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Who comes to Hacker School?

People frequently ask us who comes to Hacker School. They usually have some preconceived notions about what the “typical” Hacker Schooler looks like, and they’re often surprised when they learn who our alumni actually are.

Much of this confusion comes from the fact that Hacker School is incredibly diverse. There are now about 300 Hacker Schoolers from our first two and a half years, and they come from a staggering array of backgrounds. For most demographic questions, the answer to “Have you had any Hacker Schoolers who __?” is probably “Yes.”1

The goal of this post is to dispel some common myths about who comes to Hacker School. The following data comes from our current batch (fall 2013), which is our eighth batch.2

Myth #1: Hacker School is only for new programmers

False. While we’re very much open to relatively new programmers, nearly two-thirds (62%) of our current batch had been programming for at least two years prior to coming to Hacker School, and 41% of the batch had been programming for more than three years.

Additionally, nearly half of the current batch (45%) worked professionally as programmers prior to Hacker School, and 42% of those (19% of the entire batch) had at least three years of professional programming experience. Just under a quarter (22%) have undergraduate computer science degrees, and half of those (11% of the entire batch) have graduate degrees in computer science.

Myth #2: Hacker School is only for experienced programmers

False. More than a third (37%) had been programming for less than two years; 8% had been programming for less than six months.

Just over half (55%) have never worked professionally as programmers, and more than three quarters (78%) don’t have computer science degrees.

Myth #3: Hacker School is only for people in New York

False. Most people in the current batch (72%) moved to New York for Hacker School.

And people aren’t just coming from neighboring states. The current batch hails from California, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. There are even a few from New York.

More strikingly, 29% of the current batch came from outside the US. This batch includes Hacker Schoolers from more than a dozen countries, including Belgium, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, and Ukraine.

Myth #4: Hacker School is only for young people and recent college grads

False. The average age in the current batch is just over 28, with ages ranging from 19 to 58. There are more people in the current batch over 30 than under 25.

  1. There are of course characteristics that Hacker Schoolers have in common. This is unsurprising, since we look for smart, friendly, self-directed, intellectually curious people who enjoy programming and want to get dramatically better.

  2. We didn’t have this data until very recently. Since we don’t make admissions decisions based on where people live, how old they are, or what degrees they have, we don’t ask any of these questions on our application. We had to survey our batch to write this post.