How to Pick the Best UX Design Bootcamp for Your Career Change

So, you’re looking into UX design bootcamps. Welcome to what can sometimes feel like a complicated tangle of features, benefits, pros, and cons!

There’s no shortage of UX bootcamps and certification programs to choose from. But how do you know which one is right for you? And how do you sort through the various aspects of a given training program to figure out if it will actually accomplish what you’re aiming for?

Whether or not any given bootcamp will be the best fit for you, your learning style, and your career goals will depend on a variety of factors—such as the quality of the curriculum, what kind of mentorship they provide, and so much more.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to pick the right bootcamp for your career goals, and give you a checklist for what features to look for in the best UX certification programs. We’ll even highlight which UX bootcamps measure up to these standards! Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. How to decide which UX bootcamp is right for you
  2. Seven features of the best UX design bootcamps
  3. Our top five UX design bootcamps
  4. Final thoughts

Before we get started: If you’d like a quick guide on the questions we’re most frequently asked about UX bootcamps, check out this video!

And if you’re brand new to UX design, you could also get started with a free UX design micro course!

Alright. Let’s dive in!

1. How to decide which UX bootcamp is right for you

The best way to pick the right UX course or bootcamp for you and your career goals? Start by clarifying what your goals really are and how much time and effort you can dedicate to accomplishing them.

Here are a few questions to help you think this through:

  • Are you changing careers completely or looking to progress in your current field?
  • How much do you already know about UX design? How much hands-on experience do you have or need?
  • What training duration do you have in mind? Weeks or months?
  • Do you have the capacity to study full-time or do you need more flexible options for your schedule? How many hours per week can you dedicate to this training?
  • Do you learn best in person or online?
  • What support system do you have in place—fellow learners and career changers, mentors, and other people who can guide, challenge, and encourage you?

There’s more to consider, of course, but this is a good starting point. Next, you’ll want to take some time to think more specifically about these key elements that are common to the UX bootcamp experience:

  • Cost vs. quality
  • In-person or remote
  • Part-time or full-time study
  • Intensity and flexibility
  • Independent vs. interactive learning

Let’s look at each of these a little more closely.

Cost vs. quality

While Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson may have been right when they sang that (many of)  “the best things in life are free,” this isn’t advice you should apply to picking a UX design bootcamp.

When it comes to UX design bootcamps, you often get what you pay for. 

If a course is free or relatively inexpensive, take a good long look at the quality of the curriculum, mentorship, and feedback it will provide, as well as course reviews and graduate outcomes. There’s probably a lot of quality that you’ll sacrifice for that smaller price tag.

Now, if you’re already working in the field and connected to other UX professionals—and you’ve already got at least the beginnings of a UX design portfolio and professional connections to people who could give you good feedback—you might be able to get away with compromising on course quality in favor of saving money.

If you’re brand new to the field and you want to successfully forge a new career in UX design, we recommend prioritizing the quality and depth of the program over price—if you’re able to do so.

Some of the best UX design programs offer flexible payment options that can make a bigger price tag manageable. Some even offer job guarantees—meaning that if you don’t land a job in the field within a set period of time after you complete the training, you can receive a full or partial refund.

In-person or remote

Most bootcamps these days have remote learning options—whether those are in live and/or virtual classrooms or via a remote learning platform that allows you to study at your own pace. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, even the bootcamps that operate primarily in person are moving things online.

If you’re someone who does well with online learning, this is all fantastic news. And even better news is that many online programs provide a level of community, mentorship, and support that will help you connect with experts and fellow career-changers alike—so you don’t have to study in isolation!

If you’re someone who thrives in an in-person learning environment, and you’re not necessarily set on studying online, there are in-person or hybrid programs that you can explore! But don’t underestimate the power of an online program, especially those that provide excellent mentorship and support.

An aspiring UX designer working at a laptop while his child looks on

Intensity and flexibility

Whatever your current life situation, there’s a UX design bootcamp that will fit your schedule—especially if you’re open to an online program. You’ll need to think about how intensely you’re able to tackle this learning process. This alone will help you narrow down which bootcamps will actually work well for you. Consider:

  • How many hours per week will you be able to dedicate to studying and completing projects?
  • How many of those hours will be focused and how many will be dispersed throughout the day?
  • What’s your capacity for set, scheduled meetings? Are you able to attend scheduled classes on a regular basis or do you need more flexibility?
  • How quickly do you need to complete this training?

In-person and hybrid programs tend to have frequent, set times for live lectures or meetings. This will clearly take a bit more planning and accommodation on your part to make sure you’re able to attend and fully participate in the program.

On the other hand, you can more easily fit an online bootcamp around your existing schedule. That’s not to say online courses don’t require some planning, dedication, and the occasional late night! But they allow more flexibility in terms of when you study and submit assignments, meet with classmates or mentors, and more.

As a general rule, part-time programs (if they’re based on a high quality curriculum with good mentorship and support) take longer to complete, while full-time study will get you to that credential faster. Whether you study full or part-time won’t make a huge difference in how well you learn the material or how successful you are in your career change. There are other aspects of the bootcamp experience that will definitely have that impact—mentorship being one of them.

We’ll say more about mentorship in a later section, but for now, a simple word of advice:

No matter which programs you’re looking into, don’t pay a dime until you do a little digging to find out what kind of mentorship and support is included. 

This is especially important if you’re considering online bootcamps that won’t necessarily have live classes with experts in the field.

Independent vs. interactive learning

On that note, it’s also important to think about what level of interaction you want throughout your studies. If you don’t enjoy independent learning, check out an in-person program or find out what kind of mentorship and peer interaction you’ll have in that online program you’re considering.

Conversely, if you thrive in an independent learning environment, an online program might be your best bet—but watch out for online courses that don’t provide frequent and high quality feedback and mentorship.

There are a lot of online courses that operate like guided reading courses with periodic quizzes or assignments that are automatically or peer graded (Google’s UX design course is one example). While that might be better than nothing, this does not ensure that you’re able to apply what you learn in the real world and in ways that are up to industry standards.

2. Seven features of the best UX design bootcamps

If you want to find the best UX design programs, you’ll want to dig into the details. As you do that, here are seven things to get a better look at. Make sure the program includes:

  • Individualized mentorship
  • Excellent curriculum
  • Expert and detailed portfolio reviews
  • Personalized career services
  • Student community and support
  • Transparency and credibility
  • Proof that it works

We’ll explore each of these in more detail to give you an idea of what exactly you should be looking for.

Note: We’ll focus a little more heavily on mentorship and curriculum, because these are two features that tend to vary more in quality across the many courses and bootcamps on the market.

Individualized mentorship

One of the first signs of a good UX bootcamp is high quality, individualized mentorship with a seasoned expert in the field. Let’s talk briefly about why mentorship matters and what kind of mentorship to look for.

Why mentorship matters

If you’re in the early stages of your career change, a UX design mentor is essential! They know what it takes to break into UX design and to succeed in the field. They can provide advice, guidance, and support as you forge your new career path.

As you learn and get your start in the industry, a mentor can also help you find thoughtful and innovative solutions to problems that have you stumped. This is true no matter where you are in your career because UX designers tackle such a wide variety of problems across such a wide variety of sectors, meeting the needs of such a broad spectrum of users! In other words, you are 100% guaranteed to encounter problems that challenge you to go beyond what you already know.

On top of this, because UX design work is all about design thinking, there’s a natural evolution that takes place as UX designers adapt their processes and outcomes to the needs of the industry and the users they design for. A mentor can help you find ways to adapt and iterate to meet those new and exciting challenges.

But this just scratches the surface of why and how mentorship makes such a massive difference—especially in the early stages of your career change. To learn more about the benefits of having a UX design mentor, check out our UX mentorship guide or watch this video:

What kind of mentorship to look for

As you explore the many UX design bootcamps on the market, you’ll find that they offer varying degrees of mentorship—and not all of them will be the best fit for you and your career goals!

The types of mentorship or support that UX courses offer tend to fall into four categories:

  • Peer feedback. This usually takes the form of discussion boards or Slack channels where you share your work and ask your fellow students for feedback. We strongly recommend that you avoid programs that rely primarily (or exclusively) on this form of support. You don’t know what you don’t know, and neither do your peers! Nothing beats the kind of guidance you can get from someone who’s got years of experience in the field.
  • Assignment grading. This usually involves completing a quiz of some sort. This is good for making sure you understand things on a cognitive level, and it’s great—when it’s combined with some real mentorship! Graded assignments alone do little to help you put your knowledge into practice and get expert feedback and insights.
  • Group mentorship. This form of mentorship puts you in contact with an expert in the field, but you’re sharing time with a group of fellow students. This can work well, but it might depend on how much initiative you take (asking questions, sharing your work), and on whether your mentor has the time and capacity to give personalized feedback!
  • Individualized mentorship is the best you can find. In this type of mentorship, you’re paired one-on-one with a mentor who can answer your specific questions, provide detailed feedback on your projects, and even offer custom career advice. Nothing beats this form of mentorship!

Now, it can be difficult to make out which programs offer actual mentorship and which ones offer other forms of support in place of mentorship; similarly, it’s not always easy to tell what quality of mentorship you’ll receive. Have a look at our UX mentorship guide to get an idea of which programs offer which types of mentorship and support. And don’t hesitate to ask questions about this before you sign up for a course.

Excellent curriculum

A bootcamp’s curriculum is the foundation of the learning experience. If you sacrifice quality in this area, it will likely show in the quality of the work you produce. Build a strong foundation by ensuring that the UX program you decide on has a carefully crafted curriculum that is:

  • Designed by seasoned UX professionals
  • Continuously updated and in sync with the industry
  • Skills-focused, providing a project-based learning experience
  • …and that provides frequent and individualized assignment feedback

We’ll look at each of these elements more closely right now.

A curriculum designed by seasoned UX professionals

In addition to quality mentorship, the best UX design programs build a strong foundation through an expert-designed curriculum. Don’t sign up for a course until you get a pretty clear idea of where the learning materials come from and how they’re delivered! This can have such an impact on the overall quality of your education.

Avoid courses and bootcamps that don’t tell you where their curriculum comes from. Instead, opt for:

  • In-person programs that are taught by expert instructors with a proven track record in the industry
  • Online programs with learning materials that are written by or in direct collaboration with seasoned industry experts. At the very least, the curriculum should consist of expert-curated resources.

The best programs have learning materials that are created in-house and by (or in direct collaboration with) seasoned experts in the field. This way, you can rest assured that you’re learning the actual skills and processes that you’ll use on the job. Programs like this often come with supplemental resources as well—so you’re hearing directly from experts in the field, as well as from the resources they recommend!

Focused on job skills and hands-on projects

Most bootcamps are good at focusing on the practical side of things, rather than the theoretical.

That said, you do want to steer away from courses (especially ones you have to pay for) that are made up entirely of learning materials and even quizzes/knowledge checks, without any guided practical application of what you learn.

The best programs offer a rigorous curriculum that includes:

  • Project briefs that come from actual companies or are based on real-world scenarios
  • Step-by-step guidance for how to apply your knowledge
  • Examples that you can look at as you work
  • A formal means of submitting projects when you complete them
  • …and (of course) detailed feedback from experts in the field!

To learn more about the skills you need to be a UX designer, check out our UX design skills guide, and don’t forget that there are many non-design related skills you’ll need to succeed in your new career!

Frequent and individualized assignment feedback

On that note, let’s talk about feedback! Some courses include practical projects that you’ll submit, but the grading/feedback is either automated (for quizzes) or coming from fellow students who are ahead of you in the course or have just completed it. Given what we’ve already said about the value of mentorship, you already know what the problem is with this kind of feedback.

Look for programs that offer frequent feedback from experienced UX professionals that’s detailed and focused specifically on the work you’ve done. 

Continuously updated and in sync with the industry

Because UX design is such a rapidly evolving field, you want to ensure that the tools, processes and skills you learn:

  • Are what you’ll actually need on the job
  • Are what employers are actually looking for (and will be looking for when you start your job search)
  • Are forward-thinking and will make you a competitive candidate for the roles you want to land

Simply put, if a UX course or bootcamp isn’t open about how regularly they update their curriculum, keep shopping!

Expert and detailed portfolio reviews

If you’ve found a bootcamp that’s project-based and focused on equipping you with job-ready skills, that’s great. If it offers excellent, one-on-one mentorship, even better! Now go one step further and make sure that you’ll be able to get that expert feedback on your actual portfolio.

Your UX design portfolio is an incredibly important part of your job hunt. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find a hiring manager who will even invite you to an initial screening call without first having a look at your portfolio.

The best UX design training programs will ensure that you get feedback on your portfolio—ideally from a seasoned UX designer (who knows the job) and from a career specialist (who knows what recruiters and hiring managers want to see).

Two UX designers working on paper prototypes for a bootcamp project

Personalized career services

Now, imagine you’ve completed a UX design bootcamp with a stellar curriculum, outstanding mentorship, and a professional portfolio to boot. What’s next? The (often dreaded) job hunt.

Job hunting in the competitive field of UX design is a skillset in and of itself. That’s not to say that there isn’t a high demand for UX designers or that it’s impossible to land a role! It simply means that you’ll benefit from some additional support and guidance—ideally from someone who knows the job search process, and who can coach you in the best ways to stand out as the highly skilled candidate you are.

The best UX design program will offer extensive and personalized career coaching. 

When you’re deciding on a program, be aware of the difference between a course that merely offers access to an “employer network” and one that provides:

  • One-on-one coaching with an experienced career specialist who knows the job market in your area
  • Advice and feedback on your portfolio, resume, and cover letter
  • Mock interview sessions and other support to help you refine your interviewing skills
  • Career coaching up to the point that you’re hired, or even well into your career

The best programs will provide all of this and often more—like a job guarantee or a team dedicated to actively connecting you with potential employers and sharing opportunities with you and other graduates.

Student community and support

Many UX bootcamps offer access to a community of fellow students and alumni. The trouble is that some courses rely on this level of support in place of the other benefits and features we’ve talked about so far.

The best UX design programs offer a student community as a means of complementing an already excellent combination of curriculum, mentorship, and career services. 

If you’ve got the high quality curriculum and one-on-one mentorship in place, being part of an active student community is a wonderful way to feel less isolated (if you’re studying online), get support with user research and other UX projects, and share resources and opportunities with people who are right there with you on the path to a new career.

It’s important to note here that it can be difficult to tell how active a student community will be until you’ve joined it. We recommend finding out (before you sign up) whether or not the bootcamp has a dedicated student team that helps to cultivate active community participation. You can even find students and alumni to ask them how active the community is and get their insights on other aspects of the bootcamp!

Transparency and credibility

Transparency and credibility is simply a matter of trust. If a bootcamp isn’t transparent about features, cost, or graduate outcomes, that’s a bit of a red flag. But even if you can easily find this information, there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re picking a bootcamp that’s credible and worth the time and money you’ll put into it:

  • Check out their social media presence. How much are they actively cultivating community and participating in (or even influencing) the industry?
  • Find out who some of their mentors are and see what kind of work they’re doing in the industry
  • Ask to see more course details—most bootcamps will offer some kind of outline to give you an idea of what you’ll learn
  • Read course reviews. Find out what others think of the course after they’ve completed it
  • Contact the bootcamp to talk to a real live person and ask your questions. While some bootcamps use these calls to get you to buy something, the best ones will offer a call to simply talk through the program details and help you figure out if it’s the best fit for you

Proof that it works

This one is simple: Find out where their graduates are now. Did they finish the program and go on to a successful career in UX design? Where did they end up working? What percentage of the company’s graduates actually land jobs within a reasonable time after graduation? These are important questions to ask.

3. Our top five UX design bootcamps

An aspiring UX designer standing near a window, browsing bootcamp details on her phone

Whew! Now that you know what the best UX design bootcamps offer, you can take the deep dive into researching the bootcamps that stand out to you. We know there are tons of them out there, though, so we’ll get you started. Here are our top five!

CareerFoundry

CareerFoundry’s UX Design Program lasts 6-10 months (online) and is based on an expert-written curriculum that’s continuously updated to align with industry standards. Their curriculum designers work hand-in-hand with experts in the field to design the curriculum in-house and ensure an excellent and comprehensive learning experience. There are also expert-curated resources available to supplement that foundational content.

The projects you complete will be hands-on and based on real-world scenarios. You’ll be paired up with your own UX design mentor, who will provide portfolio project reviews as you complete them. They’ll also be available for as many calls as you’d like, so you can get the full benefit of their expertise! In addition, you’ll receive daily feedback on smaller assignments from your tutor (a working UX designer who’s also an expert on the course content and expectations).

CareerFoundry also offers a job preparation course (included in the cost of the program) that pairs you up with your own career specialist—a career coach who knows the job market in your area. They’ll help you refine your portfolio, resume, and cover letter, as well as your interview skills and job search strategy. CareerFoundry also has a team that actively connects with potential employers and shares job opportunities with program graduates.

Top all this off with access to a Slack community of students and alumni—and a student team who are continuously working to keep the community active and engaged. So you’ll also have immediate immersion in a network of fellow career changers who support each other, share ideas, and provide feedback.

General Assembly

General Assembly’s UX Design Immersive is a shorter program (~3 months), providing an excellent short-term immersion in the world of UX. You’ll learn directly from GA instructors—seasoned professionals in the field—in an interactive classroom setting. You’ll have access to your instructor(s) to ask for advice and feedback, as well as to GA’s alumni network.

You’ll submit regular homework assignments for feedback from the group (including your instructors). At the end of the bootcamp, you’ll complete and present a final project to earn your certificate—it’s a final exam of sorts, but better than a traditional university exam because it’s based on actual work that you’ve done.

GA also provides career support and coaching to help you in your job search after you complete the program!

Ironhack

Ironhack’s UX/UI Design Bootcamp is a 9-week, full-time learning experience that you can complete in-person or remotely. You’ll be in a live classroom setting for lectures and demonstrations from expert instructors—and these will come with brief knowledge checks to ensure you’re retaining the information.

You’ll complete hands-on projects along the way, at least one of which you’ll tackle with a group of fellow students. This will give you the opportunity to collaborate with other designers the way you might when you’re on the job.

Ironhack also has a team of teacher assistants (TAs) available to you for questions and feedback. While TA support is great, it’s not quite clear how experienced they are in the field or how available the expert instructors are outside of the class sessions.

At the end, you present your final project in a competition (called a “Hackshow”)—it’s like a final exam with a practical focus and Shark Tank vibes!

Springboard

Springboard’s UI/UX Design Bootcamp is a 9-month course (online) that’s based on an expert-curated curriculum. So the learning materials consist of resources that their UX design experts have examined and given their stamp of approval.

The projects you complete will be hands-on and arranged with real clients. Along the way, you’ll have weekly calls with your own mentor, but you can get unlimited support from their community of mentors whenever you might need additional advice or feedback.

Your projects will be reviewed by hiring managers in the industry, and when you complete the bootcamp, you’ll have career support (in the form of coaching calls and an employer network) as you take those first steps into your new career.

Additionally, you’ll have access to their online student community, but the forum and activity for that community isn’t quite clear.

Thinkful

Thinkful’s UX/UI Design Bootcamp is a 5-6 month course that focuses on job-ready skills as you complete practical projects that are based on real-world scenarios.

It’s not clear what form the curriculum takes or who (and how) it’s created, but the trade off is that you’re scheduled to meet one-on-one with your mentor twice per week, which might help create something more like a live class environment. This mentor will provide detailed feedback on your projects throughout the course.

Thinkful also provides personalized career coaching as you move from the bootcamp into your job search. If you choose to study full-time, you’ll also have daily workshops and lectures, a dedicated learning assistant to help with any issues that come up along the way, and a cohort of fellow learners who can provide some community and support. We like this setup better than the part-time option that offers open “office hours” with learning assistants and no cohort of fellow students!

4. Final thoughts

Clearly, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to finding the right UX design bootcamp! It’s definitely worth taking the time to consider the finer details of any given program before you sign up.

We hope that this list of features and descriptions of what they are (in their best forms) and why they matter will help you along the way.

If you’d like to do a little more digging, here are some other resources you’ll find helpful:

What You Should Do Now

  1. Get a hands-on introduction to UX with a free, 6-day short course.

  2. Become a qualified UX designer in 5-10 months—complete with a job guarantee.

  3. Talk to a program advisor to discuss career change and find out if UX is right for you.

  4. Learn about our graduates, see their portfolio projects, and find out where they’re at now.