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TripleTen.Coding Bootcamps

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It’s senior year of high school, and for some reason, you’re faced with making monumental decisions about your life. Only a year ago, you were considered too immature to even be trusted with a Costco card. Now, you have to make one decision about the track of the rest of your life — do you go for a college degree? If you’re here, then you’re likely one of many high school students wondering what to do after high school instead of college (or the parent of one).

All right. Let’s talk about it. Here’s why a bootcamp is one of the best college alternatives if you decide higher education isn't for you.

Is college worth it?

Don’t think about the numbers for a second

We know, we know. We said we’d talk about alternatives to college, but we’re going to start out by making a clear distinction, and that means we’re going to be focusing on what a college is and isn’t. Start here: college isn’t a job training program.

Treating the four years you’d spend getting a bachelor’s degree as purely a preparation for the labor market is reductive. We can compare the earning potentials of high school graduates and college grads (and we will be doing that later, don’t worry), but this casts “worth” as something that can only be understood in economic terms.

See, going to college is about education. In the institution’s original, broader conception, that’s where that self-evident sentence ends. And that means that it’s about so much more than getting a job. From our perspective, David Foster Wallace probably expressed this best:

A college degree is not just a certificate that unlocks job prospects. It’s a signifier that you encountered new people who helped you discover novel perspectives. It shows that you’re well-informed. See, when you go to college, you have the chance to learn things you might never have the chance to otherwise.

At many colleges, you have to take classes outside of your major. So sure, you’ll graduate with expertise in your prime focus. But you’ll also have gone through a class about the culture of Vanuatu, for example, so when you land your college-grad job, you’ll have more to bring to afterwork get-togethers. 

That’s all to say that when you get a degree, you broaden your knowledge and become more adept at observing and interacting with the world. For many people, that leads to a more fulfilling life. 

And who knows, maybe knowing about rambaramps will even help your company land a client.

Okay, now let’s get some numbers in here

Don’t get us wrong. We’re not saying that a traditional college education doesn’t help you get a job, and a better-paying one at that. As Axios found, “In 2023, recent college grads age 22-27 working full-time earned $24,000 more per year than 22-27 year olds with only a high school degree.”

Here’s what it shakes out to, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York:

That’s just the start of the story. According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, this gap also leads to wild differences in lifetime earnings.

That is a gap of nearly a million dollars. So is a college degree worth it? In terms of lifetime earnings, immediate graduate outcomes, and education for education’s sake, the answer for a good deal of people is yes.

Right now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Huh. Weird take from a tech bootcamp, but okay.” But we’re only halfway through. There’s one thing that a trade school, certificate program, vocational school, and coding bootcamp have in common. These alternatives to going to college focus.

See, bootcamps are about getting you a job

Note that we said “for a good deal of people” in the section above

Let’s briefly return to the loftier part of the previous section. Wallace gave that speech at Kenyon College in 2005, when the total balance of student loan debt was $391 billion dollars. In mid-2023, that debt ballooned to $1.77 trillion

Many people can’t afford the roughly $146,000 that it costs to attend college for four years. If they decide to take the leap anyway, they may end up saddled with prohibitive amounts of student debt. That in and of itself makes it tempting to look into other options besides college for education.

And that hesitation to take on this financial burden is completely valid. And, yes, over a lifetime, the costs are significantly lower than the rewards if we just talk about money. But that turns the choice to enroll in college into a purely economic decision.

And listen, if we’re talking about education as an investment that will pay off, there’s something much more cost effective: a tech bootcamp.

Let’s talk about even more numbers

How much you pay

First, the simple initial investment. Depending on how you finance your degree or bootcamp, the cost can fluctuate. Let’s take our Software Engineering Bootcamp as an example. If you pay upfront, it costs $9,700. But, if you choose to go for a 10-month installment plan with TripleTen, that can grow to $12,000. That’s not nothing.

All right, so now the costs of a college degree. That $146,000 figure above included books, supplies, room and board, etc. — everything included in the college experience. For fairness, let’s talk about tuition exclusively. As estimated by BestColleges, “The average college tuition and fees at four-year schools in 2021-2022 was $19,806.” That’s just for one year.

So even if you went for the most expensive financing option for our bootcamp, you would still pay less than you would for one year of college education — and only in terms of tuition alone. The chart above shows what the difference would shake out to over four years, the time required to get a bachelor’s degree.

And that’s another point: you’d get trained faster. Our Software Engineering program lasts only 10 months, after which you are primed and able to join the tech workforce. 

If you’re focused on gaining the skills you’ll need to get a job, the bootcamp is the more economical option. But it also might be more lucrative.

The results you get

Numerous factors play into earning potential, but we do have some surprising data. Let’s turn back to the median salaries graph, but add in some data based on our graduate outcomes.

Yup. Based on our data, TripleTen grads earn higher median salaries than college grads. And we’ll be transparent here — this data is likely skewed based on the people sampled. Here’s one hypothesis: college grads have degrees across all majors, some of which have relatively low earning potential. In contrast, our bootcamp is focused on getting people jobs in tech, which is itself a more lucrative fieldThe Top 18 Companies That Pay Software Engineers the Most in 2024.

But that’s just the point, isn’t it? If you’re employment-focused and comparing return on investment for different forms of education, a coding bootcamp is hard to beat.

And it’s not just about the initial salary you can earn in entry-level jobs fresh from a bootcamp. As you gain experience in tech, your salary grows. We previously used our Software Engineering Bootcamp as an example, so we’ll continue here. 

Starting out, we based our year 0 data on the info we got from our graduates. They earn a median of $75,100 in their entry-level jobs. But as their experience develops, they can expect salary increases, as shown by estimates sourced from Glassoor.

This translates to a significant deviation in lifetime earnings.

We were surprised by the estimate ourselves, but we double-checked, and the math holds up. Still, we’ll explain. To get the numbers, we assumed a career of 40 years and started with the TripleTen Software Engineering grad outcome of $75,100 for the first year. Following that, we just stuck to the average pay growth path as outlined in Glassdoor and added up earnings over time as pay increased with experience. The initial deviation and the subsequent snowballing effects led to that massive gap.

Just talking about the numbers, if you decide college isn’t for you, your best bet is a bootcamp. In fact, even if you do go to college, you might come back to a bootcamp afterward anyway.

Getting a degree and attending a bootcamp aren’t mutually exclusive

According to our Outcomes Report, 22% of our students are 18-24 years old, aka college age. And the cohort older than that, 25-34, makes up 55% of our student population. That means two things for you. First: that you’ll not be the only one your age studying at the bootcamp. Second: even if you do get a four-year degree, you might choose to come back for the professional training that will actually prepare you for the job market.

Just take Jordan WilheimRevitalizing a Promising Career: Jordan Wilheim’s TripleTen Story, for example. Even with a master’s degree in bioinformatics, he found himself struggling to keep his career afloat. He tried to sharpen his data skills online, but was at a loss.

It was quite intimidating. I mean, to try to do it on your own — there are a billion Medium articles that talk about how to improve your data science skills, and they just dump a list of things that you need to know. I mean, you can try to learn them, but that can be quite hard. Jordan Wilheim, TripleTen grad

Following his time at TripleTen, he landed a job at Invitae, a genetic testing company.

Or consider Jeremy RiveraBalancing College, Work, Family, and a Part-Time Bootcamp to Find Tech Success: Jeremy Rivera’s TripleTen Story, who enrolled while he was wrapping up his degree in communications and media. Oh, and he was simultaneously working a full-time job in distribution. He realized that neither his current job nor his major would lead to a sustainable career, so he went for the Software Engineering Bootcamp. “I saw the market value of being a software engineer or a web developer,” he said.

Thanks to TripleTen, before he’d graduated from that program or even from college, he’d landed a tech job at The Walters Institute, a tax planning company. As he says, “Currently, I am the tech team!”

College vs. tech bootcamp: the bullet points

So to make everything simple, here’s the basic gist of what you need to consider when choosing between the two.

College Tech Bootcamp
  • Not explicitly employment-focused
  • Opens you to new knowledge and experiences
  • Education for education’s sake
  • Compared to entering the workforce with only a high school diploma, a bachelor’s degree helps you earn more across the board
  • No job guarantee upon graduation
  • Expensive
  • Entirely focused on training you for the job market
  • Bootcamp graduates earn more than people with bachelor’s degrees
  • Good bootcamps guarantee employment
  • Quick and economical way of gaining the skills for tech jobs
  • Doesn’t encourage broad educational exploration for the sake of knowledge itself
  • Potentially necessary for employment even after you get a bachelor’s degree

Find out if a tech bootcamp is right for you

Want more guidance on which career path to choose? Want to solidify that you can pursue alternatives to college after high school? We can help. Take our quiz to see if you should go for a bootcamp or a college degree.

Is a bootcamp right for you?

Discover your ideal path to tech by taking our quiz.

Take the quiz

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