My son is looking to retrain in data sciences and has been researching online boot camps such as Springboard and Le Wagon. These appear to be genuine companies, but it's hard to sift through the reviews online to work out which are genuine.

They both offer money back guarantees that sound great, but having read the small print I doubt they pay out often!

My son is 31 years of age and has a music degree and currently teaches English in China.

He is specifically interested in Python & data analytics having dabbled to an extent in his spare time.

He thinks that the boot camps are pretty much a waste of time and that he may be better off doing an online masters in computer science.

If anyone has any experience in online training and is able to offer an opinion as to how best to do so and launch yourself in a career in computer science, any views would be appreciated.

  • $\begingroup$ What is he seeking to learn? : programming or computer-science or something other computer related think? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 10:38
  • $\begingroup$ Programming. He has been teaching himself Python. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 9:52
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Note: computer-science ≠ programming. Yes it may include programming, but $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ Programming is a vague term - by that I mean that an outsider might use this term very broadly (referring to the entire field of software development and CS) or very precisely (specifically the act of writing code). Think of it like the difference between being a novelist or a typist. The former requires significantly different training than the latter, even though a novelist usually does still type as part of their overall workload. You need to first refine specifically what your son's goals are before you can judge if any of these options match his goal. $\endgroup$
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 6:25
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe to elaborate on my previous comment: I'm mentioning this because you start off talking about a data sciences bootcamp but then when asked what your son is seeking to learn, you say "programming". There's a significant difference between these two, which leads me to suspect that either you or your son are possibly conflating the terms or using them somewhat imprecisely. That imprecision directly detracts from the accuracy of any answer that you're going to receive. If you take an internet stranger's imprecise advice at face value, you risk wasting time and money going up the wrong creek. $\endgroup$
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 6:29

2 Answers 2


As a professor, I get questions like this a lot. My usual advice is that there are TONS of free resources online, and I would delay on boot-camps until one really needs the specialized knowledge they offer, right before getting a job. For someone without an undergraduate degree in computer science, who has only "dabbled a bit," I'd recommend looking at the curricula of a few undergrad computer science programs (and maybe data science programs in this case). He can then partake in some MOOCs to go over the low-level courses and start building a foundation (the bootcamp is not really about foundation). If he wants to practice programming, there are plenty of free online tools like CodingBat. For data science, there's also DataCamp, but a lot of academics boycotted them a few years ago.

My advice is to try to develop a foundation from books, syllabi of courses, MOOCs, and free online tools. There's no way to do this other than putting in the work, and the bootcamp is not going to magically obviate the need for this fundamental baseline work. An online master's degree could indeed be a good idea, but to even get accepted, the student will need these fundamentals from the undergraduate curriculum.

Once the student has mastered the basics, a bootcamp could be useful for specific applications of the foundational knowledge to the area in question, e.g., machine learning for financial applications. The bootcamp might also have tips about how specifically to get jobs in that area. I know people who have said that bootcamps helped them get jobs, but that was only once they already had a strong grounding in the foundations.


Just a secondary point to what @David-White said, I often hear from industry partners that the students coming in with "boot-camp" only education tend to lack some non-technical fundamentals that are critical in real-life data science work.

In many of these programs, they come away knowing how to perform certain data-science procedures, but lack the math and stats understanding that dictates why they might choose one procedure over another.

Additionally, there are some critical "real life" aspects of data science work that often get glossed over in this programs:

  • The ability to translate a business problem into a data science problem, then translate the data science answer back to an actionable business insight.

  • The ability to coordinate with a team on a large-scale project, including code-collaboration, general communication, and conflict resolution.

  • The ability to bring a project from the data exploration step to the implementation phase.

  • The ability to do data-wrangling and preprocessing, or the ability to do it in a way that maintains data provenance and ensures reproducibility.

Granted, many university programs don't teach these things either, but some of the better data science programs I've seen do.

At the very least, I would make sure that any online masters program contains heavy team project and data wrangling work as part of the curriculum.


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