The shine is coming off bootcamps. (Opinion)

Of course, I’m biased– the Circus (sort of) competes with the developer bootcamps. But I’m also keenly aware of what’s happening in the for-profit education sector, and the developer job market. And what I’ve been seeing recently is pretty troubling.

Since 2012, the number of web developer bootcamps in the US skyrocketed from 0 to about 90. Many of them have off-shoots in multiple cities, even in other countries. That’s an insane amount of growth. Why? In my opinion, it’s because it’s a great business model. You gather up 25 young adults who pay $15k each, hire a teacher for $120k, rent a small office space, and you’re at about 50% profit.

But you might have noticed I didn’t say it was a great educational model. And other people are starting to notice too. The reviews of many of the bigger bootcamps are starting too turn sour. The admission rates are rising, but the placement rates are falling. Some are calling for government oversight, at least for verifying placement rate claims. One of the first and largest bootcamps, Dev Bootcamp, is shutting down because according to their own announcement, they couldn’t make their business model work with their desired high-quality standard of education. That’s a pretty telling statement.

I get more bad news from our own Advisory Board. When asked how the competition stacks up, they almost unanimously tells us that bootcamp grads are “just not ready” for jobs in the higher-end market we aim for.  These are voices to be trusted– the unpaid board members are a rotation of about 30 executives and high-ups from various advertising, design, and digital marketing firms across the US. As a requirement of our accreditation, we have to meet with them twice a year to evaluate what we’re outputting. Unaccredited bootcamps have no such requirement.

Of course, there are good bootcamps. These are the ones that do some pre-training and acuity testing before admission. The ones that have lower admission rates, because they don’t take students who aren’t likely to succeed. But from where I’m sitting, those seem to be getting rarer, as schools motivated more by profit than pedagogy are growing.

My advice for potential bootcamp students: Accelerated learning is not for everyone. It’s for naturals and prodigies. It’s also for people who can abandon everything else in their life for 3 months, and not feel like it’s a gamble. If you’re at all worried about whether you’ll get in, or whether you’re succeed once you’re in, you’re probably in the wrong place. Find a longer format school (like this one).

And besides, like I’ve said for years– Can anyone really learn all this sh!t in 3 months?

Chris Silich
Interactive Department Director, Creative Circus