Coding Bootcamps: How to Spot a Fraud Before You Enroll
You’ve seen them online, read the success stories, maybe even heard of them from friends...and now you’re finally ready to take the plunge and enroll in a coding bootcamp that could change your career. The industry that wants your business grew 74% last year alone, to more than 90 coding bootcamps, and 18,000 graduates per year. These days the market is hot, and new programs are popping up everywhere to meet growing demand. Many are out to help you succeed, but a few coding bootcamps are built on fraudulent promises and dishonest statistics. Read our guide below to help you weed out the false claims from the real opportunities.
What are coding bootcamps?
Coding bootcamps are technical training programs that teach students how to write code and learn the technical skills to become junior programmers. These intensive programs are designed to give you a high-impact, immersive learning experience in only a few weeks.
Why are coding bootcamps so popular?
As demand for software engineers grows, the coding bootcamp industry is playing an important role filling the growing tech-skills gap. It was strongly supported by the Obama Administration’s 2016 TechHire Initiative, which was designed to help young and underemployed job-seekers get trained in the skills they need to succeed in an increasingly tech-driven economy.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. added 136,620 computing jobs per year between 2010 and 2012—and with only about 40,000 American computer science majors each year, that left a whopping 100,000-job gap. In fact, Code.org projects that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computing jobs in the U.S. and only 400,000 computer science graduates—with one million more jobs up for grabs!
Are coding bootcamps really able to get graduates good coding jobs?
The answer is very often yes...but success rates are never perfect, and most statistics that seem “too good to be true” simply aren’t. Increased demand for programming skills in the job market has led to intense competition amongst coding bootcamps for students and their tuition dollars—and as they try to get ahead of the pack, some coding bootcamps inflate their graduation and job placement statistics to attract new students. It’s not unusual for coding bootcamp advertising to make outrageous job placement claims, many as high as 90%, with “guaranteed incomes” upon graduation.
With average tuition fees between $5,000 and $21,000, the industry has attracted both legitimate schools and illegitimate ones hoping to cash in on high demand. Regulators are increasingly catching on to these operations, but with a rapidly expanding list of coding bootcamps out there, it’s extremely important for you to know how to spot the red flags of a fraudulent program.
Always follow these three steps when you decide to enroll in a coding bootcamp:
- Beware of too-good-to-be-true job placement claims. Placement rates in excess of 90% are probably exaggerated and rely on cherry-picked data.
- Make sure that the schools you’re considering are licensed in your state.
- Don’t rely on advertising materials provided by the bootcamp operator. Investigate the school yourself, and look at alumni references, services offered, and reviews and qualifications of the instructors.
What can you do if you suspect a coding bootcamp is using false or deceptive advertising?
Coding bootcamps are required to be licensed in the state in which they operate, but lately, many are being investigated for operating without a license. If you suspect that a coding bootcamp is operating illegally, contact your state attorney general’s office. To find out more, visit the National Association of Attorneys General.
If you have been—or suspect you’ve been—defrauded by a coding bootcamp, file a complaint at our sister site, Fraud.org, where the National Consumers League shares complaints with a network of more than 200 federal, state, local, and international law enforcement and consumer protection agency partners.
Bottom line: Coding bootcamps offer a range of highly marketable tech skills, positioning you to pursue exciting new job opportunities in programming and software development. But record demand for coders has led to record competition amongst coding bootcamps, motivating a few dishonest schools to use misleading or outright false advertising to attract students.
Though regulators are always working to find and shut down fraudulent coding bootcamps, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of potential fraud. Research your program carefully, watch out for one-sided statistics, and read independent reviews—and in the end you’ll be one step closer to that coding dream job.