Hacker School: The New CS Degree

13 Apr

It is no secret that in Silicon Valley and around the world there is a huge shortage of developers. However, one reason there is this “shortage” is because most companies either want a Computer Science (CS) grad or someone with 10 years of experience who knows every single language. This puts beginner developers who are learning on their own in a tough spot. To get a job, they either have to create something super fancy that gets attention or keep learning for a much longer time (years) until they are “qualified” to even interview for one of these jobs – and even then, they might not have the right amount of “experience”.

I guess this makes sense. After all, it is reasonable for companies to want only the best developers. However, in a time where is a HUGE crunch in developers, these standards seem to be getting more relaxed and there is a new crop of training courses for beginners popping up that train and then possibly place them into jobs. Here are a few to watch:

San Francisco Dev Bootcamp

Dev Bootcamp is a 10-week full-time program in San Francisco for brand new or experienced programmers that is focused on Ruby on Rails. The program costs $12,200 with discounts if you can pay up front or if you’re a woman. Dev Bootcamp is set up to resemble an actual work environment, so you learn by doing and working in teams, not by sitting back and listening to lectures. At the end of the program, you will have interviews lined up for you with companies that use Ruby on Rails, and if you get a job through the program, you get $5,000 of your tuition back.

New York Hacker School

Hacker School is a three-month full-time school in New York for becoming a better programmer. There are no grades, teachers, or formal curriculum. You choose a project to work on and work on it – you just need to check in at the beginning of the day and talk about what you worked on the previous day and what you’re planning on working on today. Hacker School is free to attend (except for the tiny fact that you get no salary for 3 months and have to live in New York), but they do try to place you into a job after you graduate – they make money from the nice $20,000 recruiting fee.

Chicago Code Academy

Code Academy is an 11-week program in Chicago teaching beginners how to build web applications with Ruby on Rails. Code Academy also offers HTML / CSS and User Experience classes. The Ruby on Rails classes are either on Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 8am – 11:20am or Tuesday and Thursday from 8am to 1pm, so this is not a full-time environment, and the tuition is $6,000. Code Academy does not seem to do much job placement, like Hacker School or Dev Bootcamp, as they are geared more toward people who want to build startups or their own websites. However, you do get exposure to the Chicago tech community during the experience and they are well-known in the Chicago developer community, so if you were looking for a job at the end of the program, you could probably get one by networking with the community.

D.C. Hungry Academy

Hungry Academy is a 5-month program in Washington, D.C. run by LivingSocial that teachers beginners Ruby on Rails and prepares them to join the LivingSocial engineering team upon completion for an 18-month commitment. That’s right, you get PAID a salary to learn and you get a job at Living Social if you complete the program. This program has only been offered once, but I really hope LivingSocial will continue to offer it in the future, as it is a truly irresistible offer.

Online Udacity

Udacity is a free online school for students of all levels in computer science. You can get started by building a search engine in Python. Students who have done really well in these courses have been known to receive job offers – Udacity plans to make money by collecting the $20,000 recruiting fees for any students placed into a job as well as other ways.


You no longer need an expensive Computer Science degree (or incredible self-taught hacker skills) to get a job as a developer. These Hacker Schools offer training on material you’ll actually use during work – not all the extra stuff that’s covered in a normal 4-year Computer Science program  – and companies are already looking at these alternative hacker schools as the developer talent crunch continues. We live in incredible times, take advantage of these opportunities.


Also, check out these Hacker Schools that popped up since I wrote this post:

App Academy

App Academy is a nine week Ruby on Rails course in San Francisco very similar to Dev Bootcamp. You don’t have to pay anything up front, but if you get a job after graduation, you have to pay 12.5% of your starting salary payable over the first 6 months after you start working.


Hackbright Academy is a 10-week full-time Python course in San Francisco specifically for women. After the course, the women are given job and internship opportunities not only as software engineers, but project managers and other roles in the tech community.


Catalyst is a new full-time 12-week JavaScript-focused course in San Francisco. They’re still undecided on the tuition, and they will provide job opportunities to the students at the end of the program.


9 Responses to “Hacker School: The New CS Degree”

  1. Mike McGee April 14, 2012 at 7:22 am #

    Thanks for mentioning us in your post! You are correct that our classes are only held for 10 hours a week, but our workspace is open 24/7, so it is definitely more than a part-time commitment. We have people coming from all over the country and the world to Chicago for three months to learn, so they pretty much have nothing else to do but Code Academy haha.

    You are also correct that we don’t take recruitment fees or do direct job placement. However – as you mentioned – our students get access to one of the best technical and entrepreneurial communities in the world, so they create their own opportunities. We don’t want to push our students into getting jobs, we want them to figure out their own goals. We want to create the best environment possible to help beginners build web apps, and I think we have done that.

    We have had the advantage of starting a few months before the other schools that you mention, but by the time June rolls around, over 160 people will have gone through our program learning how to code and design web applications.

    • Natasha Murashev April 14, 2012 at 9:19 am #

      Hi Mike,

      I really hope you do consider doing job placement in the future. In the other schools, job placement after graduation is not a requirement for the students, but more of a really nice revenue stream for the school and a great perk for a lot of the students, especially in today’s economic times. Building relationships with tech companies in Chicago and having them hire some of your students (if they want to be hired) will only give your school more legitimacy in terms of being seen as an “employer approved” course.

      Anyway, that’s just my opinion.


      • Mike McGee April 14, 2012 at 10:05 am #

        Our main focus is to create the best environment possible to learn how to build web apps and help students achieve their goals. This environment supports very diverse outcomes, from wanting to get a software Dev job to starting your own startup. A number of our alumni are now working as apprentices or entry-level engineers at some of Chicago’s best startups and companies!

        Since we are beginner-focused, we don’t think it’s right to focus on job placement, because it’s really hard to learn this stuff! And it takes longer than 3 months to get to a point where you are ready to lead a team of professional software developers or work on a big consumer project.

        That being said, we want to attract people who are hungry to take advantage of opportunities, not to expect that they will be handed a job after the 3-month program.

  2. Meredith Underell (@MeredithU) April 14, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    Thank you so much for this article Natasha! As a woman who wants to be a dev, I am going to submit my application to Dev Camp asap. Congrats on getting accepted!

  3. Lachy Groom (@lachygroom) April 14, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    If you’re in San Francisco, you should totally come and check out http://devbootcamp.com/, like Mike said about Code Academy, the students of DevBootcamp practically live in the office for the 10 weeks!

    I was a student of the first cohort, and loved it!


  1. Rafidude's Blog » On the movement that’s bringing a lot of education online for free - September 10, 2012

    […] check out coursera to see if I can work on another. Udacity.com–free courses, according to http://natashatherobot.com/2012/04/13/hacker-school-the-new-cs-degree/ Udacity plans to make money be collecting recruiting fees from companies it gets employees for. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s