Boom or bust: The lowdown on code academies

Programming boot camps are on the rise, but can a crash course in coding truly pay off for students and employers alike?

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"Engineering is really hard," he says. "You can't just decide one day you're going to be one. Some people come out of these 12- or 15-week programs and are successful, but most of the time it's bad for both the employee and the company. They get really frustrated because they lack the fundamentals of computer science, data theory, and math."

Hack Reactor's Drost argues that academies like his offer a more practical real-world education than he received as a CS major at USC.

"While I was at college I never learned the fundamentals of software engineering, never wrote code in the same room with an instructor, never learned the tactics and tools of debugging," Drost says. "There's an amazing amount of wasted time in the college system. We don't waste time here."

Traditional CS degrees focus more on the science of computers and knowledge for its own sake, adds Shaun Johnson, co-founder of Startup Institute, an 8-week program with locations in Chicago, New York, and Boston, that trains people to join startups as coders, designers, marketers, and salespeople.

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"Most people won't go from knowing nothing about computers to joining a startup as a Web dev. The benefit of these schools over a traditional degree program is that they offer a more flexible option for people to reach their career objectives depending on where they are in life."

--Shaun Johnson, co-founder, Startup Institute

"Web development, however, is a rapidly moving trade where your depth of knowledge is largely measured by what you can build," says Johnson, who has a CS degree from Georgetown. "If you're looking at a boot camp or other program to get into Web development, knowing how to think on your feet is just as important as really deep comprehension of how computers work, if not more so."

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