5 schools helping students crack code


As the costs of college mount, and as employer demand for software developers soars, coding schools and classes are popping up everywhere.

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As the costs of college mount and as employer demand for software developers soars, coding schools and classes are popping up everywhere.

And with wages on the rise for Portland techies, it’s not hard to figure out why job seekers are flocking to learn the basics needed to get into the industry.

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Click through to read about the schools that are teaching Oregonians of all ages how to code.

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Catlin Gabel computer science teacher Andrew Merill works with students in class.

 A computer science class at this private K-12 school teaches students to build websites and apps. Working on real world projects inspires kids to learn, says Andrew Merrill, who started teaching the class 15 years ago.

“Suddenly they have a reason to learn math,” Merrill says. “They come up to me and say, ‘Teach me trigonometry. I need it now.’ That motivation is powerful.”

By the numbers: About 65 high school students are enrolled in the class, and coding is making its way into the elementary school curriculum.  “We’re trying to make it something every student learns and that’s where we’re going,” says Merrill. “But it’s a long road.”

Success story: “I’ve got former students who are now working at Facebook, Google, Amazon. They’re on the roster of the big tech companies that hire the best tech graduates in the country,” Merrill says.

Portland Code School

This photo was taken from a Portland Code School class that was held on Wednesday.

The Portland Code School launched in 2012, serving students undergoing career transition. Its signature offering is a 13-week long course that students “treat like a job,” says director Cris Kelly

By the numbers: About 30 people in the advanced classes, 25 in the Web foundations course and another 10 in the iOS specialty program.

“Ninety-eight percent of  students are career transitioners,” Kelly says. The rest are former professionals in other industries.

Success story: “We had a detective from a small town outside of Salem. He had zero coding experience, and was tired of seeing and dealing with — in his words — the lowest forms of humanity. It was starting to affect his daily attitude toward life, so he was looking for a new career. He had a friend tell him about code schools, went through our immersion program, and five months later he was employed at Nike as a full-time developer.”


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Michael Kaiser-Nyman, the enthusiastic owner of Epicodus, stands in front of prospective coders in Portland.

Owner Michael Kaiser-Nyman launched Portland-based coding school Epicodus in 2012. The former owner of a Bay Area tech company, Kaiser-Nyman had had trouble finding trained software developers. “I know a lot of smart people who graduated college and ended up mixing drinks and waiting tables.” Two hundred students later, he’s still excited about teaching people PHP, JavaScript, Ruby and Rails and other programming skills.

By the numbers: 60 students enrolled, with more class offerings planned for March. The school also offers internships with local companies.

Success story: “We had one student who was cleaning dishes while he was at Epicodus,” Kaiser-Nyman says. “He had some college experience but dropped out. He got hired by the company he did his internship with and they liked him so much they ended up hiring another Epicodus graduate a couple months later. He’s now working on crazy database-tuning stuff. In six months, he went from washing dishes to tuning databases and changing how they work. That’s crazy.”

Code Fellows

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 Code Fellows got its start in Seattle and expanded into Portland in September of 2014.

Code Fellows is based in Seattle, but the firm recently expanded to Portland

“A lot of people in Seattle say [Portland] has everything they used to love about Seattle,” explains CEO Kristen Smith. “It has that energy of a city that is about to break out and get to the next level — a lot of that will come from the tech sector.”

By the numbers: Code Fellows expect 15 people to enroll in its Spring foundations boot camp and 15-20 in the development accelerator class.  The school also extends a job-offer guarantee with only three percent of graduates requesting a refund.

Success story: The average starting salary for a Code Fellows graduate is $75,600/year according to the school’s website. 


 Kenneth Love presents Functional Programming with Python at a Treehouse Meetup at Treehouse HQ in Portland

Learning how to code doesn’t mean you have to sit in a seminar with a teacher. Treehouse is a Web-based program that teaches wannabe techies through video and training programs.

By the numbers: The company’s website claims over 108,000 students and companies use Treehouse services.

Success story: Nicole and Troy, of Ashland, are a mother-son team committed to learning how to code together by dedicating two hours a day. Nicole launched her own website called codemoms.com and the pair say they are “on the path to becoming future computer programmers.”

Read our September 2014 cover story on Treehouse CEO Ryan Carson here.