The academies: Filling the coding void
The reason these schools exist is simple. There's an enormous number of openings for people with coding skills and a serious shortage of warm bodies to fill them. The 40,000-odd students who graduate each year with four-year computer science degrees are only a fraction of the 1.4 million coders the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts will be needed by 2020.
"At last count there are nearly five job openings for every developer, and unemployment rate in this field is under 3 percent," notes Bethany Marzewski, marketing coordinator for developer job site Stack Overflow Careers 2.0.
In a world where there are four times as many openings for programmers as there are qualified people to fill them, coding schools like Hack Reactor -- as well as General Assembly, The Starter League, Dev BootCamp, The Flatiron School, Hackbright Academy, and dozens of others -- have stepped in to fill the void.
Little wonder, then, that these schools -- known variously as code academies, hacker dojos, or programming boot camps -- have been sprouting up like mushrooms after a deluge. But opinions about these institutions, most of which did not exist before 2011, are sharply divided.
For some tech companies, these programs offer a way to quickly find desperately needed talent without struggling with H-1B visas or protracted college recruitment programs. Other employers and recruiters, however, steer a wide path around them, saying a three-month course cannot possibly provide the engineering fundamentals required for being a productive member of a development team.
"Programming boot camps can't serve as a substitute for formal training or real-world experience," says Jon LeBlanc, head of developer evangelism at PayPal. "If you want to advance in your career, you need to have a complete understanding of languages and concepts that is developed far beyond the limits of a 12-week course."
Recently, these schools have come under fire from state regulators as well. In January, California's Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education sent cease-and-desist letters to Hack Reactor, Hackbright, and several other popular academies, demanding they come into compliance with state laws regarding vocational education or risk being shut down.