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

By Frances Coronel

Frances Coronel is a software engineer specializing in UI development on the Customer Acquisition Team at Slack where her mission is to make your working life simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.

She has been working professionally as a developer since 2015 and holds a Bachelors in Computer Science from Hampton University and a Masters in Computer Science from Cornell Tech.

Outside of Slack, Frances is an Executive Director of Techqueria, a 501c3 nonprofit that serves the largest community of Latinx in Tech in the US.

She also supports Code Nation as a member of their Bay Area Leadership Council and the Latino Community Foundation as a member of their Latinos in Tech Giving Circle.