful languages to know.

There's stupid amounts of money around tech in general, and outside of coding boot camps there are also credentialing paths for project management, operations, etc.

I will say that a finance degree, with a sprinkling of programming training, should be catnip for enterprise software vendors in the ERP/Financials space. They generally have pretty gnarly internal technology they have to train everyone in anyways, which smooths out some of the experience gaps. (Downside is that it's hard to build a resume on something nobody else uses. People usually try to switch teams after a while if that's a concern. )
posted by Anonymous Function at 12:17 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]

A good analogy, I think, is: a freshly graduated computer science major will know more than you, academically. You have relevant job background and soft skills that also make you a good interviewee.

This is very true. I'm a 1998 Computer Science graduate who now does IT/systems architecture/service not a programmer per se but at the scale of my user base and applications, I do lots of casual programming for analysis and administration.

Caveat that I don't know what the current state of typical CS curriculum but for me vanishingly little about my formal education was about how to design, build, and develop real world software. I believe there was 1 or 2 courses that explicitly covered that stuff but they were electives. You do pick up lots through exposure and osmosis but it is nowhere near a complete picture about what it is like to be a developer. I know orders of magnitude more about how the internal parts of the computer works and how theoretical data structures work compared to non-CS people but in practice this rarely comes up in my day to day work.

I suspect today's curriculum contains a bit more on software engineering practices but much like law school only teaches you the law and you need to work in the law to become a lawyer, the same holds true for being a professional developer. Plus, don't discount your corporate experience as so software development contains way more soft "corporate-like" skills then I would guessed when I graduated.

Lastly, I'll say that while I don't work directly with bootcamp hires, I work in adjacent orgs that do and they are very happy with the results and are investing heavily to recruit in those spaces as well as train them up to succeed within our company.
posted by mmascolino at 8:11 AM on March 27

Best answer: As a 25-year developer who has worked with junior developers who got there because they thought it would be lucrative but wasn’t what they really wanted to do, and it showed: please only pursue this path if you really like to dig your teeth into that kind of problem-solving. If you don’t, there are other kinds of jobs in technology teams that might be a better fit, especially if you already have skills in finance.
posted by matildaben at 10:26 AM on March 27 [4 favorites]

Best answer: A free coding game to try is Rabbids Coding from Ubisoft (PC Windows only). You do need to register for an Ubisoft Connect account on their website, It's designed to teach kids the basics of programming, but it can give you a taste of what's ahead, albeit, in a comic puzzle form.
posted by kschang at 10:44 AM on March 27

Best answer: Seems like coding bootcamps are really big right now. Are we going to see a surplus of recent bootcamp grads flooding the market in a year?

That flood started years ago and shows no signs of ebbing.

I hire software developers. I've hired bootcamp grads, and intend to hire more, it's worth it. But I wish I knew a good way to filter through the hundreds of identical-seeming bootcamp coder resumes I get every month to find the good ones, because there are just. so. many.

I'm going to go ahead and be blunt and say, if that very mild "pebbles" question threw you off, you probably don't want to go into software development. Most coding is mostly not math, it's more like solving logic puzzles -- but that pebble thing is not too far off conceptually from the type of logic puzzle you'd be needing to solve on a daily basis. Definitely don't sink a significant part of your savings into this until you're more sure it's something you're actually interested in doing.

Here's my advice: Try building a website. If you get stuck, google until you figure out how to get yourself unstuck. If you do that for a while and it's an enjoyable process, then consider going into coding. Because that's basically exactly what being a software developer is, day to day.
posted by ook at 5:14 PM on March 27 [4 favorites]

If you didn't like tax season because of the deadlines and rush - most software engineering jobs involve deadlines due to new releases every quarter or month or even week, deadlines that can shift and with very little downtime between (could even be awkward overlap). The pace is fast and unrelenting. Pay is likely very high but risk of burnout pretty high too.
posted by meepmeow at 9:52 AM on March 28

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