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How to Get Into UX Design: Options Beyond College
You've decided you want to become a UX designer, but the thought of going back to school makes you cringe. Don't worry, a degree isn't the only path into this fast-growing field. There are plenty of ways to pick up the necessary skills and land an entry-level UX job without setting foot in a classroom. You just need the drive to teach yourself, build a portfolio of work, and network.
This article will explore several options for getting into UX design without a degree. We'll look at resources for learning UX fundamentals, ways to gain experience through internships and freelancing, building a portfolio, networking, and finding job openings. The key is to start learning, creating, and putting yourself out there. With hard work and persistence, you can go from a UX newbie to an employed UX designer. The best part is, the investment is minimal but the payoff can be huge. Are you ready to take the first step toward your new career? Let's hop in.
Continuing Education: Online resources and UX Design Courses
So you have the design bug but a degree isn’t in the cards. Don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to pick up UX design skills without going back to school full time.
Take online courses. Websites like Udemy, Coursera, and Udacity offer self-paced UX design courses you can do from anywhere. These are flexible options to build your skills.
Free online resources. There are wonderful free resources out there to help advance your learning including podcasts, YouTube videos, guides, articles, and more. For example, Springboard offers a free online project-based curriculum to learn UI/UX design foundations.
Find local workshops. Some design studios and coworking spaces offer evening or weekend UX design workshops. These intensive, hands-on programs are a great way to learn skills and make connections. Check with design communities and Meetups in your area to find options.
Get involved in the UX community. Speaking of Meetups, get connected with your local UX design community. Attend events, join discussions, and start building your network. You’ll learn so much from more experienced designers and may find a mentor. Design Buddies is online globally, but we are starting to have many meetups around the SF Bay Area and aim to scale across the globe.
Consider a UX design bootcamp. For those serious about a career change, a certification from a bootcamp can be a great resume booster. We’ll dive into this in the next section.
Bootcamps: Hands-on Training in UX Design
Intensive Learning in a Short Time
Bootcamps are intensive training programs that teach UX design skills in a short period of time, usually 3 to 12 months. Bootcamps are ideal for those looking to pivot careers quickly or build up their skills efficiently.
In a bootcamp, you’ll learn UX design through hands-on projects and mentorship. The fast-paced, immersive environment helps you pick up skills rapidly. You’ll collaborate with instructors and peers, gaining experience working on real-world UX challenges.
Some well-known UX bootcamps include:
Springboard has both a UI/UX and UX design online bootcamp with project-based curriculum, an externship with a real company, and career coaching. You are paired with an experienced designer who serves as your mentor to give you personalized advice and keep you on track
General Assembly offers full-time and part-time UX design bootcamps in many cities. Their programs cover UX research, wireframing, prototyping and more.
CareerFoundry provides an online UX design bootcamp you can do from anywhere with mentor support
A UX bootcamp education typically costs between $5,000 to $15,000. While pricier than self-study, bootcamps can be an affordable alternative to a traditional degree. Many offer financing options and scholarships to make the training accessible.
For the right self-motivated person seeking to fast-track a UX career, a bootcamp can be a perfect solution. With hard work and persistence, you can land an entry-level UX role after completing a reputable program.
A bootcamp may be the best path if you want intensive training, mentorship, career support, and a network to help you break into UX design. While challenging, bootcamps can equip you with the skills and experience to start a new career in just a few months.
This newsletter is brought to you by Springboard
Springboard is an online learning and career platform that provides a comprehensive curriculum covering a design-thinking mindset with all the skills and tools to help you ultimately land your dream design job.
Springboard's UI/UX Design bootcamp offers a 4-week remote externship with an actual company. Additionally, you'll have the chance to create an impressive portfolio, receive personalized 1:1 mentorship and coaching, and network with industry experts.
We’re partnering with Springboard to bring you a $1000 discount on their 9 month UI/UX bootcamp with code “DB1000”:
Disclaimer: Although Springboard is a partner, we have complete freedom to express our own opinions in this article.
Build Your Portfolio by Participating in Design Challenges
One of the best ways to build your UX design portfolio is by participating in design challenges. Design challenges are short-term projects where designers are presented with a prompt or brief and asked to design a solution.
Some benefits of design challenges:
Practice your UX skills. Challenges allow you to practice skills like user research, wireframing, prototyping, and usability testing.
Get feedback. You can get valuable feedback on your designs from experienced designers. Use constructive criticism to improve your work.
Build your network. Connecting with other up-and-coming designers participating in the challenges. Collaborate and support each other. These connections could lead to new opportunities.
Win prizes. Some design challenges offer prizes for the top designs. If you win, you’ll get recognition for your work and something new to add to your portfolio.
Stay up-to-date with trends. Challenges prompt you to work with new tools, design techniques, and trends in the UX field. This helps ensure your skills and portfolio remain relevant.
Design Buddies frequently runs UX design challenges you can take part in (with prizes). We often run them in our Discord and partner with design tool companies to bring workshops and larger prizes (such as Macbook Pros).
Overall, participating in design challenges is an easy, low-risk way for new designers to gain experience, build a portfolio, and become part of the UX design community. With regular practice, you'll be gaining valuable experience and well on your way to becoming a UX designer.
Gain Experience Through Freelancing and Internships
Build Your Portfolio
To land freelance UX design work, you’ll need a solid portfolio of case studies showcasing your skills. Work on some mock projects or volunteer your time for local nonprofits to build up your portfolio. You can also participate in hackathons to gain experience and have work samples to show clients.
Find Freelance Gigs
Once you have a few projects under your belt, start searching for freelance UX design jobs on websites like Upwork, Fiverr, and 99Designs. These platforms make it easy to find small projects to get started. You can also reach out to local startups and small companies in your area to offer your services. Many bootstrapped teams need help with UX but can’t afford a full-time hire.
Consider an Internship
Internships are a great way to gain real-world experience in UX design. Look for opportunities at tech companies, digital agencies, and startups in your area. Some companies may even decide to hire you on full-time if you prove yourself during the internship.
Build Your Network
The UX design community is filled with helpful, like-minded people. Connecting with others in the field can lead to mentorship, collaborations, job referrals, and more. Join local UX meetup groups in your area or online communities like Design Buddies. Don’t be afraid to reach out to UX designers you admire and ask them questions about their career path or for advice. Many will be happy to grab coffee or hop on a quick call.
Gaining experience through freelancing, interning, and networking are all great ways to launch your UX design career without a college degree. While the path may take longer, the hands-on experience you’ll get will be invaluable. Keep practicing your craft, build strong relationships, and new opportunities will start coming your way.
So there you have it, a few paths into UX design that don't require going back to school. The options are out there if you're willing to put in the work. Build up your skills through online courses and tutorials, create a killer portfolio to show off your talents, network like crazy, and look for internships or entry-level roles at tech companies. It may take time, but with enough grit and determination, you can land that first UX job and get your foot in the door. The future of design is wide open if you're motivated enough to chase it. Now get out there and start designing! The UX world needs more self-made success stories. Why not make that story your own?
🐰 Upcoming Design Buddies Events
Mon Jun 5, 9 am PT (UTC-7): Gamified networking with Playground
Mon Jun 12, 5 pm PT: How AI can boost your creativity with designstripe and speaker Vincent
Tue Jun 13, 3 pm PT: How to Work With Developers as a UX Designer: Hands-On Workshop with Bitesize UX
Mon Jun 19, 3 pm PT: Complete a Beginner UX Design Project with Bitesize UX
Every Saturday, 10 am ET: UX Book Club by Haidita and Steven in #design-book-club on Discord
Thu May 25, 6 pm (Stanford University): AAPI Founders Panel + Networking featuring Design Buddies with Singapore Global Network and Coffeespace
Mon Jun 5, 4 pm (Cupertino): Designer, Founders, & Creators Meetup
Jun 20, 21, or 22 (San Francisco): Designer, Founders, & Creators Meetup @ Config. Exact time awaiting confirmation. RSVP for email updates
🐰 About Design Buddies
Design Buddies is a community where you level up your design career. Make lifelong friends, improve your design craft, and land jobs. We have free resources, events, design challenges, a job board, mentorship, fun perks, and more.
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