Web and software development positions may be on the rise, but one number in the tech industry is stubbornly staying put. Despite the headlines, the disappointing lack of diversity in tech jobs and computer science programs remains steadfast.

Though the issue is complex, employers and recruiters play a significant role in shaping the trend. The industry is booming and there is a clear need to examine less traditional hiring funnels when recruiting tech talent. Coding bootcamps offer an alternative education model that could be part of the solution.

While the hundreds of coding bootcamps that have sprung up all over the world vary, the core concept is consistent: an accelerated curriculum, an emphasis on job-ready competencies and in-demand coding languages, and a price tag that equates to a fraction of a traditional four-year degree. Though program quality and student outcomes range widely (just like MIT vs. a state party school), this alternative model of education is opening doors for non-traditional students.

“Many of our most pressing social challenges — the rise in inequality and reduction in socioeconomic mobility — are a direct product of the lack of alternative pathways to good jobs,” says author and investor Ryan Craig. At a time when college is becoming prohibitively expensive and simultaneously less likely to ensure future success, faster and cheaper education models like coding bootcamps are appealing to many.

Furthermore, because the programs are more accessible to people from different backgrounds and age groups, coding bootcamps have tremendous potential to diversify competitive workforces like the tech industry. Course Report’s 2016 demographic study of U.S. bootcamps found that 43 percent of coding bootcampers were women and 25 percent were black or latino. By comparison, the same figures were just 15 and 10 percent among university Computer Science majors in the USA.

These numbers are encouraging, and should move recruiters towards looking beyond fresh college grads when hiring for entry-level development positions. In addition to increased racial and gender diversity, comparing CS majors and coding bootcampers reveals some other welcome differences. Not only do many bootcampers already have a college degree, they also have several years of work experience under their belts.

From a hiring perspective, this could mean previous leadership roles, relevant industry knowledge, and a baseline of professionalism that your average fresh college grad has yet to acquire.

But there is also something to be said for the kind of initiative that bootcampers display. Enrolling in a rigorous education program later in life could be indicative of a powerful work ethic.

Afterall, bootcamps may be cheaper than a four-year degree but they are still a significant investment of time and money. And because many bootcampers enroll with financial, familial, and professional obligations already in tow, completing such a program is not to be taken for granted.

The following infographic from WhatsTheHost makes a side by side comparison of coding bootcampers and CS majors, revealing how alternative education pathways are helping students from diverse backgrounds get their foot in the door to a promising career.

Written By
Alex North is a content writer and translator from Austin, TX living in Mannheim, Germany. When she’s not despairing over impossibly long German compound words, you can probably find her blogging about everything from travel to SEO to Higher Ed.

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