A 10-Year Look at Education Returns: Traditional vs Accelerated Pathways

The majority of individuals follow the traditional education pathway, which is not necessarily their preference but rather designed into the system. From kindergarten to high school, the average American isn’t left with much optionality in their individual educational pathway. After receiving a high school diploma or GED, we are faced with the choice of making our first big decision into the real world. The existing traditional educational pathway takes you through a four-year degree granting program, followed by entering the workforce with your newly acquired skills. The issue here is sometimes that degree you earned doesn’t align with your career goals or ambitions. You have spent several years working in your career, and have reached a pivotal point where in order to get any sort of upward mobility you need to go back to school to earn another degree. That is, until you’re once again capped at a salary that doesn’t match your potential.

What are the options?

For this example let’s explore two paths and let’s assume we are a Teacher/Educator. In both scenarios, we just obtained a bachelor’s degree and are looking to acquire new skills.

Scenario 1: The Educator decides to obtain their Masters degree. They take the average of three years it takes to obtain a masters while still being employed and able to attend part time. Also for this scenario we are going to use the lowest cost of Masters program — $30,000

Scenario 2: The Educator decides to change careers. They decide to choose an accelerated pathway to obtain these skills. That pathway being Coding Temple.

The return on investment (which I call Return on Education or ROE) for each level of education varies widely depending on location and the program or institution attended. However, for simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that in both scenarios, we just obtained a bachelor’s degree for $90,000.

Traditional Educator Pathway

According to Study.com data, the average starting salary for teachers in 2020 was $41,000, which when adjusted for inflation is $44.5K. We continue to gradually progress in our career capping out at the four-year mark around $51,000-$52,000. At this point, we decide to obtain our master’s degree while still employed, completing it in the industry-standard three years. This costs us $30,000. We have now set up our 10-year roadmap 7 years into our career. The payoff is only a 10% pay increase and your total investment in your education is $120,000. Over the course of your 10-year career you will make approximately $582,000 and have a 4.77X on your investment.

Accelerated Educator Pathway

Using the same starting point from the example above, we are now at an impasse in our career, but instead we want to change our career trajectory completely. We are going to become a Software Engineer. We’ve made this choice because there are a few things that are important to us. Financial stability, work-life balance/remote working options, speed of career transition, and unfortunately safety. We’re in our 4th year of our career and we are going to take an accelerated approach by attending Coding Temple. We graduate in three months and secured a new position just four months after graduation. With support from CT, I’ve landed my first Software Engineering job and am now making $93,000, 55% more than I was making last year. There is plenty of upward mobility to become a mid or senior-level developer over the next six years, and the earning potential is uncapped.

Accelerated coding bootcamps have a higher return on investment than traditional education pathways.

The timeline from our Educators example above speaks volumes. Over a quarter million in additional earnings over a ten year period, a 27% increase over traditional pathways, and a 7.86X ROE. Not only does an Educator who uses alternative pathways into changing their career make significantly more money, they get there faster and cheaper. In a later post, we can discuss the cost savings on interest that come with a 27% increase in earnings over 10 years, and how this can help in paying off your student loan debt faster. This models only a ten-year projection, not a 20-30 year term of a loan.

In a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers found that individuals who attended an accelerated coding bootcamp had higher returns on investment than those who went through traditional education pathways. They also found that students who graduated from accelerated coding bootcamps were able to find jobs faster than those who went through traditional education programs and earned more money when they did start working.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree is more specialized than a bachelor’s, so you’ll learn more about your field of study. For example, if you want to be an accountant but don’t know how tax law works in detail yet, then taking courses on taxation could help set yourself apart from other accounting candidates who only have undergraduate degrees (and thus less knowledge).

  • Salary increase – $10,000 more per year at entry-level positions after graduation from an accelerated coding bootcamp
  • Time to completion – 2 months (or less) versus 4 years or more for a traditional degree program

Accelerated Coding Bootcamp Education

If you’re looking for a career change, an accelerated coding bootcamp education might be the best option for you. Bootcamps are great for people who want to learn at their own pace and in a supportive environment. Coding Temple has student success stories of students who have gone through our programs without any transferrable skills from their previous professions. If you don’t have much experience with programming or technology, this is a great opportunity to get up-to-speed quickly on these skills without taking time off from work or family obligations.


Cites Sourced:

Starting Traditional Pathway: Starting Traditional Pathway based on this article published by Study.com: (Starting base salary increased for inflation)

Ending Software Engineering Salary: Based on reports pulled from Indeed showing that software engineers top out at $134,793

Salary increase for obtaining a masters degree based on this article by Study.com

Masters degree time for part-time: by UIC.EDU

Cost of Becoming a Teacher: by Joblist

Teachers National Salary: $66,397 by Digest of Education Statistics

Salary increase for attending Coding Temple and being an Educator is based on our own historical unpublished placement data in 2022.

Disclaimers: Educators and Software engineers can make more or less starting salaries and ending salaries as well, this model is purely made to show the difference in Accelerated vs Traditional pathways based on our own data.