Bootcamp vs. University

Interested in a career change but not sure where to start?

Looking to learn more about web development, cyber security, data analytics, or data science but you're not sure about your options? The good news is, there are numerous ways you can learn the fundamentals of tech like free online courses, online resources, and workshops. If you’re seriously taking the leap, bootcamps, universities or colleges provide more in-depth curriculums.

Now, which should you choose? There are numerous factors to consider—including what best suits your learning style, lifestyle, and desired outcome. Whichever the case, you’ll be able to graduate with an industry-recognized diploma and the technical skills required to enter the job market.

If you're looking for a more guided learning experience, you might be wondering whether enrolling in a bootcamp program or attending university or college is the right choice for you.

Below we break down the differences between the two paths. There are numerous factors to consider—including what best suits your learning style, lifestyle, and desired outcome.

Bootcamp and University: The Differences

Bootcamp is a condensed and intense educational program. It's often less expensive, but it lacks the prestige of a university degree.

University requires more time and often more money, but it provides a greater opportunity to learn more subjects in-depth.

What Do I Learn?

The curriculum varies depending on the bootcamp or university where you study. Here are the most common components that Bachelor of Computer Science (CS) degree programs and coding bootcamp curriculums cover.

CS Degree programs

Coding Bootcamp 

Programming in Java


Data Structures and Algorithms:

Career Coaching 

Operating System Design 

Web Programming with HTML & CSS

Advanced Mathematics 

Web Development With Ruby & Sinatra

Computer Science Theory 

App Deployment and Hosting

Generally, bootcamps are more iterative with their curriculum. They also focus on specific types of web-programming, cyber security, and data technologies.

For example, seasoned developers, cyber security professionals, and data professionals create the curriculums at Lighthouse Labs. Content is regularly updated to reflect current market trends and gaps. The focus here is on industry-relevant technologies and skills that you’ll use right away. Graduates have access to our curriculum for life, so when teaching materials are updated to reflect industry changes, they’re still in the loop.

Lighthouse Labs also provides graduates with an industry-recognized diploma upon completion. Our diplomas are accredited by British Columbia PTIB #03874, Alberta PCC #304840 and Ontario PCC #272306, and certified by Canada Ministry of ESDC #7009, EQA (Education Quality Assurance), and with Educanada. We are also Registered in Colorado DPOS #1544.

Beyond the curriculum, Lighthouse Labs also believes in the power of mentorship. It has a large alumni community you can rely on for help and guidance. Plus, our career services team helps prepare you for your new career by connecting you with employers and offering career readiness events, mock interviews, or resume workshops.

In contrast, universities focus on the “underlying theory behind why particular approaches to algorithms, and data management are less memory intensive or faster...than other approaches,” according to the University of Toronto News.

University education provides a well-rounded view of the computer science field and computer operating systems. While coding bootcamps tend to concentrate on teaching coding languages to develop apps, a Computer Science degree goes beyond this and covers foundational theories, algorithms, and broader computing principles.

If you're interested in learning the why and the how in a comprehensive manner, then a computer science, engineering, or mathematics degree may be better suited for you. But, if you’re looking to switch careers or update your knowledge, then a bootcamp could be the perfect fit.

How Long Will I Be In School?

Duration of study is a major factor because of the associated opportunity costs and potential loss of earnings.

University and college programs are typically 2 to 4 years, but depending on your course load that can extend from 3 to 5 years.

Bootcamps, on the other hand, can range between 2 to 6 months. The number of hours spent in the course per day varies as well. In a university, you could have one to four courses in one day. In a bootcamp, it depends on whether you choose a full-time or part-time program. You could have one lecture per day paired with plenty of hands-on work to complete throughout the rest of the day, or two lectures per week with a flexible schedule for the rest of your classwork.

Lighthouse Labs' Data Science, Cyber Security, and Web Development Bootcamp are 12 or 30 weeks with 40 to 80-hour prep courses to complete before you start. The Data Analytics is 8 or 18 weeks with similar prep requirements. Lectures are approximately two hours. Your ideal option depends on what stage of life you’re in and how much availability you have to spare.

Now, consider a bootcamp graduate. In most cases, they already have 3 to 4 years of work experience after finishing a bootcamp, whereas university graduates may be looking for their first role. If one wants to take a deep dive into an academic path, there is no replacement for a university degree.

The main variable for a bootcamp graduate, however, is that they continue to learn post-bootcamp. Bootcamps are fast-paced environments that only cover so much material. The goal is to provide a foundation for future learning on the job. Comparatively, university and bootcamp graduates aren't at the same level at completion. Both options provide a good foundation for entering the industry. Still, it's the self-learning and learning-on-the-job under the guidance of intermediate and senior colleagues where the gap lessens.


Education is a significant investment, so it’s important to enroll in a program that's worth the money, and your time. On average, bootcamps cost $10,000-$15,000 in total whereas universities/college cost $6,463 on average per semester. This means a full two or four year program could cost anywhere from $25,000 - $50,000 on average. Although the cost of a bootcamp can be enticing, research the best fit for you based on your career aspirations and financial security.

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Cost of living is another consideration for students. You must find a way to make ends meet during the duration of your study. Often, bootcamps have online or part-time options, while universities require attending classes in-person. This means bootcamps give you the option to learn at your own pace and your preferred learning style. If you prefer to stay at home or avoid commuting, you can take the entire program in the comfort of your own home. You can also opt for the part-time option to make time for family or work commitments.

Regardless of the path you take, scholarships, school loans, and bursaries are available for both bootcamps and universities or colleges.

Can I Get A Job Afterwards?

The starting salary of a bootcamp graduate is $70,698. Meanwhile, the average salary of a CS graduate can range from $50K to $106K.

Here at Lighthouse Labs, 85% of job-seeking students are successfully employed within 180 days of graduation.

But what exactly are employers looking for in recent grads?

Although it varies by company, employers generally look for a mix of experience and soft skills. Employers want to know whether you can accomplish the tasks assigned and understand the lingo, but most universities and bootcamps can teach the fundamentals. Soft skills, on the other hand, are harder to learn. That’s why companies want to see you think on your feet, solve problems, manage tasks, and listen to your co-workers.

If you work hard during your program, university or bootcamp, and continue to prove your self-worth after graduation, you’re more likely to get your dream job. Continue to build your portfolio, resume, and soft skills to become more employable.

Some companies require a 4-year degree, but it doesn’t have to be in computer science. As newer companies enter the fold, what you know - instead of where you came from - becomes increasingly important, and employers are open to candidates with varying educational backgrounds.

In some cases, those who attend bootcamp already have a university degree, albeit in a different subject. These stacked skills make candidates particularly attractive because they have meaningful experience in another field. This mixture of experience makes them particularly unique as junior developers, cyber security professionals or as data analysts or scientists.

Pros And Cons of Bootcamps and University Degrees


University / College

Accelerated time frame 

Multiple years 

Iterative curriculums

Set curriculums 

Rolling start dates

Few start dates

Small classes 

Larger classes

Career support 

Minimal career support

Less expensive

More expensive 


Prestigious; long history


Greater depth of subjects

Steep learning curve


Hands-on learning

Opens door for post-grad programs


More theory

Less theory

TA, professor support

Mentor support



  • Shorter time frame
  • Lower cost
  • Iterative curriculums
  • Team-based
  • Hands-on learning
  • Rolling start dates
  • Career support
  • Clear outcomes
  • Smaller classes


  • Theory behind computer science/cyber security/data
  • In depth learning of topics
  • Build meaningful connections with classmates and professors
  • Can be prestigious
  • Traditional
  • Opens up doors for post-undergraduate programs (masters, PhD)



  • Intense
  • Not as traditional as a degree/diploma
  • Steeper learning curve
  • Less theoretical


  • Can be expensive
  • May need to relocate to a different city/country
  • Multi-year time commitment
  • Curriculum may not be as relevant to the current job market
  • Limited start dates
  • Larger classes
  • Minimal career support
  • Less defined outcomes

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