Episode 52 – Code School Vs. 4-Year College

The decision to learn to code is a big one and often a life-changing one. While you could opt to get a formal education at a local college or university, obtaining your degree in computer science is likely going to take you two to four years. Do you really want to wait that long?

Another option is to sift through the numerous code schools available in your area or online and find the one that makes the most sense for you, but what do you look for in a code school, and why? What are the most important factors to consider when choosing a code school?

Why program?

If you’re thinking about going to code school and learn software development, chances are, there’s a good reason why. So, what is that reason? Have you tinkered with code before and discovered that you like it? Perhaps you want to delve deeper into the tech field and gain a more enriched understanding and working knowledge of what it’s like to be a software developer? Maybe you want to change careers. Or, maybe you need to solve a problem and learning how to code something is the first step in finding that solution. Whatever the reason, you’ve reached a point where you’ve decided that it’s time to find out what coding is all about and get your feet wet in the high tech world of software development.

So, is software development for you? Only you can answer that question and to find the answer you should give it a try. Contrary to some misconceptions, software development is not reserved only for those with the highest intelligence. Anyone can do it, male or female, young or mature. There are no rules or restrictions, well, there is one rule. You must begin somewhere. You must find a starting point. Without that, there can be no finishing line. Taking that first step is the crucial starting point in your coding adventure and that means going back to the basics.

Build a strong foundation

As with anything else that you learn, you must start with the basics. It doesn’t matter which programming language you start with. You could start with CSS, HTML, or something more advanced like Python or Ruby. Regardless of which language you start with, you have to start somewhere and that somewhere is at ground level.

Episode Highlights and Show Notes:

Codeschool vs College

  1. Cost
    1. $0 (freecodecamp (https://www.freecodecamp.com/), appacademy (https://www.appacademy.io/) (C)) to $15K for code schools
    2. $40K to $100K for BS in Computer Science of Engineering. Some of that can be deferred and reduced by grants and loans
  2. Time to graduate
    1. 4 months for code schools. Ability to jump start a professional career within 6 months.
    2. 4 years for BS. More time to absorb more knowledge and work with different professors and students
  3. Technical grounding
    1. Solid practical grounding for code schools
    2. Solid theoretical grounding for BS.
  4. How fast can you get a job after you graduate
    1. 6 months for code schools
    2. 3 months for BS
  5. Salary
    1. $40 to $60K for code schools
    2. $50 to $75K for BS
  6. Industry connections
    1. Possible to get real industry introductions via mentors and teachers for code schools
    2. Some schools have industry connections and adjunct professors from the industry but overwhelmingly, BS does not give any connections
  7. Theoretical foundation
    1. Most foundational knowledge is iffy for code schools
    2. Solid foundation for deeper understanding of computing systems in BS. Some CS departments are far better at it than others.
  8. Advanced study options
    1. No real options for advanced studies for code schools
    2. Great opportunities to do advanced studies in graduate school for research and deep analysis in a CS program. Can get MS and PhD degrees and even beyond using Post Docs.
  9. professorship and teaching
    1. Unless you teach at a code school, little opportunity to teach at a formal educational institute for code schools
    2. Realistic opportunity to teach as an adjunct after a BS. The probability increases dramatically with an MS degree. With a PhD, you could potentially get a tenured position which has its benefits in terms of more free time, summers off, and time to pursue research and academic ambitions.
  10. credibility
    1. Starting out, not much in terms of credibility for code schools
    2. With a BS degree in CS, people generally give you the benefit of the doubt.
  11. Ability to get your foot in the door
    1. Depending on how connected a code school is to the industry, getting your first job may be easier or harder than with a BS degree. Without extraordinary connections, this may be a steep climb.
    2. For a lot of large corporations, using a BS degree as required qualification for a developer job makes it easier for them to whittle down the mountain of resumes they get for job postings. It doesn’t necessarily mean they think candidates with BS degrees are better. For a number of these types of companies, it is possible to get your foot in the door on the back of a decent GPA in a BS degree and a couple of school projects.
  12. Promotions and raises
    1. For most small and medium sized companies that have software developers on staff, once an employee has worked several years as a developer, his or her education does not matter at all. In some more regulated and larger organizations like state and federal governments, not having a 4-year degree could harm your chance of getting ahead and may even determine how much salary you are offered.
    2. Sometimes promotions are offered based on academic qualifications for newer employees. For developers with more than 4 of experience under their belt and with a good working relationship with management, academic excellence and degrees matters very little.
  13. Prestige
    1. Not much in terms of prestige at parties for code schools
    2. Some elite colleges will inject a sense of prestige among graduates which may propel them to aim higher and ultimately achieve more. Such academic institutions are rare but they do exist and you might choose these top schools if you like to rub shoulders with high achievers.

Important Links

  • https://www.freecodecamp.com
  • https://www.appacademy.io
  • https://generalassemb.ly

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