how to become a ux designer (2023 Guide)
Are UX Design Bootcamps Worth It?
BrainStation’s UX Designer career guide is intended to help you take the first steps toward a lucrative career in UX design. Read on for an overview of what UX design bootcamps have to offer, their pros and cons, and whether they can help you get a job as a UX Designer.
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Yes, bootcamps in user experience (UX) design are an increasingly worthwhile investment. Because many organizations now value demonstrable skills and experience over mere credentialism, enrollment in UX design bootcamps—with their emphasis on focused, hands-on, immersive learning—has surged.
The popularity of these programs and other more tailored courses also rests on the fact that even established UX Designers need to continually upgrade their knowledge with new skills.
What Is a UX Design Bootcamp?
A UX design bootcamp is a short educational program that transforms students from beginners to seasoned, job-ready UX professionals in as little time as a few months.
By blending experiential, real-world learning with UX design theory, bootcamps offer an immersive educational experience that promises to deliver graduates all the relevant industry skills necessary to thrive in a growing field.
What Are the Benefits of UX Design Bootcamps?
Some of the benefits include learning a sought-after new skill in a short period of time, forging new industry connections, and eventually having a good chance to find a well-paying job in the industry.
UX Designers have become one of the most in-demand positions in tech – one Adobe study indicated that 87 percent of Hiring Managers said that hiring UX Designers is their top priority.
As a result, many people are thinking that it would make sense to develop their skills in this area and get a foot in the door in an industry that seems to be thriving. And these programs promise to give grads all the skills necessary to do that in as little as 10 weeks (although it’s worth noting that part-time programs will take longer to complete). So, which skills specifically will you acquire? You’ll learn the fundamentals, gain hands-on experience with Sprint Methodology, and learn professional design tools including Sketch and InVision. You’ll learn how to conduct user research, apply industry-standard responsive design principles, and likely learn user interface design and how to find the right typography, color, illustration, and images.
And outcome reports show that they seem to be mostly delivering on their promises. As one example, BrainStation reports that 93 percent of UX design graduates have a job in the field within 180 days.
Students often enjoy the networking opportunities at bootcamps, where classmates are likely future colleagues, and courses are taught by well-connected industry professionals who can offer valuable feedback on your work and potentially serve as career mentors down the road.
The Pros and Cons of UX Design Bootcamps
Before you apply, it’s worth considering both the pros and cons of attending a UX bootcamp.
Here are the pros:
Structured, immersive environment
Although it would be possible for a beginner with a lot of discipline to acquire many of the skills and competencies necessary to work in UX design from a combination of free online courses, webinars, blogs, instructional videos, and other resources, most beginners would be overwhelmed by trying to tackle all of that.
Plus, most learners benefit from structure, and these programs will hold you accountable and guarantee you get all the skills you need in a short period of time.
Further, you’ll be developing those skills under the watch of seasoned industry professionals who can offer valuable criticisms as you grow.
UX bootcamps attract, of course, aspiring UX professionals – in other words, your future industry colleagues. A lot of grads appreciate getting the chance to grow their professional network before they’re actually in the position of having to look for a job.
A good UX bootcamp will hold networking events and offer job interview training. When you start applying for UX jobs, you’ll know exactly what to expect.
Finally, those aforementioned instructors usually have big networks of contacts in the industry – which should be all the motivation you need to work hard and try to stand out.
Build your UX portfolio
As someone starting out in your UX career without a lot of experience to point to, your portfolio will be absolutely crucial once you do begin job-seeking.
In any worthwhile program, you will have a great opportunity to make that portfolio bigger and better. Using high fidelity design mockups, you’ll ideally be able to provide realistic visualizations of your projects in a functional and visually appealing portfolio that demonstrates your end-to-end understanding of the design process.
And now here are the cons:
Lots of information available online
It might be hard to swallow the cost of a UX bootcamp when there are so many great free resources readily available online.
Check YouTube, Medium, or Udemy for thousands of free resources. You should familiarize yourself with these resources even if you are planning to attend a UX bootcamp, since UX design is a field that requires lifelong learning.
Let’s be frank: a UX bootcamp can be expensive. Most of us would have to think twice before spending, let’s say, $15,000 to learn a new skill set. And it might not be possible to hold a job at the same time as you study.
While most offer scholarships and flexible payment plans, it would still probably be best to mess around with some free resources first to make sure it’s something you enjoy before committing.
Some schools are better than others
Some programs have a proven track record of consistently producing alumni who flourish in the tech industry. Others might not live up to some of their promises.
Before you dive in, do your homework on the school itself. What do alumni say? Where do alumni work and with what titles? Which tech companies have affiliated themselves with the institution? What are their outcomes like?
Research is a big part of UX, so this should be easy for you.
How Much Do UX Design Bootcamps Cost?
They can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $16,000 and range in length from 9-29 weeks.
Since you’d be hard-pressed to find a four-year college design degree specifically based on UX design, bootcamps tend to be the fastest path to a career in the field.
If cost is an issue, it’s worth exploring the scholarships available at most institutions. Many will have scholarships specifically for women, veterans, Indigenous people, and other groups underrepresented in tech. Employer scholarships, where your workplace foots the bill, are also commonly offered.
Most also offer flexible or monthly payment plans to ease students’ burden.
If you’re concerned about making things work financially, reach out to a school representative and ask for a breakdown of what you can expect to pay and what scholarships you might be eligible for.
Can I calculate my UX design bootcamp ROI?
A UX bootcamp can be the right path for career changers who want to acquire an in-demand new skill in a hurry, but if you’re not sure which is right for you, you can calculate your return on investment (ROI).
First, take a look at your current financial situation and jot down your monthly income after taxes and your current expenses.
Next, look at the total time and money you’d be investing in this program. Calculate or estimate the cost of tuition, the time it will take to graduate, your cost of living while you take the course, the cost of financing your tuition (if applicable), and any other upfront costs – like a new computer or any other supplies.
Finally, let’s get realistic about your post-graduate expectations. What salary do you expect to make? Although the average salary for a User Experience Designer is $102,000 in the U.S., we recommend erring on the side of caution and putting in a more conservative figure for now. Then factor in expected income taxes and the amount of time you expect it will take to find a job placement.
Then, you just need to weigh the total investment against the difference in your expected income after taxes.
How much will I make after my UX bootcamp?
UX bootcamp graduates can expect to make nearly $65,000 a year even in entry-level roles, with senior and top-level salaries taking home salaries well over $100,000.
Payscale shows that entry-level salaries can range from $45,000 at the low end up to nearly $90,000 at the high end. Further, an early career User Experience Designer with 1-4 years of experience would have an average total compensation (including bonus and overtime pay) of $72,162. A mid-career UX Designer with 5-9 years of experience brings home $85,795 in total.
Senior UX Designers, meanwhile, average more than $100,000, not including bonuses or overtime pay.
Earning potential for UX bootcamp grads
The earning potential for graduates is well over $100,000, although of course, you will most likely need years of experience before you’re at that level.
Early on, freshly graduated UX Designers take home $65,000 a year in entry-level roles on average. According to Payscale, entry-level salaries range from $45,000 all the way up to $90,000.
Once you have about 5-10 years of experience on your resume, you would likely make around $85,000, Payscale says. Senior UX Designers have an average salary of more than $100,000, plus overtime pay and bonuses.
It also depends on which company you work for. UX Designers at Microsoft start around $86,000 and go all the way up to $154,000. IBM is another great spot for UX Designers to land; they make anywhere from $71,000 to $144,000.
Tuition Range for In-Person UX Design Programs
Tuition ranges anywhere from $3,000-16,000, but most cost closer to $10,000.
The wide variance in cost is also true of length; in-person UX bootcamps range anywhere from 9-29 weeks.
To offset the cost of tuition, most bootcamps offer generous scholarships aimed at groups of people who are underrepresented in tech. You could also explore employer scholarships, where employers cover the cost of tuition. If you’re concerned about having to pay a hefty tuition bill all upfront, look into whether the school you’re interested in offers monthly payment programs or other flexible options (most do).
Most schools have people to help you crunch the numbers and see whether you can make it work financially. Reach out to a school representative or try an online chat to make sure you’ve got the fullest possible picture of whether you can afford to continue your education.
And remember not to think only about the tuition when you’re gathering up costs. Some bootcamps will have certain tech requirements – for instance, some require that all students own a Mac computer – so look into that as well.
Will a Bootcamp Get You a Job in UX?
A bootcamp is very likely to help you get a job, with the vast majority of UX bootcamp graduates reporting that they have found work in the field, but there are no guarantees.
Outcome reports from most bootcamps in user experience design indicate that overwhelmingly, grads get jobs within a few months of graduation. At BrainStation, for instance, 93 percent of bootcamp graduates had a job within 180 days, with some UX alumni landing at companies like Shopify, HootSuite, and The Home Depot.
And it helps that it’s not hard to get a job in the user experience design field right now; Indeed cited it as the fifth most in-demand skill in tech.
That said, it’s worth noting that there are people who complete these programs who fail to find jobs in the industry. It might be that although they have acquired the technical skills needed for these roles, they lack other soft and intangible skills. Those skills are essential in the field, since you have to work with large, cross-disciplinary teams, a varied group of stakeholders, as well as the people you’re supposed to always have top of mind: users.
To get a sense of how many of the school’s alumni have gone on to get jobs as UX Designers, why not browse the pages of some grads on LinkedIn?
Are bootcamp grads actually getting jobs in UX?
Bootcamp graduates are indeed actually getting jobs in UX – and in large numbers, with an overwhelming majority saying that they were scooped up in a UX design role within three-to-six months of graduation.
Demand is still high for UX Designers. Not much has changed since an Adobe study that found that 87 percent of Hiring Managers expected to hire a UX Designer over the next year. If anything, companies are only now starting to catch up and realize how much money they’re leaving on the table by not paying sufficient attention to UX.
Most bootcamps report that 80-plus percent of their alumni are quickly employed in UX. BrainStation’s UX Design bootcamp boasts an even higher rate: 93 percent of graduates are working in UX within six months.
But in life, there are no guarantees, and certainly, some bootcamp alumni do fall through the cracks and wind up doing something else for work. There are many potential reasons for that, but being a successful UX Designer does require a combination of technical, personal, and business skills that not everyone has.
How can I make sure I get these results?
To make sure you find a job after you complete a bootcamp, you should apply yourself as much as possible during the course and, upon graduation, lean on your newly formed professional network, polish your portfolio, and look for entry-level jobs and internships.
Over the course of most bootcamps, you will complete projects that should form the basis of a killer portfolio. After all, you’re receiving and incorporating feedback from instructors and mentors who know exactly what it takes to succeed as a UX Designer. Seek out constructive criticism from those people. They are tremendous resources for you and taking advantage of their expertise over the course of the bootcamp will make a huge difference in determining whether you get the result you want.
That’s also true of your classmates. They’re future UX Designers too, and your personal network will be crucial to you throughout your career. Be sure to also attend networking events – most bootcamps have them.
Also, you might want to consider internships and apprenticeships, which are often a gateway to a job. Also, be sure to keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date so Recruiters can find you.
Speaking of LinkedIn, sending a friendly message to someone working at a company you’re interested in and offering to take them out for coffee or lunch so you can pick their brain is another good strategy.
How Are UX Design Bootcamps Perceived by Employers?
Employers tend to perceive these programs very favorably, reporting that bootcamp grads tend to be more motivated, more open to feedback, and more technically proficient than those who didn’t attend a UX Design bootcamp.
For evidence of that, consider how many people who are already employed as UX Designers are upskilling. BrainStation’s 2020 Digital Skills Survey found that nearly 80 percent of UX Designers – again, people who already have jobs in the field – said they would benefit from digital skills training.
Another indication of how valuable those skills are to an employer? The fact that 76.8 percent of respondents ranked the overall digital literacy at their company as “basic” or “intermediate” at best, showing a literacy gap that employers are motivated to close.
And employers, in general, are placing huge importance on finding people who are genuinely committed to lifelong learning – especially in UX design. A UX Designer who isn’t constantly working to stay on top of constantly shifting trends in the industry is going to get left behind, quickly.
But if you’re not sure, you could reach out to Hiring Managers at a couple of companies you hold in high regard. Ask them directly what they think of graduates from the school you’re considering. Research is a UX Designer’s specialty, right?
What Do Employers Think of UX Design Bootcamps?
UX design bootcamps are internationally recognized by employers as one of the most thorough and efficient entry-points into the field.
The common misconception might be that because they can be completed in a relatively short period of time, that they therefore can’t cover all the ground necessary to really master a field’s skill sets.
But as bootcamps become increasingly popular and alumni are now working at tech giants across the country, employers are seeing first-hand how well-rounded and well-prepared grads are to jump right into UX design roles and thrive.
It’s also important to note that most employers respect the discipline and dedication required to commit to a career change into UX design. Now, they know you’ve taken the time to understand if UX design is really right for you, and with a bootcamp on your resume, they know you have the technical, business, and theoretical skills to be a big help to their company.
So, Is a UX Design Bootcamp Worth It?
UX design bootcamps are worthwhile for people who want to learn a valuable skill set in a short period of time in a focused, structured environment, with the goal of being job-ready in a matter of months. But whether it’s ultimately the right choice for you will come down to which program you choose, how dedicated you are to succeeding, and how proactively you build your professional network.
According to Glassdoor, the average UX Designer in the United States brings home a salary of just over $85,000. For a person who is eyeing a career change or just starting out in their career, a salary like that would validate the effort and cost – let’s say around $10,000 for tuition – of a UX design bootcamp.
And it’s not just those looking for a professional pivot who might benefit from attending one of these programs. Many people already employed as Web Developers are looking to upskill by attending a UX design bootcamp. There are many reasons for that, including the fact that UX design involves skills that can’t be automated and some Developers fear for the future of automation, and also because the complementary skills they pick up by learning UX will simply make them better Developers.
In fact, BrainStation’s 2020 Digital Skills Survey found that a whopping 80 percent of working Developers found that additional digital skills training would be beneficial.
But we can’t say definitively that this is right for everyone. Do your research into the field and the day-to-day life of a UX Designer. Reach out to people in the field and get their opinion on the pros and cons of their jobs.
And make sure to do extensive research on any program you consider attending. Any good school will have been thoroughly reviewed online, so it shouldn’t take long to find a range of opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of the program you’re considering.
Our tips: Making a UX design bootcamp worth it
When it comes to bootcamps, you get what you give. In other words, your results will depend on your approach and level of dedication. Here are our tips to making a UX Design bootcamp worth it.
- Choose the right bootcamp. While employers tend to like bootcamp graduates, their one complaint is that they’d like to see more regulation. Not all programs are created equal, so it’s important that you research, research, research – if you’re going into UX design, that part should be easy for you. Scan LinkedIn for graduates and see where they’re at in their careers. If you’re feeling bold, contact a few and pick their brains. Review the curriculum in detail. If it’s an in-person course, take a campus tour or check out a virtual tour. And if possible, read the outcomes report to see how their grads are doing.
- Be social and network. One thing we consistently hear from alumni is that they love the networking opportunities often presented by these institutions. Your classmates will be colleagues soon, so be friendly and make the most of your time together. Take the same approach with your teachers – who are also likely industry professionals – and any guest speakers who may come through the classroom. Most schools hold networking events, and it’s worth your time to attend.
- Start building your portfolio right away. One reason such an overwhelming number of UX alumni get hired soon after graduating is that they’re able to build an impressive portfolio over the course of the bootcamp. Unless you have prior experience, your portfolio is what will wow potential employers once it’s job-hunting time.
- Seek criticism. At a good bootcamp, courses will be taught by industry professionals with impressive resumes. Don’t be shy – these instructors are a tremendous potential resource for you and you should get as much out of this time as possible. Seek out honest, unvarnished criticism of your work and take their advice. By incorporating the feedback of industry pros, you will separate your portfolio from the pack.
Which Bootcamp Is Right for You?
Before you decide which program is right for you, you have to decide what your priorities are. What are your goals, what is the level of time commitment you’re comfortable with and are you looking to study in-person or online?
First, it’s good to consider the four models of UX bootcamps:
Full-Time, In-Person UX Bootcamps
Let’s call this your “stereotypical” bootcamp: immersive, focused programs where students are in class anywhere from 40 to 80 hours per week and often stay late on campus working on projects. The benefits of this model are that students get up to speed very quickly and they make the most industry connections with classmates and instructors. The downside? It’s hard or even impossible to hold a full-time job at the same time.
Full-Time, Online UX Bootcamps
Just because these courses are online doesn’t make them any less challenging – or rewarding. Most online UX bootcamps will still require 40-60 hours per week of classroom time, while you’ll need to use evenings and weekends to complete your coursework.
Part-Time, In-Person UX Bootcamps
Providing some of the benefits of the in-person bootcamps without as significant a time commitment, these are a great option for some who want to remain employed as they study. Of course, there’s a downside – you won’t be up and running as a UX Designer quite as quickly.
Part-Time, Online UX Bootcamps
This is definitely the most flexible option. But like the part-time in-person programs, it will take longer to complete the course – especially if it’s self-paced.
How to Find Which UX Design Bootcamp Is Right For You
To find which program is right for you, you need to decide what’s most important to you. To do that, we recommend asking yourself the following four questions:
Have I Done My Homework?
A lot of user experience design is about research and listening. So hone those skills now by looking deeply into the reputations of the programs you’re eyeing. Find alumni and see what their post-graduate stories were. If you’re outgoing, find alumni or even a current student who will let you take them for a coffee and hear about their experience (bonus: you get a new professional contact in your field). Read online reviews, both critical and positive.
This is also a good time to look into the different schools’ curricula. Look up current UX Designer job ads and see if the descriptions align with the skills you’d be gaining in the programs you’re looking at.
It’s also worth comparing the careers of alumni with your own career aspirations. Head over to LinkedIn and take a look at the resumes of past graduates. Where are they working now? What’s their role?
You could also reach out to a Recruiter or Hiring Manager directly and ask for their opinions on the program. And that would be another new contact who could be valuable in the future.
How Are My Finances?
Although cost probably shouldn’t be the deciding factor in selecting a UX design bootcamp, it would be unrealistic to pretend it doesn’t play a role.
Tuition costs at different UX bootcamps vary wildly, from $3,000 up to $16,000. You can probably expect to pay roughly $10,000. For a clearer picture of what to expect, contact a rep from the bootcamp and ask them to go over it with you. You should also ask about scholarships. Almost all UX bootcamps offer scholarships – often for veterans, women, Indigenous people and other groups underrepresented in tech – and you could qualify. They also usually offer flexible payment plans that might work better for you than an up-front payment.
Where Do I Want to Live?
UX design bootcamps are springing up everywhere right now. Almost every state has one. If you’re planning on attending a bootcamp in person, you might feel like going someplace local – after all, you’ll be attending for 10-28 weeks – or you might want to head to the coasts or a major metro area where more of the tech jobs are and the tech giants live.
Of course, if you’re studying online, there’s a whole country of options at your fingertips.
Where Am I in My Career?
Before you make a choice, consider your background. Have you worked in tech before? Have you completed any free, self-guided online courses? Do you have any experience with any of the industry tools you’ll be using? (Remember to check prerequisites before you apply.)
Other factors could determine which bootcamp is the best fit. If you’re a Web Developer looking to gain UX skills to boost your career, you might not need to find quite as intensive a course. Similarly, if you’re working as a UX Designer already and you’re simply looking to upskill and gain some new perspectives on your field, your needs may also be met by a shorter, less thorough program.
But if you’re a total beginner and your goal is to become a UX Designer in a matter of months, you’ll really want to find a proven, immersive, challenging bootcamp to help you reach your goals.
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