If you’re looking to level up your career, one way to boost your tech skills is to enroll in a bootcamp. While considering the benefits of bootcamps and whether that route is right for you, one factor to weigh is the cost versus your return on investment, or ROI. The price tag for most bootcamps ranges from $5,000 to $25,000, with the average hovering around $14,000. And because bootcamps are not accredited like many colleges and universities, you are not eligible to use federal financial aid, such as federal grants and loans, to offset your costs.
But as with colleges, which often deeply discount their sticker prices through financial aid, the actual cost of a bootcamp can be much lower than the advertised tuition. Here are your options when paying for a bootcamp.
Out of pocket
This is a tough option for many adult learners, but it’s often the best one because it doesn’t involve debt, interest rates, or long-term repayment commitments. Paying out of pocket might involve digging into your savings, asking for financial assistance from family, or crowdfunding.
If you choose to pay a lump sum up front, your bootcamp may offer a money-back guarantee based on whether you get a job after completing your certificate. Other providers allow you to pay 50% now and 50% halfway through the program. Still other companies offer monthly payment plans or pay-as-you-go options.
Scholarships and fellowships
Some bootcamps provide partial and/or full scholarships or fellowships to students who apply and meet their eligibility requirements. Some scholarships provide support specifically for veterans of the Armed Forces, women, or members of groups historically underrepresented in the tech industry.
Scholarships and fellowships for skills-based training tend to be rarer than those available for traditional degrees, but you can use a scholarship search engine to search for financial aid that can be applied to bootcamps.
If you’ve served in the military and qualify for GI Bill benefits, you can apply for tuition assistance plus a living allowance from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to help pay for your bootcamp.
You might also look into the Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses, or VET TEC, program, which you could use to fund a select group of remote bootcamps while reserving your GI Bill for other education. VET TEC can also be a good alternative if you’ve already used up a substantial portion of your GI Bill benefits.
A third option is the Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program, or VRRAP, which was created in March 2021 to support veterans who lost their jobs because of COVID-19. It pays for up to 12 months of tuition and fees as well as a housing allowance for participating bootcamps.
If you plan to use any military benefits to pay for your bootcamp, make sure your chosen program is actually eligible by contacting the VA first.
Some companies offer tuition assistance to their employees to pay for college. If your employer offers this benefit, check with human resources to see whether you can also apply it to a bootcamp. Some organizations are willing to extend tuition assistance for a bootcamp if the certificate will enable you to expand your contribution to the company.
Deferred-tuition plans may involve no down payment, or you may have to pay a minimal deposit before starting your coursework. After graduating with your certificate and finding a job, you would pay back a specified tuition amount on a regular basis over a certain period of time (e.g., $400 per month over the course of three years). Because deferred-tuition plans include interest, you may end up paying a lot more (e.g., $5,000 or $10,000 more) overall for the bootcamp than if you choose the lump-sum-up-front option. However, the interest rate will usually be lower than that of a loan.
Income-share agreements, or ISAs, are technically classified by the Education Department as private loans but do not require you to have a cosigner or good credit. They are similar to deferred-tuition plans: they allow you to postpone your payment until after you’ve found a job, and they may offer zero down payment or else a small deposit at enrollment. And as with deferred tuition, ISAs can result in you ultimately paying more (and sometimes significantly more) for the bootcamp than if you pay up front or on a monthly plan.
The difference is that whereas deferred tuition means you’ll pay a set amount over a fixed period regardless of your income, ISAs are based on your salary. After landing your job, you would pay an agreed-on percentage of your salary over a specified period of time (e.g., 10% of your salary over four years or 25% of your salary over 12 months). Keep in mind that the requirements of an ISA may require you to take the first job you’re offered after graduation or to land a position within a particular time frame. So it’s always safest to read the fine print carefully.
You cannot apply federal loans to bootcamps, and traditional private student loans are not always available for bootcamps. However, some bootcamps partner with lending institutions to provide private loans to fund your training. These loans often include interest rates that are higher than those of federal loans but lower than the interest rates of traditional private loans.
If you decide to go this route, be sure that you can repay your debt quickly and easily. Avoid using credit cards, and steer clear of high-interest personal loans to pay for your bootcamp. Research interest rates and repayment terms carefully, and try to borrow as little as possible.
Bootcamps are still relatively new on the scene and are not regulated by the federal government. So be sure to read the tiny print on all your financing options carefully before signing on the dotted line. Talk to people in your desired industry to get their insights on whether the bootcamp you’re considering is worth your time and financial investment. And research your job prospects by looking into the job outcomes of graduates from your training program. By assessing costs with the likelihood of landing a job that will earn you better pay, you can get a clearer picture of whether a bootcamp is right for you.