Can Bootcamps Really Educate Job-Ready UX Designers?

Raffaela Rein, CareerFoundry Co-Founder

A bootcamp is an immersive education program that generally lasts between three to 10 months, and takes a person without any previous knowledge to job-ready.

They started out as a response to the talent gap in disciplines like web and software development, but subsequently included other highly in-demand skills such as UX design, UI design, digital marketing, web development, data analytics, and many more.

When online web development bootcamps had a breakthrough, they were considered revolutionary; challenging traditional education, filling the talent gap, and fixing the shortages that companies face when trying to hire tech talent. This was followed closely by other professional training such as UX training and UI training, as well as programming specializations.

But nowadays, although there are still tons of fans, bootcamps have attracted a few critics, who claim that it is simply not possible to turn a complete newbie into a job-ready web developer or designer within a short time period.

I’m going to tackle this debate by first looking at some graduate employment figures, and then to talk about the importance of starting on the same page. Net we’ll look at some of the feedback about online bootcamp grads from companies, and finally the fact that in these courses you learn more than just coding, data, or design skills.

Want to skip ahead to one of those sections? Just use the table of contents:

  1. Bootcamp employment statistics
  2. Setting the right expectations
  3. What employers say about online bootcamp grads
  4. Online bootcamps teach more than just skills
  5. Final thoughts

So who’s right about online bootcamps, the fan or the critic? Let’s start by having a look at the stats!

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1. Bootcamp employment statistics

Bootcamps educated 44,254 people in 2021 according to CareerKarma. Course Report, a popular comparison site for bootcamps, stated that the majority of graduates of coding bootcamps are finding full-time employment, and 79.3% of graduates surveyed say they’ve been employed in a job requiring the technical skills learned at bootcamp, with a median salary increase of 56% or $25,000. The average starting salary of a bootcamp grad is $69,079. (Head over to Course Report to see more stats on bootcamp outcomes.)

Lower income students see the biggest salary lift, with an 200% increase in salary following a tech bootcamp—a life-changing increase and that’s not even considering work-life balance. (Careers like UX design offer a notoriously good work-life balance.)

My strong belief is that if so many people have found jobs in the industry, it’s clear that the bootcamp model does work. Going from complete newbie to working in a company really happens, and often the turnaround time is under one year.

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2. Setting the right expectations

What critics often point out is that these bootcamp grads can not expect to get a senior position right upon graduation. It puzzles me why this is even a discussion point. Nobody expects to become CEO upon graduating from a Harvard MBA Program. Likewise, nobody is expecting to become CXO or Senior UX Designer upon completing a UX training bootcamp.

The same way a Harvard MBA graduate would happily go into a trainee program or quick-progression grad scheme, bootcamp grads tend to start in traineeship or entry-level roles and rise through the ranks quickly.

You might be wondering why I’m drawing comparisons with universities like Harvard. I do think that bootcamp grads make up some of the most promising, employable professionals out there. The best online bootcamps provide extremely relevant, hands-on skills, minus the background noise.

Even though bootcamps are open to all, only the very best succeed —it’s an intense, challenging process that’s not for the faint-hearted. Those who are not willing to put in the hours, or who aren’t really, truly passionate about that particular career will not make it.

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3. What employers say about online bootcamp grads

For the record—I am an employer of bootcamp grads. In my team of 50, we currently have six web developers and two UX designers that we hired straight out of bootcamps.

In addition, we have two UI bootcamp grads working in our marketing department. My personal experience has been nothing but positive; each and everyone of them was motivated, talented, and hungry to learn more.

But most of all, they are strategic and entrepreneurial, which allows them to make amazing contributions to the company – contributions which go above and beyond their core skills.

I think this is because bootcamp grads typically have work experience from other industries that they can apply. Plus, they have chosen a bootcamp as a strategic career move, and they are the kind of people willing to invest in their learning and go the extra mile to take control of the situation and advance in their careers.

So I believe that the sheer willingness to invest time, money and effort into a bootcamp is a natural selection process. Note: This does not mean that people who have not taken a bootcamp are not willing to go the extra mile. Having successfully completed a bootcamp is just one of several indicators of the type of mindset I look for in an employee.

Of course, I’m not alone in this opinion. At CareerFoundry, we work with employer partners such as Eden Spiekerman, LinkedIn, or Zalando, who share this view. Employers tell us that bootcamp grads rise through the ranks faster than their peers because they are more motivated, have big ambitions, and often more work experience and transferable skills.

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4. Online bootcamps teach more than just skills

As said in my last point, I strongly believe that beyond the skills, a bootcamp teaches a mindset. To successfully add value to an existing process, product or service requires certain mindset. UX bootcamp grads have a different mindset—a mindset focused on good design and customer centricity.

In case you’re unsure what UX design really is, this vide introduction should help:

UX is a movement, a way forward, a vision. UX has applications in every industry. Thus, UX designers ares the new superheroes or secret weapons of any organization looking to grow. In case it wasn’t obvious, every startup needs a UX designer.

Such a mindset does not come out of the blue. Graduates intentionally design their personal interplay of investment, training, and life, to really design experiences over products and thus, create innovation.

They have learned to think about the user first, and are prepared to defend them. They are prepared to take organizations to the next level, using their wealth of practical skills, their depth of user understanding, and the processes and techniques acquired in their formal UX training.

The level of maturity, independence and motivation that it takes to stay on track usually means that those who succeed go on to become hard-working, self-motivated, proactive employees. The passion and energy required to change careers usually means these people are excited, curious, and innovative members of the team.

5. Final thoughts

That’s why, when people ask me if online bootcamps can really work, I have no doubts about it.

One of the greatest things about CareerFoundry is seeing former students turn into respected professionals who are not only excelling at work, but also making waves the tech community.

If you’re thinking about switching careers, perhaps some of these articles will interest you:

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