Bootcamp vs. University

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

You want to learn web development or data science but you're not sure of your options. The question you should ask yourself: should I enroll in a bootcamp or should I attend university or college?

Below we break down the differences between the two paths. Factors to consider include 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 lacks the prestige of a degree.

University requires more time and money, but has a greater opportunity to learn more subjects, and those subjects in greater depth.

What Do I Learn?

What you’ll learn varies by bootcamp and university. Generally, bootcamps are more iterative with their curriculum to match the quickly changing technology industry, and employers' needs. They also focus on specific types of web-programming and data science technologies.

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.

For example, seasoned developers and data scientists 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 The focus here is on industry-relevant technologies that you’ll use right away, instead of ones that could become outdated or aren’t actually the standard. Lighthouse Labs also believes in the power of mentorship and has a large community that you can rely on for help and guidance. And, we have a career services team that prepares you for your new career including connecting you with employers, career readiness events, mock interviews, and resume workshops.

If you're interested in learning the why and the how more in-depth, 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?

This is a major factor because of opportunity cost, and potential loss of earnings.

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

Bootcamp vs. University

Bootcamps on the other hand range are 3-6 months. Bootcamps are typically full-time, while university degrees can be completed part-time if you have the extra years to spare. The number of hours spent in the course per day varies as well. You could have anywhere from one to four courses in one day at university, whereas at a Bootcamp there’s one lecture per day paired with plenty of hands on work to be completed throughout the rest of the day.

Lighthouse Labs' Data Science Bootcamp and Web Development Bootcamp are 12 weeks with 40-80-hour prep courses to complete before you start. Lectures are approximately two hours. It really depends on what stage of life you’re in and how much availability you have to spare.

Consider a bootcamp graduate. They would, in most cases, have 3-4 years of experience in the industry after finishing a bootcamp, whereas university graduates may be looking for their first role. However, if one is in search of in-depth academia, 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, graduates of university degrees and bootcamps aren't at the same level at completion - 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 and it’s important to enroll in a program that's worth the money, and your time. On average, Bootcamps cost $10,000-$12,500 in total whereas universities/college cost $6,463 on average per semester. Although, the cost of a bootcamp can be enticing, research the best fit for you based on your career aspirations and financial security.

Scholarships, school loans, and bursaries are available for both bootcamps and universities/colleges.

Can I Get A Job Afterwards?

Here at Lighthouse Labs, 95% 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 experience and soft skills. Employers want to know you can accomplish the tasks they assign you and understand the lingo, but most places are open to train and teach you further. Soft skills on the other hand are harder to learn, which is why companies want to see that you can 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. Make sure to continue to build your portfolio, resume, and soft skills to make yourself more employable.

Bootcamp vs. University

It’s also important to note that some companies require a 4-year degree, but that doesn’t have to be in computer science. Generally, 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 make them particularly unique as junior developers or data analyst/scientists.

Pros And Cons of Bootcamps and University Degrees

Bootcamp vs. University



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


  • Theory behind coding/computer science/data science
  • 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)



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


  • Expensive
  • May need to relocate to a different city/country
  • Multi-year time commitment
  • Curriculum is not as up to date
  • Limited start dates
  • Large classes
  • Minimal career support
  • Unclear outcomes

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