Learning anything related to computer science is not easy. When you’re a parent first, it can often seem like the extra challenges in front of you make it impossible. However, if you know what resources are available, and which are best suited for your family, it is often possible to learn and parent at the same time.
For parents and non-parents alike, there are four main paths you can take to learn code: the traditional track, bootcamps, apprenticeships and internships, and the self-taught track. Over a five-part series, we will look at each of these paths, looking at focal points of importance to moms, and subsequently look at detailed lists of options within each track.
The Traditional Track
Typically when someone has entered a computer science discipline, it has been following graduation from a university program. While self-taught developers are exceptionally common, a four-year degree is still what many employers expect.
Not only is it important to look at what degree programs and majors are available in the computer sciences, but from there, many schools offer programs to make their schools more inclusive to parents.
Childcare programs are becoming increasingly common. When these programs exist, they vary widely in availabile hours and tuition. Some schools offer programs for back-up or temporary childcare as well, to help their students and staff be more dependable.
Some schools offer additional resources such as help with housekeeping, legal services, health insurance, and other support, although they can be challenging to navigate without help.
When planning to attend a university program while raising your kids, it’s important to discuss your family situation with admissions staff who will be onboarding you to the university.
Prior to application, look at the school’s website in sections relating to human resources, student life and diversity, or work-life balance. If you don’t see anything online, call or email the admissions department and ask; while not every school is welcoming to students with children, many would be delighted to explain their programs.
On the financial side, since a four-year education can rapidly exhaust a budget, especially when raising kids, look carefully at all sources of financial aid.
In addition to federal grants, like the Pell Grant, you may qualify for state grants, as well as scholarships and endowments, and work-study programs. Use your scarcity to your advantage, and look for women in tech and women in engineering scholarships.
Student loans, while not the first choice, are absolutely an option. If you go that route, find out now what the options are for delaying or deferring payments or for negotiating lower payments, in case you should ever need to do either.
Check this space coming soon for a detailed overview of a variety of specific university programs.
Bootcamps get a lot of attention these days, and it’s easy to understand why. With claims that you can learn to code in 3-6 months and come out with a six-figure salary, they’ve been raising eyebrows and turning heads for years.
There are a few things to keep in mind that aren’t often discussed, especially if you’re raising a family.
Bootcamps are for-profit businesses, not traditionally accredited schools. This often means the price per month of attendance is far higher than university, and the traditional forms of financial assistance do not normally apply.
In addition, they are typically not designed for the absolute beginner. Because it is simply impossible to learn to code properly in three months, as Hack Reactor puts it well: “Hack Reactor is not a ‘0-60’ course, this is a ‘20-120’ course.”
Finally, it is important to bear in mind that most programs expect it to take an extra 3-6 months of job searching and independent skill-building to land a job after graduation. While still more accelerated than a four-year program, your real timeline is nine months to a year.
Since bootcamp programs are often clustered in cities with existing tech hubs and vastly inflated housing prices, the best option for those who don’t already live near a bootcamp is to utilize a remote intensive program. These programs are designed to teach as much and take as much of your time as an in-person program, but allow you to do it from your computer at home.
According to Course Report, Bootcamps can cost anywhere from $9,500-$21,000 or require 18%-22.5% of your salary if deferment is available.
This is beyond the reach of most moms, especially since it’s prior to childcare costs, but there are ways to make this affordable.
While traditional scholarships don’t apply to bootcamps, many individual bootcamps offer scholarships for women of anywhere from $500 to 100% of the tuition costs. For those who have served in the military, scholarships are available from $500 to 80% of tuition costs, and a few programs are certified to accept the GI Bill. Others still offer scholarships for students of color or those with low incomes.
Check this space coming soon for a detailed overview of a variety of bootcamp programs.
Apprenticeships and Internships
Outside of the trades, apprenticeships aren’t terribly well-known. In tech, apprenticeships are often almost like a paid bootcamp. Working with other apprentices and more experienced developers, you build projects for various companies, increasing your own skills and learning from mentors.
These programs can run from three months to four years and are often low-paid for developer work, but higher than some low-skill work. Hourly pay can vary from $10 all the way up to $30 depending on the program and the skills you already have.
Like bootcamps, apprenticeships are run by for-profit companies. Unlike bootcamps, these are actual jobs that can potentially convert to full-time proper developer jobs.
Internships are more diverse. They can be paid or unpaid, and some are more likely to provide useful skills than others. They are also often incredibly competitive.
A good way to utilize an internship is when already working for your ideal company in a different capacity. If you share your long-term career goals with your supervisors and managers, you can learn what languages and skills your company looks for and potentially negotiate a tech internship instead of or in addition to your current role. This can help you make an intra-company jump that is often more difficult otherwise.
Apprenticeships and internships both have potential to help you expand your coding skills and get a head start on a tech career. However, because both also have potential to take advantage of you for cheap or free labor, you need to know what you’re getting into and whether it’s worth it for you and your family. It’s also critical that you have childcare that works within your pay as an apprentice or intern.
Check this space coming soon for a detailed overview of a variety of apprenticeships and internships.
The Self-Taught Programmer
Of course, while each of the above items can help you learn and get into a career more efficiently, none are ultimately necessary to learn code. It is absolutely possible to teach yourself and get a job as a self-taught developer.
Teaching yourself has the potential to be the least expensive or the most expensive way of learning to code, all depending on how you manage your time and resources. If you don’t manage yourself well, you’re better off using a more guided program even if it costs more up front.
Perhaps the best way to go about teaching yourself to code is to find a learning path that makes sense for the primary language you want to learn, and plug additional resources into it. One resource will not teach you everything you need to know, but you want to have an idea of what to learn when.
Check this space coming soon for a detailed overview of a variety of options for teaching yourself.
Questions, comments or concerns? Continue the conversation in the comments!