9 Factors To Consider When Choosing a Bootcamp vs 42

Coding Bootcamps vs 42?

We all know that software engineers are in high demand. As a result, a lot of short-term coding bootcamps emerged to address this market need. Here are 42, we’re far less convinced about attending coding bootcamps if you want to become a good software engineer.

Prospective students often ask us whether they should attend a bootcamp or come to 42. The costs are different, program lengths are different, and learning outcomes are certainly different. Ultimately, it depends on what you want to do: if you need surface-level, high-language training, then you can get that from a bootcamp (but please do not get ripped off). If you want to be a good software engineer, you should come to 42.

9 Factors To Consider When Choosing a Bootcamp vs 42

With software engineers having the potential to earn an income that is 19% above the national average, around $124,555, and the field experiencing a growth of 24% through 2026, it is no surprise that people want to get into coding. According to Course Report, their 2017 Coding Bootcamp Market Size Study revealed that there are now 95 full-time coding bootcamps in the United States and Canada. The first coding bootcamps debuted in 2012 and have grown 10x since then, and are now a $260 million dollar industry. Course Report’s Study shows that bootcamps are becoming longer with an average length of 14.1 weeks and average tuition cost is around $11,400. At the same time, six bootcamps closed their doors in 2017.

Up-to-date Curriculum

There is the concern that some bootcamps are not offering a curriculum that keeps up with the ever-changing knowledge in the tech industry. According to the New York Times, “The demand from employers is shifting and the schools must adapt. Many bootcamps have not evolved beyond courses in basic web development, but companies are now often looking for more advanced coding skills.” At 42, students start with the basics of C and then move to higher-level programming languages on their own such as javascript (used for web development, application development), Python (AI, machine learning), Ruby and Ruby on Rails (for software scripting, web development), R (statistical computing), and SQL (structured queries) and pretty much any programming language a student wants to learn. Further, our curriculum changes in real-time: we don’t need to find and hire professors or spend a year getting a course approved for accreditation (employers love that).

Foundations Are Important for Software Engineers: Low vs High-Level Languages

We spoke with Chief Academic Officer at 42, Gaetan Juvin, and he shared the difference between learning a low-level language and only learning a high-level language. Gaetan explained that learning C and C++ helps you with optimization, which helps you to think faster: “The foundation of C is very important. It means that you have an understanding as to ‘why’ something is, instead of relying on someone else’s code. Students at 42 are proficient in both lower-level and high-level programming languages. In addition to teaching them hard skills, we also know the importance of soft skills and that is why we emphasize a project and peer-based curriculum.” And according to Gaetan, learning C is harder to do at home with an online program: it is something that is better understood when you can work through the problems in a collaborative in-person environment.

The programming languages that most students are learning at for-profit coding bootcamps are used for basic web development, which is great if you want to get into or stay in a web developer role. Without the foundation of C, people who want to become software engineers and complete these short-term bootcamps will very likely lack a deep understanding of what they are doing, and may need more on the job training and more practice during their first job….that is, if they can get past the whiteboard interview. Whiteboard interviews don’t focus on high-level languages: they’re far more technical so if you’re not prepared, you won’t do well. At 42, we believe students should learn the fundamentals at their own pace, so they are master the skills they need for the industry and are fully prepared and motivated when they seek their first job.

Entrepreneurship & Incubators

42 has a project incubator which gives students the opportunity to take their ideas and transform them into viable products (learn more about by checking out our student projects page). Students that create something at 42 have ownership over their IP (intellectual property) which is a unique characteristic that you won’t find anywhere else (or at least will have a hard time finding). Not only does having an incubator provide motivation for students wanting to be entrepreneurs, it adds to the entrepreneurial spirit of our learning community and develops skills employers are looking for.

Getting a Job: Networking

We all know how important networking is, so we make sure our students are exposed to leaders in the tech industry by inviting them as guest speakers, conducting innovation tours for people from all over the world, hosting hackathons where we try to find solutions to some of our biggest problems, and forging partnerships with companies so our students can have on-site visits, mentors, and opportunities to work on company-sponsored projects.

Getting a Job: Application Process

42 students have special training opportunities to help them prepare for and succeed at technical interviews. Students are encouraged to review their resumes and communicate with professionalism and using expected follow-up.

Instructor Quality & Experience

Many of the instructors at the bootcamps that we reviewed attended the bootcamp itself before they came on board. At 42, there is no more waiting for knowledge to be taught by someone who already knows it. Our academic model is unique and offers a different experience from a traditional school. We have no instructors, no textbooks, no courses, and no lectures. 42 students must be ready to go find answers and solutions for themselves, to seek out their classmates in order to understand something before putting it into place and explaining how it works to others. Hands-on learning and work that involves collaboration is the basis for peer-learning. The instructor in a classic learning structure is replaced by a student-centered community of budding experts in their field.

Kwame Yamgnane, 42’s co-founder and managing director, participated in the creation of one of the largest computer schools in France and led a career completely dedicated to IT both as an entrepreneur and within major large companies.  Gaetan Juvin, 42’s Chief Academic Officer, has a master’s in IT and a bachelors in law. He leads program development at all levels and was the first to join the staff at 42 Paris and has led the growth and development of the 42 program both in France and the U.S. Both Kwame and Gaetan have built a curriculum that is not only based on peer-learning but also gamification. 42’s mission is to bring out and stimulate talents and to attain this, it proposes a motivating environment rooted in a gaming theme. By completing their projects and participating in the community life, the students also earn *achievements* which highlight the value of the fun and social aspects of their education. Through all these traditional gaming components, reinterpreted in the context of motivational theories, and most importantly the theory of self-determination, 42 creates a rich environment where the autonomy, expertise, and well-being of the students can be developed. This type of “instruction” is unique to 42, and we think is far more motivating than being instructed through lectures or other traditional methods.

Class Size & Socializing

At 42, learning is different than in a lecture-style setting because of how much attention you get as an individual through peer-learning and corrections. When students struggle or don’t know what to do, they learn by asking fellow students. The open workspace makes collaboration easier, and students can freely go up to someone and talk to them about what they are working on. The learning process at 42 doesn’t stop once a project has been turned in: it continues during its correction. The students correct amongst themselves the projects which their classmates have produced: advanced students correct less-advanced students. Those being corrected need to learn to defend their point of view and the solutions that they put in place. The correctors need to respond impartially and take in and understand the project that is presented to them in a short amount of time.

When it comes to socializing, many of our students comment that one of the highlights of 42 is the community. No matter where you come from, what you look like, or if you’ve worked before, the 42 community is a welcoming and open place with a passion for coding and creativity. We’ve got around 400-500 active students and over 100 alumni.

The bootcamps we reviewed have more of a formal structure. One bootcamp that we reviewed has 20-30 students per class, divided into teams of 5 or 6 students. There are 2-3 instructors/TAs that are available for assistance. When it comes to socialization, they share that they spend time outside the classroom as well. Without the peer-learning structure, these moments where students can bond are often eclipsed by traditional structures such as instructors, lectures and more formal lessons. Also, it is difficult to foster a sense of community in a short amount of time, especially when the majority of days need to be reserved for learning how to code.

Cost to Hours of Instruction

Instruction doesn’t just mean learning all the time through a teacher, nor does sitting in a lecture as a captive audience member. At 42, learning happens 24/7. Our buildings and computer lab are never closed, and it is up to students to go in and do what they need to do and to manage their time wisely. Soft skills, such as time management, creative problem-solving, learning to work in a team, learning to work individually, and honing your interpersonal communication skills are all important when it comes to creating well-rounded software engineers. Luckily at 42, these skills are acquired through our innovative peer-learning model and are important when it comes to getting employed and being retained by your new employer. Ash Norton, an engineering consultant, and career coach spoke to Forbes about the importance of soft skills, “What I’ve seen time and time again is that developing the ‘soft skills’ is dismissed throughout their formal training. Then, when they enter the workforce, they can’t make the progress or impact that matches their technical skills because they lack communication, creativity and interpersonal skills that are required.” When someone is trying to learn how to code in a few weeks at a bootcamp, the hard skills often dominate and the soft skills may be minimized or overlooked completely. At 42, we believe both sets of skills should be figured into the cost of hours of instruction, and that is why we are proud of our academic model that creates an environment where students have the time and support to do both.

Total Cost – see below

Please, please, please compare the total cost and return on your potential investment for any educational option. Yes 42 is $0 tuition and we have free accommodation, but don’t forget to count your living costs (it’s still an incredibly good return on investment!).

The High-Cost of Short-Term Bootcamps

For this article and the comparisons made, we are defining a short-term bootcamp as one that lasts an average of 12 to 15 weeks for full-time students. They tend to focus on one to two programming languages that are higher level languages and they also often promise job placement.

Hidden beneath the glossy facade of the front page of most bootcamp websites are huge price tags that run anywhere from $13,495 to $17,980 base tuition, and you could pay nearly $10,000 more in interest rates if you borrow money to fully cover tuition and living expenses. In addition to that, while conducting research for this article, we had to dig deep into the FAQ sections to find the actual cost of tuition, which didn’t even include the cost of room and board in some of the most costly areas to live in the United States. That’s too shady for our liking.

Some coding bootcamps will require huge deposits up front, or require international students to pay in full. Others will take a percentage of your income, based on your income BEFORE taxes. And to make the situation even worse, there are now lending companies that offer loans but at higher-than-average interest rates.

At 42, we firmly believe in providing a 100% tuition-free education in addition to free accommodation. We want people to be aware that the high cost of these short-term bootcamps can put students at risk of financial debt. 12 to 14-week bootcamps can also fall short of teaching students the advanced coding skills they will need to get through a rigorous whiteboard interview process, not to mention the in-depth programming knowledge that one needs to perform well in a software engineering job.

The Hidden Financial Pitfalls 

42 Silicon Valley is able to offer free tuition because it is funded by a French billionaire who wants to give back to society, having made his money through the telecommunications and software industry. Tuition fees are neither required before, during, nor after attending 42. All of the student tuition fees are covered up-front by the private investment of Xavier Niel.

Total Costs of Coding Bootcamps

At short-term bootcamps you lose money; when you attend 42 you don’t need to invest in anything but yourself. In addition, while you are trying to complete a coding bootcamp, you will need to pay for room and board (or even take out a loan for your living expenses). To get a clearer picture of how much a short-term bootcamp can cost if you enroll as a full-time student, below is a cost comparison chart that also shows the length of each program, the base tuition, repayment options that are available, as well as the programming languages that are taught:

From our research, ISA’s (Income Share Agreements) seem to be not as common anymore with short-term bootcamps, but actually, that is more of a concern since loans through private lenders can have high-interest rates. For example, if you took out a deferred loan (where you didn’t make any payments for 2 months) that covered tuition and living costs that totaled $24,395, you will be paying much more at the end of the loan period. If you select a 3 year fixed rate loan at 8.99% interest, you would pay $830.84 per month, with a total payback of $29,910.24, which means you will be paying $5,515.24 more than what you originally borrowed. Thinking of making your payments smaller by extending the length of your loan to 5 years instead of just 3?  At an interest rate of 10.99%, your monthly payments will be lower at $571.70 but overall you will have a total payback of $34,302 which means you will be paying $9,907 dollars more than what you originally borrowed.

Return on Investment: Job vs the Future

Some bootcamps offer refunds if a student doesn’t find a job within a certain length of time (although there are guidelines they must follow). Course Report advises people to make sure they understand expectations that the bootcamp may have such as a requirement to take the first job offer, earning a minimum salary before payback, being aware of timelines and what happens if you can’t find a job. Most importantly, it is important to look at the big picture and compare upfront costs versus the cost if you defer your payment and take out a loan.

Beware: technology is changing at a rapid pace, so you need to select an educational path that will help you stand out while having a firm footing when it comes to understanding what it takes to be a great programmer not just now but in the future. It’s important to consider the return on any investment you make in your education, whether that’s a bootcamp or somewhere like 42. Are you going to gain the skills you need to get the job you want? Is the training deep enough?

Why 42 is Free and Always Will Be

We don’t want to see anyone lose money just because they are trying to pursue their dream of becoming a software engineer or are trying to make a career change. When we say that 42 is $0 tuition, we mean it, and it is part of our mission to make coding education free and accessible. Each student goes through a 4-week intensive basic training in order to earn a spot here for the next 1-5 years. Once a student passes, they are getting an education that could cost them around $80,000 per year at another school.

We also offer free accommodation – yes, in the San Francisco Bay Area. What is great about our free dorms is that they put students in close proximity to several startups and leading tech companies. 42 is student-centered, we value our students and as a non-profit, we can put all our efforts and resources into our students.

We know that becoming a well-rounded programmer takes more than 12 to 14 weeks and involves extensive hands-on learning such as working on projects and participating in internships. 42 is committed to open opportunities for students, excellence in learning, innovation, and a strong student community…that makes the 42 experience literally, and figuratively, priceless.


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published by Stacey Faucett – July 2, 2018