Should You Learn to Code With General Assembly? A General Assembly Review
By: Scott Morris
Most of the time, coding schools fall into one of two categories: “online” or ‘in-person.” You’ve got online coding schools like Skillcrush (yes, that’s us!) along with other online platforms like Codecademy and Udemy, and then you’ve got in-person coding bootcamps like Flatiron and Fullstack Academy.
But happens when you find an online school with a vibe you like…except you’d really rather take an in-person class? Or you love the curriculum at a certain in-person school, but you need the flexibility to take your classes online? That’s where a platform like General Assembly comes in.
But how does GA actually rate as a coding school? Should you enroll ASAP? Or are there better options out there? Let’s dive in and find out.
Table of Contents
- Our Score
- What is General Assembly?
- General Assembly: The Pros
- General Assembly: The Cons
- The Takeaway
In the interest of keeping things simple, we’ll tell you right here that we give General Assembly a 7/10 on average. Scroll through to read about General Assembly’s pros and cons, plus see a detailed breakdown of our scores in our section “The Takeaway”.
By the way, here’s how General Assembly stacks up against other online schools we’ve previously reviewed:
What is General Assembly and How Does it Work?
General Assembly was founded as a coworking space in 2011, and has since grown into an education organization with 15 physical campuses on four continents, all teaching courses on topics like coding and web development, user experience and visual design, digital marketing, data science and analysis, and business management.
People attending one of General Assembly’s campuses can choose from immersive programs in software engineering, user experience design, data science, or digital marketing (10-13 week, full time courses), part time courses on a number of tech and business topics (with evening and weekend availability), and one-off workshops and events.
But what if online courses are your thing?
Well, General Assembly does those, too. As far as GA’s online offerings go, there’s an immersive online software engineer course (a 12-week, full-time class focusing on full stack web developer skills), as well as part time online courses, and “on demand” online classes designed to be completed at your own pace.
So what are the pros and cons to General Assembly’s education model (particularly when it comes to learning to code)? Let’s take a look.
Learning to Code With General Assembly: The Pros
General Assembly Offers a Lot of Course Flexibility
With on campus classes, online classes, full time immersive programs, part time courses, and on demand online materials, General Assembly has something for every learner’s schedule and needs.
In a field of one-size-fits-all coding schools, General Assembly’s flexible platform stands out from the crowd. Again, GA learners are given a choice of:
- immersive bootcamp-style experiences (either on campus or online)
- part time courses (also with in-person and online options)
- an on-demand online option for all the self-pacers out there
Whatever your learning style, time availability, and scope of learning you’re aiming for, General Assembly offers a tier for you…well, to a point. General Assembly’s model IS flexibile, but that flexibility isn’t without a catch. You can read more on that under the Cons section (here’s a direct link.)
General Assembly Also Offers a Lot of Structure in Their Courses
Just because General Assembly offers a wide variety of course types doesn’t mean they skimp on course structure.
Having the flexibility to choose whether you want to learn in person, online, full time, part time, or at your own pace is great, but sometimes flexibility can have a downside—lack of structure.
When we reviewed Udemy as a coding school, we pointed out that lack of structure was one of its weaknesses. An a la carte platform like Udemy gives a ton of class choices, but there’s no thread running through it all to create a coherent “this is how you get a job with these skills” narrative.
In General Assembly’s case, lack of structure ISN’T a problem. No matter which GA tier you enroll in, the classes follow a well-defined format, schedule, and syllabus that’s designed to be part of the overall General Assembly brand and curriculum. Are there lots of choices when it comes to topics and course styles? Yes. But it’s choice within a structured environment.
General Assembly’s Curriculum is Developed and Updated In-House
Unlike online coding schools that curate curriculum from other sources, General Assembly’s curriculum is created in house and updated regularly.
Some online learning platforms like Udemy, edX, and Coursera act like a curriculum repository—they host courses developed by individual users (in the case of Udemy) or from universities (in the case of edX and Coursera). Through these models, fresh courses are put on a shelf for you to pick through, but over time (especially with a constantly evolving topic like coding) even the freshest course hits its expiration date.
Yes, platforms that curate third party curriculum will try to keep things up to date over time, but making sure you’re getting the best, most recent course material is simply a more hit or miss process with this kind of model than it is with a school like General Assembly.
General Assembly creates its own regularly updated in-house curriculum, meaning that whenever you take a General Assembly course the technical information should be current and up to date. Of course, up-to-date curriculum alone doesn’t necessarily mean the best curriculum for you. Aaand there’s the fact that the quality of the instructor teaching you that curriculum is also a big factor.
Learning to Code With General Assembly: The Cons
General Assembly is Pretttty Pricey
General Assembly is NOT cheap.
Oookay, learning to code with General Assembly might sound pretty good so far…but now it’s time to take a look at their pricing. As of this writing, General Assembly’s pricing is:
- $14,950 for full time, on campus courses
- $13,950 for the full time, online software engineer course
- $3,950 for part time courses (on campus or online)
- $1,250 for on demand online courses
For most of us, that’s a hefty financial commitment. Also keep in mind that committing to one of General Assembly’s full time courses (either on campus or online) means you won’t exactly be able to work full time over the duration of the course (meaning you’ll be on the hook for your living expenses during that time, too).
Of course, the skills you’ll learn have the potential to earn that money back for you in the long run, but (particularly when it comes to online coding schools) there are much more affordable options that will teach you the same skills in an equally effective way.
A Note on GA Dash and General Assembly’s Free Courses
On the plus side, if you’d like to get hands on with Generally Assembly without committing to those high price tags, GA offers free workshops on their campuses, as well as GA Dash, a free online crash course on web basics. Our own Head of Content Marketing, Kit Warchol, says these free offerings are surprisingly high quality. According to Warchol:
“When it comes to General Assembly’s free options (like in-person workshops but also the GA Dash), they really do do a great job. Especially when it comes with learning to code, Dash is way more professional than I would have expected for a free tool. 10/10 would recommend.”
Instructors Can Make or Break Your General Assembly Experience
Individual instructors play a big part in the quality of your General Assembly experience, so do your due diligence before you start pawning your furniture.
Remember when we said that curriculum is one thing, but then there’s the instructors who teach the curriculum? If you enroll in a General Assembly course (particularly one of their full time offerings) you’re going to be spending a LOT of time listening to the course’s instructors. And that can be great, or not so great.
Of course this isn’t an issue that’s specific to General Assembly. It’s simply a function of any instructor-led classroom environment. But it is something to think about if you’re considering learning to code with General Assembly. Warchol, who took an in-person 10-week digital marketing course through GA, says:
“The quality of the classes is completely dependent on who’s teaching (obviously) and unfortunately, in my case, that meant a bad experience with a cheesy marketing dude running it. Other people I know have since taken the same curriculum and had much better results. Best advice? Take a close look at who’s teaching, especially their credentials, and ask a lot of questions before investing.”
So again, if you’re thinking about GA, take that last part to heart. Research the courses materials, learn whatever you can about the listed instructors, and make sure to get any questions you have answered by an admissions counselor before you click that checkout button.
General Assembly Isn’t Always as Flexible as It Seems
General Assembly offers a lot of course options and formats, but they’re all influenced by the bootcamp approach to coding, which doesn’t work for everyone.
It IS pretty cool that General Assembly lets learners choose between campus and online classes (as well as full time, part time, and on demand schedules), BUT when you dig into the course descriptions and details on their site, you’ll start to see that things aren’t as flexible as they might seem.
Yeah, GA comes through with the online and part time options for people who aren’t about (or just can’t pull off) that bootcamp life, but the bootcamp mentality permeates everything at General Assembly. It shouldn’t be a surprise that GA’s full time campus courses mean “full time, Monday through Friday in a physical classroom,” but GA’s online classes also revolve around fixed schedules and times.
That can be fine for people who need a fixed schedule to help them stay on task, but for many learners who are looking at online options, the whole point is to be able to take classes whenever they can fit them into their busy life.
But what about GA’s online on demand courses? That’s basically the antithesis to a bootcamp style schedule, right? You literally take the classes on demand. Well, that’s true to a point. General Assembly’s on demand online courses are definitely their most flexible path to learning coding skills completely at your own pace…if your pace falls within a 12 month time frame.
Learning to Code With General Assembly: The Takeaway
Final Score: 7/10
Ease of use: 8/10
Course Quality: 9/10
Instructor Support: 8/10
Career Counseling/Job Placement: 8/10
Refund Policy: 6/10
General Assembly offers high quality classes for both full time and part time learners (on campus and online)…but at a pretty steep price. While the program might be worth it for some people (particularly anyone looking for an on campus experience), there are other online coding schools that are more affordable and allow for a higher degree of self pacing.
Aaand, since you happen to be reading this article on our site, you know we’ve got to plug our own alternative.
And if you want to put together a complete tech toolkit, take a look at our Skillcrush Break Into Tech Course Package. This personalized online training program gives you:
- Access to 15 fun and interactive classes in technical skills and career development,
- Regular 1-on-1 career counseling sessions to keep you informed and inspired
- AND the most supportive learning community you’ll find anywhere in the world.