The Big Problem with Google’s UX Design Certificate

Path Unbound
5 min readOct 26, 2022


Why are more and more students are leaving the famed program dissatisfied?

Since the launch of Google’s UX Design Certificate program, nearly six hundred thousand learners around the world has enrolled. Quite an impressive number and unsurprising given the massive brand persuasion that is Google.

However, in recent months, our school has received quite a few students who have expressed frustrations at this famed UX design program. We were intrigued by their reaction and decided to dive in a little deeper to find out what went wrong with Google’s UX Design Certificate Program.

Watch Kerry McPhearson and Stella Guan discuss the Google UX Design Certificate on YouTube
This is the cover image of this story — the video is above not here

Adequate Content But No In-Depth Instructions or Innovation

Just like any other bootcamps, the Google UX Design Certificate presents all the surface-level topics that a beginner needs to know. It’s well-organized, well-presented, and “no frills”.

Screenshot of the curriculum of the Google UX Design Certificate

What’s the biggest differentiation between the Google UX Design Certificate and other bootcamps? There are only two things:

  1. It has the Google name.
  2. It is cheaper but without any hands-on instructions or mentorship.

While these are hard facts that aren’t necessarily good or bad depending on the individual learner’s needs, when we evaluated the curriculum, we couldn’t help but wonder why Google didn’t add extra depth to the curriculum.

There isn’t any mention of product thinking. There isn’t in-depth information on how design teams work in a real, often messy business environment.

It is indeed a good introduction to the world of UX because learners can indeed get the surface-level information that they can also find from YouTube, for free.

However, students may have been led to believe that they can be immediately job-ready after taking the program, which often isn’t the case.

Spec Project With No Real Product-Thinking Guidance

There are two main problems:

  1. Although students will gain basic knowledge of UX design and even build a portfolio with spec projects, which allows them to fulfill the basic requirements of getting a design job. However, many students will find themselves not hearing back after the first interview because they have not been trained in product thinking. Without hands-on instructions, feedback, or experience working in a business environment doing actual UX design, most candidates will find answering product-focused questions difficult. From our experience reviewing students’ portfolios, many of them present spec projects with no real business value or product-market fit.
  2. The fact that the Google UX Design certificate is more of a “hands-off” program, just like any other Coursera courses that carry the name of an institution but with no substantial learner’s support, means that many students will come out with a formulaic/cookie-cutter portfolio that gets passed up in Round 1 of screening. Hiring managers have seen thousands, if not tens of thousands, of portfolios that look and sound similar. It all starts with “define, research, ideate, prototype….”. Sound familiar? Check if your portfolio case studies also use the same “formula” without any storytelling elements or deeper product thinking.

Peer Feedback-Only System Has Severe Limitations

When students came to our program, which is very different from Google’s with different subject matters and focus, we often hear that they didn’t expect the peer feedback-only system that makes Google’s UX Design Certificate affordable so limiting.

While peer feedback is a healthy addition to more robust design learning programs, relying on it alone is like trying to learn an instrument with other beginners. Will you learn to play a note or two? Sure, but you won’t be able to pass the entrance exam to any music conservatory if that’s your goal.

Is There Such A Thing As a “Certified UX Designer”?

One of the main draws of Google’s program is not only the world-renown brand name but also the word “certificate”.

Is there such a thing as a “certified UX designer”? Unfortunately, in the world of design, we have to take the word “certificate” with a grain of salt because this is not a field where if you are certified, you can get a job. So the word “certificate” only means you completed a course, and nothing else.

Listen to Kerry and Stella discussed if there is such a thing as a “certified designer”

We heard from students that they were mistaken in that certifications from Google will provide them with a distinction from others who have not completed this course. The reality is quite different.

What will give candidates a leg-up is their divergent and sharp product thinking, outstanding portfolio, and how well they interview.

So What Now?

If you are thinking of making UX design, UI/UX, or product design your next career, think if you want a hands-on program that will provide the support that you truly need.

Think if you want to be in a program that can be customized to your goals and background instead of a cookie-cutter one.

Think if you can start volunteering your design skills with a non-profit organization or pitch to work with an early-stage startup for a modest rate. Only by adding a lot more feedback and practice will the journey of breaking into design become a bit more fruitful.

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” 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 Schoolbe 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!



Path Unbound

Championing comprehensive design education for creative career success.