Don’t Get a Negative Education, Get a Rewarding One

Ensure you read this article, especially Part 1. You don’t want a negative education, which can cause you much misery for many years, as many people do suffer. I have first-hand experience with students at Bov Academy who “graduated” from other programs and are still completely unprepared for a proper programming job and lack both confidence and competence in there career path. By the end of this article, you will find the path to a rewarding education, your path to prosperity.

Part 1: Choosing a Coding School—What to Look For, When to Choose One School Over Another, What Matters More than Everything Else in a Coding School, How to Get a Rewarding Education and Avoid a Negative One, and More

You have decided to become—and have fully committed to becoming—a professional software developer or software engineer or to improve your programming skills for the pursuit of mastery in your career path to earn a bigger salary and secure a more exciting programming job. To realize any of these rewarding goals, you need a proper programming education, accessible via self-education or one of these five formal coding school options: coding boot camp, accelerated coding academy, MOOC/course platform, for-profit college, or private or public university.

In the previous article in the series, we focused exclusively on becoming a programmer via self-education; in this article, we focus on getting a proper programming education via a coding school.

Because of the significant differences between these five types of coding schools, you will want to do your due diligence to select the coding school that offers the specific career path and teachings that best align with your goal and purpose. And you want to ensure you get a rewarding education, not a negative one.

Graduation Rates and Star-Rating Reviews Are Useless Measures of a Coding School’s Quality of Education


A qualitative factor such as a rewarding education is so difficult to measure in any school that the use of graduation rates or movie-style-star-rating reviews are as useless to you when deciding which coding school to attend as reviewing star-rating rankings of a list of doctors—all sorts of doctors.

Accordingly, you want to first know your goal and purpose and the best career path that fits within your capacity and allows you to realize your goal and purpose. Then you want to know the types of coding schools that offer your career path, what to look for when selecting a school, and which school to choose over the others. This can help you realize your goal and purpose at the best investment (your time, money, and sacrifices) to you.

In addition, you should also know the differences between the schools and the advantages and disadvantages of each, all before you sign up for your career path. To help you make the right choice for this monumental decision for a rewarding career in programming, I detail just about everything you want to know on the matter of choosing the best coding school for you.

Article’s Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)

In this article, we set out to accomplish the following objectives, all of which you will realize when you read the article and complete the exercises at the end:

  • Understand the most crucial factors for a rewarding education at a coding school.
  • Understand the different types of coding schools and how to wisely choose one school over the others.
  • Know some of the crucial advantages and disadvantages of the different coding schools and choose the most apt coding school for you, if you are interested in a formal coding education.
  • Determine if your coding school of choice provides a rewarding education or a negative education.

We discuss the key results (the specific concepts or ideas you will learn and the steps you will take to accomplish the objectives) at the end of the article.

The rest of this article continues after the series’ table of contents below.

Articles in this Series

The remaining articles (8–19) will be published sometime between August 20 and September 20.

  1. Why Now Is the Best Time Ever to Become a Programmer, What You Can Do With Your Programming Skills, and Why Programming Is One of the Best Career Paths
  2. Your Goal and Purpose for Learning Programming Will Determine Which Programming Career Path to Pursue and Whether You Will Succeed
  3. A Significant Number of Students Quit their Programming Education, Find Out Why Before You Sign Up for a Program and Suffer the Same Fate
  4. The Crucial Factors for Success in Programming, Assessing Your Capacity to Become a Programmer, and Choosing the Best Programming-Related Career for *Your* Capacity
  5. Why You Will Need Your Family’s Support While You Train to Become an Employable Programmer
  6. Teaching Yourself to Code to Become an Employable Programmer—What to Learn, Where to Learn, and More
  7. Selecting a Coding School: Programming Boot Camps vs. Accelerated Programming Academies vs. MOOCs vs. University Computer Science Degrees vs. For-Profit Colleges
  8. Coming August 20: All the Programming Careers and Everything About Them—Including Responsibilities, Education, Available Jobs, Qualifications, and Salaries
  9. Specialization: Your Key to a Long and Successful Career in Programming, in the AI and Automation Age
  10. What Are the Secrets to Becoming a Great—Proficient and Confident—Programmer?
  11. The Single Biggest Factor That May Derail Your Chances of Becoming a Programmer
  12. What Are Some Major Downsides to Working as a Programmer
  13. Are You Too Old to Become a Programmer and What Programming Jobs Are Best for People Over 40?
  14. Alternative to Programming: High-Paying Non-Programming Technical Careers That Don’t Require a University Degree
  15. Overcoming Ageism, Racism, and Sexism in the Tech Industry
  16. Planning for a Long-Term Programming Career Beyond 2–5 Years
  17. Parents: A Roadmap for Helping Your Kid(s) Pursue a Career in Programming
  18. How to Secure a Great Programming Job with a Handsome Salary After You Graduate From a Coding School or Self-Education
  19. How to Realize Economic Prosperity Through Your Programming Expertise

Definitions of the Different Categories of Coding Schools and Other Related Definitions

Let’s first understand some important words we will use throughout this article, particularly the different coding schools.

  1. Accreditation
    Accreditation refers to the official status of an educational institution, regarding its authority and credibility and resources to offer recognized and well-established degrees, for example, an associate’s degree (which community colleges confer) or a bachelor’s degree or master’s or doctoral degree (which most universities confer). The word accredited is used to refer to such schools and to schools.
    A non-accredited institution (such as a programming boot camp), therefore, does not have the status to confer an official degree. From these institutions, instead of a formal degree, students leave with sought-after technical skills, a portfolio of their work, and job-interview preparation that will, collectively, help them quickly find a job in their field of study.
    Programming Boot Camps
    A programming boot camp can be thought of as a crash course in programming, in a specialized career path such as frontend developer, fullstack developer, or mobile developer, to name three of the most popular career paths at coding boot camps. Studies for a career path at a boot camp usually take 2–3 months to complete.

    See this list of all programming boot camps.

    Accelerated Programming Academies
    Accelerated programming academies, such as Bov Academy of Programming and Innovation, can be thought of as educational institutions of programming that combine the depth and rigor of a university bachelor’s computer science program with the speed and practically of a programming boot camp.

    Study at a typical accelerated programming academy takes 5–24 months to complete, depending on the career path, and students can study full time or part time at these institutions. (In this article and others in the series, I sometimes refer to accelerated programming academies as accelerated coding academies.)
    List of All Accelerated Programming Academies:

    1. Turing
    2. Galvanize
    3. Bov Academy of Programming and Innovation
    4. C4Q
    5. Ada Developers Academy
    6. CODE University
    7. Holberton School
    8. Make School
    9. We Think Code
    10. 42

    ————

    MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)
    MOOCs are a new form of online education platform. They provide access to education at at an exponential scale. MOOCs are the popular online educational platforms that offer hundreds of courses for free (or at a low cost per course or per monthly subscription). Hundreds of thousands of students—from all around the world and of wildly varying educational backgrounds and aspirations—are typically enrolled in MOOC courses and career path offerings. Course platforms (defined below) and MOOCs are so similar that I throughout this discussion, I will group them together as MOOCs/Course Platforms.

    See this list of all MOOCs and course platforms.

  2. Nonprofit Accredited Colleges and Universities
    These are the traditional post-secondary educational institutions in most countries. They are in the business of educating people: They help their students and graduates realize a successful career in some field. These colleges and universities include the community colleges you see in local neighborhoods as well as nearly all of the prominent universities, including MIT, Harvard, Oxford, King’s College, Stanford, Duke, and so on.

    Most nonprofit colleges and universities are accredited. Throughout this article and others on this website, wherever you see references to CS (Computer Science) degree or university, know that I am referring to nonprofit accredited universities of the sort described here.

    Accredited Shareholder For-Profit Colleges (aka For-Profit Colleges)
    This sounds complicated, so we can use the simpler and more infamous name for-profit colleges or for-profit institutes (for the technical for-profit schools). These are educational institutions that operate as businesses with the principal purpose of generating profit for shareholders.

    Be wary of these institutions, for they are among the worst post-education institutions. Many have been shutdown by the US government or sued by students, and schools in this category are continually investigated for their unethical, if not illegal, practices.

    Specifically, for-profit colleges are known to pressure their students to take out federal student loans to pay for tuition, even when they know students won’t be able to pay back the loan and even when students don’t even legally qualify for the loan. These colleges depend on student loans because the tuition paid to them (the colleges) from these loans are the colleges’ primary way of generating revenue and making a profit. I will get back this discussion later in this article.

    You can see a list of for-profit colleges and institutes on Wikipedia. This list isn’t exhaustive, however.
    Course Platforms
    A course platform offers individual courses, typically for a monthly subscription. You can take all sorts of courses on these platforms, and many such platforms exist online today. Course platforms and MOOCs are so similar that I will group them together in this discussion, as I note above.
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Selecting the Right Coding School for Your Goal and Purpose and Career Path

Depending on your goal and purpose, and of course your capacity, you will have a specific career path you want to pursue.

Depending on all three of those factors (goal, purpose, and career path), you will notice that a particular type of coding school is a clear pathway for your success while another type of coding school may be treacherous maze, a pathway into the unknown, into negative education, into a life of misery.

Ensure you choose the right type of school, the pathway to success. I will help you do that.

The Single Most Important Factor to Look for in a Coding School

The single most important factor that you need in coding school is a rewarding education. Above everything else, this is one thing you want to make sure your coding school provides, whether the school is a boot camp, an accelerated coding academy, a for-profit college, a MOOC, or a university.

Think of a rewarding education as an education that gives you back a noteworthy return on the investment you put into the education. Your investment includes the money you will pay for the tuition, the staggering number of hours you will spend learning and studying, and the value of your immediate potential earnings or potential capital (that is, your potential to make money now instead of attend the coding school) that you put on hold so as to get the programming education for a programming job.

You have invested your money, your time, and your immediate potential earnings, all to get an education, and you therefore want the return on your investment to be well worth the investment.

Indeed, you want a rewarding education. The rewards can be measured by the expertise and qualification you acquire, by the skills and provable expertise to get a great job that pays at least a middle-class salary, and by your ability to repay any student loans within two years.

Let’s call these benefits the factors for a rewarding education, and let’s discuss them in more detail.

The Factors for a Rewarding Education

To help further elucidate the concept of a rewarding education, I explain the specific factors that define and measure a rewarding education. Accordingly, to provide students with a rewarding education, a coding school must:

  1. Ensure the student achieves at least competence and confidence in the student’s career path. A few coding schools, like Bov Academy, ensure student proficiency, not just competence.

  2. Ensure the student builds an impressive portfolio and substantial projects that can prove the student’s experience and expertise in a career path.

  3. Empower the student with the sort of expertise that can earn the student at least a middle-class salary on the student’s first job. That is, each career path should provide every student with an opportunity for a great job that is in demand, not a low-paying, or soon-to-be-obsolete job.

  4. Help the student acquire the necessary interview skills so that the student can excel in technical programming interviews and land a job in their career path within four months of the student’s graduating from the coding school.

  5. Ensure that any loan the student incurred from the school can be paid back in full within two years after the student gets a full-time job and with no more than 10% of the student’s salary over that two-year period.

    For example, if the student gets a job after graduation and makes a salary of $70,000 a year, the student should be expected to pay off the loan using no more than 10% of his salary over a period of two years. Thus, in this example, the student’s loan should not exceed $14,000.

    In the case of four-year universities, typically tens of thousands of dollars costlier than the other coding schools, the loan-pay-off period should be no more than four years, instead of two years, considering you will need more time to pay off the hefty student loan from your university.

I am pleased to note that many coding schools meet the requirements for providing a rewarding education for their students. Conversely, I am saddened to note that many more coding schools don’t meet the requirements for a rewarding education, and many graduates from these schools end up with an unrewarding or negative education.

I am not speaking of the negative education first discussed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. I am speaking of a new form of negative education; one that results in no value to the student. In fact, a negative education doesn’t just result in no value to the student, but it also results in a negative value to the student and the student’s family. The student would have been better off not getting the education and instead use the time for full-time employment or to build a business of some sort.

Negative Education

A student receives a negative education if, after graduating from an educational institution, the student:

  • Lacks competence and confidence in the student’s career path or area of specialization.
  • Lacks any substantive proof (in the form of impressive projects) of his or her expertise.
  • Within five months of graduating, cannot get a job that pays at least a middle-class salary.
  • Is unprepared to perform the duties of his specialization on a real job and unprepared to handle job interviews.
  • Cannot repay his or her student loan within 2–4 years on 10% of the salary earned over that period.

Sadly and devastatingly, many, perhaps the majority, of graduates from for-profit colleges end up with a negative education. I discuss this in Part 2 below.

Make sure you choose a coding school that provides a rewarding education.

How to Find the Factors for a Rewarding Education in a Coding School?

In the exercises at the end of this article, you will take some specific actions to find the factors for a rewarding education in your coding school of choice.

Which Coding School Should You Choose and When?

We know you want to attend a coding school that provides a rewarding education. But which type of coding school, of the five we describe earlier (coding boot camp, accelerated coding academy, MOOC/course platform, for-profit college, and university) is ideal for you (your purpose and goal) and your career path? And when do you choose one type of school over the other? We shall find out now.

1. When to Choose a MOOC (or Course Platform) Over the Other Coding Schools?

Recall that a MOOC is one of the massive course platforms that provides access to hundreds of courses at an affordable cost or even for free, and typically has tens of thousands, often hundreds of thousands, of people enrolled in each course or career path.

Choose a MOOC over the other coding schools if any of the following applies to you:

  1. You are new to programming and want to try out some beginning programming courses to decide if programming is for you. You should read The Crucial Factors for Success in Programing article to help you with your decision for a career in programming.

  2. You are already confident and competent in your career path and want to improve or expand your knowledge in a few areas by taking a few courses and you are not looking for a job within 2–3 months. You will take longer than 2–3 months to complete those few courses and practice building real projects with what you learn.

  3. You are comfortable learning on your own and want to graduate in a popular career path, and:

    • you don’t mind limited feedback on your assignments and projects and the lack of one-on-one-detailed-personal instructor feedback.
  4. You don’t care how many tens of thousands of people graduate from the same coding school as you and around the same time as you, and you want an affordable education that you can complete on your own terms.

  5. You want access to an abundance of courses from different authors, to learn a variety of subjects, not to specialize in a particular career path.

Which Specific MOOC Should You Choose?

To steer clear of any bias, I don’t recommend any specific coding schools in this article, and you don’t need any specific names from me anyway. What is more valuable that a simple couple of recommended schools is what to look for in a coding school, information that you can use to choose the best school for you or anyone else, no matter which type of coding school you plan to attend and no matter your career path is.

You can choose for yourself; check out all the MOOCs and course platforms.

2. When to Choose a Coding Boot Camp Over the Other Coding Schools?

Choose a coding boot camp, the quick 2–3-month coding schools, if any of the following applies to you:

  1. You want a quick frontend development, UI development, fullstack development, or mobile app development job within 2–4 months and:
    • you have been learning the fundamentals of web programming for at least a few months
    • and you can comfortably build small websites or simple mobile apps (if mobile app dev is your interest)
    • and, most crucially, you don’t necessarily expect to be confident and proficient in your career path by the time you graduate from the boot camp.
  2. You are a knowledgeable developer and want to learn (on mostly a surface level) a host of modern technologies that are in high demand and required for a modern, high-paying job at some of the hottest tech companies, and:
    • you need the distinction of being a graduate of a well-known coding boot camp on your resume to get a high-paying job.

Which Specific Programming Boot Camp Should You Choose?

As I noted above, I don’t recommend any specific school. However, you can choose for yourself; check out this list of all the programming boot camps.

3. When to Choose an Accelerated Programming Academy Over the Other Coding Schools?

Choose an accelerated programming academy if any of the following applies to you:

  1. You want to become proficient in your career path and you want to be confident when you set out to work in the real world in your career path.

  2. You want to pursue mastery in your career path; you want to get better and better in your area of specialization.

  3. You want to learn everything and in sufficient depth, from beginning to advanced, in your career path of choice.

  4. You are already competent in your career path and want to expand your expertise.

Which Specific Accelerated Programming Academy Should You Choose?

As I noted above, I don’t recommend any specific school. However, you can choose from any of the accelerated coding academies below:

4. When to Choose a CS Degree at a University Over a More Specialized Programming Career Path at Another Coding School?

Choose a CS degree at a four-year university if any of the following applies to you:

  1. You want to teach computer science or programming at the university level.

  2. You want to pursue mastery of software engineering or computer science, with the intention of completing either your masters’ or your PhD.

  3. You want to study computer science (the broad field of programming) so that you can acquire the broad skills and knowledge to pursue any kind of programming career, whether a cybersecurity expert with Lockheed Martin, a software engineer on Google Search, an application engineer at NASA, a robotics engineer at Boston Dynamics, an AI engineer at Amazon or Facebook, an algorithms expert at a major Bank, a programmer anywhere.

  4. You are under 22 years of age and want a broad education, not just a specialized education focused on just programming courses. That is, you want a cultivated education.

Which University Should You Choose for a Degree in Computer Science?

See the ShanghaiRanking’s Global Ranking of Universities and Institutes 2017 – Computer Science & Engineering.

Or see a similar list of top universities around the world, by the research company Quacquarelli Symonds. This list focuses on education in general, not just computer science.

5. When to Choose a For-Profit College Over Other Coding Schools?

Never!

For more on the infamy of for-profit colleges, read my notes above in the Terminologies section where I describe for-profit colleges, and read Part 2 of this article below.

List of For-Profit Colleges

You can see a list of for-profit colleges and institutes on Wikipedia. This list isn’t exhaustive, however.

Exercises: Actions You Should Take Now

Exercise 1: Understand the Five Types of Coding Schools

Ensure you understand the five types of coding schools and when to select one over the others. Then explain to someone the differences between the schools and note some of the advantages and disadvantages of each type of school.

Exercise 2: Determine if the Coding School of Your Choice Provides a Rewarding Education or a Negative Education

Once you understand the differences between the five types of coding schools, contact two or three of the coding schools you believe may be ideal for you and do them the following to determine if the schools provide a rewarding education:

  • Competence and Confidence in Your Career Path: Ask the school if their curriculum includes a comprehensive education that covers just about everything (or most of it) that you need to know to become competent and confident in your career path. And ask them if you will get the opportunity to practice building dozens of projects (small and large) to hone your confidence and competence in the stuff you need to know.
  • Impressive Portfolio and Substantial Projects: Ask them if you will build a portfolio to showcase your work and if your build more than six substantial projects that you will be able to show off in your portfolio. and ask them what kinds of projects you will build.
  • Adequate Skills to Earn a Middle-Class Salary or Better: Find out from the school if the jobs that require the skills you will achieve pay, on average, more than a middle-class salary. You can see the median middle-class salaries across the United States.
  • Preparation for Technical Job Interviews: Ask the school if they give you practice interviews to prepare you for your real technical programming job interviews.
  • Expectation to Find Rewarding Job Within Five Months: Find out from the school if you are expected to find a full-time job in your career path within five months (preferably four months) after you start looking for a job after you graduate.
  • Student Loan or Deferred Payment to Be Repaid With Maximum of 10% of Salary and Within Two Years: Find out the cost of the tuition for the entire program (until you graduate) and determine if you will be given a loan or tuition deferment (this is also a loan). Then determine, based on the salary you expect to earn after you graduate, if you can repay the loan within two years using 10% of your salary over that two-year period.

    If your coding school of choice is a four-year university, you may need more than two years to repay your tuition. You can use four years instead of two years.

When you complete these exercises, you will know whether your school of choice provides a rewarding education or a negative education. You already know you should never pursue a negative education, so proceed with the wise decision for prosperity.

Exercise 3: Pursue Economic Prosperity

The most likely (and the most popular) way for you to become prosperous is with a rewarding job, which you can realize with a rewarding education. To set yourself on the path to economic prosperity via a rewarding education, do the following:

  1. Decide if a programming career path is for you. Read the rest of the articles in this series for more on how to make this consequential decision.
  2. Choose the best programming career path that aligns with your goal, purpose, and capacity.
  3. Ensure you get your family support, as I detailed in one of the articles in this series.
  4. Then either teach yourself to code to become an employable programmer or find the best coding school for your career path. And commit yourself to your studies; you will be well on your way to long-term prosperity. If you prefer to build your own business, read the related article in the series.

Part 2: A Comparison of the Different Coding Schools—The Advantages and Disadvantages of Each

I will publish Part 2 on Wednesday, July 25. It is over 20 pages long; I need a bit more time to edit it and refine it before I publish it.

Recommended Books

This is coming Wednesday, July 25 as well.