You probably have a few good reasons for doing one: Either you saw it had a great work life balance, pays well, or is just an up and coming career choice. All of the above is great, but trust me when I say it: There’s a bit more to consider before making this decision.
Is this the career for you?
First, make sure you want to have a career in user experience. It seems simple, but think about it. Have you taken the time to learn about what the career is like? What you will likely do all day in a UX role, and does it excite you? Do you have any skill sets that you can translate into a UX role? Questions like this are so important to ask yourself before even looking into schools or loan options. Really think about why you want to do UX and if it will be a good fit.
- Great articles can be found on sites like Medium to learn about what having a job in UX is like. Study them! The more honest they are, the better. No career is perfect.
- YouTube is full of great content as well. See what others said about transitioning into UX and what they learned along the way. You can learn a lot from them!
- Chat with people you know currently working in UX. If you don’t know anyone, message people on LinkedIn. You’d be surprised how open most people are to give insight into what it is they do and how they got there.
Types of bootcamps.
If you’ve done the first step, consider if you’ve thought about how much time will you have to dedicate to this bootcamp. If you’re currently in a role you like, or just a job you’re not ready to leave yet, consider a part-time course. If you’re not working much now, consider if you would be interested in taking a full time, 9–5 course. I was just part-time freelancing, and therefore had the flexibility and willingness to devote full days to learning. But take this into consideration: What do you hope to get out of the program? Are you completely changing careers, or are you looking to maybe expand on your current skill sets? Or both? Full-time boot camps tend to gear to career-switchers looking to learn a lot and get a solid portfolio. Part time classes tend to gear towards those who maybe want to switch roles in a current workplace or just expand on their design skills. This will considerably help you narrow down your options and find the best school for you.
Alright — now you know UX is the right fit and you know much time you want to dedicate. Now, it’s time to think about how you learn best. Schools are going to likely be either in person or online, which both have their pros and cons. In person is great to meet people, gain more access to networking and experience working in group projects. It’s also best for people who learn better in a physical classroom setting, like me. But they tend to cost way more than any online counterparts. Online is great for flexibility and the ability to learn from absolutely anywhere. Most online schools do offer mentoring and peer support, but you won’t get the same type of personalized support and in person interaction that you will get on a campus. Think about your learning style and take time to decide what will be best for you.
The money aspect.
At this point hopefully you know you want to do UX, you know how much time to devote AND you know how you learn best. Now it’s time to think about cost. These programs aren’t cheap, especially if you go the on campus route. You can look into taking out student loans, pulling from your savings, or seeing if programs offer ways to pay the tuition fee after you land a job. Consider your living expenses if you can’t work while doing the program. What is your max amount you’re willing to pay?
At this point, you should now be ready to begin your school search and find the one that is right for you. Sites like Course Report and Switch Up offer plenty of reviews and an easy way to filter by type of school you want.
Now — you’re in the process of picking schools, which is great! But there’s still more to think about.
Location, location, location.
At first I didn’t think it mattered much if I took a UX bootcamp in a city I might not work in. But it’s true what many bootcamp grads say — networking can be a significant perk. If you want to work in Los Angeles but do a bootcamp in Denver, the networking in Denver will likely pertain solely to companies hiring in the area. It may not make or break your ability to get hired, but it is something to consider if you want to get the most bang for your buck.
Curriculum, outcomes and instructors.
How does the program break down what you learn within the world of UX? Do you do group projects? Do you get portfolio pieces? Do you learn any front-end coding? Dive deep into each school’s curriculum to ensure it meets your standards.
Does the school have someone that guides you with your resume and interview process? Make sure the school will provide you with what you want to get out of it. Even ask who your potential teacher would be and do a little stalking. The professor can make and break the type of experience you have and how much you learn.
But here’s the kicker.
Doing all of the above is important. But there’s one big thing to remember: What you get out of the UX bootcamp is what you put into it. No matter where you go, it won’t necessarily be easy, and you will have to push yourself to ensure you get as much out of the program as possible. Something that I realized is I can’t be the same way that I was in college. I only have 10 weeks to learn what I need to know to be job-ready and I can’t skimp out on anything. I make sure to:
- Never be afraid to ask questions, no matter what. You don’t have much time — ask early and ask often.
- Practice at home. Do all homework assignments, do daily UI challenges if not a part of your curriculum, and work on projects after class if you need to. Now’s not the time to skimp or do the bare minimum.
- Embrace the process. UX is not just about the final product, but it’s about how you got there. Enjoy the messy steps along the way and record everything. Take pictures of sketches, yourself doing the sketches, even the cute little mini iPhone paper prototype you created for that app feature. Employers want to see that.
- Be good to your teammates — if applicable. Everyone in your class is going to be coming from a different background and unique set of circumstances. Don’t be that person in the group that doesn’t pull their weight.
- Don’t just rely on your skillsets to get by. Take every opportunity to focus on what you aren’t good at. Since I come from a design background, I don’t want to be the sole designer in my groups. Giving my teammates with less design practice the chance to hone in on those skills was important. It let me take a step back to focus more on the process then the beauty of the final product — something I haven’t had much experience in before.
- Allow yourself to fail. Remember, this process is all about learning. You won’t be perfect or do everything right the first time around, but that is why you came to this bootcamp in the first place. It is easy to be hard on yourself and get stressed but it helps me relax when I realize that it won’t be perfect in the real world either. All UX designers are continuously learning. Get good at the practical skills and remember that UX is an exciting career choice where you’re always learning something new.
Got any tips or questions? Share them in the comments!