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Lisa Freedman, 62, always had a passion for making information accessible and for computer games. Then a bout with cancer four years ago led her to consider a career change. After many years working as a lawyer dealing with politicians who were a lot of talk and little action, she wanted to try creating something digitally, thinking “it would be really cool to actually have some part of me where I code something and I see the result of it.”
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“You’re going to need more than a onetime inoculation of education and training; you need continuous booster shots of skilling and upskilling.”
For Charles Dixon, over 40, the allure of wrapping his mind around buzzy “big data” was enough of a motivation to head back to the classroom, even with an MBA in hand and a career as an internal auditor for businesses.
Freedman and Dixon turned to coding boot camps, a growing sector of the education landscape that appeals to adults who have an interest in technology and want to bypass traditional college to boost their job and earning prospects. More than 23,000 students are expected to graduate from boot camps in 2019, a 49 percent growth over the 15,429 who graduated in 2018, according to Course Report. And universities across the nation increasingly offer these programs to adult learners and working professionals.
The popularity of boot camps is partly a response to the gradual shift in workforce training. Just as college degrees have largely replaced the high school diploma as a workforce necessity, continuous education is increasingly a requirement as new software programs and technologies emerge.
“You’re going to need more than a onetime inoculation of education and training; you need continuous booster shots of skilling and upskilling,” said Van Ton-Quinlivan, executive in residence at the Institute for the Future and former executive vice chancellor of Workforce & Digital Futures for the community college system of California.
At Rice University’s coding boot camps, about a quarter of the students to date are over 40, said David Vassar, assistant dean for professional and executive programs at the university’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies in Houston, which houses boot camps in cybersecurity, financial technology and data analytics. At the University of Oregon’s Continuing and Professional Education school, about a fifth of students are over 40, though its first boot camp just began in January of this year.
Trilogy Education Services, a provider of coding boot camp instruction, has partnered with numerous universities in the past year, including Rice, where Dixon studied; Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore; the University of Oregon; Butler University in Indianapolis; and the University of Toronto, which is home to the boot camp Freedman completed. Thirty-nine such partnerships currently exist in the U.S., featuring classes of 20 to 30 students that last about six months and cost roughly $11,500. Because these are noncredit courses, they are not eligible for federal financial aid.
Dixon thought the price tag for the boot camp made enrolling a “no-brainer.” He had been considering master’s programs in data visualization and analytics that cost $50,000, required a two-year commitment and included coursework in business practices and statistics that he already learned for his MBA.