This coding bootcamp doesn’t try to turn you into a full-time software engineer

In-person, full-time coding bootcamps serve a narrow slice of the people who want more coding skills.
In-person, full-time coding bootcamps serve a narrow slice of the people who want more coding skills.
Image: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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Many of the nearly 100 “coding bootcamps” that offer full-time, in-person instruction in the United States and Canada boast close to a 100% success at placing students in entry level jobs as programmers, which can pay as much as $80,000 per year.

But that success rate is often paired with difficult entry requirements. Some bootcamps boast that they are  ”harder to get into than Harvard.” Making bootcamps both widely accessible and effective has, for those that have attempted it, been a challenge, as has the promise of providing bootcampers with a new, lucrative career.

Codecademy has a different strategy that doesn’t come with the promise of a full-time job, or any in-person instruction. It aims for the broadest range of students possible. The New York startup, which launched in 2011, says it has signed up about 45 million people to take free online courses taught through interactive coding exercises. On Aug. 3, it will add an option for human instruction to those courses for the first time.

Instead of full-time instructors, which make courses expensive, Codecademy plans to take a customer service-like approach. For $20 per month, students who are stuck on a lesson can hit a “help” button to speak with a teacher about the problem.

The company will also offer 8- to 12-week long intensive online courses in which a crowd of teachers review projects for $200, and other courses in which they also provide 30-minute personal mentoring chats, for $500.

Codecademy’s existing free, automated classes will remain on the site.

If that doesn’t sound like the kind of experience that will prepare someone to switch careers, you’re right. Codecademy’s first paid courses will teach students how to build websites from scratch and build front-end apps. Prices and subject matter are targeted at a much wider group than people who want to become software developers.

Rather than training people to go from “$0 to $100,000 jobs,” founder and CEO Zach Sims says he expects people will use the courses to add skills to enhance their current careers. Eventually, he says Codecademy can link specific courses to specific skills within job postings, so that someone can strengthen their qualifications before applying for a job.

In an analysis of 26 million US online job postings by Burningglass Technologies, 7 million job openings in 2015 were in occupations that value coding skills, including data analysts, artists and designers, engineers, and scientists. The Department of Labor predicts that jobs for “computer programmers” specifically will decline by 8% by 2024 (compared to a 7% increase for jobs overall and an 12% increase for computer-related occupations).

Codecademy’s strategy doesn’t promise a Cinderella ending, but as technology transforms all professions, it may work for many people.