If you’re interested in entering the field of computer programming, which involves writing and testing code for computer applications and software programs, you’ve chosen a growing field.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in computer and information technology will grow 12% from 2014 to 2024 — faster than the average for all occupations. Pay for jobs in coding averaged $81,430 as of May 2015.
To get a job in coding, you can earn a four-year degree or opt to attend a coding boot camp. These camps cost an average of $11,000 but can run as high as $20,000. They generally last eight to 12 weeks and offer intensive training on how to code through lectures and hands-on experience.
There are some online coding boot camps, but most are in-person and full time, which makes working a job while you’re attending difficult. That means if you’re currently earning an income, you should consider you may lose that income as part of the cost of attending boot camp.
Coding camp financing options
Though the price tag of coding boot camp can seem overwhelming, there are several ways to pay for the schooling.
Ask about deferred payment plans
Some boot camps feature deferred payment structures. For instance, at App Academy, which has schools in San Francisco and New York, you don’t have to pay the tuition until you get a job coding. This gives you the opportunity to start earning money before you have to worry about paying the school. Other boot camps require just a deposit when you start, which can give you time to come up with financing options. Some coding schools also offer payment plans.
Check with your employer
If you’re a valued employee and there’s room to grow at your company in terms of coding, it’s likely that the company will pay for at least a portion of your tuition. Of course, you’ll also have to ask for a chunk of time off in order to attend school. To show good faith and get your employer onboard with the idea, offer to sign a contract that binds you to a certain amount of time working for the company once you graduate.
Try a crowd-fund campaign
If you can convince friends, family and strangers that your journey to be a coder is worth them donating some funds, then crowd-funding through sites such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter may get you some well-needed cash to finance coding boot camp. The key is to share a compelling reason why people should fund your project, as well as address any concerns they might have about funding you.
For instance, if you’ve been trying to “find your path” for the last few years, you need to convince donors you’ve found the perfect career for you. Even if you only raise a portion of your tuition, every bit helps.
Check with the school regarding federal student loans
Until recently, students at what are considered non-traditional education institutions, including technical schools such as coding camps, were not eligible for federal student aid. In August 2016, the U.S. Department of Education started an experimental partnership with non-traditional providers through the EQUIP (Educational Quality through Innovation Partnerships) experiment. The eight schools involved in the experiment include four that offer coding boot camps.
Private student loans
Many boot camps have financing, but it’s a good idea to compare their rates and terms with other private student loans to ensure you get the best deal possible. A wide variety of private student loan lenders exist. They include banks, credit unions and online lenders.
Private student loans require credit checks to determine eligibility. If you don’t have good credit of 670+, you’ll need a co-signer. Many private student loans don’t have a grace or deferment period, which means you must start repaying the loan as soon as you get the money. That means you’ll need some money saved before entering coding boot camp so you can make the loan payments.
Depending on the lender, interest rates can be high for some private student loans. For instance, rates of 18% or more are common. Many of these loans also feature variable interest rates that fluctuate with the market. That means your monthly payment could go up substantially. Some private student loans also have prepayment penalties.
Best private student loans
If you know where to look, there are private student loan lenders offering reasonable interest rates. For example, the interest rates at SoFi are currently ranging from 2.255% to 6.280% annual percentage rate (APR) for variable loans and 3.375% to 6.74% APR for fixed loans. They also have some repayment concessions. They will suspend your payments for up to 12 months if you lose your job.
The following student loan lenders offer competitive interest rates and varied repayment terms:
Use a credit card
You may find that paying with a credit card works for you, if you have sufficient credit available on the card. If possible, use a credit card that offers cash back or mileage credit.
An even better idea than using an existing card is to apply for a credit card featuring a 0% introductory APR. You’ll need good credit of 700+ to get such a card and a low debt-to-income ratio, which means that you have more income available than debt.
As long as you pay the credit card balance off within the introductory period, which is usually six to 18 months, you won’t owe any interest. The longer the repayment period the better, as this will give you a chance to finish coding camp and get a job that allows you to pay off the loan in time.
It’s important for your budget that you pay off the 0% credit card offer in time, because the interest rate usually jumps to double digits after the deadline. If this happens, you might have a hard time paying off the balance, even if you land a lucrative job in coding.
To give you an example, the Citi Double Cash Card offers an 18-month, 0% interest rate, which allows you to pay for all or part of coding camp. You also get 1% cash back when you charge something and 1% back whenever you pay for items on your credit card bill.
HELOC to finance coding camp
If have equity in your home, a home equity line of credit may be the answer to your coding camp bill. Equity refers to the difference between the appraised value of your home and what you owe on the mortgage; a typical HELOC is 75% to 80% of your home’s equity. A bonus is that the interest you pay on a HELOC is tax deductible if you itemize on your tax return.
With a HELOC, you have the option of withdrawing as much money as you need up to the credit limit. That means that if living expenses during boot camp are higher than you anticipated and you still have some credit left on the line, you can withdraw it to make ends meet.
There are a few drawbacks to HELOCs that are important to consider. The main drawback is that you’re putting your house up as collateral. If you don’t make your payments, which need to be made even when you’re in school, you risk losing your home. Most HELOCs feature an introductory fixed interest rate for a period of time, but then the rate changes to a variable rate. This can mean your monthly payment can fluctuate greatly.
Earning a coding certificate can greatly improve your job outlook and income potential.
A lack of cash on hand should not stop you if you want to pursue a career as a computer coder. Consider all of the financing options and you’ll probably find a solution. Visit the SuperMoney student loan lenders page to find the right financing options for you.
Julie Bawden-Davis is a widely published journalist specializing in personal finance and small business. She has written 10 books and more than 2,500 articles for a wide variety of national and international publications, including Parade.com, where she has a weekly column. In addition to contributing to SuperMoney, her work has appeared in publications such as American Express OPEN Forum, The Hartford and Forbes.