Photo:A Code School student takes classes online.
Code red: Computer 'boot camps' are springing up across Florida
You don't need a four-year degree to program a computer. ‘Boot camps' have sprung up all over the state offering crash courses in coding.
The language of letters and numbers that computer developers use to communicate with the machines to get them to do their bidding — “computer code” — dates to early incarnations such as COBOL in the 1960s and ’70s.
Since then, the number of languages has exploded — more than 1,700 are now in use — and continues to grow. The field changes so quickly that even experienced coders have to hustle to keep up.
Meanwhile, the demand for new coders far outstrips supply — the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that between 2014 and 2024, the nation will need 186,600 more software developers, a 17% growth rate. As many as 1 million jobs could go unfilled, by some estimates. The median pay for programmers in 2014 was $97,990.
Universities, colleges and technical schools throughout Florida teach the basics but usually as requisite coursework toward a degree in computer science. The schools have ramped up offerings in hot fields such as web applications programming and mobile app development, but “there’s a huge demand for programmers going into the future,” says tech consultant Gregg Pollack, and “colleges are just not putting out enough to meet demand.”
Many coding jobs — even some at the glossiest high-tech businesses — don’t require a formal degree, however. Following a trend that began in California’s Silicon Valley — private “boot camps” and schools offering crash courses in coding have sprouted all across the nation. In Florida, there are now boot camps or computer coding schools in Orlando, Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville.
The school says about 40,000 are currently taking courses. A private firm with about 50 employees, Code School does not report revenue but was successful enough to attract the interest of Pluralsight, a Utah-based online learning company that bought it last year for $36 million.
Boot camps typically feature three-month crash courses, in person rather than online, and charge as much as $12,000. Examples: Iron Yard, a national firm, operates boot camps in Orlando and Tampa. Miami has Wyncode, a home-grown boot camp. Tech Talent South has a branch in Jacksonville. TreeHouse, another online coding school in Orlando, started about the same time as Code School. Industry specialists say other players are popping up that combine online education with a personal mentor.
Pollack, who earned a bachelor’s in computer engineering from Santa Clara University in California in 2000, says that if there had been a code boot camp when he was a student, “I would have jumped on it.”
Traditional schools are responding. The University of Central Florida in Orlando, for example, recently started its own boot camp, charging $9,500 for a 24-week coding program for web development.
UCF’s initial boot camp enrollment has been so strong, maxing out the first class at 54 students in March, that additional 24- week programs will be offered beginning in late June, says Todd Freece, director of continuing education at UCF. The boot camp operates separately from the school’s College of Engineering and Science, which offers degrees in computer science. Meanwhile, that college has seen its enrollment swell as well — enrollment in UCF’s bachelor’s degree computer program nearly doubled between 2011 and 2015, rising from 875 students to 1,612.
Pollack says demand for coders is strong enough to keep all competitors busy. Surveys of his Code School participants, he says, show that 50% are already employed in coding, while 16% are students. The remainder includes entrepreneurs and people who are simply giving coding a test run to see if they want to pursue it further.
“College degrees are good,” Pollack says, “but you don’t necessarily need one to write code.”
Some Coding Boot Camps and Schools in Florida
Wyncode offers a nine-week intensive, daily web development program that costs $10,000, and a six-week course for iOS, part-time training in Objective C and Swift, that costs $3,500.
Iron Yard, started in South Carolina in 2012, offers a 12-week immersive code training and mentorship program in Orlando and Tampa that costs $12,000. The school emphasizes “real projects over scripted assignments.” With 16 operating campuses, Iron Yard says it is the largest coding school in the nation.
Tech Talent South
The Atlanta-based coding school opened a branch in Jacksonville in 2015, the first such boot camp in the growing tech community. The school offers a range of programs and different languages, but the main eight-week full immersion program costs $6,750 for full time and $4,750 for part time.
Treehouse features videos in its online courses. Prices start as low as $25 a month for the basic and $49 for the professional platform. Treehouse also has a one-week free trial.