Should you do a UX Bootcamp? Spoiler alert: No. Get the reasons from a Bootcamp survivor.
I graduated in May 2022 from the UX/UI Design Bootcamp at Ironhack in Berlin. These are my honest experiences about the Bootcamp and the time after.
When I’m in a job interview, I try to casually mention that I completed the Ironhack Bootcamp. Every time I do, I see the same expression on the recruiters’ faces — a look that says, “Not another one from a Bootcamp.”
Most recruiters have probably seen more than enough of these junior UX designers coming directly from a Bootcamp.
Recently, I had an interview with an entrepreneur looking for a UXer for his SaaS project. After I told him I did the Ironhack UX Bootcamp, he just laughed and said, “Ah, another one from Ironhack. You’re already my third today. Seems to be popular.” He’ll probably have more Ironhack graduates ahead of him.
A Bootcamp lasts for three months. That means every three months, Bootcamps produce a new batch of fresh UXers entering the professional world. They are handed a certificate and the promise of finding a job soon.
However, Bootcamps struggle to teach the skills and knowledge necessary for the job. Recruiters know this, and none of them is willing to risk their job by hiring someone who simply cannot perform what the job requires.
Companies need experienced UX designers who can start immediately. A company can hardly afford to train someone or teach them the basics needed for the job.
Therefore, the market for junior UX designers is not particularly large, but it is quickly saturated.
Adding to the challenge is the fact that, as mentioned, UX Bootcamps release a new batch of junior designers every three months. The already small market has long been saturated, yet more juniors keep coming every three months.
A recruiter aptly put it: “These Bootcamps are like factories producing junior designers on an assembly line.”
Approximately 400 designers apply for a job, and only a tiny fraction of them are senior designers. That’s why juniors are often invited to job interviews.
There’s a first interview for introduction, followed by a design challenge. If successful, there’s an interview with the product managers and maybe two more interviews.
Junior designers are sent on an odyssey of stages, and only a tiny fraction of them pass or at least make it to the design challenge.
Positions often remain unfilled. Sometimes you see the same job ads that you applied to months ago still active and unfilled. Companies simply cannot find the experienced designers they need, and the cycle of applicants starts anew.
The whole effort of the application process without the position being filled because companies cannot find the right candidate with the necessary experience, due to the fact that too many junior designers apply.
If the application process for junior UX/UI designers is ridiculously difficult, almost impossible, why bother? Why aren’t young designers informed and prepared for what awaits them out there before completing the Bootcamp?
So, brace yourself. What I’m about to tell you won’t be easy to accept. I don’t want to create illusions for anyone. That’s why I’m as clear and honest as possible.
UX Bootcamps: a pointless designer factory that sells dreams like expensive candy.
The Problem with UX Bootcamps
The lack of proper student screening is part of the problem. As one UX mentor at Springboard put it;
“students are not screened properly before getting accepted into the program. It becomes very apparent to mentors working with them that they will never succeed as UX designers. In the end, they get the certificates only because they paid for the program.”
There’s that profit motive again!
Bootcamps are not the solution but the problem.
Bootcamps produce a new wave of fresh graduates every three months, clogging the system of the job market. A three-month Bootcamp cannot convey the necessary knowledge for the job, and recruiters know that. Despite the sheer number of applicants, some Bootcamp graduates are still invited.
And nothing screams “inexperienced junior UX designer” more than a certificate from a Bootcamp like Ironhack or similar. The already small market for junior UX designers has long been saturated. It has been flooded by profit-oriented Bootcamps.
Recruiters drown in applications that almost all look identical. If you want to stand out from the crowd, it’s best to do everything other than what you’re taught in a Bootcamp.
Bootcamps do a very good job of over-promising.
No one should have any delusions about the fact that all these bootcamps are in it for the money. The cost of the UX Design Bootcamp at Ironhack is 8,000 euros. A course that lasts only three months and has an average of 25 participants.
With one course, Ironhack earns about 200,000 euros in three months. No wonder the competition is fierce, and many other Bootcamps want to cash in on such a lucrative business.
Whether it’s Career Foundry or Ironhack, every Bootcamp wants as many participants as possible. In doing so, they outdo themselves with promises. Career Foundry promises a job guarantee in the first 6 months after the Bootcamp or money back. (“cough”)
Ironhack has made many promises too. Unfortunately, none of it was really true. A UX Bootcamp does not in any way facilitate entry into the profession; at best, it is a good introduction to UX design.
How can it be possible that so many people participate in a Bootcamp when it is so expensive?
In Germany, there is the possibility of an “education voucher” (Bildungsgutschein). This means that the job center covers the costs of the Bootcamp. In the course I attended, almost everyone had such an “education voucher”.
Ironhack advertises directly in the email subject with this possibility — that the state covers the costs of the Bootcamp. “How to finance your Bootcamp with the Bildungsgutschein” is the title of all promotional emails Ironhack sends.
With the promise of quickly finding a job and the argument that the Bootcamp is practically free because the state pays for it, they convince you to participate.
While Ironhack offers further education that barely prepares you for professional life, they earn several hundred thousand euros in taxpayer money. The question of whether the taxpayer money is really well-spent there remains open.
Students are left alone after completing the Bootcamp.
The teachers and operators of the Bootcamp guarantee that they will support you in the job hunt. But once you’ve finished the Bootcamp, you’re on your own. The big promises are only worth something as long as you are still in the program.
On Trustpilot, you can read the many reviews of former graduates, and you will find a recurring pattern. Bootcamps do everything to get you to take a course with them, regardless of how good the course is or whether you get a job with their certificate.
Alternatives to the Bootcamp.
A good option for fledgling UX designers — very much doable today — is to enroll in Google’s low-cost intro course to UX (for under $300). While on that course or after, use a mentoring platform, such as Mentorcruise (around $240/month for 1:1 UX mentoring) or ADPList (free) where they can carefully select their own professional industry mentor (as opposed to being given a random one by a bootcamp).
An internship is the best way to gain work experience. If you’re asked about your work experience in a job interview, you don’t necessarily need to mention that it was “only” an internship. After all, an internship is also work, and you do almost the same as the permanent employees there.
To build your portfolio, you can voluntarily design logos or websites. In UX design groups on Facebook, you can offer your voluntary services as a designer. Soon, you’ll have enough material for your portfolio. This design will probably be much better. In a Bootcamp, you only have one or two weeks to complete a project, hardly enough time to create a decent design.
A UX Bootcamp will not help you get a job as a UX designer. In the worst case, you will be left in the wrong belief that you will quickly find a job. Slowly, you will realize that this is not the case. Many former Bootcamp graduates feel almost cheated because they were not informed about how difficult it is to get a job in this industry.
The knowledge that Bootcamps provide can be obtained from the internet or books on your own. There’s no need for an 8,000 euro expensive Bootcamp to learn it. This money is better invested elsewhere, instead of in a Bootcamp.
Perhaps it would even be better to put an end to UX Design Bootcamps. Bootcamps make false promises and illusions, provide a course that does not correspond to reality, exploit the dreams and savings of young people, and make millions in the process.
You don’t need to follow me. It’s fine.
The Truth About UX Bootcamps: A Designer Factory That Sells Dreams Like Expensive Candy was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.