It’s tempting to think that there’s one single way to become a developer. “Just take this certain path and you’ll have everything you need for a life of JavaScript and C++.”

Things aren’t quite as simple as that though – and that’s a good thing!

Development is a fascinating career path, full of collaboration, creativity and challenges that are highly rewarding to solve. People from all walks of life can get involved in development, and so there are many different ways to get there.

In this post, we explore three of the most significant: university, self-teaching and coding bootcamps.

University

Going to university is tried and tested: you know what you’re getting and you’ve probably got friends and family who’ve done the same and enjoyed it. It’s not hard to see why.

University computer science degrees are available at pretty much every top establishment around the country. In the UK we’re blessed with some truly great institutions, from St Andrews and Southampton to Loughborough and Leeds, so there are plenty of options.

There’s also the pull of university life. There are a number of clubs, organisations, teams and other kinds of activities available to anyone interested in pursuing them. These can help make university a truly one of a kind experience that really does stay with you for a lifetime.
But there are also drawbacks. Though it changes from place to place, universities can be quite traditional in what they teach and the way they teach it, opting for a theory-led approach over hands-on application.

This can mean that university students leave their education knowing everything there is to know about code, but lacking a true understanding of how to apply it in the working world. Many also lack the necessary ‘soft-skills’, such as self-motivation, responsibility and teamwork.

With more employers looking for key differentiators in candidates, such skills are critical to developers who want to make themselves stand out and get ahead of their peers in the job market.

Self-teaching

Go to Google and type in something like ‘teach yourself coding’ and you’re sure to find a long list of results offering suggestions on how to self-teach development. No surprise either – it’s a popular way to learn the trade.

There are, of course, benefits to learning this way. You can go at your own pace, curate your own curriculum and really pore over the details. You’re both student and teacher, and there’s certainly a lot to like about that.

However, while this pathway has worked for some, it can be a struggle and it’s certainly not for everyone. There’s no collaboration with fellow students, meaning you won’t have the chance to learn from people with a different perspective.

There are no teachers either, so any bad habits you may slip into go unchecked, and there’s also no structure. This makes it difficult to know how long to spend on certain aspects of your learning before moving onto the next.

People who take this route are also missing out on hands-on industry experience. Other educational routes often bring in people who have ‘walked the walk’ and can pass their insider insight onto students. This doesn’t happen with the ‘self-taught’ path.

Remote coding courses taught online offer some correction to these issues, but they’re still fraught with problems. Though collaboration exists, it’s stifled by the geographic distance: it’s pretty hard to work with people when they’re in a different place.

Though there are teachers and structure, you’re not getting the kind of one-to-one interaction that marks out a truly great learning environment. Everything’s at a distance, and you’re not learning immersively in a classroom, rather the venue you’re working from; whether that’s your own home, the library or a coffee shop.

Coding bootcamps

Coding bootcamps have been huge in the United States for a while now. According to stats, there are 108 full-time coding bootcamps in the US alone, and estimates suggested they would produce over 20,000 graduates during 2018.

This marks a significant change from 2013 when coding bootcamps had just begun to take off; at this point a little over 2,000 students graduated from coding courses.

Now, coding bootcamps have been established across the length and breadth of the UK – and there are more popping up every year.

If there’s any doubt in your mind, don’t let the term ‘bootcamp’ put you off. Coding bootcamps are for everybody, teaching people of all ages from any walk of life how to code.

You don’t need to wear a uniform for a coding bootcamp, there won’t be some scary drill sergeant barking orders at you, and nobody’s going to ask you to do push-ups…

They’re called ‘bootcamps’ because they’re a different kind of learning experience. They’re generally shorter in length (most last around 3-4 months) and take place in smaller classrooms. So the experience is much more immersive than a school, college or university.

This is beneficial for both teachers and students. The teacher isn’t having to spread their attention across a large number of people and the students are getting increased access to their teacher. If there are questions, concerns or problems, they’re resolved quickly and effectively in the coding bootcamp environment.

There’s also a much greater focus on hands-on projects in coding bootcamps. While universities can be highly theoretical in their approach, coding bootcamps ask their students to work on real projects (sometimes sponsored by real companies) so they’re learning by doing.

We here at Code Nation go one step further. Knowing that there’s much more to creating truly employable tech talent than simply knowing how to code, we make sure our students have professional skills such as a knowledge of working in an agile environment and the ability to use timesheets.

We even help students develop their personal skills, by teaching mindfulness and self-awareness. Students leave us as more than just great coders. They leave us as great people.

In summary…

There are plenty of ways into a development career. We’ve detailed the three most prominent here, and it’ll be no surprise to learn that we think the coding bootcamp path is the best!

If you’re still confused about your options or have more questions you’d like to know the answer to, we’re happy to help.

Get in touch with Code Nation to learn more about our Master Course or pop along to one of our Open Evenings to get a taster. We’d love to see you!

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