Alternative Programs To A CS Degree

These are all programs that are at least 2 years long and act as alternatives to a typical CS degree.

Originally planned for release on April 10th, 2017 but stuff happens.

After interviewing with a few of the new and upcoming alternative long-term programs for CS education, I wanted to provide others a brief overview of how they operate differently.

Most coding bootcamps are 2 to 4 months (8 to 12 weeks) long.

These programs instead act as alternative options to a CS degree which is usually 4 years long.

Common Patterns Found

  • gamification
  • thorough admissions process
  • all these programs will accept someone who is at least 18 years but some of them have upper age limits

Alternative Programs

Make School

  • 2 years
  • 18+
  • San Francisco, CA
  • coach/advisor – switch maybe
  • 2 core courses – twice a week for an hour
  • 2 classes – 3 times a week – 2 hours – advisor projects
    • 25 hours of work/week for courses
    • teach core courses
  • 5 6-week sessions per year
  • 2 sprints this fall vs 3 sprints this spring
  • two 15 weeks semester
  • fall shorter than spring
  • technical education
  • web/mobile development – 10 courses
  • fullstack web – 10 courses
  • devops/AWS
  • front-end web-dev
  • data science/ml/ai
  • gaming/VR – club
  • devices in IoT
  • gen. courses
    • design, economics, product dev

Holberton School

  • Syllabus for the 1st year of their program
  • 2 years
  • 18+
  • San Francisco, CA
  • internet projects with deadlines – always released at midnight
  • no formal lectures/teachers
  • access to resources that have more experience and knowledge
  • overlapping batches
  • staff here on-site who write most of the projects anyways
  • mentors who are available in a number of different channels (emails, slack, meetups (fireside chats), in-person)
  • no formal teacher – just uses mentor to provide up to date knowledge on whatever they’re working on
  • i.e. mentor who is a man who works in cyber-security in SF (Dave) – look over my resume
  • networking really important component of those who come in
  • constant feedback on program and how it is relevant in industry
  • we cannot implement things that we think are important – so whatever we’re teaching here – they have to be relevant for industry
  • mentors critique curriculum and provide feedback in different roles/companies
  • huge sense of comraderie and teamwork and collaboration –> important for us too
  • current student interviewing me
  • help other students –> status quo
  • focuses community, collaboration, and helping others, sharing knowledge
  • 1st 9 months –> 60 hours a week –> on-site intensive learning
    • first 3 months
      • theories, fundamentals
      • C programming languages
      • projects build up
        • last one is “building a shell”
    • next 3 months
      • front-end
      • back-end
      • APIs
      • databases
      • uses Python
      • not about learning Python but about understanding methods/routes and understanding OOP fundamental concepts so you could easily translate that syntax
      • C projects don’t stop
    • next 3 months
      • systems administration
      • devops
    • next 6 months
      • full-time internship
        • this can turn into job
      • full-time job
  • next 9 months
    • full-time specialization
    • part-time
    • if a bunch of people in your cohort are interested in something specific – then that is a specialization that is created – has to be at least 4 people in a specialization
    • no set group of specializations because industry changes every year
    • specializations now: low-level algorithms, back-end engineering, system administration/devops/SRE (site reliability engineer)
    • specialization can be done part-time –> meant with full-time job
    • others are back full-time with specialization b/c they didn’t get full-time job after 6 months or they choose hiatus/quit
    • majority choose part-time
  • cohort demographics (January 2017)
    • 50% female, 30 or 40%
    • 50% POC
  • average age range
    • most of students are in mid-20s to 30s
    • right out of high school
    • at least 18
    • 40’s, 50’s, 58 is oldest we’ve gotten
  • are any of projects given by a contract
    • all are created by staff here
    • staff members are not experts in front-end/UX/UI field
    • so some you can collaborate with mentors
  • can you give me examples of jobs folks from your cohort have gotten
    • systems administration/devops roles
    • 2 people with Apple doing SRE
    • 2 people with Dropbox doing SRE
    • 1 with Docker as SWE
    • 1 with LinkedIn as SWE
    • 2 people with medical tech company as SWE intern
    • full-time jobs right after Holberton but it’s definitely not the expectation
    • 3 with scality as junior SWE


  • I would recommend using the game Lightbot to prepare.
    • A bulk of their admissions process to getting into a piscine involves solving puzzles exactly like ones you would find playing Lightbot but a bit more complicated.
    • There are also videos online…
  • 3-5 years
  • San Francisco
  • Free
  • ages 18-30
  • certain time of life
  • very competitive
  • difficult
  • isolating
  • referral bonus – headhunting fee

Ada Developers Academy

Turing School


Horizons One

Horizons School of Technology

The Horizons School of Technology bridges traditional education and the world of technology. We give high-potential students the skills of an engineer and perspective of an entrepreneur.

  • The world’s first tuition-free technology co-op program

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Data Analytics + Business Intelligence

  • If you are interested in something other than Computer Science, MissionU offers a one year program in Data Analytics + Business Intelligence.
  • It has a tuition deferral model which means you only pay once you get a salary of at least $50K.

Lambda School

Last updated on May 3rd, 2020