SAN FRANCISCO -- Women represent more than 36 percent of the students at the dozens of new coding schools and boot camps that have opened across the country over the past few years, according to a study released Monday. That’s more than twice the number of women who earn computer science bachelor’s degrees at traditional universities.

Many of these coding schools, which are for-profit businesses backed by venture capital, have made it a priority to bring in women and underrepresented minorities, either by creating scholarships geared toward them, using deferred-tuition structures or by creating schools specifically for underrepresented groups. The 2015 Student Outcomes and Demographics Study, which was conducted by New York startup Course Report, shows those tactics are having early success.

“This educational model is coming into the market at a time when we’re really now discussing getting women into technology,” said Alaina Percival, CEO of Women Who Code, which has donated more than $150,000 in scholarships to coding boot camps since the start of 2014. “If people haven’t been encouraged to choose a path in technology, [coding schools] are providing a new avenue for women to get into the tech industry as adults.”

Among the study’s key findings is that women who graduate from these programs earn starting salaries that are on average $10,000 higher than those of their male counterparts. Course Report co-founder Liz Eggleston said that may be a result of the tech industry’s on-going diversity movement. “The market demand is there,” Eggleston said. “Tech companies want to get closer to a 50-50 split, so they’re demanding more female applicants.”

Course Report, which helps students pick the coding camp best suited to them, drew its results after surveying 665 coding camp graduates. The study’s findings are reflective of coding camps in the U.S. and Canada that offer full-time, in-person courses with 40 or more hours of classroom time per week.

Fullstack Academy Fullstack Academy students work on a project as part of the coding boot camp's full-time program. In January, Fullstack Academy will open a second school, the Grace Hopper Academy, focused exclusively on women. Photo: Fullstack Academy

More Women, Hispanics And African-Americans

At 36 percent representation, women are graduating from coding schools at a higher rate than they are graduating with computer science degrees at traditional colleges and universities. By comparison, women in the U.S. and Canada earned just 14.1 percent of computer science bachelor’s degrees during the 2013-14 academic year, according to the Computing Research Association. In the entire tech industry, women hold 17.5 percent of tech positions, according to a data analysis provided by 500 Miles, a startup that helps candidates make informed decisions about where to work and companies find quality talent. 

“The fact that female enrollment is so high in these boot camps speaks to the fact that these programs are run by forward-thinking folks who will make an effort to get women involved with things like scholarships,” Eggleston said.

Coding camps are also doing a better job of drawing underrepresented minorities. According to the survey, 5 percent of coding school graduates were African-American while 20 percent were Hispanic. That’s higher than the figures for students earning bachelor’s degrees in computer science, which were 3.2 percent for African-Americans and 6.8 percent for Hispanics.

"This points to higher education being an environment that is more discouraging to women and minorities than boot camps seem to be," said Jeremy Rossmann, co-founder of San Francisco-based Make School. "There's definitely something going wrong in higher ed."

These results show that tech companies who want to find diverse talent need to include coding schools in their recruiting, said Deldelp Medina, CEO and co-founder at Avión Ventures, a pre-accelerator for Hispanic entrepreneurs. “The smart ones have relationships at this point with coding schools, especially if they’re dealing with folks who are underrepresented,” Medina said.

Course Report Course Report, a startup that helps students compare tech boot camps, found that 66 percent of coding school graduates land full-time jobs as developers, according to a survey it conducted. Photo: Course Report

Land A Job Within 4 Months

Aside from women and underrepresented minorities, the survey showed coding schools are doing a good job of helping all students land jobs -- 89 percent of graduates reported securing a job within 120 days after completing their program. Sixty-six percent of respondents said their jobs require the skills they learned at their boot camps.

Coding schools are “not worried about maintaining the sports stadium, they’re not investing in new dorm buildings, they’re not doing any of that stuff. Their only product is the education they provide, and as a result of that focus, they’re able to deliver a better bang for your buck and a better bang for the time that’s put into the program,” Rossman said.

The 2015 Student Outcomes and Demographics Study also found that the average boot camp attendee is 31 years old, has had 7.6 years of non-coding work experience and typically already has a bachelor’s degree. This seems to indicate that, for now at least, most coding schools are not yet suitable replacements for traditional colleges. However, coding schools are a relatively new type of business, so they may become suitable replacements for college over time, Eggleston said.

“We are in an early iteration for these boot camps,” Eggleston said. “Maybe at some point they’ll become a replacement [for a bachelor’s degree], but for now they might be an alternative to an MBA or a CS master's degree.”

Despite the findings of the survey, Medina cautions that students considering taking a coding school course, which have tuition costs of $11,852 on average, should do their research first. “Every single program is very, very different, and you have to find the right place for yourself. Some places are not on the up and up, and they’re not doing what they say they do,” Medina said. “It really depends on where you go and who your teacher is.”