The Return of the Boot Camp in the Time of Pandemic

The boot camp model of certification is making a comeback.

I remember back in the 1990s — when I first got going in the IT certification and training game — that IT boot camps were always considered an attractive option for those who wanted to train up quickly and earn a certification double-time. Back then, it wasn't uncommon for the duration of such adventures to run two-to-three weeks, with price tags up to $15,000 (included: meals, lodging, training, and certification testing at some nearby testing center).


Some of the certifications (or combinations thereof) for which boot camps proliferated at the time are the Novell CNE, Microsoft MCSE, a Cisco CCNA/CCNP combination (routing and switching) and more. It was considered a kind of elite experience, attended mostly by people whose employers funded them. Other attendees included independent freelancers or consultants savvy and successful enough to raise the money to attend and put the resulting credentials immediately to work to pay for out-of-pocket outlays and opportunity costs.


A New Age of Boot Camps Has Arrived


While there are still some of these high-dollar high-value boot camps around, the IT certification and training landscape has changed enough in the past 25 years that those that survive are pretty different from those on offer in that now-paleolithic period of IT. But just this morning, I read about a new take on boot camps tailored for today's pandemic situation.


This re-emergent all-in-one experience also styles itself as a boot camp experience. First, I'll explain the players involved, and then I'll explain and explore what's on offer, as well as get into costs, pre-admission requirements, and timeframes for completion. Buckle up: we've got a LOT of ground to cover.


Meet the Players: QuickStart and a Half-Dozen Universities


The boot camp model of certification is making a comeback.

Providing the content, at least some of the instructors, and a highly-touted learning platform, we have QuickStart, an Austin, Texas-based learning platform and training provider that has been covering IT training and certification for nearly two decades. The company's CLIPP (Cognitive Learning Project Performance) platform aims to provide a top-notch learning experience to those who use it.


CLIPP emphasizes information delivery, retention, and lots of hands-on interaction and experience to make sure skills and knowledge are transferred, cultivated, and ultimately retained for use on the job. Until now, QuickStart has been doing its thing mostly for corporations and organizations who seek to train up employees, and to help those employees grow and develop successful IT careers.


As far as I can tell, this boot camp program represents QuickStart's first big foray into higher education. The universities involved in offering the boot camps (mostly for cybersecurity) include the following (in alphabetical order):


Becker College: School of Graduation and Professional Studies (Boot camp)

Colorado State University: CSU Pueblo Extended Studies (Boot camp)

Florida Atlantic University: Center for Online and Continuing Education (Boot camp)

Hofstra University: Continuing Education (Boot camp)

James Madison University: Professional and Continuing Education (Boot camp)

Northeastern Illinois University: CAPE (Boot camp)


Interestingly, all of the boot camp links are in the domain, so that tells us who's really in control of these programs, affiliations notwithstanding. That said, I find no record for any of these institutions having been implicated or accused in any of the diploma-mill or GI Bill scams that some now dis-accredited institutions foisted on low-income or transitioning servicepeople (.e.g. ITT or the University of Phoenix).


This looks like a pretty straightforward, medium-priced, and very focused set of offerings to me. Just what you'd expect from something that calls itself a boot camp — and that apparently puts it students through some serious workouts and learning adventures, as a boot camp is supposed to do.


What about the Boot Camp Programs?


The boot camp model of certification is making a comeback.

There are four of them, of which cybersecurity is clearly the most popular (and is the only one offered at all six of the preceding universities)


Cybersecurity — With a heavy emphasis on CompTIA cybersecurity certs, this boot camp preps individuals to take and pass the following items: CompTIA A+, Security+, CySA+, Network+ and PenTest+, plus EC-Council's Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH).

Web Development — With certifications somewhat scattered and disorganized, QuickStart offers what they call a "Full Stack Web Developer Skill Set" that covers "backend functionality as well as front-end UI/UX design." Specific items mentioned include programming concepts, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Node.JS, jQuery, responsive web design, bootstrap and WordPress, ReactJS and Express.JS, MySQL, GIT and Python. As a long time writer, researcher, and expert witness on web technologies, this looks pretty good to me.

Data Science — Here again, QuickStart cites no specific certifications (a shame, really: I'd have been curious to see what they picked). Here again, it focuses on specific topics, platforms, and skillsets. These include data visualization, Azure HDInsight, Spark, Machine Learning (ML), R programming, Python, predictive analytics, business intelligence (BI), Excel and Transact SQL. Having covered this area and many of its certs for a decade and more, I think this collection looks like a good one (though I'm surprised that the Excel spreadsheet came in for specific mention).

Cloud Computing: This includes a mix of CompTIA, Microsoft, and Amazon AWS credentials: CompTIA Network+, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Cloud+, MS Azure Fundamentals, and AWS Fundamentals. This one seems a little light to me, and could easily have include more senior Azure and AWS items amongst its constituent parts.


More Specifics: Cost, Duration, Financing


Given the range of topics, a general description is a little squishy. These boot camps run online and include self-guided and virtual classroom content (with a real instructor). They run from six-to-nine months in duration, and cost from $5,000 up to $8,000. Given what's on offer and the reputations and capabilities of the parties and partners involved this looks like a reasonably serious and potentially valuable set of boot camps.


The boot camp model of certification is making a comeback.

QuickStart indicates that payment options include installments, up-front payment with discounts (they don't say how much), and potential scholarships that could offset up to 30 percent of the tuition fees just mentioned. I'm not advocating that interested readers (or others looking for a relatively rapid return path to gainful and possibly interested employment, with a genuine career path behind it) run right out and sign up today.


These boot camps are clearly worth further investigation, however, and a deeper dig into the details and financial encumbrances they might entail. As always, I'd also recommend finding some current students or prior graduates and quizzing them about their experiences, the program's pros and cons, and anything else you can learn to better help you decide if this is something you want to do, or not.


Given that the program was announced on July 30, finding graduates is probably impossible right now. That should change in the next six to nine months.


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.