University vs Bootcamp vs Self-Teach Watch

missy57
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Hi all,
I'm new here! just seeking some advice.
I am thinking about going into Programming. I've done a little bit, and quite enjoy it (in Python) and now feeling like I'd like to take the plunge and try and move into this career. I come from a background in Retail, so looking to move into something that has good job opportunities and challenging.

Thing is, in my research, there seems to be a few general ways to enter the field: do a uni degree, jump onto a 3-6 month coding Bootcamp, or self-teach using online courses. I did meet different people who have done at least one of these things, and they have advised different things, although the Bootcamp ones seems a bit unrealistic (and very expensive!).

Just hoping for some of your thoughts and experiences about this, and what you think I should do? I do have the time to go to uni I suppose, but not keen on going back to uni to do another whole 3 year degree (i'd rather be earning some money) and not hugely keen on paying tuition fees (although could get a loan).

I'd like to learn programming "fast", but i also want to learn it well. Would love to hear from you and your thoughts. Thanks for reading my post!
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winterscoming
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I think learning it 'fast' can sometimes conflict with learning it 'well' - it's important to take the time to understand all the underlying concepts in-depth so that you've got the technical foundation to be able to think at a higher level. The real skill is learning how to solve problems, but that takes time and a lot of practise with using programming to solve problems; it's learning whole new ways of thinking; it's something that will eventually 'click' once you've spent enough time attempting to solve problems that challenge you, relative to wherever you are on your own learning curve.

It's going to take a great deal of effort no matter what you do, there aren't really any shortcuts, and it's not something that most people find 'natural' at first but it will start to feel more natural as you progress, just like learning a foreign language or musical instrument, it takes many hours/days/months of practise before you can have a fluent conversation with a native speaker, or start composing your own musical score.

If you study Computer Science (or a specialisation like Software Engineering) at university for 3 years then you'll probably end up doing at least 1000-1500 hours of programming spread over 3 academic years (or more if you ended up taking an industrial placement year in a programming job). Universities will obviously cover other topics to give you a broader scope on other CompSci topics as well like Databases, Operating Systems, Networking, Maths, etc. That's really useful to have, and it's also useful to be able to have face-to-face support from lecturers. It's a very reliable way to a career but it's also slow and expensive.

A bootcamp would be maybe 500-700 hours of programming, albeit squeezed into a period of months rather than years, and usually focused squarely on programming and software engineering. At the end you should be confident enough in being able to build web apps, as well as having a foundation of software engineering disciplines around things like automated testing and project planning. (i.e. all the day-to-day activities that you'd get as a junior software engineer). It's also pretty expensive though.

If you're going to self-teach, then you'd want to be looking at the same amount of effort that a computer science undergrad has done in terms of the raw number of hours to build up your skillset, the main difference being that you'd follow your own timetable so you could realistically achieve it in a year if you devoted yourself to it full-time; follow your own path, lean heavily on the internet for support, it's definitely doable and a lot of people have done that. The hardest part is usually finding the motivation to keep going. But you can do it without paying a penny and have a plethora of high-quality courses and other materials available online for free.

Another possible option could be to investigate a 'Higher' apprenticeship for a career path such as Software Engineering; those are degree-equivalent apprenticeship schemes which take place over 3-4 years and focus on learning the skills for the job by being hired as an apprentice software engineer by an employer for 4 days per-week and 1 day per-week in lessons. These can be very competitive to get into due to the high demand compared with number of placements available, but it's possibly one of the best ways to get into these sorts of jobs.

Also, if you're going to make a career out of IT, then self-teaching is something to get used to, because technology moves fast and a lot of employers will throw their IT people into new/unfamiliar technologies with the expectation that given enough time you'll eventually figure it out and be able to use it in a project, so being great at digging through Google for information is something you might as well get used to sooner than later.

Here's some decent Python links to get started with anyway. While you're deciding what to do next, carrying on with self-teaching is still useful:
https://www.codecademy.com/courses/learn-python
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...72C720775B213E
https://www.py4e.com/
https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/electric...hon-fall-2016/
http://greenteapress.com/wp/think-python-2e/
https://docs.python.org/3/tutorial/index.html
https://pythonforbiologists.com/29-c...s-on-one-page/

Some great sites for learning to practise solving problems programmatically here:
https://www.hackerrank.com/domains/python
https://projecteuler.net/archives

Once you've reached a point where you feel comfortable/confident with the core skills of programming, it'll be a matter of putting them into practise - having at least one large personal project to build up your skills will help, as well as give you some exposure to some of the bigger issues around creating software (e.g. creating a web app, or a Desktop UI app, or creating a game, etc. -- something equivalent to an undergraduate Final-Year project), but there are other things aside from just 'writing code' that are going to be important too.

Here's something that might interest you when you're ready to jump into the 'next stage' for Python; using it to create web apps: https://blog.miguelgrinberg.com/post...-i-hello-world

Also there are various other tools that will be important to learn. It's a good idea to make sure you're comfortable with using "GitHub" to host your projects and use that to manage the code you create; most employers now tend to use 'git' to store their code, so it's a core skill for any programmer.

Databases will also be really useful and important as well, so at some point it'd be a good idea to put SQL on your list of skills to learn. SQL is yet another invaluable skill which is just everywhere for nearly all businesses and IT jobs; most companies use databases to store huge amounts of complex data, so they usually rely on having people who understand SQL to be able to build their software around it, as well as things like data science and 'business intelligence'.
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missy57
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Hi,You are amazing, thank you so much! I feel motivated from reading your post!I have a lot to think about, clearly, based on your post My 'gut' is telling me I can learn this myself. I don't need a uni degree or a Bootcamp (with all the stress including financial stress and risk). I think for some career paths, you definitely need to study a course, such as Medicine or Pharmacy etc., but I am realising more and more that we don't necessarily need a degree or a 'course qualification', such as with Bootcamps, to prove we can programme. Like you said, there are lots of online courses out there, although I am really struggling with using Youtube - it's a nightmare to actually find what I want to learn or help with a problem I am stuck on. I did meet a woman who did a Bootcamp, and she advised me to not go for it. She has been stuck in a junior position for a couple of years, and she believes it was because she was given the false impression that she would sky-rocket as a developer. She has advised that the actual learning 'well' part comes from understanding Computer Science itself. She also explained that she only really learnt how to create one or two pages of a website, and although it felt like a massive achievement, it wasn't worth anything because like you said, she hadn't actually learnt how to 'think' like a developer e.g. problem-solving etc. I think you're right - these are core skills that can't just be learnt in a couple of months! But, I have also met a few people who studied it at university and their experience is that Uni ill-equipped them for the real working world, that at Uni it was too 'academic'.Anyways, a lot to think about... and hopefully I'll come to an answer soon (Although I think I might teach myself, since I can see it can be done but will take some time - fingers crossed!).Thanks again for replying and reading.
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missy57
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BTW

I will add on this thread any links I discover of good and great courses that can help others to learn programming too!

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winterscoming
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(Original post by missy57)
BTW

I will add on this thread any links I discover of good and great courses that can help others to learn programming too!

Just on this, I'd say the best course I've ever seen for learning programming and CompSci is CS50x by Harvard: The lecturer is extremely good and the course content is challenging yet also very well explained, but it uses the "C" programming language: https://online-learning.harvard.edu/...mputer-science
If you're already focused on learning Python, then stick with that because there's no point switching to a different language until you're comfortable with that, C is a lot less beginner-friendly and more frustrating/nitpicky than Python but it's a good language for learning low-level computer science concepts.

The other Harvard programming/CS courses which follow on from that are good as well: https://online-learning.harvard.edu/...mputer-science


Then some Java courses from various US universities (Duke, UBC and MIT) are really good for building up software engineering skills and getting a good working knowledge of Java, which is a very worthwhile language to get under your belt. Roughly in this order:
https://www.coursera.org/learn/java-programming
https://www.coursera.org/learn/java-...ays-lists-data
https://www.coursera.org/learn/object-oriented-java
https://www.coursera.org/learn/data-...ng-performance
https://www.coursera.org/learn/advanced-data-structures
https://www.coursera.org/learn/java-...ign-principles
https://www.edx.org/course/software-...uction-in-java
https://www.edx.org/course/advanced-...uction-in-java
- Again, no point jumping into Java any time soon if you're focused on Python, but it's another really useful language to learn.


If you're able to get through all of those (Python, C and Java), then that's probably equivalent to most of the programming you'd get in 1-2 years at university.
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Shoegazer92
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(Original post by missy57)
Hi,You are amazing, thank you so much! I feel motivated from reading your post!I have a lot to think about, clearly, based on your post My 'gut' is telling me I can learn this myself. I don't need a uni degree or a Bootcamp (with all the stress including financial stress and risk). I think for some career paths, you definitely need to study a course, such as Medicine or Pharmacy etc., but I am realising more and more that we don't necessarily need a degree or a 'course qualification', such as with Bootcamps, to prove we can programme. Like you said, there are lots of online courses out there, although I am really struggling with using Youtube - it's a nightmare to actually find what I want to learn or help with a problem I am stuck on. I did meet a woman who did a Bootcamp, and she advised me to not go for it. She has been stuck in a junior position for a couple of years, and she believes it was because she was given the false impression that she would sky-rocket as a developer. She has advised that the actual learning 'well' part comes from understanding Computer Science itself. She also explained that she only really learnt how to create one or two pages of a website, and although it felt like a massive achievement, it wasn't worth anything because like you said, she hadn't actually learnt how to 'think' like a developer e.g. problem-solving etc. I think you're right - these are core skills that can't just be learnt in a couple of months! But, I have also met a few people who studied it at university and their experience is that Uni ill-equipped them for the real working world, that at Uni it was too 'academic'.Anyways, a lot to think about... and hopefully I'll come to an answer soon (Although I think I might teach myself, since I can see it can be done but will take some time - fingers crossed!).Thanks again for replying and reading.
I think the other poster has given some good advice and resources, but here's some more:

1. just guessing from how you have written and your username that you're a girl, apologies if this is a wrong assumption. Women as a percentage of the workforce are under represented in technology. You have mentioned you already have a degree, it may be worth researching/contacting companies as some have 'women only' apprenticeships/entry level/career switch where they don't expect much prior knowledge and such. I think they do this to encourage more women in because tech is still very male dominated as a sector, although getting better. I know that sky were offering this kind of thing a few years ago when I was looking for work (but I'm a guy so it wasn't applicable.)

2. just doing online tutorials won't grow your skills beyond the very basic syntax, and if it's done in a list (e.g 'Control flow' chapter, then 'functions' chapter etc) you likely forget it just as fast as you learned it, as the other person has mentioned it would be better to focus on building something you want to build like a web app or an analytics dashboard, looking how others have done it, breaking it, adding features etc. Also gives you a portfolio of work to show employers eventually.

3. You could get a second degree through the open university, they offer distances courses, fully funded with loans that are on the same terms as 'normal' undergraduate degrees. Also they don't care if you already have a degree etc...the government fund second undergrad degrees for STEM subjects now regardless, but only for OU distance courses.

4. some universities may take you on for a Masters degree (regardless whatever the first degree is in) if you could prove you have the foundation knowledge to succeed on it.
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missy57
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(Original post by Shoegazer92)
I think the other poster has given some good advice and resources, but here's some more:

1. just guessing from how you have written and your username that you're a girl, apologies if this is a wrong assumption. Women as a percentage of the workforce are under represented in technology. You have mentioned you already have a degree, it may be worth researching/contacting companies as some have 'women only' apprenticeships/entry level/career switch where they don't expect much prior knowledge and such. I think they do this to encourage more women in because tech is still very male dominated as a sector, although getting better. I know that sky were offering this kind of thing a few years ago when I was looking for work (but I'm a guy so it wasn't applicable.)

2. just doing online tutorials won't grow your skills beyond the very basic syntax, and if it's done in a list (e.g 'Control flow' chapter, then 'functions' chapter etc) you likely forget it just as fast as you learned it, as the other person has mentioned it would be better to focus on building something you want to build like a web app or an analytics dashboard, looking how others have done it, breaking it, adding features etc. Also gives you a portfolio of work to show employers eventually.

3. You could get a second degree through the open university, they offer distances courses, fully funded with loans that are on the same terms as 'normal' undergraduate degrees. Also they don't care if you already have a degree etc...the government fund second undergrad degrees for STEM subjects now regardless, but only for OU distance courses.

4. some universities may take you on for a Masters degree (regardless whatever the first degree is in) if you could prove you have the foundation knowledge to succeed on it.
Thanks so much, and yes I am a woman
I'm intrigued by all the things I am reading about women in tech. I'll have a look at the routes into programming you have suggested.

Just as winteriscoming mentioned above, I think learning 'fast' won't mean 'learning well', and I am the type of person who would want to learn well because I know that in the longrun that's the best thing to do.

Thank you all for your help and advice. I hope this thread stays open and benefits others too
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oliechan
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As a bit of background I graduated with a Bachelors in Maths in 2017 and had no idea what I wanted to do for a few months. I did really enjoy some of the more programmey modules at Uni (in Python as well!) and stumbled across a 3 month coding bootcamp in my area. I signed up for an interview and really enjoyed all the study materials like the little coding challenges they gave me and decided to go for it after a successful interview. I would say the coding bootcamps are really full on and pretty much much 9-5 and then a couple of hours probably at home as well reinforcing all the things you learnt during the day.

I personally think it's pretty good for learning fast and would recommend it over going to University, most Coding bootcamps also try really hard to secure you a job that matches you as well.
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missy57
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Hi Oliechan, thanks for your insight, that's really helpful!I've had a look at Bootcamps for the last few weeks. Most of them charge extortionate fees, similar to University fees, and they only last about 3-4 months. I cannot justify the expense of around £10k for just 3 months! i spoke to a few people who went on a Bootcamp, and they said they regret it, too. Their experience was that they couldn't keep up with the fast-paced environment, and the only people on the Bootcamp who seemed to be doing well were the ones like yourself who already had some programming experience. I am really happy to hear you had a good experience though, but it's this and the financial sacrifice that really put me off at the moment, and again, I just cant justify paying that much for something that isn't guaranteed. Do you think your experience in Math and having some coding experience already gave you an advantage on your bootcamp? There isn't even a certificate and I had a look at what some of them made during the Bootcamp. I wasn't very impressed, sorry to say and the people I spoke to said they felt like they had to re-learn everything from the camp at their own pace afterwards. It feels like a big diet trend.. lose weight in 3 weeks... learn to code in 3 months. It just doesn't feel right I think I am going to research Universities for now, and see what information I get. I'll post my findings and thoughts here for anyone else. Thanks again for your help!
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