Get a job or get a refund: Udacity's promise

Graduates of Udacity's Nanodegree Plus courses will get their money back if they're not gainfully employed within a year

Get a job or get a refund: Udacity's promise
Credit: flickr/luftphilia

Online tech university Udacity is so confident its Nanodegree certification programs will land you a job, it'll refund your tuition if you aren't employed six months after graduation.

As reported by Wired and TechCrunch, this offer is open to U.S. students of four $299-a-month Nanodegree Plus courses: Machine Learning Engineer, Android Developer, iOS Developer, and Senior Web Developer.

This is a step up from Udacity's earlier offer, where those who completed a Nanodegree would get a 50 percent tuition refund if they graduated within 12 months of enrolling.

Udacity is one of many outfits offering such microcertifications. Instead of spending years on end (and, potentially, tens of thousands of dollars) in a general programming or computer science course at a university, a prospective tech job seeker can drop a few hundred bucks on a specific skill -- machine learning, game development, expertise in a specific language like Ruby or Python -- and quickly land a job using that skill.

The extra money spent on a Nanodegree Plus course also provides what amounts to a job placement service. Those students "get extra one-on-one attention from Udacity’s career services team," as Fortune put it. TechCrunch quoted Udacity co-founder Sebastian Thrun as saying students "will work closely with our Career Services team, and enroll in our new Career Advisor program and Career Concierge services."

It helps that the topics under the new plan are among the most in-demand jobs of their kind right now. But as InfoWorld's Eric Knorr pointed out in his look at microcertifications, companies may be shortchanging themselves by bringing in people whose understanding of the tech in question can be limited.

Also, code academies might not prepare students for the harsher realities of life on a dev team, where struggles with deadlines, egos, and sprawling legacy codebases are commonplace.

Udacity seems conscious of these problems. In the Wired article, Thrun described Udacity's machine learning course as "geared toward those willing and able to grasp [the subject's] complexities." The company plans to eventually widen the number of degrees it offers under the Nanodegree Plus brand and will continue to offer many courses for free -- albeit without the grading, feedback, or career guidance available at the for-pay level.

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