UX Design Master’s Vs. Bootcamp

We break down the benefits of earning a master’s degree in UX design versus attending a UX design bootcamp. While each path is unique, there are several reasons why a master’s degree can better prepare you than a bootcamp. Understanding how these two options differ will allow you to make the best choice for you and your career.

UX Design Master's Vs. Bootcamp promo

The Best Path for Your UX Career

Today, when a person explains that they work as a user experience (UX) designer, chances are that more people understand what that means than they would have a decade earlier.1 As technology and innovation become more and more interwoven into the fabric of business, UX design is becoming an increasingly ubiquitous function.

To meet this growing demand for skilled designers in the workplace, those aspiring to land a job in UX design have traditionally had three options available to them: Try to educate themselves on their own, pursue a master’s degree or attend a bootcamp.

Below we’ve broken down the benefits of earning a master’s degree in UX design versus attending a UX design bootcamp. While each path is unique, there are several reasons why a master’s degree can better prepare you than a bootcamp. Understanding how these two options differ will allow you to make the best choice for you and your career.

1. The Curriculum

UX Design Bootcamp

Simply put, bootcamps teach the basics. They concentrate on tangible skillsets within user experience design, such as coding or graphic design. While these skills can be useful for a UX designer, success in the industry does not rely on a finite ability to code or design.2

Great user experiences depend on a comprehensive understanding of how a user journey functions on a macro level. Bootcamps tend not to go into high-level strategy, which is their primary differentiator from master’s programs.

Master of Science in UX Design

A master’s program is more likely to recognize that user experience design is, at its core, a conceptual undertaking. For this reason, university programs tend to focus on high-level strategic thinking and concept development.

The focus is not placed on becoming an expert coder, but rather on understanding the techniques that inform a world-class user journey, utilizing a broad understanding of what’s possible within areas such as coding.

Programs like Kent State University’s online Master of Science in User Experience Design provide students with proprietary approaches to thinking. These are strategies that transcend coding and design and focus more broadly on the psychology of a user and their potential wants when navigating technology.

2. Accreditation and Program Standards

UX Design Bootcamp

Bootcamps are able to teach students any information they see fit as a private organization. Basically, this means that they are not held to any standards set by an overseeing body within the field and are not required to report results and outcomes to any entity with accountability.

Many bootcamps have made an attempt to create their own governing bodies, such as the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR)3 and Galvanize, in an effort to develop common standards across the various bootcamps.4

However, these self-governance attempts are still scattered and too varied to enforce common standards across the board. Plus, if a bootcamp doesn’t agree with their standards, they can simply opt out without penalty or consequence.

Master of Science in UX Design

Professionals who seek a master’s degree in UX design are ensured that their program has met a rigorous set of standards set forth by a regional, reputable educational governing body.5 These standards help develop programs’ reputations and can give assurance to both employers and students that the material taught is appropriate to the profession.

It also allows educators—professors—to set their coursework in a fashion that meets the expectations of the accrediting body and the industry at large.

3. Job Placement

UX Design Bootcamp

The lack of standards and accreditation among bootcamps is one reason employers may be wary to hire their graduates. While bootcamps claim high job placement rates, these statements can sometimes be misleading.

Just as there are no regulated standards over bootcamps’ coursework, there are similarly loose restrictions on their job reporting.

As a result, many bootcamps claim close to a 99 percent employment rate.6 Numbers such as these are intrinsically hyperbolic and require closer examination, as they could be misleading to those interested in a career in their desired field.

Master of Science in UX Design

On the flip side, most master’s programs at accredited schools are not allowed to make such potentially misleading statements. By law, a university can’t promise that students will receive a job after graduation, because there is no guarantee; it ultimately depends on each student’s individual input and effort.

Instead, graduate programs focus on what is undeniably true in their communications. This means promoting the educational, intellectual and vocational benefits that can be gained in their programs.

A university can’t guarantee that a student will earn $100,000 right after graduation, but they can state how a student may be better prepared to thrive in the field through the specific approaches taught within their programs.

Simply put, the expectations are transparent for all parties, and likewise, employers are able to look into the universities’ reputations and see where they stand and how the curriculum can benefit their organization.

Weighing Your Options

Deciding whether to apply to a UX design bootcamp or master’s program is a huge decision. Before making your choice, it’s important to consider the topics highlighted above.

While bootcamps have been popular in recent years because they appear to be a quick and financially efficient way to break into the industry, there is much more to consider, such as accreditation and education quality.

Think about what you’d like your career in UX design to look like before deciding which education style is right for you.

If you see yourself as someone capable of handling a management position, a master’s program is probably better suited for you. If you see yourself as a technical problem-solver, maybe a bootcamp is your best path.

Also, does the prestige and reputation of an institution matter to you? If so, can a bootcamp compete with a university? Questions like these are crucial to ask yourself before you make your UX design education decision.

At the end of the day, one thing is certain: The skills to become the next great design thinker are out there, but it’s up to you to decide how you earn them.

Ready to become a user experience design master? Read more about the perks of earning a master’s degree in UX design.


  1. Retrieved on October 16, 2017, from money.cnn.com/gallery/pf/2017/01/05/best-jobs-2017/99.html
  2. Retrieved on October 16, 2017, from washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/03/17/why-students-are-throwing-tons-of-money-at-a-program-that-wont-give-them-a-college-degree/?utm_term=.7fc39f23a3ba
  3. Retrieved on October 16, 2017, from cirr.org/comparison
  4. Retrieved on October 16, 2017, from galvanize.com/citations
  5. Retrieved on October 16, 2017, from https://learn.org/articles/What_Does_it_Mean_for_a_School_to_be_Accredited.html
  6. Retrieved on October 16, 2017, from blog.bloc.io/the-truth-about-coding-bootcamp-job-placement-rates/
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