What Really Matters In A Bootcamp
So you want to become a UI/UX designer?
Most career changers look into available bootcamps and compare the pros and cons during the research phase — Which one can I afford? How are student reviews? What job support do I get? What kind of success rate do they have?
These are all very important questions to ask — at first.
However, if you look deeper, you will find that marketing can easily manipulate these initial questions. If a bootcamp puts out awe-inspiring numbers, glossy marketing pages, and a good number of positive student reviews, it may look better than it really is.
Let’s dig deeper into decision factors — besides the surface-level questions that everybody asks, what are the most important questions one should ask before enrolling in a truly quality program that will help you successfully change your career to design?
We recommend asking 5 additional questions.
Does It Offer Partnered Projects With Real Companies?
One of the biggest criticisms bootcamps consistently receive is the lack of real-world projects from students’ portfolios. The formulaic and standardized curriculum in many bootcamps has produced cookie-cutter portfolios that experienced design recruiters and managers can spot from a mile away.
The biggest reason companies frown upon these types of projects is not because they don’t show students' design abilities. They do, but what they can’t do is show how the designer can handle less-than-ideal situations, constraints, and real client feedback, which can be tough to handle. “Blue sky projects” are often great to practice on, but when it comes to showing your ability as a designer ready to take on real-world challenges, they fall short.
That’s why one of the questions you should always ask is — does the bootcamp connect students with real companies to do real projects?
Is It Customizable?
It is unfortunate that most bootcamps on the market nowadays follow a standardized curriculum that disregards students individual needs for learning.
As alternative education, bootcamps should really be doing the opposite of traditional school systems which mostly operate on a one-size-fits-all model.
If you are someone who values learning what you really need for your desired career outcome, then looking into a program that actually provides options for you to customize your learning is important.
The last thing a student needs is spending thousands on a program for which they don’t need 1/3 of the content.
Does The Curriculum Go Into Enough Foundations?
Next, it is time to dive deeper into the curriculum.
Most bootcamps provide an option for you to obtain a full syllabus to review before enrollment — most likely through an email capture.
If you don’t feel comfortable giving your primary email, by all means, create a new one just for promotional emails. Get that syllabus and take a close look at what they are actually teaching.
It can be difficult to judge if you are coming from another industry because some of the content may not make as much sense to you. What you can do is send that syllabus to someone who is at least a bit familiar with the design industry and get their take on it.
The best type of syllabus goes into detail about design foundations as well as provides lots of opportunities for exercises. Beware of a curriculum that glazes over visual design and goes directly into UX design — without a good visual foundation, you will find yourself needing a partner or even paying to get your final portfolio in a presentable shape.
When and if you are looking at a UX curriculum or a UX part of the curriculum, one thing to look at is — does the curriculum cover processes that are outside of basic frameworks such as the double diamond method? Does it talk about real-world constraints? Does it teach students how to tell a story?
Finally, does the bootcamp provide connections to real projects where you can work with an actual company to create portfolio pieces? This would be crucial because when you talk about your design rationale during an interview, having real projects with real client feedback and constraints carries more weight than spec projects.
Are The Financing Terms Exploitative?
Most bootcamps provide several ways for students to finance their educations — upfront, monthly, or ISA (income share agreements).
While upfront or monthly payment is relatively straightforward, if you are considering financing via ISA, the terms need to be looked at very carefully to avoid being taken advantage of years down the road.
Watch out for 3 things with an ISA — the percentage of income taken, repayment cap, and repayment terms.
Percentage of income taken
How many percentages of your monthly income will you have to repay? Think in terms of how much money you would like to be making in 3–5 years, which some ISAs are still taking money off of graduates’ salaries. The more you make, the more you pay. When possible, choose an ISA that does not base the repayment amount on your salary but rather on a set amount that you can count on.
Does the ISA have a repayment cap (the maximum amount you will pay in total)? If so, can you accept that amount as your cumulative lifetime payment amount?
How long do you have to pay the ISA? Usually, the financing terms will specify the number of months you will have to make payments. Make sure you choose one that doesn’t extend years and years after you graduate.
Can You Learn From Quality Instructors with Real Teaching Experience?
Many bootcamps rely on an outsourced mentoring model to “teach” students the knowledge they didn’t fully learn from teaching materials. There are advantages to this model — students can learn directly from professionals who are working in the field currently and get insider tips.
There are also clear disadvantages to this model, as shown through student feedback. Many students get a lesser experience out of the bootcamps because they were matched with a mentor who didn’t dedicate as much to them compared to others. Some students have poor personality match with the mentors they were assigned to and have to be reassigned.
Another important thing to remember — just because someone is good at what they are doing doens’t mean they can teach it, too.
That’s why when choosing a bootcamp program, it is more important to choose one that offers instructors who have been through teaching training or have teaching experience.
Path Unbound is a design school founded by designers with an affordable and customizable curriculum for career transitioners looking to break into design. We provide an end-to-end design certificate program “School of Design” with university-level design professors as instructors with a flexible completion timeline in a guided approach.
School of Design | Path Unbound
We are planning to introduce exciting new live features to our classes. These will be free and exclusive for School of…
Our built-in portfolio training program “Portfolio School” which is included for free for “School of Design” students provides intensive, hands-on portfolio building instructions so that students graduate with outstanding projects, custom portfolio sites, and a strong personal brand, ready to stand out in the competitive job market.
Our courses within the certificate program can be taken standalone, as can Portfolio School be taken individually as a program for students who desire to test out the water or are at a different stage in their design learning journey.