UX Certifications and Bootcamps: Your 2021 Guide

Build the in-demand skills and experience needed to get a job as a UX designer through these certifications and bootcamps.
Woman and man working on a user design (UX) project by using sticky notes on a window

User experience (UX) designers take a user-first approach to product development. As more businesses recognize the benefits of keeping their customers front and center, the demand for professionals with UX skills continues to grow. 

If you’re interested in a career in UX design, you may be wondering how you can build these in-demand skills and gain the experience needed to get a job. More advanced UX designers may be looking for ways to validate their skills to potential employers. UX certification programs and bootcamps provide an opportunity to meet these needs.

Is getting UX certified worth it?

Working as a UX professional can certainly be a financially rewarding career. But is the cost of a certification worth the investment? Will it help you get a job? 

That depends. The value of a certification will vary based on your individual career goals and how well a specific program aligns with those goals. 

LinkedIn ranked UX skills as among the most in-demand hard skills of 2020 [1] and UX professionals as one of their 15 Jobs on the Rise in 2021 [2]. The 2020 Salary Guide from Onward Search, a recruitment and staffing agency for creative professions, reports that the average annual salary for UX designers is $98,300. That figure is $84,700 for UI designers and $88,600 for user researchers [3]. 

Unlike in nursing or law—industries with established licensing and certification requirements—you don’t necessarily need a certification to get a job in UI/UX. By earning the right certification, however, you can build essential UX skills, develop your portfolio, gain experience in the industry, and (in some cases) validate your skills to potential employers.   

Choosing the right certification: Things to consider

Do some searching for UX certifications and bootcamps, and you’ll notice a wide range of options. Universities, industry associations, and private companies all offer certification programs and bootcamps that can vary significantly in both cost and quality. 

As you research and evaluate whether a UX certification or bootcamp is a worthwhile investment for your career, consider the following:

  • Your goals: If you’re new to UX, you might choose a comprehensive certification program or bootcamp to start learning the skills, tools, and techniques of the trade. If you’re already established in the industry, you may opt for a focused certification to hone a particular skill or keep up with trends and technology. 

  • Scope: UX is a broad term. If you have a more specific interest, you’ll find programs on UX design, user interface (UI) design, user research, UX management, and design thinking. Look for programs that align with the area of UX you’re most interested in.

  • Cost: Prices for UX programs can vary from several hundred to more than ten thousand dollars. Remember, cost and quality don’t always correlate. 

  • Online vs. in person: Before the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the certifications in our list were only available through in-person events. For now, you can complete any of them online. If you choose to pursue a program online, consider whether the program was designed for online learning or adapted due to circumstance. 

  • Full time vs. part time: In a full-time program, you’ll be able to move through material more quickly than in a part-time option. Taking a part-time program could make it easier to continue working and managing other life obligations. 

  • Fixed schedule vs. self paced: Self-paced certification courses allow for greater flexibility—a bonus if you’re working or have a busy schedule. For some learners, following a fixed schedule makes it easier to stay on track. 

  • Job guarantee: Some certification programs and bootcamps come with job guarantee offers. For example, if you don’t get a job within six months, you’ll be reimbursed for some or all of your tuition. You may need to meet set requirements, so be sure to read the fine print.  

  • Projects or portfolio: Your portfolio shows potential employers what you’re capable of doing, and it’s often among the most important elements of your application. If you want to get certified as a way to build out your portfolio, choose a program that includes hands-on project work. 

  • Teachers and mentors: Research who’s teaching the program and what their standing is in the UX industry. If you want professional feedback on your work as you progress, look for programs that include regular one-on-one mentorship calls.

  • What is validated?: Some courses will give you a certification for attending. Others require an exam or portfolio review to evaluate your skills. Think about what you want to communicate to hiring managers through this certificate.

10 UX certifications and bootcamp options

Now that you have a better idea of how to evaluate a certification program to match it to your career goals, let’s take a closer look at ten common certifications and bootcamps to consider.

1. NN/g UX and UX Master Certification

Don Norman coined the term “user experience” when he was working at Apple in the 1990s. He went on to co-found the Nielsen Norman Group, a UX research and consulting firm, with the “Guru of Usable Web Pages” Jakob Nielsen. 

Become UX Certified by taking any five courses from any NN/g UX Conference and passing an exam for each course. Pre-COVID, these conferences were in-person at destinations around the globe. For now, they’re conducted live virtually with online breakout rooms and other interactive elements. 

Advanced certification options from NN/g include Specialty Recognition (pass at least five courses in a single specialty area) and UX Master Certification (complete UX Certification and pass an additional 10 courses).

You can choose to take between one and seven courses at each conference, and you only pay for the courses you register for. That means you can complete your certification in one conference or spread it out over multiple conferences. You’ll have 35 days after each course to pass the exam.

Tip: To get a better idea of whether NN/g certification is a good fit, try one of their hour-long, on-demand seminars.

Cost: $3626 in tuition for five courses plus $400 in exam fees ($80 per exam) 

Length: Flexible (as little as five full days)

2. HFI Certified Usability or User Experience Analyst

You can achieve two levels of certification from Human Factors International (HFI), Certified Usability Analyst (CUA) for those new to the career or Certified User Experience Analyst (CXA) for more advanced UX professionals who have already passed the CUA. 

While attending training isn’t a requirement for taking the certification exams, it is an option both in person (during non-pandemic times) and live online. Official HFI training programs for both the CUA and CXA include four courses held over the course of 10 days.

Active UX consultants teach the courses, which include interactive individual and group exercises, exercise books, and study guides.

Cost (US): $5,860 for training and exam ($800 for CUA exam only, $850 for CXA exam only)

Length: 10 days for training, 2.5 hours for exam

3. General Assembly UX Design Immersive

You can take this beginner-friendly full-time bootcamp at one of General Assembly’s more than 30 campuses around the world (paused for now) or online. There’s no exam, so you’ll get a signed certificate of completion for finishing the course.

Throughout the 12-week program, you’ll cover a broad range of interface and visual design topics through live lectures, one-on-one instructor check-ins, project toolkits, and interactive collaboration. At the end of the course, you’ll team up with other students to complete a capstone project over the course of a three-week sprint. You’ll also spend time preparing for a job search. The course includes resume reviews, interview prep, and whiteboarding practice.

Tip: General Assembly also offers part-time and on-demand options for learning UX design.

Cost: $14,950 (can be paid all at once or in three installments)

Length: Full-time for 12 weeks

4. Google UX Design Professional Certificate

By completing the Google UX Design Professional Certificate, available through Coursera, you can equip yourself with the job-ready skills you’ll need for an entry-level role in UX design. This beginner-friendly program lets you learn at your own pace from professional UX designers at Google as you build a foundation in UX principles, best practices, research methods, and tools like Figma and Adobe XD. 

Throughout the course, you’ll have the opportunity to build a portfolio that includes high-fidelity mockups, case study reports, and interactive prototypes for three different projects. Upon completion, you can share your information with top employers hiring UX professionals.

Tip: Start exploring the course materials for free when you audit the courses. If you decide you want to earn the Certificate, you can upgrade at any time.

Length: Approximately nine months (six hours per week)

5. CareerFoundry Certified UX Designer

This fully-online program from CareerFoundry is designed for beginners looking to make a career change. Students choose a specialty—voice design, advanced UI skills, or frontend development—and complete a project-based curriculum. Coursework is presented as pre-recorded videos and reading materials.

Tuition includes day-to-day guidance from a tutor and written, video, and phone feedback on portfolio pieces from an industry expert. The program also includes a job guarantee for students that meet specific requirements.

Tip: If you’re considering CareerFoundry, take their free six-day short course to get a feel for their materials and see if it might be a good fit.

Cost: Starting from $6,555

Length: Six months at 30 hours per week or 10 months at 15 hours per week

6. Interaction Design Foundation

The Interaction Design Foundation (IDF), one of the world’s biggest online design schools, offers a variety of online courses and bootcamps for those looking to transition to a UX career. Choose from full-time six- to nine-week bootcamps in topics like UX Fundamentals, Introduction to Design Thinking, or Get a New Job in UX Design. Each includes one-on-one coaching, guided project work, and the chance to build a portfolio.

If you’re looking to develop specific skills, IDF also offers self-paced courses in topics like usability, data visualization, human-computer interaction, accessibility design, and designing for augmented and virtual reality. Each course comes with a certificate of completion.

Cost: $16 per month (paid yearly) for courses, $1,182 to $2,192 for bootcamps

Length: Six to nine weeks for bootcamps (40 hours per week); 15 to 18 hours per course 

7. Bentley University UX Certificate Program

Several universities have started offering graduate certificates in UX, and Bentley University runs one of the most well-established programs. Earning a certificate means completing nine courses: three required courses (Human Factors and the User Experience, Usability Testing, Managing a User Experience Group) and six other courses of your choosing.

Each course is held online or in person over the course of two days, followed by a portfolio assignment that you’ll have two weeks to complete. Courses take place from 9am to 5pm on Thursdays and Fridays—something to consider if you’re working or have other scheduling obligations. 

Cost: $1,455 per course ($13,095 for full certificate)

Length: Nine two-day sessions plus 45 to 63 hours to complete assignments (five to seven hours per course) completed in as little as one year

8. The School of UX

The London-based School of UX hosts a range of single day classes and five-day intensives that can be broken down into day-long modules and taken at your own pace. Modules in the intensive program include UX Design, UI Design, Wireframing, Prototyping, and Career Advice. Each day includes a live question and answer session with a professional designer.

While courses are typically held in-person in London, everything has been moved to Zoom during the pandemic. Learners based in North America should consider the time zone difference, as everything is live.

Cost: £699 ($959 at time of writing); individual courses cost £159 to £199 each

Length: Five days (flexibly spaced)

9. DesignLab UX Academy

The complete UX Academy Journey from DesignLab comprises three sections. The UX Academy Foundations segment is designed to introduce students to the world of UX. The Academy itself includes 480 hours of coursework and projects. Everything is online and on-demand, aside from mentoring sessions and group critiques that will need to be scheduled.

Students who complete the UX Academy will have four projects for their portfolios and have access to the Career Services module for six months. During this time, students are paired with a career coach to practice interview skills and polish their portfolios.

Cost: From $6,249

Length: Up to 36 weeks (plus six months of Career Services)

10. Springboard UX Design Bootcamp

With Springboard, you can choose between a UX or a UI/UX Design career track. Programs last six months with the flexibility to study when and where you want. Tuition includes weekly one-on-one mentorship calls, three portfolio projects, and the chance to collaborate with a real company for four weeks.

Completing the course unlocks career support and a six-month job guarantee for eligible students. You’ll also have lifetime access to the course materials (including updates) and the online community.

Cost: From $6,900 for UX track and $10,000 for UI/UX track

Length: Six to nine months (15 to 20 hours a week)

Alternatives to certification

UX design certifications and bootcamps represent just one way to learn the art and science of UX design. Whether you’re just getting started in UX/UI design or are a seasoned professional looking to develop new skills, familiarize yourself with some other learning options. 

Free resources

You don’t have to spend a dime to learn about UX. Do some searching, and you’ll find blogs, podcasts, webinars, and design communities, many of them available for free. These resources are a great option to supplement your studies or to build your own UX curriculum if you enjoy learning independently.

Portfolio projects

Your portfolio is a visual representation of your skills. Develop one, and you’ll uncover new skills and (hopefully) impress future employers with your work. A portfolio project could be a UX redesign you do for a friend or family member, or some volunteer work for a school or non-profit. 

Coursera also offers Guided Projects designed to be completed in less than two hours. Build an e-commerce dashboard in Figma, learn the basics of customer journey mapping in Miro, or work on prototyping in Adobe XD. Each project has a split-screen video so you can follow along as you work, as well as access to all necessary software.  

Individual courses

With an individual UX design course, you can evaluate whether UX design might be a good fit or focus on developing a particular skill. Many of the organizations we listed above offer individual courses. 

You’ll also find a wide selection of options from top universities on Coursera. Get an Introduction to User Experience Design from Georgia Tech, learn about UX Research at Scale from the University of Michigan, or dive into Web Design Strategy with the California Institute of the Arts.

Degrees

Many UX designers have at least a bachelor’s degree. While it might not always be required to have a degree in a UX-related field, you might find it helps when it comes time to apply for jobs. Some universities have started to offer degree programs in interaction design or user experience design, but programs in computer science, graphic design, or information architecture often cover overlapping skills. The Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science from the University of London, available online through Coursera, features UX as a possible focus area.

Related articles

Article sources

1. LinkedIn. "The Most In-Demand Hard and Soft Skills of 2020, https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/trends-and-research/2020/most-in-demand-hard-and-soft-skills." Accessed March 25, 2021.

2. LinkedIn. "LinkedIn Jobs on the Rise: 15 opportunities that are in demand and hiring now, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/linkedin-jobs-rise-15-opportunities-demand-hiring-now-andrew-seaman/." Accessed March 25, 2021.

3. Onward Search. "Digital Creative Salary Guide 2020, https://onwardsearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Onward-Search-Salary-Guide-2020.pdf." Accessed March 25, 2021.

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