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ould a bootcamp vs degree thing exist if the tech industry hadn’t developed so quickly?

Probably not. We can’t say for sure. What we can do is admit that a bootcamp certification is the best alternative to a college or university degree.

Yet, when choosing between a bootcamp certificate and a degree from an accredited institution, a student still has doubts. Why? Because of accreditation that bootcamps lack.

Its impact on credibility and quality of learning is tremendous, making bootcamps constantly find different ways to prove their worth.

In this article, we will explore the power of accreditation, discuss its effect on the credibility and show how learning providers can compensate for it.

Degree vs bootcamp debate: Why won't universities keep up?

Part of the problem in seeing the root of the debate is concerned with market shifts and changes. Universities are too slow to answer them, while bootcamps promptly deal with the tech market demand for the high-skilled workforce. 

The Holoniq data emphasizes that the number of up-skilled professionals by tech bootcamps will rise to 380,000 by 2025 (from 100,000 in 2011). The main reasons for this are the expected job movement and the adoption of new technologies within workplaces in the subsequent years.

Subject to the latest World Economic Forum report, 83 million jobs will be lost, and 69 million will be created by 2027. Notably, the same source shows the workers’ skills will be disrupted by 44%.

This labor market churn will impact not only the media and entertainment sector but also digital communication, information technology, and even governmental and public spheres..

How is this about the bootcamp certificate vs degree debate? 

Job-seekers are more likely to use online learning platforms to close skill gaps and meet employers' demands. Not only because the traditional qualifications are less necessary but because bootcamps can give tech job-ready skills in six months, not four years.

The role of accreditation in education

So, bootcamps are better at answering the needs of businesses, especially if they have solid connections with them. Yet, most bootcamps are not accredited compared to universities and colleges that the government recognizes.

What is accreditation, and how does it impact education in the U.S.? 

Accreditation is the process that contemplates evaluating if an institution adheres to commonly accepted quality standards and, thus, allows students to get quality knowledge and expertise necessary for further education or career.

Usually, accreditation is the mark of high-quality education, having the following functions:

  • Certifies that the institution meets standards.
  • Supports adherence to the principles and accountability.
  • Adds to the sustainable models by protecting from pressure.

In the U.S., the primary organs that define the accreditation proceedings and organizations for higher education and bootcamps are:

  • USDE (The U.S. Department of Education): The governmental body recognizing third-party agencies that accredit higher education programs and institutions.
  • CHEF (Council for Higher Education Accreditation): The national non-governmental authority that recognizes accrediting organizations, including programmatic and career-related ones. 
  • ACCET (Accrediting Council for Continuing Education & Training): Recognized by the USDE, this agency offers accreditation for educational organizations and programs providing continuing education. (Two bootcamps are already recognized under ACCET accreditation.)
  • CIIR (The Council on Integrity in Results Reporting): The non-accredited bootcamp organization promoting standards for collecting and reporting data on student outcomes. It aims to eliminate deceptive marketing practices.
Note. The popular accredited bootcamps are Turing School of Software & Design, NYC Data Science Academy, Kenzie Academy (as part of Southern New Hampshire University), and Codeup.

Our research shows that the majority of bootcamps are not accredited. Why? Most accrediting organs focus on higher education institutions, while bootcamps are different by nature. 

They do not want to fall under regulations that harm their curriculum adaptability and ability to quickly answer market needs. Thus, there is a lack of effective mechanisms for bootcamp institutions and academies. 

Impact of accreditation on bootcamp certification

At the same time, despite the limitations of accreditation, recognition is still what bootcamps seek. Such a desire comes from the significant effects of accreditation on institutions: impact on job placements and funding.

Learning quality and job placement

Students want guarantees for a successful start in a career, while accreditation can assure the quality of learning under a standardized approach. 

That’s why universities have a certain advantage. 

Even though the Report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni questions the correlation of accreditation to educational quality, bootcamps crave recognition that accreditation grants to impact students. 

The ACCET accreditation cases and CIIR members’ growth prove it. Such changes seem as a well-awaited answer by learning providers to the need.

Funding options for students

For many educational institutions, accreditation is a tool to access federal funding, bringing certain benefits.

First of all, federal funding would mean the inflow of students. The fees for bootcamps are much less than for degrees, meaning it may be pretty popular among people with low income.

Besides, the possibility of getting support from federal programs for a specific course will add to the institution’s image and capacity. 

“Thanks to ACCET accreditation, today NYC Data Science Academy can assist international students with F and M visas, while Turing School of Software and Design has access to GI Bill payments and WIOA grants.

That way, the bootcamp academy may get a competitive advantage before other actors and develop a more sustainable model.

Interestingly, there were attempts to support bootcamps development: 

Yet, the reality is that non-accredited institutions can’t apply for federal funding despite the bootcamp market becoming more regulated and transparent.

Certificate vs bootcamp vs degree: What does each credential mean to the workforce?

Alternative education has become much more popular in recent years. It is now a universal option allowing students to save funds and get a job soon after graduation. 

The best way to see its benefits and possible impact on career development is to analyze and compare a bootcamp certificate and accredited credentials characteristics.

What is a certificate?

All in all, a certificate is an educational credential that a student gets upon finishing a short and focused non-degree program. In particular, tech certificates can be an outcome of an 8-12 month program in a university or college.

As it is a program on behalf of higher education institutions, they share their accreditation. It provides credits that can later be used to get a certain degree.

Certificate advantages:

  • Good for upskilling 
  • It suits people who already work and want to get higher positions.
  • It costs much less than a degree.

Certificate disadvantages:

  • It may not be enough to get a job.
  • Usually, it is a supplement to a degree.

What is a bootcamp certificate?

Bootcamp certificate is a credential a person gets after completing an accelerated course or program, providing the student with job-ready skills to work in tech and non-tech spheres. Importantly, it gives the knowledge to start a career in six months.

As the bootcamps are not accredited, the students’ job placement depends on the partnerships and reputation of the platform. 

Bootcamp certificate advantages

  • Major tech companies hire bootcamp graduates.
  • Employees consider bootcamp certificate owners to be on the same skill level as those with degrees.
  • It offers a quick career start. 
  • It proves relevant skills and knowledge in relation to the industry.

Bootcamp certificate disadvantages 

  • An intensive schedule contemplates that it would be difficult for the students to complete while working.
  • No accreditation means less credibility, especially in the eyes of government workers.

What is a degree?

A degree is a credential that a higher education institution grants to students upon the completion of their studying. It is a traditional way of education provision, where students study to learn specializations or professions via different degree options, taking from 2 to 6 years. 

Degree advantages

  • The recognized degree has become the universal mark of a successful career. 
  • Accreditation means better transparency and accountability. 
  • Funding options under federal programs are available.

Degree disadvantages

  • Not all of the universities manage to graduate students who have job-ready skills.
  • Students are afraid of significant debts.
  • It can be expensive and long to get a job.

Bootcamp certification vs degree: What is best for a student career?

Bootcamp certificates can be the best option for students who want to start a tech or digital career. 

The primary point in favor of bootcamp certificate is how fast one can get a minimum set of skills to start working in a tech sphere without getting into debt.

Bootcamps provide intense and flexible curriculums, ongoing cooperation with businesses, and participation of practitioners within different fields. Thus, a bootcamp certificate is as cost-effective as a college or university certificate; with it, the student has almost the same chance to get a job as a degree.

So, higher education degrees and certificates are not necessarily the wrong choice. However, they represent the traditional system that fails to keep up with the modern pace of business development and wants to stay the same. 

How learning providers can get recognition 

Unfortunately for bootcamps, accreditation remains the characteristic of the slow-changing system, even though it might have been a magic pill to solve many problems of boot camp academies. 

It means bootcamps should find different ways to get recognition or have a solid image to compensate for accreditation. 

What are the academy's practices and options in this regard? 

Testimonials and job placement rates: Building bootcamp certification credibility 

One of the popular ways to improve the credibility of bootcamp certification is by leveraging testimonials and students' outcomes. There, bootcamps’ depend on the reviews and comments of graduates and research pieces.

Every decent bootcamp has a separate page with testimonials and data ensuring the career opportunities for the graduates. For instance, General Assembly and Flatiron School publish materials showing the graduates' stories, placement rates, and surveys. That way, they position themselves not only as learning providers but also as career service providers.

Interestingly, the bootcamp community made significant efforts to leave no room for speculation and misinformation. 

“Creating CIIR, even though it is still non-accredited, can be seen as a step the bootcamps made to provide a unified and transparent system for bootcamps to display student outcomes and job placement rates.”

With the accreditation problem, any scandal around misleading promotion (for example, the Flatiron case in 2017) can hurt the whole industry. It may be a reason why Nucamp bootcamp does not share job placement rates, promoting a more transparent and trustworthy marketing policy based on surveys.

Business partnerships: Affecting student career opportunities 

Another strategy to improve the value of the bootcamp certificate is concerned with building partnerships with business and academic actors. 

Establishing deep connections and relationships with business partners means better career opportunities that students seek. That way, popular academies use the names of big companies on their landing pages.

Moreover, the partnerships result in a more up-to-date curriculum, joint training and apprenticeships, and a better understanding of employer needs. As a result, they directly affect the graduates’ job placement. 

Note. Check our comprehensive article about the role and benefits of partnerships with academic and business actors.

Partnerships with universities: Finding opportunities for recognition

Lastly, another powerful way for the bootcamp to get a certain level of accreditation is by partnering with universities. This method has become more popular in the last few years, suggesting there will be no coding bootcamp vs. degree debate if universities and actors continue such cooperation.

Here are possible ways for academics to make their bootcamp certifications more credible:

  • The bootcamps can use an extension school model, contemplating that bootcamps share the university’s name accreditation. It is a program delivered in informal settings and does not include university credit. 
  • The university can “hire” the bootcamp to provide education solely for their students, while the bootcamp gets payment for each student.
  • The bootcamp can use the university as a “partner” for marketing purposes, yet communicate it clearly and make their partnership transparent.

Under these models, colleges and universities may get around 20% of students’ fees and offer better opportunities for their students, while bootcamps improve their reputation and image using universities’ recognition. As a result, it is a win-win for all, meeting the needs of students and businesses.

Accreditation in bootcamp Certification vs. Degree debate: Key takeaways

As market shifts create new challenges for education and learning providers, bootcamps' response is prompt and relevant to the business needs and shifts, thus efficient. 

However, when comparing a bootcamp certificate vs a degree, the students can pick the latter because of the accreditation. It is a pillar of universities’ credibility, and it is what bootcamp seeks to be more appealing to students. Even though adherence to standards can harm the adaptability of bootcamps, it provides specific positive effects. 

Accreditation allows contributing to educational quality, affecting reputation, and providing financial support to students. Most bootcamps are unaccredited and try to compensate for this via specific strategies. In particular, bootcamps use the power of testimonials, job placement rates, and business and academic partnerships.

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