How long should it take to find a job after learning to program?

I recently created an 8 week coding curriculum. Following the 8 week curriculum is a month-long continued self study and job prep period which yields a minimum experience of 3 months prior to the job hunt. How long should it take a typical student to obtain a programming job after completing this curriculum? How much can such a person expect to be paid? Because I don’t have a substantial sample of people who have actually done this to study, the answer is basically speculative and intuitive, rather than data-driven. Even so, I will speculate on such in this article.

A 2018 article from Dice indicates that about 12% of bootcamp graduates did not obtain a job within a year after attending a bootcamp. In my book, the bootcamp has no right to any claim of credit in such cases, even if an individual eventually does obtain a job. I would award the bootcamp no causal power in such cases.

About half of the bootcamp graduates in the Dice article were already employed full-time as developers before entering bootcamp. For these folks, the bootcamp was a career acceleration or upskilling experience, not a career enabler. That’s a great thing to do, but I exclude this from my population of interest.

Given a population proportion of 12/50 graduates without prior full-time experience failed to ever obtain a job, roughly speaking, this would provide about a 25% fail rate. That is a 75% chance of obtaining a job within the first year.

About 50% of individuals would be able to obtain a job within the first month after graduation, another 20% would obtain a job within three months, another 10% within six months, and the remaining 10% would take longer than six months but less than one year.

There are various caveats in applying this data to my personal mentorship outcomes:

  1. They actually have data and large samples.
  2. In the above SO data, some of those who “Haven’t gotten a developer job” may have stopped seeking or may not have been seeking in the first place.
    1. Some may have gotten four or five months out in the job search and decided that working as a designer, product owner, or something else was preferable, or perhaps they had that orientation before even enrolling.
    2. Personally, none of my current students plan to look for a job immediately following graduation. Two plan to look after the Christmas holiday and one plans to enroll in and complete a Master’s program prior to entering the job market.
  3. I charge in the bottom 30% of bootcamp prices, and typically lower price is associated with weaker outcomes.
  4. Because bootcamps vary in duration, and they have varying entry requirements, graduates will have varying levels of experience upon graduation. That is, much of the above job placement pattern can be explained by years, or months, of experience in the field, rather than the bootcamp itself.
    1. Of note, I’ve seen some bootcamps require you to have basic programming competency to enter the bootcamp. I don’t share this requirement as I am interested more in the field entry space rather than the career acceleration or upskilling space at this time.
    2. In general, my student admission requirements seem to be on the low end of the bootcamp space. As a result, one might expect lower success after graduation, because success is in part explained by quality student selection instead of quality training.

For the above reasons, an objective analysis would predict that my students would have substantially weak outcomes compared to bootcamps. On the other hand, I’m fairly confident, perhaps overconfident, in my skill as a programming teacher. As a result, I’m nearly willing to guarantee outcomes equivalent to the typical bootcamp graduate.

Nearly willing to? What’s the difference then? The difference is that I don’t expect the immediate job offer statistics to be so high. I don’t have a series of guaranteed hire contracts lined up. I think most new-to-the-field candidates will fail at least a few interviews before having a successful one, and I think a reasonable pace of interview is one per week. In short, I don’t think my typical student should expect to be hired within the first month of job search, even at a rate of 50%. See below for my clear timeline expectations.

The form of my guarantee isn’t meant to imply certainty. I’m loathe to claim certainty in anything, including whether the sky is blue. Instead, it’s simply meant to imply that I’m confident enough that I’ll put my money where my mouth is. To reiterate, I claim that:

  1. A student will achieve an offer of recommendation if:
    1. The 8-week coding curriculum is achieved with satisfaction. This will be true for the average student and, if not true, will be disclosed at the end of the 8 week period.
    2. The student completes 4-6 additional weeks of self-study to the satisfaction of the recommender. The average student should expect a passing recommendation if they are completing at least 4 hours each week of dedicated programming, job prep, and other sorts of related study.
      1. If the recommender has an issue, it should be communicated no later than the week following the week in which it is observed. The student should not arrive at week 4 and learn about an issue the recommender perceived in the work for week 1.
    3. The student begins seeking a job in earnest within two weeks of receiving a recommendation. If there is some hiatus, the recommender may require the student to conduct a refresher of some sort.
  2. A student who obtains a recommendation and begins seeking a job in earnest should expect:
    1. Submitting 6-12 applications per week.
    2. Conducting at least one interview or phone screening per week, beginning in the second week.
    3. 50% chance of a job offer within the first 3 months if the above two items are satisfied.
    4. 75% chance of a job offer within a year, provided that items 1 and 2 are satisfied.
    5. A reasonable entry-level salary for the market in which you are applying.
      1. In Alexandria, VA, I would say a reasonable entry-level salary right now is $50,000 or more.
      2. I calculate this salary from Payscale information for an entry-level front end developer in Alexandria, VA. They state that the 10th percentile in salary realizes a salary of $40k and the median is $60k, so I averaged those numbers to get what I call a minimum reasonable salary.
  3. What do we mean by seeking a job in earnest? Admittedly I could be more clear, but here are five good indicators:
    1. Willing to consider relocation or accept local job prospects; for some areas this may indicate lower wages or no opportunities at all.
    2. Submitting multiple applications per week. Perhaps 6-12 per week.
    3. Willing to work with a recruiter.
    4. Willing to continue portfolio improvement, skill development, and practice interviews during the application period.
    5. Not rejecting any offer of employment for any reason other than salary.
      1. I fully respect that some people may not want to work for certain employers for ideological reasons, or they may have a poor culture fit, strange scheduling complications, and so on.
      2. Feel free to reject the employment offer and know that I have nothing against your decision. However, from the point of view of my educational guarantee, I will consider my part of the bargain satisfied, the education effective, and I will maintain my fee. I may still be happy to delay the date the fee must be paid until a preferred job is found. Please contact me and we will sort it out.
      3. On the other hand, if you do get an offer with an unreasonably low salary offer, I will not consider the contract satisfied. Should you choose to accept the offer, I will then consider the contract satisfied. Should you not choose to accept the offer, the guarantee will continue to remain.

My confidence in the above claim is reflected in a guarantee, which provides that:

  1. If a student can’t obtain a job within a year of earnest seeking, I won’t charge them.
  2. I will try to be as transparent about graduate and job placement data as possible without risking student identity exposure.
    1. That is, if this guarantee keeps flopping I will change the claims to better align with outcomes.
    2. If outcomes show that the guarantee is too easy mode I will make it more ambitious. I would probably also increase my fee accordingly.

Disclaimer: The prior article is an overview of my current expectations and the way I’ve done some things in the past. It is not a legal or binding agreement about how things will work in the future. It is provided for informational purposes.

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