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UX bootcamps: Pros & cons

Ludovic Delmas
November 18, 2020

A bootcamp is a short program, usually 2-3 months in length, that teaches you all of the core information you need to know to get a job in the industry.

Just like anything in life, there are pros and cons to bootcamps.

The two biggest pros of a bootcamp are the speed and the cost. You learn a ton of information and build skills within a short period of time for way less time and money than a university.

Here are a few of the main bootcamps:

General Assembly: UX Design Immersive

Duration: 12 weeks

Online or in-person: Both

Job guarantee: No

Cost: $14,950

DesignLab: UX Academy + Design 101

Duration: 19 weeks (15 full-time, 4 part-time)

Online or in-person: Online

Job guarantee: Yes

Cost: $6,749

CareerFoundry: Certified UX Designer program

Duration: Full-time: 5 months (30 hours/week), Part-time: 10 months (15 hours/week)

Online or in-person: Online

Job guarantee: Yes

Cost: $6,555

Springboard: UX/UI Design Career Track

Duration: 9 months (15-20 hours/week)

Online or in-person: Online

Job guarantee: Yes

Cost: $10,000

Additionally, most bootcamps offer some form of mentorship and a wide range of features including career services.

Some even offer job guarantees. What?! A job guarantee?! Sound too good to be true? It probably is. Have you ever looked at the stipulations on their job guarantees? The list is a mile long. If you even miss one of them, you’re no longer eligible for the guarantee (see picture for details).

Here’s an example from Designlab, where you have to start applying to at least 5 jobs per week by your third week in the program and go to two networking events a month:

Decide for yourself. Here are links to each of the Job guarantee requirements from the bootcamps we mentioned earlier:

DesignLab

CareerFoundry

Springboard

Now for the cons.

First, bootcamps teach you the breadth of UX knowledge, but not the depth. Because they’re so fast, bootcamps only provide a small amount of exposure to any concept and then move on.

Like we talked about previously, UX is made up of 6 core disciplines, user research, business analysis, content strategy, information architecture, interaction design, and visual design. Each of these can be a job in their own right. It takes time to master each of these areas enough to feel confident in your decisions and know why you would do one thing over another.

Bootcamps only teach you a surface-level understanding of what you need to do so you can create a passable portfolio and put it on your resume. They don’t help you understand why you would take a certain action. This is something that hiring managers expect you to know and be able to explain.

Second, many of the projects are pre-scripted, meaning they were created by the bootcamp to help the students learn a particular concept. While this is helpful for learning something, it doesn’t help you understand why you might choose one method over another to solve your problem. Moreover, it doesn’t help when it comes to your portfolio.

Which leads us to the next point, you can spot a bootcamp portfolio from a mile away. As they say, if you’ve seen one portfolio from a bootcamp, you’ve seen them all.

Because many of the portfolio projects are pre-scripted, many portfolio case studies turn out looking pretty much alike. In the sea of sameness, standing out is key. Just knowing the core UX fundamentals isn’t enough anymore. It’s important that your portfolio shine a spotlight on your unique skill set. It helps you distinguish yourself from everyone else floating around you.

On top of that, many bootcamps don’t really offer a lot of help or guidance on how you build your portfolio. They give examples and will critique your portfolio, but that’s really about it.

Last, bootcamps have sprung up everywhere saturating the market with eager, but inexperienced bootcamp designers. This makes it harder and harder for bootcamp students to land a job in the industry. Don’t believe us on this? Here is an article outlining common issues associated with bootcamps.

It’s not all bad. There are many students that have completed bootcamps and have gone on to start highly successful careers in UX. The students who are most successful put in a ton of work both in and outside of the bootcamp and most of them had transferable experience.

With that in mind, if you do decide to go this route, be prepared to put in a lot of work before, during, and after the course to ensure success.

Don’t give up after 6 months of looking for a job. It takes time to build the skills necessary to become a successful UX designer. Be willing to put in the time and effort.

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