Report shows true size of tech boot camp market
- About 270 boot camps offered some 1,400 programs worldwide as of June 2017, serving "a much narrower group of students than public discourse would indicate," according to a new report from RTI International that seeks to better understand the much-hyped sector's footprint.
- About three-quarters (73%) of those programs were offered in the U.S., Canada or online. They offered a median of three programs each, though most offered just one. A single provider, General Assembly, accounted for 11% of all boot camps.
- Of the U.S., Canadian or online boot camps, the majority (73%) were held in-person and focused on computer science topics (81%). Half were designed as programs for people who wanted to change careers or upskill, while more than a third (38%) were equivalent to a single college course.
The boot camp concept can veer into buzzword territory spurring discussion of how the private sector and higher ed can better serve the needs of today's workforce, as well as warnings of the failings of early versions of such programs. Yet, as the RTI report notes, few know the true size and scale of the sector, as much of the current data on the market comes from affiliated groups.
"By establishing a descriptive baseline of the landscape of boot camp programs," the researchers explain, "this report lays the foundation for further rigorous independent research to accurately represent the entire sector."
Researchers only counted programs that were unaccredited, teach students in cohorts, target adult learners, last at least one week and include "direct and substantial interaction" with instructors.
In addition to identifying the size and type of programs available, they also looked at how students pay for them, noting most represent "a significant financial investment." Full-time programs had a median price of $13,500 while part-time programs cost a median of $7,500.
Nine in 10 programs geared toward career preparation advertised some form of financial aid on their websites, including scholarships, private loans and income-share agreements. Although the latter has gained attention for its use by some boot camps, fewer than 1% of the studied programs offered them. In all cases, in-person and full-time programs were more likely to offer aid; they also had slightly more competitive admissions criteria.
As the boot camp industry addresses concerns about quality and student outcomes, and remains a largely fragmented market, colleges are exploring the model for themselves. That could spur more growth.
California Polytechnic State University recently announced it is partnering with Fullstack Academy, a coding school, to offer a part-time, online coding boot camp. The news follows moves by Harvard and Yale universities to offer similar programs in partnership with outside companies. Others, like Northeastern University, are building their own. Those models could pave the way for more full degrees like that between coding academy Make School and the Dominican University of California.
However, critics are wary that boot camps through colleges and universities will dilute the value of those institutions' other educational offerings.
RTI's report captured information on some unaccredited programs offered through universities, the majority by Trilogy Education Services. Trilogy has made a name for itself helping colleges deliver courses in tech fields, with more than 40 higher ed partners.
The researchers found they were similar in format, marketing and price, though they noted the possibility for confusion among students about which entity — the university or the third-party provider — is actually offering the program.
Continued growth is expected in tech boot camps, which Course Report pegged at a value of $240 million in gross revenue for 2018 across 108 full-time programs. Now serving more than 20,000 students, the sector is nine times the size it was in 2013, when it first emerged.
Correction: This article has been updated to clarify that 73% of boot camps in the RTI survey were in the U.S., Canada or online.
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