Is Lambda School Worth It? (2021 Review)
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Deciding on a coding bootcamp is a big decision.
And while Lambda School is one of the better-known bootcamps, that doesn’t mean there aren’t downsides and drawbacks.
So if you’re wondering, “Is Lambda School worth it?” then keep reading.
As a former tech recruiter, I’ve spoken to a variety of software engineers including Lambda graduates, and I’ve researched numerous online coding bootcamps to understand how they compare.
In this article, I’m going to share a full review of Lambda School with pros and cons to decide if Lambda School is worth it for YOU.
Let’s get started…
Basic Overview: What is Lambda School and What Do They Do?
Lambda School is a web development and data science bootcamp known for its in-depth curriculum and quality instructors. Their reputation in the online coding bootcamp industry is good, and their courses are thorough, lasting six months when taken full-time.
They were founded on the belief that traditional university education is “broken,” in part because universities have no incentive to ensure their graduates see success or find quality jobs after graduation.
Lambda School’s deferred payment options via their incoming sharing agreement is a way for you to hold off on paying them until you get a job, and a way for them to demonstrate that they’re committed to helping you succeed at finding a position after you graduate!
I’ll share more about exactly how this income agreement works coming up soon (and a couple of downsides you need to be aware of!)
First, let’s look at what you’ll learn if you join Lambda School so you can start to figure out if it’s worth it for your situation…
Lambda School Curriculum: What You’ll Learn (And What Type of Job You Can Land)
Lambda School offers two main online programs: Full Stack Web Development and Data Science. Both programs last six months when taken full-time (Monday to Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm), but part-time options are also available to students.
The full-time classes run multiple times per year, with orientation and pre-course work for new classes beginning every few months on average.
Full Stack Web Development
The tools/languages mentioned above are modern technologies that the typical web-focused employer will find relevant and attractive, which means you’ll have a high chance of being able to get a job as a software engineer after graduation.
By learning the “full stack” (front-end, back-end, plus a database technology like SQL), you’ll be able to build entire web applications, which will be highly-valued in the tech industry and help you land a software engineering job.
I think this is faster to learn than a course/bootcamp focused around Java or other older technologies, and it will give you a high chance of getting a job upon graduation.
Lambda School’s data science course will expose you to technologies like Python and SQL and teach topics such as Machine Learning, Data Visualization, Databases, Statistics and Modeling, and Natural Language Processing.
Lambda School’s website mentions a 26% annual growth for this job type, and as a former tech recruiter, I believe it.
Companies, especially in the tech industry, are finding themselves with more and more data needing to be processed in order to make better business decisions and keep up with competitors.
For example, e-commerce giants like Walmart and Amazon are being flooded with millions of pieces of data each day related to customer buying habits, how one product performs versus another, which products are often bought together, and SO much more!
They’ll rely on your experience and knowledge as a data scientist to help them to store, process, and make sense of this data.
Lambda School Cost And Income Share Agreement
The cost of Lambda School tuition is $30,000 USD. However, Lambda also provides an Income Share Agreement (ISA) which allows students to pay no tuition upfront if they agree to pay 17% of post-graduation income for up to 24 months or until they have paid the $30,000 in tuition. This agreement kicks in when a student obtains a “Qualified Position” paying $4,166.67 or more per month.
The ISA is Lambda’s way of betting on their students and showing that they don’t earn money until you do.
There are a few things to note, however.
First, Lambda School defines a Qualified Position as: “Any type of role in any field where your participation in Lambda School helped you get the job, even if it’s not directly associated with the track you were in.”
Therefore, you’ll still owe them a portion of your earnings if you end up accepting a somewhat unrelated job in tech, but not the type of job you had hoped their curriculum would lead to!
The ISA also applies to freelance and contract jobs, not just permanent, full-time employment. So if you are hoping for a permanent position but have to settle for a contract job, you’ll still owe a portion of your earnings, according to Lambda’s terms.
Lastly, there has been some controversy in the past with reports of Lambda School selling their ISAs to investors, which means they were potentially earning revenue from new students before these students graduated or got a job!
They could enroll a student, sell off the ISA, and essentially be paid before delivering any result for that student.
Still, in the long run, this wouldn’t be viable/profitable for any of the companies involved (Lambda School or the investors) if the quality of education weren’t high-quality and didn’t lead to jobs.
I’ll cover their job placement rates and success rates for students coming up soon!
Lambda School Benefits and Reasons to Enroll
The benefits of joining Lambda School include access to a proven, structured curriculum so that you can learn everything in one place, and a live learning experience where you can interact with classmates via Slack channel, give and receive code reviews as you learn new material, and ask questions of your professors.
These are benefits that you wouldn’t enjoy in a pre-recorded software engineering course or by learning on your own. You also wouldn’t have these benefits if you set out to learn software development for free online via YouTube, blog articles, etc.
With Lambda, you’re gaining a more immersive, high-quality learning experience.
Plus, you’ll be building real-world projects and portfolio pieces that you can show to employers when you graduate.
For example, in Lambda’s web development program, every fifth week is a “Build Week”, where you work with a small team of students to build a web page or other project. Depending on your experience level, you may be responsible for aspects like user experience/UX design, or the engineering itself.
Of course, nothing’s stopping you from building real-world projects if you’re self-taught. I’ll discuss alternatives to Lambda later, including learning software engineering on your own.
Overall, Lambda School’s courses can be viewed as a good middle-ground between a four-year computer science degree (very expensive) and studying everything on your own for free or via cheap courses (difficult/slow).
One other benefit is job placement assistance to help you find high paying work after graduation.
Lambda has a team dedicated to helping you with career development, which means they can assist with writing a CV or resume, help you set up a portfolio to show your bootcamp work and projects, and even prep you for your first salary negotiation as a software developer.
Of course, it’s still up to you to apply for positions, ace the interview, and land a job!
They aren’t going to do it for you. But they’ll help. And they have experience helping hundreds of past Lambda students get a job!
One word of warning: While some of the benefits mentioned above sound great in theory (like being able to ask your instructors questions in a live learning environment), some negative online comments about Lambda School point out that due to high class sizes, it’s sometimes difficult to have your questions answered. I’ll discuss this more coming up. First, let’s review…
Lambda School Review of Benefits
- Experienced, knowledgeable instructors to speed up the learning process
- Proven, organized curriculum so that you don’t need to piece together info from many different places
- Live interaction with instructors and the ability to communicate with classmates (for example, Lambda School has a Slack channel for each cohort).
- Hands-on learning of modern and in-demand web technologies and programming languages
- Real-world projects to help you build a portfolio
- Full-time and part-time options
- Job placement assistance to help you get a job after graduating, including access to Lambda’s numerous hiring partners in Silicon Valley and other top tech markets
Lambda School’s Drawbacks and Downsides
As a former tech recruiter, I’d put Lambda School among the best online coding schools, due to their knowledgeable instructors and up-to-date curriculum that prepares students for a career in data science or full stack web development.
However, some Lambda students have brought up questions and downsides about Lambda School that I want to address here.
A Reddit post by one Lambda student points out large class sizes (40+ students) and also mentions some instructors moving a bit too quickly for this person’s learning style.
The former student, under the Reddit username “AnnPauline”, goes on to express concern about future class sizes and an inability of students to get sufficient help if classes become too large:
“Future cohorts are averaging at around 50-60 students, good luck getting your question answered with everyone flooding the chat.”
You could be disappointed if you enroll in their program expecting an intimate learning experience, only to find a class size too large.
A different student on Reddit also mentioned that while the first three months with Lambda School’s full-time program were fantastic, the final three months left them wishing they had received more help.
They bring up a supposed Lambda School philosophy of, “We are teaching you how to learn.”
However, this particular student felt this philosophy was taken too far when it came to learning the fundamentals of computer science in the final three months. They wanted more direct instruction rather than being left to explore topics on their own.
These are just the experiences of a few students. So I don’t recommend taking this review of Lambda School as the only factor in your decision.
However, I do suggest talking to Lambda School and addressing some of these points above.
Consider asking questions such as the following before deciding to apply or enroll with Lambda School:
- “What class sizes can I expect?”
- “What avenues will be available to me to get questions answered by my instructors?”
- “How do instructors ensure that students aren’t left behind?”
- “What is your school’s teaching philosophy overall?”
Overall, I think Lambda School offers more benefits than downsides and is a great choice for people who want a full-time software engineering or data science school online.
But the final decision should come down to whether YOU’RE comfortable with what they provide. So ask the questions above, ask any follow-up questions that are necessary, and decide for yourself. That’s the best way to approach this!
Finally, the cost is a big drawback when compared to learning software development on your own. So consider whether you want to pay a premium to learn everything in one place, or whether you’re willing to learn different pieces from various websites, videos, etc.
Lambda School Review of Drawbacks
- Potentially large class sizes (40+) as reported by students
- Requires a long time commitment; the full-time program runs six months
- One of the most expensive online software bootcamps at $30,000 USD
Is Lambda School a Scam?
Lambda School is not a scam. The school has reputable, knowledgeable instructors and an excellent curriculum, whether you choose full stack web development or data science. However, their programs are expensive ($30,000 USD if paid upfront) and aren’t right for everyone. Also, some student reviews of Lambda School online have mentioned disappointment due to large class sizes and being left to learn some computer science topics without much guidance.
So you should ask questions and make sure you’re comfortable investing this amount of money before enrolling in Lambda School.
Learning on your own or via cheaper options is certainly viable, too. I’ll share more about this very soon in this article!
But rest assured, Lambda School is legitimate. While not an accredited school, they have knowledgeable instructors and a proven, well-thought-out curriculum that will help you get a job in tech after graduating.
How Does Lambda School Make Money?
Lambda school makes money primarily from student tuition, whether paid upfront or over time via Lambda’s Income Share Agreement.
Lambda is somewhat unique in its option for students to defer payment and only pay once they’ve found a job. Other coding schools have implemented this approach as well, but Lambda was one of the first to do it, and many coding schools and courses still don’t offer this option to students.
Lambda School’s Success Rate: Graduation and Job Placement Rates
Lambda School’s outcomes report for the second half of 2019 gives insight into the graduation rates and job placement rates.
The statistics below seem to suggest that Lambda does a good job of preparing you for a successful job search by the time you finish their program.
The fact that they have world-class hiring partners in tech and other industries also boosts your odds of finding a high-paying job after graduation.
Let’s look at the student outcome statistics now…
Lambda School Graduation Rates:
Lambda’s full stack web development program saw a 69% graduation rate in the latest class (with 4% still enrolled) and the data science program saw a 79% graduation rate.
There’s a gap between full-time and part-time graduation rates, with full-time students graduating 73% of the time and part-time students graduating just 52% of the time.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the part-time program isn’t as good. This could be an indication that people who join the part-time program have more distractions and obligations in life and therefore are less likely to be able to finish any program, whether at Lambda School or elsewhere.
(For example, they may be raising a child, working full-time while studying software engineering in the evenings, etc.)
Lambda School Job Placement Rates:
Among those who graduated from Lambda School’s full stack web development course in the second half of 2019, 73% were able to find a job as a software engineer.
The data science program saw an even higher job placement rate at 79%.
Full-time students were able to get a job 74% of the time, and part-time students 72%, which suggests that whether you study full-time or part-time will have almost no impact on your ability to get hired after graduating!
Lambda School Accreditation: Does Lambda School Give You a Degree?
Lambda School is not accredited and does not give you an academic degree upon graduation. You also won’t be earning credits that you can transfer to another school or accredited institution. Instead, their courses focus on teaching you job-related skills and helping you establish a foundation in software engineering or data science to prepare you to obtain a job.
If you want to avoid paying for a four-year university degree but still want to earn transferable credits and attend an accredited school, then a local community college with a computer science course path might be a better choice.
Lambda is all about teaching you work-related skills. I would say work-related skills are the most important aspect of launching a new career in tech, though, so what Lambda teaches is relevant and valuable.
Employers are going to test your experience and abilities throughout the interview process by giving you coding challenges and other exercises. So even without a degree, they’ll see your knowledge of computer science, data structures, software engineering, etc., which is why Lambda School is worth it for many students.
Lambda School Student Application Process
Lambda School’s application process is rather straight-forward and consists of registering for an account, filling out their application form online, completing their entrance tests, and signing enrollment documents.
You’ll also need to choose which program to enroll in: Software engineering with a focus on web development, or data science.
Finally, you’ll select a start date and finalize your application submission.
However, Lambda School does look for a certain type of person when deciding who to admit to their programs, and they’re very clear about this on their website:
What Type of Student is Best-Suited for Lambda School? (And Who Isn’t a Good Fit?)
Lambda School is best for someone who is fully committed, passionate, and willing to work hard to obtain a career in tech.
Lambda’s website uses the word “gritty” to describe the type of student they look for: someone who will fight through challenges, do whatever it takes to succeed, and commit 100% to learning computer science and software engineering.
So if you’re on the fence or not sure that a career in software engineering or data science is right for you, then I’d say Lambda School is not the right coding bootcamp.
Instead, you should begin with a cheaper and simpler option, like SkillShare, which is self-paced and requires less time and financial commitment.
Then, you can reconsider Lambda School at a later point in time! There’s just no sense in committing to such an expensive, lengthy program if you’re unsure about this career.
But if you’re fully-committed and want an immersive, live classroom experience to learn software engineering, then Lambda provides one of the best coding bootcamps available.
You can begin their application process HERE.
Lambda School Acceptance Rate
Lambda School doesn’t publicly share an acceptance rate. I reached out directly via email and received a response from a PR representative stating, “We’re not able to provide a singular acceptance rate metric at this time.”
Lambda’s representative did assure me that their admissions process is “quite selective” and went on to say, “Our goal is to admit students that are driven and dedicated to being successful at Lambda School and beyond.”
Unfortunately, without any type of data or numbers provided, it’s not possible to verify their statement. “Quite selective” could mean that 10% of all applicants are admitted to the coding bootcamp, or it could mean 60%.
What to Expect in the Real World After You Graduate
I spent a year working as a recruiter in the New York City tech market and talked to a mix of software developers and data scientists who were four-year computer science students, bootcamp grads, self-taught experts, and everything in between.
So in this section, I want to share a bit about what you’ll really face in the real world when it comes time to get a job.
We looked at some job placement rates and success rates above, but what about your ability to grow your career long-term?
That’s important since most students enroll in a coding bootcamp to launch a new career, not just to find one short-term job!
So, first of all, you’re not going to be viewed the same as a four-year computer science graduate when you leave one of Lambda’s coding bootcamps.
You just can’t learn the same depth of computer science knowledge in six months versus four years in college! This is true of any accelerated bootcamp program and isn’t a critique of Lambda alone.
But that’s okay! You’ll have the job-related skills to step into an entry level position and help an employer! That’s the goal of a software engineering bootcamp like what Lambda offers… to get you that first job and help you launch a career by building a basic foundation.
Given the much faster curriculum (six months at Lambda School versus four years at a university), and the lower cost, Lambda School is certainly worth it for the right type of person.
I just want you to be prepared for the reality, which is…
Your Education Isn’t Done When You Graduate from Lambda School
You’ll have the skills (and job placement support) to obtain an entry level tech job, but you’ll still need to continue learning on-the-job and studying more about computer science and/or data science on your own to further develop your career!
This is true of every software engineering bootcamp graduate. Your journey as a software developer is just beginning when you graduate.
In fact, I’d say that even students who have a four-year computer science degree still need to be committed to continuing to learn and practice their craft if they want to reach the top-tier levels of software engineering jobs.
This is just a part of being in the industry.
Now, not every programmer goes home and writes code as a hobby. You don’t need to spend every waking minute in front of a computer writing code.
I’m just suggesting that with the number of new technologies, frameworks, and tools coming out these days, and the number of students graduating from bootcamps and four-year computer science programs at top colleges, you’re going to need to keep studying to stay on top of things and attract employers.
Lambda School vs. Other High-End Coding Bootcamps: How to Decide
Lambda School is far from your only choice for quickly learning software engineering or data science.
I think if you’re sure you want to take an immersive, live coding bootcamp, then you should talk to a few and choose whichever you’re most comfortable with! Lambda is certainly one of the better coding schools, but they’re far from the only one.
You should go with the one that feels most comfortable to you.
And the choice should also come down to what type of curriculum you want. Do your research and decide if you want the type of career that comes from studying full stack web development, data science, or something completely different like iOS development.
So I recommend you research technologies and curriculums first (and ask various bootcamps about what they teach and why!)
Lambda School vs. Free and Cheap Options (Self-Paced Courses, etc.)
There’s one more alternative worth mentioning for how to learn software engineering online.
You can teach yourself via various free resources (YouTube, blogs, etc.) and much cheaper software engineering courses with pre-recorded content instead of live instruction.
(That’s how they’re able to offer it for so much cheaper. The downside is that you can’t ask live questions, etc., but there are some big upsides, too! For example, you can learn at your own pace and never get left behind!)
One of my favorite options for a much cheaper but still structured and well-taught course is the TechDegree program by Treehouse, which will cost you $199 a month after the 7-day free trial.
(Get the free trial through the link I shared above).
In the end, the choice of which route to take just depends on your situation, budget, and needs.
You’re paying coding bootcamps for structure and live feedback… but if you’re motivated, you CAN learn this on your own!
Plenty of successful software engineers have taken cheaper, self-taught routes and become great developers with excellent careers.
If I were trying to become a software engineer, I’d start out by studying online via free and cheaper options. But this is because I’d want to make sure that this career is right for me before committing tens of thousands of dollars.
And it’s because I know I’m capable of learning topics online; I’ve taught myself digital marketing, SEO, blogging, and much more.
But if you’re someone who has only been in more traditional learning environments and wants structure, Lambda School is a fantastic choice and a very reasonable investment in my opinion.
It all depends on your perspective…
Compared to a college degree, Lambda School is incredibly cheap. Compared to studying on your own or taking a few online courses priced below $1,000, it’s very expensive.
Conclusion: Is Lambda School Worth It?
Lambda School is worth it if you’re looking for an immersive, full-time web development or data science coding bootcamp and are willing to pay a premium for live instruction and an organized curriculum. However, the investment is not small at $30,000, and the time commitment is significant, with full-time students needing six months before graduating.
Because of this, Lambda’s programs are best for students who are committed to learning web development or data science and feel the need for structure and guidance rather than learning by themselves.
Lambda School is not worth it if you’re unsure whether you want a career in tech, and/or are not fully committed to learning this field right now.
And Lambda School isn’t the best choice if you’re confident in your ability to teach yourself a topic online and enjoy doing so!
If you’re the type of person who loves to study information and solve problems on your own, then the high cost and high time commitment of Lambda School are simply too much, in my opinion.
The self-taught route, with a few pre-recorded video courses mixed in, is just so much cheaper than a full-time coding bootcamp like Lambda.
SkillShare, which I reviewed here, is one example of a cheaper course platform for a low monthly cost.
Still, when compared to a four-year college degree, Lambda’s coding bootcamp is relatively cheap and quick, and is certainly worth it if you want a college-like learning experience to teach you everything you need to get a job in tech.
>> Apply to Lambda School’s programs here <<
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