Can You Learn UX Design On Your Own?

Want a career in UX design but are unsure if you should enroll in a bootcamp or attempt self-learning through an online course? This guide will help you choose the right path as you begin your user experience design journey.

Can You Learn UX Design On Your Own

User experience and user interface design are among the most in-demand skills sought by recruiters, according to a 2020 LinkedIn Report. That demand shows no signs of slowing down, with strong job growth over the next decade as more and more organizations seek professionals with UX expertise to help them build user-centric products and experiences.

And while the name UX design might imply that the profession primarily focuses on visual and UI design, the field offers many different roles that play to a variety of strengths, from roles best suited to curious knowledge seekers (UX researcher) to roles for experimental wordsmiths (UX writer) to positions that challenge multidisciplinary specialists who like to do it all (product designers). 

The education industry has risen to meet this demand for UX design professionals, with online bootcamps developing detailed curricula to prepare prospective students for the workforce; massive open online courses (MOOCs) spinning up programs that offer certifications; and troves of free online resources promising to teach prospective students everything they need to know—from user research and design thinking skills to interaction design, user interface design, and the design of everyday things—through free videos and blog posts. 

With so many free and paid resources available, the process of choosing between self-taught and mentor-guided courses can raise a lot of questions and become overwhelming. Are paid courses always better? Should you start with self-learning? Is it even possible to successfully train yourself to become a UX design professional? 

The following guide offers answers to some of these burning questions. 

What is the difference between a UX design course vs. a bootcamp?

UX design course vs. a bootcamp

UX design courses, which often take the form of MOOCs (massive open online courses) typically offer a hands-off approach to teaching and learning and can focus on specific elements of the discipline, such as introducing prospective students to the basics of prototypes, sketches, wireframes, and mockups, offering a crash course in usability testing, or running through design tools such as Adobe XD, Figma, Sketch, Photoshop, and Illustrator. These courses, offered by e-learning platforms such as Coursera, Udacity, Udemy, Codecademy, DataCamp, Khan Academy, EdX, and Simplilearn allow students to go at their own pace, often have an element of self-teaching, and many also offer certifications and can count toward college credits.

Bootcamps, on the other hand, are short-term programs that tend to offer a more hands-on and holistic learning experience. Instead of simply introducing students to the basics of a discipline or focusing on one element, many bootcamps use a range of resources such as video lectures and tutorials, readings, exercises and assignments, case studies, capstone projects, and some degree of mentorship to prepare students for everything from being able to perform the job of a UX designer to acing a job interview. An instructor is often on hand to answer questions, and mentors and counselors are available to give professional and academic guidance. The cost of bootcamps can range from $1,000-$10,000.

Not all bootcamps are made the same, though. When choosing a bootcamp, it’s important to consider the comprehensiveness of the curriculum, the time commitment, whether you will get to work on real-world projects and portfolio development, and what career guidance and counseling are included. A good bootcamp shouldn’t simply teach you the skills required to perform the job of a UX designer—it should also prepare you to land the job you want.

What’s covered in a UX design course or bootcamp—and what should you expect?

Design processes and principles play an important role in UX design because they lay the foundation for how a designer approaches problems—regardless of the industry, product, or service they work with. Because of this, most UX design courses will devote some time to the fundamentals of design thinking, design processes, testing and prototyping designs, and user interface design.

Many courses will also introduce students to commonly used UX/UI design tools such as Figma, Sketch, and Adobe XD; the basics of user experience research and how data from that research can inform design; and creating low-fidelity and high-fidelity designs.

The strongest courses that prepare students for the workforce will typically go the extra mile to include lessons on identifying and developing solutions to design and business problems, teach accessible design, and involve real-world exercises and capstone projects that give students both hands-on experience and case studies for their portfolio. 

Who is eligible for a UX design course or bootcamp?

Who is eligible for a UX design course or bootcamp

Most UX design courses do not require students to have a design background, although familiarity with concepts such as the differences between UX and UI design and some understanding of the role of UX research can be helpful.

Make sure you carefully read a course’s expectations before signing up. 

How long is a typical UX design course or bootcamp?

The average UX design course or bootcamp can range from six weeks to nine months, depending on the comprehensiveness of the curriculum and whether there are internships built into the experience.

Many courses that prepare students for the workforce and cover everything from hard design skills to job interview preparation can take up to nine months with a study commitment of 15-20 hours per week.

What should I learn first in a UX design course or bootcamp?

While most UX design courses don’t have prerequisites, you will get the most out of your bootcamp if you have some experience with design tools and design principles, many of which can be learned through free online resources.

Is a UX design bootcamp worth it?

Is a UX design bootcamp worth it

Whether a design bootcamp is “worth it” depends on what it offers and what you’re willing to put into it. When choosing between bootcamps and instructor-supported online courses, it’s important to determine your end goal. Is the UX design bootcamp a stepping stone to a more involved product design or UX development course? Is it the key to a career change? Are you hoping to land a job as a designer once you graduate? 

The answers to these questions are important because they can help you create a checklist for the type of bootcamp best suited to you. For example, if your goal is to land a job on graduation, then you’ll want to enroll in a design bootcamp that offers career guidance, prioritizes portfolio development, includes a capstone project, and gives you easy access to industry mentorship. Likewise, if you have ambitions to be a UX consultant who can do a bit of everything, you’ll want to look for a course that covers not only UX design principles, but also UX research

The strongest bootcamps that have a high success rate when it comes to graduation and job placements typically include the following components:

  • Comprehensive curriculum. Whether a student has a background loosely related to the user experience profession or is a seasoned designer, the best bootcamps take all their needs into account and are comprehensive, using a variety of resources ranging from videos to articles, hands-on projects, and career-related coursework to ensure that students learn the skills that employers are looking for. These courses are also clear about any pre-requisite skills required and offer prep courses for those who need additional training to get up to speed on UX design tools or coding languages such as Javascript.
  • Real-world projects. Any UX design bootcamp worth its salt will help students prepare a strong portfolio that includes a variety of projects showcasing what the student is capable of. When choosing between courses, consider whether a bootcamp requires a capstone project and whether there are opportunities to gain real world experience with web development, visual design, and end-to-end product design.
  • Accessible mentors. It’s well established that having access to a mentor with industry expertise can mean the difference between career advancement and stagnation. Mentors can offer valuable industry insights, give guidance and actionable advice on projects and career decisions, and help hold students accountable. The more personalized the mentorship, the better. 
  • Career coaching and networking. It’s one thing to be a highly skilled UX professional. It’s another to navigate the job market and get potential hiring managers to notice you. Look for bootcamps that incorporate career coaching and networking so that all your hard earned UX design and research skills will find their way to recruiters and, ultimately, land you the job that you want. 
  • Job guarantee. Few bootcamps go so far as to offer graduates a job guarantee (i.e. a guarantee that you will find a job within the discipline after you complete the course, or you get your money back). But if you find one that does, it usually means they have confidence in their bootcamp and a solid track record of graduating workforce-ready students who go on to land jobs as UX professionals. 

Ready to switch careers to UI/UX Design?

Springboard offers a comprehensive UI/UX design bootcamp. No design background required—all you need is an eye for good visual design and the ability to empathize with your user. In the course, you’ll work on substantial design projects and complete a real-world externship with an industry client. After nine months, you’ll graduate with a UI/UX design mindset and a portfolio to show for it.

Check out Springboard's UI/UX Design Career Track to see if you qualify.

Not sure if UI/UX design is the right career for you?

Springboard now offers an Introduction to Design course. Learn what designers do on the job by working through a project with 1-on-1 mentorship from an industry expert. Topics covered include design tools, research, sketching, designing in high fidelity, and wireframing.

Check out Springboard’s Introduction to Design Course—enrollments are open to all!

Download our guide to UX design fundamentals

This 50-page guide will take you through the foundations of user experience, including information architecture, user experience, and user interface.

Ready to learn more?

Browse our Career Tracks and find the perfect fit