How Colleges and Bootcamps are Failing Designers

What designers need to do instead

Written by Gyeongwon Kwak, social media content writer at Path Unbound. Edited by Stella Guan, Founder & CEO of Path Unbound.

You finally finish that college degree in design or get that design certificate after spending weeks on a bootcamp program — what’s next?

Many people in this situation assume that they have all of the resources, knowledge and skills to become a successful designer.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Kerry McPhearson, a UX designer earning 6 figures, believes that it takes more than a degree or certificate to stand out to employers.

McPhearson and Stella Guan, founder and CEO of Path Unbound, had an opportunity to talk about his journey as a designer and what he learned from this experiences in the design industry.

Initially, McPhearson worked in tech support and music, and realized that he couldn’t make things happen with his current career path. He decided to go into UX design where it offered a hybrid role that utilized psychology, creativity, product design and problem solving.

McPhearson graduated from a design bootcamp where some of his peers from the same program are still looking for a job while McPhearson was able to get hired.

Practice Interview Skills Through Real Interviews

He credited his ability to get hired to going through numerous rounds of interviews where he was able to encounter every type of design challenge imaginable, and competing against other candidates with more years of experience than him.

He knew that he wasn’t ready for those types of jobs but still had a great learning experience from the process.

Bootcamp Grads Need To Over-Deliver

He also had experiences in working with product managers and developers whereas his peers didn’t, which set him apart from the rest. These were all skills and experiences that he developed on his own time outside of his bootcamp program.

McPhearson mentioned that as a bootcamp grad, he understands the inherent disadvantage of not having a degree in design. To make up for the lack of a formal degree and still stand out in a tough hiring landscape, he said the only way is to over-deliver.

To make up for the lack of a formal degree and still stand out in a tough hiring landscape, he said the only way is to over-deliver.

Misalignment of Design Education and Industry Expectations

The misalignment with design education and industry expectations is something that McPhearson dislikes about design.

He mentioned the lack of support for entry level positions and young, aspiring designers in the design industry.

Guan agreed with this sentiment and added that many employers just want to get things done and that they don’t seem to care about the next generation of talent.

Many employers just want to get things done and that they don’t seem to care about the next generation of talent.

Creative Ways To Gain Real-World Experience

Some suggestions that McPhearson has for design schools and bootcamps is to tell aspiring designers the truth and to encourage students to gain practical experience instead of focusing on speculative projects.

Gain practical experience instead of focusing on speculative projects.

Schools and bootcamps can also partner with non-profit organizations like Year Up where students learn about ethics, public speaking, cold emailing and interviews.

Presenting Design As A Viable Career Path To Under Represented Communities

McPhearson also believes that the UX community has a long way to go in terms of accessibility to a more diverse range of people, which can be in terms of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, geographical location and more.

He stated that in theory, design should be open to everyone but in reality, it’s ethnocentric, elitist, and close-minded. This raises the concern of designers not being able to cater to a diverse group of users since the designers themselves are a homogenous group.

To counter this problem, he suggested that businesses and senior designers have to educate the public, especially children and younger generations, about how design can be used to make a change in the world.

They can go and speak at high schools, colleges and low-income communities to actively outreach for new talent. Starting the conversation can be a step in the right direction.

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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.

Our built-in portfolio training programPortfolio School” that 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.

We provide generous scholarships for qualified students as well as flexible financing for students globally. APPLY TO ENROLL Today!



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