2014 August 24 Sunday
Programming Bootcamps Boost Employment, Pay

If you are smart enough you can switch to a new occupation in a hurry.

Of those without a college degree and with no coding experience prior to their bootcamp, 71 percent now have a full-time programming job.

I'm guessing this report overstates the bump in pay and employment rates of people who go thru these bootcamps. Whether this will work for you depends on how smart you are, how motivated to study and practice, and where you live. Some areas have few employers of software developers.

My advice for people who want to switch into software development: try some online courses and books,. Then use what you learn to try developing your own web site. Keep adding more kinds of functionality as you go. You can start out with PHP and do simpler stuff. Then try to code up a backend in Go or Java.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2014 August 24 11:21 AM 

Nick said at August 24, 2014 1:58 PM:

Randall, interesting idea, don't you think the "occupation" that's even more important though (and complementary to coding) is developing an income-generating website? I'd argue that people who really want to insulate themselves from the frivolities of working for a "boss" should build a website through Wordpress or one of the even more simple platforms, while learning marketing through social media and other means. Coding is a great skill set to have, but if you're doing it as salaried work, you're still at risk from cheaper competition, including software that'll catch up to many humans before long.

Glengarry said at August 25, 2014 1:35 AM:

Software development really is the garbage heap of STEM, isn't it? The lack of barriers to entry tells me plucky self-taught programmers will as a rule soon be replaced by other plucky self-taught programmers. I wonder if the general lack of liability or professional standards keeps the racket going.

(I think Lion of the Blogosphere, himself apparently a software refugee, got his description mostly right.)

What's the right general job market to get into at this time? My guess is Health Care, Obama and all. But we'll see once the bum rush shifts to there. Option 2: government bureaucracy on some level. Tenure, tenure, tenure, fellows.

Jim said at August 25, 2014 8:30 AM:

Regarding the tenure track. Many think that higher education will come under extreme economic pressure in the near future. If one coesn't have tenure one's position is undoubtly pretty insecure but evern tenured faculty may be laid off in the future.

Jim said at August 25, 2014 8:41 AM:

Software development may continue to be a relatively good field to be in but not so much at the level of routine codding according to specifications written by others but more at the system design level.

I live near Houston and in this area petroleum engineers seem to the local lords. I've heard that starting salaries ofr petroleum engineers fresh out of college and with zero experience are over $100,000.

Some dude said at August 25, 2014 7:14 PM:

I have evidence that Microsoft is paying more than $100,000 for engineers (with some software component) straight out of college. You have to live in Seattle, though.

Randall Parker said at August 25, 2014 7:46 PM:


I think more people have the intelligence and persistence needed to become a decent software developer than have the right stuff to build a big money-making web site.

Suppose you want to make your money off of ads. Look at what revenue you can hope to make per 1000 page views (maybe $1 or even $4 if you find the right niche) and how hard it is to get that up to, say, one hundred thousand page views per day.

How much do you want to make off of a web site? Expect to do it from ads? Or from selling your own stuff? If you want to sell stuff then you building that business and the web site.


You will hear more from the failures than the successes. The successes do not say much. I know great software developers who have done financially far better than the people who complain about competition. Not saying most people can be great at it. But even moderate success pays better than most people make at most jobs.


Last time I saw people writing code to specs I was on big military aerospace projects. That was a long time ago. In some parts of some companies we are just thinking up stuff and adding new functionality as we think of it.

Petroleum engineers: Good money until oil companies start shrinking due depleting oil fields. I hope they are saving some of their earnings.

Randall Parker said at August 25, 2014 7:53 PM:

Some dude, The pay is higher in Silicon Valley than in Seattle. But housing is a lot more expensive. If you don't mind apartment living then the higher pay more than makes up for the higher rents.

These salary numbers probably do not include stock grants or bonuses. Also, they lump together people from many different levels in each company.

Glengarry said at August 27, 2014 3:11 AM:

Randall, how many in that programming bootcamp got jobs at the best known west coast software companies?

Programmers seem to have a comparatively difficult time as a profession. They accumulate little human capital because of the quick churn of technologies. They usually exit the profession at a fairly low age, say at 35-40 or so, comparable to a professional basketball player. In the lower ranks, there is strong competitive pressure from abroad. Actually, that's true for Silicon Valley too. While it may be easy to get a programming job, it thus seems difficult to sustain as a career. You are unlikely to retire as a programmer. (The usual progression is to try to use it as a stepping stone into management, right? But not all can be managers.)

If you're part of the top talent, you may of course have a better time of it. See if you can get into Stanford or MIT to smooth the path. Also, from what I've heard, this might be a pretty good time for Indians to become decent programmers in India. The outsourcing market still appears fairly exuberant.

Glengarry said at August 27, 2014 3:24 AM:

PS. Here's an interesting story related to the topic of what job to aim for.


Jim said at August 27, 2014 5:28 AM:

Randall - Probably in any technical field there is a pretty high risk of becoming obsolescent. As you've frequently mentioned tech people need to try to constantly keep up with new stuff. One disadvantage about a career as a petroleum engineer that some people I know in that field have mentioned to me is the frequent travel. When you're young your first trip to the north of Norway is an adventure. When you're 50 your twentieth trip to Norway is a bit of a drag.

The starting salaries for west coast programmers are pretty impressive. In the Houston area I've read that average salaries for programmers are about $75,000 but our cost of living is probably a lot lower than in California and of course we have no state income tax.

Maybe dentistry is one of the best careers. It pays well, there is probably a lot less stress than being a doctor, less need to deal with bureaucracies and the legal system, basic skills less likely to become obsolescent. More upfront costs than becomong a programmer or engineer but maybe one of the best ways to go in the long run. Or maybe an orthodontist or a pharmacist.

Some dude said at August 27, 2014 7:07 PM:

Here is something better to study than those boot camps:


Probably cheaper than boot camps as well.

Also, find yourself an open source project and start contributing.

Randall Parker said at August 28, 2014 5:30 PM:


I have lots of software developer friends making livings still in their 40s and 50s. I grant you not all can.

Top companies: Bootcamp grads do not know enough yet. But below the top companies there are plenty of jobs in software dev in the $60k-$80k range to start. As "Some dude" says, you can contribute to an open source project, both as a way to demonstrate your chops and to develop your skills. Reading the existing code is a way to learn. Writing code is good practice. If the project does real code review and they've got good reviewers that would be ideal. You learn by having better people rip your code apart.

Michael O. Church interview stories: Some (IMO better) software development companies do not hire based on what language you know. They interview based on your ability to code up solutions to problems using one of the languages that you know. Those companies tend to do harder things on average. I hear him say that someone is getting points for knowing Haskell or OCaml. I'd give people more points for knowing how to solve a difficult problem.

Knowing a few languages is good because it lets you compare and to be better able to choose a more suitable language for a problem. But knowledge about any one particular language should not be treated as important in the interview process.

Lots of people and companies do not know how to do job interviews. Even if you are using better practices it is really hard. You can get plenty of false positives and false negatives even if the interviewers are really talented. A developer has to expect to not get some jobs that they could have done well in. Life is not fair. But it is not completely unfair either. Talk to some software developers who do interviews and they'll tell you just how appallingly an applicant can be even with an impressive resume.

One thing to know about software jobs: You are better off working for a software company than for a company in some other line of business that uses software developers. I've worked for manufacturing companies and I wish I hadn't. So I warn off other people. Go with a company that has a management crew that can write code themselves.

Randall Parker said at August 28, 2014 5:36 PM:


When you read software developers (or especially former software developers) complain what you do not know is how good they are at their job. Some of the complainers are bad and do not know they are bad and don't want to face that they are bad. They are incompetent and do not know it (Dunning Kruger Effect).

Other times they could be honest and accurate. There is unfairness out there and plenty of weak to really bad managers. The rate of that varies greatly between companies. But there is more Dunning Kruger Effect than that.

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