A master’s degree or bootcamp: which is the right path to a job in data science? This is a common question aspiring data scientists ask themselves when they decide to make a career transition. And it was a recurring theme during a recent Springboard panel discussion with three of our Data Science Career Track alumni.

Before we get to their answers to the question, here’s some background on the trio:

Meghan Thomason has a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of California, Davis. After learning complex statistical techniques to evaluate data during the course of her studies, she began considering data science as a career. She enrolled in the Data Science Career Track in August 2017 and finished in early 2018. She now works as a data scientist at digital publishing company Denali.

George Mendoza comes from a liberal arts background, having majored in history and economics at Brown University. He started the Data Science Career Track in November 2017 and graduated the following June. He works as a data scientist at Hypergiant, an AI consulting startup.

Jose Bacoy studied mathematics and statistics in college, but spent much of his career in IT before moving back into data science. He started the Data Science Career Track in March 2017 and finished that summer. After a year at Ford as a data analyst, he’s now a data architect at Verizon.

Masters or bootcamp? Springboard alumni share their thoughts

All three alumni obviously chose the bootcamp route, but their reasons and perspectives are different.

Not surprisingly, given her time in academia, Megan seriously considered going back to school for a second master’s degree. She researched her options, including offline and online bootcamps, and went through all of the details with her family: “With each of them: it takes this long to finish, it costs this much, this is how much time it would take while doing it. Springboard was the easy choice,” she said. “It’s reasonably priced, it takes way less time than a master’s, and it’s flexible.”

Related: How to Become a Data Scientist without a Degree

Meghan was going to be working part-time in addition to taking care of her two young kids, so the flexibility offered by an online bootcamp was key. “There’s a handful of other bootcamps out there that are likesome that are even directed specifically to Ph.D.sthat take seven weeks, 11 weeks, in that ballpark,” she said. “But it’s like… 12-hour days for 11 weeks. There’s no way I could have done that.”

George, by contrast, always knew that a master’s program wasn’t for him. “I’ve got massive student debt, so at no point was I thinking, like, let me add more to that,” he said. “Springboard is a lot cheaper than a master’s degree. The job guarantee is like an incredible form of insurance you don’t really find very often. And relating to salary, it paid for itself already.”

The Data Science Career Track’s job guarantee was appealing to Jose, who scored an offer the day before he finished his course.

He also wanted a quicker path to achieving his career goal. “Doing a master’s compared to an online bootcampit takes more time. It will take you at least two years to finish it and an online bootcamp only takes you six months,” he said. “If I took a master’s, I’d still be in school now.”

Watch the entire panel discussion here:

These Springboard alumni transitioned to data science careers and you can too. Learn more about the Data Science Career Track. It’s a flexible, mentor-led course with a job guarantee.