Should You Get a Design Degree or Attend a UX/UI Bootcamp?


All roads lead to Rome — or do they?
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Written by Gyeongwon Kwak, social media content writer at Path Unbound. Edited by Stella Guan, Founder & CEO of Path Unbound.

This is a common question that many people struggle with when they are looking to transition into a career in design.

Will a bootcamp actually help me land a job? Is a degree better?

Here is a quick comparison of the pros and cons of design degrees and UX/UI design bootcamps.

Benefits of Pursuing a Design Degree

  1. A degree program prepares you with a strong design foundation

Compared to bootcamps, degree programs spend more time on theories and allocate extended amount of time for projects and critiques given the fact that they usually require several years to complete. You come out knowing more than just how to do things — you have more time to fine tune your craft, which usually shows on your portfolio.

However, for those who don’t have the luxury of time, there is an option besides degrees and bootcamps to learn about design foundation in a comprehensive manner, which is Path Unbound’s School of Design — a free and all-inclusive visual design course that focuses on helping students build strong design foundations and practical skills.

2. You have can train to be specialist

Many universities offer specialized majors. Instead of being a generalist, you have the opportunity to become a strong specialist, which will make you stand out from the crowd and become in demand by clients and employers who look for your type of skill sets specifically.

3. Some jobs require a degree

A degree program doesn’t automatically get you employed but some positions require a degree since it is seen as more credible than bootcamps.

This is especially true at creative agencies — most of them still prefer candidates who graduated from accredited design programs at universities.

Luckily, creative agencies are not the only place for a designer to work at. In fact, almost every industry needs designers, which is good news for design students who are open to exploring different career options.

Downsides of Pursuing a Design Degree

  1. Expensive and not always offered online

Financial burden is one of the biggest reasons why many are hesitant to pursue a design degree.

Just like most other academic degrees, not everyone can afford the large financial commitment required for a degree in design. The cost can add up quickly if you consider relocation and living costs on top of tuition since not all schools offer degree programs online.

Some also can’t relocate due to personal reasons pertaining to families and close relationships.

At Path Unbound, paying for a foundational design course is a choice, not a necessity, unlike most other online bootcamps, degree programs and in-person classes.

Path Unbound’s School of Design is completely free with paid options meanwhile online bootcamps are usually from 6,000 to 8,000 USD; degree programs can get up to over 160,000 USD; and in-person classes are from 2,000 to 18,000 USD.

2. Long time commitment

Design degrees usually take 4 years to complete, which is a long time commitment. For working professionals with families to support, taking that much time away from work simply isn’t practical.

At Path Unbound, we recognize that everyone learns at a different pace, which is why we offer a self-paced visual design course that can be completed in as short as 8 to 10 weeks, with optional paid mentor sessions to support students as they need.

3. Outdated teaching and information

UX/UI design is constantly changing. Some academic institutions still teach outdated curriculum to students, which makes it harder for them to adapt to the demands of design in the real world.

At Path Unbound, we are constantly updating our curriculum, which also happens to be expertly-designed by former university professors.

4. Many design jobs don’t require a formal degree

This can be a pro or a con. All of that time and money you invested into getting a degree doesn’t make you automatically a better candidate than others who don’t have a degree for jobs that don’t require one.

The most important thing is that you have an outstanding portfolio, which you need to start building as early as possible.

Get expert guidance on what works and what doesn’t. Develop a high level of self-awareness on where your stands compared to industry benchmarks.

Benefits of Attending a Bootcamp

  1. Focus on real world skills

This is great for people who just want to learn practical skills that can be applied to real client projects and land a job as soon as possible.

2. Short time commitment

Most bootcamp programs are less than a year, ranging from 10 weeks to 10 months. You have the choice to pick the bootcamp that suits your schedule.

3. Cheaper than a degree

In general, bootcamps are cheaper than degree programs with costs ranging from $5000 to $15,000 (in USD). Many are also offered completely online so relocation is not necessary and you can learn from the comfort of your home.

For students who find this cost still beyond their reach, we at Path Unbound created a more affordable path to design education.

We cut out the exorbitant cost of custom course production and operate on a lean team — the result is that we are able to provide the same level of educational material while dramatically reducing the cost.

We instead invest in portfolio building and bespoke mentorship in our Portfolio School program, which is ultimately what will help students land a job or start their own freelance design business.

Think retail markup vs. direct to consumer — we are on the latter end of the education business.

4. Up-to-date curriculum

Bootcamps often offer up-to-date curriculum and educate students about what is happening in the industry right now and from not 4 years ago.

5. Career-focused approach

Bootcamps usually offer a variety of support to help students get their first design job with mock interviews, portfolio reviews, one-on-one mentor sessions, career planning etc, which is also a key component in programs offered at Path Unbound.

Downsides of Attending a Bootcamp

  1. Bootcamp curriculum may be too condensed and doesn’t teach enough design foundation

The trade-off for a shorter time commitment is the fact that a lot of bootcamp curriculum rushes through core concepts, which makes it harder for students to hone their design craft.

It shows in the work they do — and certainly will turn away companies that want to hire designers who have strong foundational design skills.

2. Still not quite affordable

If you already piled up high amount of student debt from your college years, chances are you don’t want to add on to it.

Most bootcamps offer Income Share Agreements (ISA), which essentially another form of student loan, despite the tempting offer of $0 downpayment until you get a job (a.k.a. “job guarantee”). Read more on in-depth analysis about ISAs from our CEO Stella Guan.

So which one is better?

All roads lead to Rome, but you are the one who decides which road to take with the information you have.

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