Computer Science Degree Vs Coding Bootcamp: The Complete Guide

With technology skills in high demand, more people are exploring fast ways to break into the field. A coding bootcamp promises career-ready skills in just weeks or months, while a computer science degree provides comprehensive foundations over 2-4 years.

So which is better for landing a developer job?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: A computer science degree provides stronger overall knowledge, opportunities, and credibility, but takes more time and money. Coding bootcamps teach job-ready coding skills quickly, but lack CS theory and fundamentals.

Combine the two for maximum preparation and hiring potential.

This guide will compare CS degrees and coding bootcamps in depth on curriculum, cost, duration, career outcomes, and more. We’ll also provide tips on how to choose between the two paths.

Curriculum and Learning Format

CS Degree Curriculum

A computer science degree offers a comprehensive curriculum that covers a wide range of topics related to computer science. Students pursuing a CS degree typically take courses in programming languages, data structures, algorithms, computer architecture, operating systems, databases, software engineering, and more.

The curriculum is designed to provide a deep understanding of the theoretical foundations of computer science as well as practical skills required in the industry. In addition to coursework, CS degree programs often include practical projects, internships, and research opportunities.

Coding Bootcamp Curriculum

Coding bootcamps, on the other hand, focus on teaching specific programming skills and tools needed to enter the job market quickly. Bootcamps offer intensive and immersive learning experiences that often span a few months.

The curriculum of a coding bootcamp is usually tailored to the demands of the industry and focuses on teaching practical skills like web development, mobile app development, or data science. Bootcamps typically offer hands-on projects, coding exercises, and real-world case studies to help students apply their knowledge in a practical setting.

Self-Study vs Guided Learning

Self-study and guided learning are two different approaches to learning computer science and coding skills. Self-study involves learning independently using online resources, textbooks, tutorials, and practice exercises.

It allows individuals to set their own pace and focus on specific areas of interest. However, self-study requires a high level of discipline and self-motivation to stay on track and cover all the necessary topics.

In contrast, guided learning through a CS degree or coding bootcamp provides a structured and guided approach to learning. Professors and instructors provide direction, feedback, and support throughout the learning process.

This can be particularly helpful for those who thrive in a structured environment or prefer a more hands-on approach to learning.

It’s worth noting that both self-study and guided learning have their merits, and the choice between the two depends on individual preferences, learning style, and career goals. Some individuals may prefer the flexibility and self-paced nature of self-study, while others may benefit from the structure and guidance provided by a CS degree program or coding bootcamp.

Cost and Duration

CS Degree Cost

Obtaining a computer science degree from a university typically requires a significant financial investment. Tuition fees for a four-year degree can range from $20,000 to $60,000 per year, depending on the institution and location.

In addition to tuition, students may also need to budget for textbooks, housing, and other living expenses. While financial aid and scholarships may be available, the overall cost of a CS degree can still be substantial.

It’s important to note that the cost of a CS degree can vary greatly depending on whether the student attends a public or private university, and whether they are an in-state or out-of-state student. These factors should be taken into consideration when evaluating the financial feasibility of pursuing a CS degree.

Coding Bootcamp Cost

Coding bootcamps, on the other hand, are typically more affordable than traditional CS degrees. The cost of a coding bootcamp can range from a few thousand dollars to around $20,000, depending on the program and location.

Some bootcamps also offer financing options or income share agreements, where students pay a percentage of their salary after securing a job in the field.

While coding bootcamps may appear more cost-effective, it’s important to research and consider the reputation and outcomes of the specific bootcamp before making a decision. Some bootcamps may not provide the same level of depth and breadth of knowledge as a CS degree, so it’s crucial to weigh the cost against the quality and scope of education provided.

Time Commitment

A CS degree typically requires four years of full-time study to complete. This includes completing general education requirements, core computer science courses, and potentially an internship or co-op experience.

The time commitment for a CS degree can be demanding, especially for individuals who are working or have other responsibilities.

Coding bootcamps, on the other hand, are intensive and immersive programs that can be completed in a matter of weeks to a few months. These programs are designed to provide focused and condensed education, allowing students to quickly gain the skills needed to enter the workforce as a software developer or programmer.

While the shorter duration of a coding bootcamp may seem appealing, it’s important to consider the depth and breadth of knowledge acquired. A CS degree often provides a more comprehensive understanding of computer science principles and theory, while a coding bootcamp may focus more on practical skills and application.

Career Prospects

Jobs for CS Grads

Obtaining a computer science degree opens up a world of opportunities in the tech industry. With a deep understanding of programming languages, algorithms, and software development, CS grads can pursue careers as software engineers, systems analysts, database administrators, cybersecurity specialists, and more.

The demand for CS graduates is high, with companies ranging from start-ups to multinational corporations seeking their expertise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 11 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Jobs for Bootcamp Grads

Coding bootcamps offer an alternative path to a career in technology. While they typically provide a more focused and accelerated learning experience compared to a traditional degree program, bootcamp grads can still find a range of job opportunities.

Bootcamp graduates often pursue roles such as web developers, app developers, software testers, and user experience designers. Startups and smaller companies, in particular, are often more receptive to hiring bootcamp grads due to their practical skills and ability to quickly adapt to industry demands.


When it comes to salaries, computer science graduates tend to have an advantage. The comprehensive education and theoretical foundation provided by a degree program often result in higher starting salaries compared to bootcamp graduates.

According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average starting salary for computer science graduates in the United States was $73,751 in 2020. However, it’s important to note that salaries can vary depending on factors such as location, industry, and job experience.

On the other hand, bootcamp graduates can still earn competitive salaries, especially considering the relatively short duration of their training. While specific data on bootcamp graduate salaries may be limited, various reports suggest that bootcamp graduates can earn an average starting salary ranging from $50,000 to $70,000, depending on the specialization and location.

It’s worth mentioning that bootcamp graduates often experience significant salary growth as they gain industry experience and expand their skillset.

Ultimately, both computer science degree holders and bootcamp graduates can find rewarding and lucrative careers in the tech industry. The choice between the two largely depends on an individual’s goals, learning style, and time constraints.

It’s important to carefully consider one’s career aspirations and weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each option before making a decision.

Reputation and Respect

When it comes to choosing between a computer science degree and a coding bootcamp, reputation and respect are important factors to consider. Both options can offer valuable skills and knowledge, but they may be perceived differently in the eyes of employers and the industry as a whole.

University Reputation

One of the main advantages of pursuing a computer science degree is the reputation and prestige associated with obtaining a degree from a reputable university. Universities with strong computer science programs often have a long history of producing successful graduates and conducting groundbreaking research.

Employers may view a degree from a top university as a mark of excellence and may be more inclined to hire candidates with a traditional computer science education.

For example, a degree from a university like Stanford or MIT can carry significant weight in the tech industry. These institutions have a long-standing reputation for producing highly skilled computer science professionals.

Employers may recognize the academic rigor and comprehensive curriculum offered by such universities, which can give graduates an edge in the job market.

Bootcamp Certificates

On the other hand, coding bootcamps have gained popularity in recent years as a quicker and more affordable alternative to a traditional college education. While bootcamps may not have the same level of prestige as universities, they do offer specialized training in coding and programming languages that are highly relevant in today’s tech industry.

Bootcamps typically provide intensive, hands-on training that focuses on practical skills and real-world projects. Many bootcamps also offer certificates upon completion, which can demonstrate a candidate’s commitment and dedication to learning in a short period of time.

It’s important to note that not all bootcamps are created equal. Some bootcamps have established partnerships with industry leaders and may have a strong reputation within the tech community. Researching the bootcamp’s reputation, curriculum, and alumni success stories can help gauge its credibility and industry recognition.

Respect from Employers

When it comes to respect from employers, the perception may vary depending on the specific company and its hiring practices. While some employers may value a traditional degree from a university, others may prioritize practical skills and hands-on experience gained through a coding bootcamp.

It’s important to understand that employers are increasingly recognizing the value of alternative education options like bootcamps. According to a survey conducted by Course Report, 80% of employers surveyed said they had hired a coding bootcamp graduate and that they would do so again.

Ultimately, the respect from employers will depend on the specific job requirements and the skills and experience an individual brings to the table. It’s essential to showcase one’s abilities, regardless of whether they were obtained through a degree or a bootcamp.

Building a strong portfolio of projects and gaining practical experience through internships or freelance work can also help demonstrate expertise and increase respect from potential employers.

Combining CS Degree and Bootcamp

Bootcamp Before or After Degree

One of the key decisions to make when considering a computer science degree and a coding bootcamp is whether to attend the bootcamp before or after obtaining a degree. While there is no right or wrong answer to this question, it largely depends on individual circumstances and career goals.

Attending a coding bootcamp before pursuing a computer science degree can provide a solid foundation in practical coding skills. Bootcamps are known for their intensive and immersive programs, typically lasting for a few months.

They offer hands-on experience in coding languages and frameworks, giving students the opportunity to build real projects and gain practical skills quickly. This can be especially beneficial for individuals who want to jumpstart their careers in the tech industry and enter the job market sooner.

On the other hand, opting for a computer science degree before attending a coding bootcamp can provide a more comprehensive understanding of computer science principles and theory. A degree program usually covers a wide range of topics such as algorithms, data structures, software engineering, and computer architecture.

This deeper knowledge can help individuals approach coding challenges from a more theoretical perspective and potentially open up opportunities for research or advanced study in computer science.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to attend a bootcamp before or after earning a degree depends on personal preferences, career goals, and time constraints. Some individuals may choose to pursue both simultaneously, attending a bootcamp during summer breaks or part-time while completing their degree program.

Benefits of Combining Programs

Combining a computer science degree with a coding bootcamp can offer unique advantages that can enhance one’s skill set and boost career prospects.

  1. Complementary Skill Set: A computer science degree provides a strong foundation in theoretical knowledge, problem-solving, and critical thinking. On the other hand, a coding bootcamp focuses on practical coding skills and industry-relevant technologies.

    Combining both programs allows individuals to acquire a well-rounded skill set that is highly sought after in the tech industry.

  2. Network Building: Joining both a computer science program and a coding bootcamp exposes individuals to a wide network of professionals, including professors, industry experts, and fellow students. This network can provide valuable connections and opportunities for internships, job placements, and mentorship.
  3. Increased Job Opportunities: Having both a computer science degree and coding bootcamp experience can make individuals stand out in the competitive job market. Employers often value the combination of theoretical knowledge and practical skills, making candidates with a combined background highly desirable.
  4. Flexibility and Adaptability: The combination of a computer science degree and a coding bootcamp equips individuals with the ability to adapt to changing technologies and industry trends. This versatility allows them to tackle diverse projects and take on different roles within the tech industry.

It’s important to note that while a computer science degree and a coding bootcamp can be complementary, they are not mutually exclusive. Each program offers unique benefits, and the decision to combine them depends on individual circumstances and career goals.

How to Choose Between Degree vs Bootcamp

Deciding between pursuing a computer science degree or attending a coding bootcamp can be a daunting task. Both options have their own advantages and it ultimately depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Here are a few factors to consider when making this decision:

Time Constraints

If you’re looking to enter the workforce quickly, a coding bootcamp may be the right choice for you. Bootcamps typically have a shorter duration, ranging from a few weeks to a few months, and focus on teaching practical skills that are directly applicable to the job market.

On the other hand, a computer science degree usually takes around four years to complete, allowing for a more comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the subject matter.

Cost Constraints

When it comes to cost, coding bootcamps are generally more affordable compared to a traditional college degree. Bootcamps can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands, depending on the program and location.

On the other hand, pursuing a computer science degree can be a significant financial investment, with tuition fees, textbooks, and living expenses adding up over the course of four years. It’s important to consider your budget and financial situation when making this decision.

Learning Style

Another important factor to consider is your preferred learning style. If you thrive in a structured academic environment with lectures, labs, and assignments, a computer science degree may be a better fit for you.

A degree program provides a well-rounded education that includes theoretical concepts and a deeper understanding of computer science principles. On the other hand, if you prefer a more hands-on and immersive learning experience, a coding bootcamp can offer you practical, industry-relevant skills in a shorter time frame.

Career Goals

Your career goals should also play a significant role in your decision-making process. If you aspire to work in research, academia, or highly specialized fields within computer science, a degree is often a requirement.

Additionally, some companies may prioritize candidates with a computer science degree for certain positions. However, if your goal is to quickly gain the skills needed to enter the workforce as a software developer, a coding bootcamp can provide you with the necessary skills and connections to start your career.

Ultimately, the decision between a computer science degree and a coding bootcamp depends on your personal circumstances, learning style, and career goals. It’s important to thoroughly research and consider all the factors before making a choice.

Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, and what works for someone else may not work for you. Consider your individual needs and preferences and make an informed decision that aligns with your goals.


While coding bootcamps can quickly teach programming skills, computer science degrees build a more complete foundation in coding, CS theory, systems, and mathematics. An ideal path often combines both accredited degree programs and intensive bootcamp certifications.

Evaluate your career goals, budget, and learning preferences to decide if pursuing a CS degree, bootcamp, or both are the best fit for you.

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