Man Paid $11,000 To Double His Salary

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coding boot campSAN FRANCISCO -- Looking for a career change, Ken Shimizu decided he wanted to be a software developer, but he didn't want to go back to college to study computer science.

Instead, he quit his job and spent his savings to enroll at Dev Bootcamp, a new San Francisco school that teaches students how to write software in nine weeks. The $11,000 gamble paid off: A week after he finished the program last summer, he landed an engineering job that paid more than twice his previous salary.
"It's the best decision I've made in my life," said Shimizu, 24, who worked in marketing and public relations after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2010. "I was really worried about getting a job, and it just happened like that." Dev Bootcamp, which calls itself an "apprenticeship on steroids," is one of a new breed of computer programming school that's proliferating in San Francisco and other U.S. tech hubs. These "hacker boot camps" promise to teach students how to write code in two or three months and help them get hired as web developers, with starting salaries between $80,000 and $100,000, often within days or weeks of graduation.

"We're focused on extreme employability," said Shereef Bishay, who co-founded Dev Bootcamp 15 months ago. "Every single skill you learn here you'll apply on your first day on the job."

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These intensive training programs are not cheap -- charging $10,000 to $15,000 for programs running nine to 12 weeks -- and they're highly selective, typically only admitting 10 to 20 percent of applicants. And they're called boot camps for a reason. Students can expect to work 80 to 100 hours a week, mostly writing code in teams under the guidance of experienced software developers. "It's quite grueling. They push you very hard," said Eno Compton, 31, who finished Dev Bootcamp in late March. Compton is finishing his doctorate in Japanese literature at Princeton University, but decided that he wants to be a software engineer instead of a professor.

"For people who are looking to get involved in software in a big way and don't want to set aside four years for a computer-science degree, this nine-week program is a terrific alternative," Compton said. One San Francisco school called App Academy doesn't charge tuition. Instead, it asks for a 15 percent cut of the student's first-year salary. Graduates who can't find jobs don't have to pay, but so far nearly all of them have.

"When I started it, people thought we were crazy. Why would you do something like that? But in practice it's worked out well so far," said Ned Ruggeri, who co-founded App Academy last summer.

Over the past year, more than two dozen computer-coding schools have opened or started recruiting students in cities such as New York, Chicago, Toronto, Washington and Cambridge, Mass. The programs are attracting students from a wide range of backgrounds, from college dropouts to middle-aged career changers. Most students haven't formally studied computer science, but have tried to learn to code on their own.

Alyssa Ravasio, who graduated from UCLA with a liberal arts degree in 2010, worked at tech startups but was frustrated because she didn't know how to write software, so she signed up for Dev Bootcamp.

"What we've learned in the last nine weeks would have taken at least a year, if not years, on my own," Ravasio said. "I knew I wanted to learn how to code, and I tried to on my own before and it was really hard and really frustrating."

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But as more boot camps open, backers worry that low-quality programs could hurt the reputation of the pioneer schools and drive away potential students and recruiters.

"I worry about the explosion of Dev Bootcamp copycats," said Michael Staton, a venture capitalist at Learn Capital. "If they mess up, they kind of ruin it for everybody. Then students have to worry about whether these schools can actually deliver on their promise."

The coding academies are helping meet the seemingly insatiable demand for computer programmers in the U.S. tech industry, which has been lobbying Congress to issue more visas for engineers and other skilled immigrants. The boot camps are launching at a time when many recent college graduates are struggling to find jobs that pay enough to chip away at their hefty student loan debts.

The new schools say they are teaching students the real-world skills that employers want but colleges have failed to provide. "Our school is a lot shorter, cheaper and more applicable to the work they'd like to do than universities," said Shawn Drost, who co-founded Hack Reactor in San Francisco six months ago.

This intensive-learning model can also be used to train workers for other professions for less time and money than what traditional colleges require, Staton said. "We think this is the beginning of a really large movement that will happen across industries," he said. Bishay, an Egyptian-born engineer who sold his first software company to Microsoft in 2001, started Dev Bootcamp as an experiment. He wanted to see how quickly he could teach his friend and other non-techies how to write code.

"I used about 10 percent of what I learned in college in my first job, and I figured I could teach that 10 percent in 2½ months," Bishay said.

Dev Bootcamp has trained about 400 students, and 95 percent of them have been hired as software developers with an average salary of about $80,000, Bishay said. It's now opening a campus in Chicago. The school doesn't just teach technical skills. It teaches students how to work in teams, communicate better and interview for jobs. On graduation day, it invites tech recruiters to meet students at a "speed-dating" job fair.

"Finding engineering talent is a big challenge right now, and Dev Bootcamp is addressing a really important problem," said Felicia Curcuru, who was recruiting engineers for FundersClub, a San Francisco company that connects investors with tech startups. "There are not enough people studying computer science."

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Man Paid $11,000 To Double His Salary

Median annual salary: $68,500*

What you'd do all day: Social media managers use sites such as Facebook and Twitter to publicize a company's products or services. A typical day might be spent responding to customer inquiries and complaints via social media tools, writing blog posts and analyzing the effectiveness of social media campaigns.

Why the job is in demand: As more companies rely on social media to attract customers, the demand for social media managers has jumped. In the year ending in April, the number of job listings for social media managers on CareerBuilder grew 56 percent.

Ideal background: Strong organizational skills and understanding of social media, as well as top-notch verbal and written communication skills. A bachelor's degree in a related field may be required.

Looking for a job as a social media manager? Click here to get started.

*Source: CareerBuilder

Median annual salary: $78,500

What you'd do all day: Think of data scientists as journalists who work with numbers instead of words. Just as journalists take scientific reports and turn them into readable stories for the masses, so, too, do data scientists take numbers and make them meaningful to everyday people. Data scientists also dig deep for the numbers no one else is looking for to find information that might otherwise go unnoticed. Data scientists can work for a wide range of organizations, from NASA to payroll processor Automatic Data Processing to Internet companies such as Amazon.com. 

Why it's in demand: Advances in technology have resulted in an explosion of information, and many companies need workers to sift through all that data. A recent McKinsey & Co. report forecasts a shortage in the U.S. alone of up to 190,000 workers with the analytical skills required to be a data scientist. Job listings for data scientists rose 82 percent in the 12 months ending in April.

Ideal background: Strong math and analytical skills. College degree desirable.

Looking for a job as a data scientist? Click here to get started.

Median annual salary: $88,000

What you'd do all day: Design and build apps, or computer applications, that help smartphone and tablet users read, shop, find information, play games and more.  

Why the job is in demand: Recent surveys show that nearly half of Americans own a smartphone, while a quarter plan to buy an iPad electronic tablet. That's a boon for companies that develop apps for those devices, but it's also created a shortage of mobile application developers. ITCareerFinder.com recently selected the role of mobile application developer as its No. 1 Best Computer Job for the Future, through 2020. The site noted that "there are simply more job openings than skilled and educated mobile developers to fill them" -- especially for Apple and Android operating systems. Related job listings surged 60 percent in the year ending in April. 

Ideal background: Bachelor's degree in computer science and related field. Proficiency with computer code, software and operating systems.

Looking for a job as a mobile application developer? Click here to get started.

Median annual salary: $100,000

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Why it's in demand: The increased demand for cloud computing means employers need more workers who can design cloud systems. That often includes working with a company's information-technology team to ensure that the technology is developed in a way best suited for the clients' needs. The number of related job listings on CareerBuilder rose 92 percent in the year ending in April.

Ideal background: College degree in computer information technology or related field. Customer service skills are a plus, too.

Looking for a job as a cloud architect? Click here to get started.

Median annual salary: $65,000

What you'd be doing all day: Search-engine experts help ensure that businesses' web pages rank high in Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines. So any time that a user searches for a specific product, service or the company, that company will pop up in the results, preferably on the first page. To that end, search engine specialists create and manage web pages, and design strategies and advertising campaigns to support them. They also analyze data to ensure that goals are being met.

Why it's in demand: The ability to create attractive web pages that show up in the top returns in search engines is one way that many companies seek to promote and sell their products and services. Employing a specialist who understands search techniques and website design helps consumers to more easily find the businesses and products they're interested in. The number of jobs ads in this field have risen 15 percent in the year ending in April.

Ideal background: College degree in computer science or related field. Strong writing and verbal skills, experience with the Internet,  and ability to meet tight deadlines are key.

Looking for a job as a search engine specialist? Click here to get started.

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