If you are interested in UI/UX design and hope to pursue a career in this growing field, CareerFoundry might be the right program for you.
With so many design bootcamps and immersive programs to research (e.g. General Assembly, Flatiron School, Thinkful, Bloc, Designation etc.), making a decision can be an overwhelming feat. But if you’re reading this post, I’m guessing you’ve already looked into CareerFoundry and are considering it as an option. As a recent graduate, I can only speak to what CareerFoundry’s program is like, but I do think that the best decision ultimately comes down to your schedule and what you are looking for in a UI/UX design bootcamp.
My thoughts on the CareerFoundry UI Design program in Q&A format…
How was your overall experience with CareerFoundry?
in a nutshell…
CareerFoundry definitely met my expectations in terms of what I was looking for as a student. I graduated about three months ago (at the time of writing this) and took the 6-month UI Design course—a program that covers the basic principles of UX design but delves more into visual design (i.e. grids, workflows, responsive design, portfolios, mobile app design, etc.).
On the other hand, the UX Design course briefly covers visual design and delves a bit more into topics such as user personas, information architecture, prototyping, wireframing, and so on. You’ll have to figure out which track interests you more, as CareerFoundry does not offer a course in "UI/UX Design” alone. However, both the UI and UX design programs cover similar topics as the two disciplines are so intertwined.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience and don’t regret my investment.
What I loved about the course:
CF always updates the course curriculum. This is great for students because once you graduate, you can always refer to the course material knowing that it is relevant to the changing landscape of design.
The deadlines and accountability factor. Since many self-paced online courses are self-paced and do not pair you with a mentor, I found it valuable to have access to both a 1-on-1 tutor and a mentor throughout the course—real-world product and UI/UX designers. Having a deadline also kept me on track because I knew I had to finish the course by a specified date. (The timeline in the dashboard shows you visually where you are in the course and whether or not you are set to finish it on time.)
Examples of student work! For each “task” or assignment, they show you the most recent student submissions/examples so that you have a better understanding of what you’re expected to submit.
Read-only access to other courses. This means that you don’t get access to a tutor or mentor for the course and can’t submit assignments but can access all the readings. For example, I asked for read-only access to the UX Design Course & Web Development Course, which you can refer to to supplement your studies.
Course extension. From what I recall (I could be wrong), CareerFoundry allows a maximum of two extra months in case you need more time. They also extend the course end dates for all students when there are holidays and curriculum updates.
Option to provide feedback. If you have suggestions for improvement regarding course material, you always can submit your feedback at the end of every lesson. Your feedback does not go unseen.
Areas for Improvement:
I had mixed feelings about the tutor checking all of a student’s submissions for tasks leading up to the last one and the mentor only checking the final task. Perhaps this process is modeled off of the real world where you'll have to hand off your final work to senior team members (who might not get to see or be involved in each and every single step of your design process). That’s just my guess. Whatever the case, I don’t see it as a dealbreaker. You’re technically only allowed to schedule calls with your mentor, but I’m pretty sure that you can still message your tutor on Slack and see if they are willing to hop on a Skype call with you.
I often found the estimated duration for course assignments to be off, as many of the assignments took me a lot longer. However, I believe the estimated time for each assignment is an average of how long students say the assignment took them. Everybody works at a different pace, so perhaps I am on the slower side.
If you don't use up all your allotted mentors calls (6 in total) before graduating, my understanding is that you are only given one extra call after graduating. If you have issues with your mentor missing calls, you should reach out to the student advisor team because they will do their best to ensure that you are paired with another mentor.
Because the course is self-paced and all online, there are no real opportunities to practice presenting your work and defending your designs. This is something that in my understanding is a crucial aspect of a UI/UX and product designer’s role, which I believe some in-classroom programs offer.
Is it better to take an online course or an in-classroom bootcamp course?
Deciding between an online course and an in-classroom course comes down to how you learn best. I know there are some people who don't like taking online courses because they work better when having in-person access to instructors and learning with other students. If that is not a dealbreaker for you, then the CareerFoundry mentor calls should suffice. As a freelancer juggling coursework, I personally needed something that was more self-paced to accommodate my work schedule.
Most of the students on CareerFoundry seemed to not have previous experience or background in design, so on that front, you have nothing to worry about! I think you will get a lot out of a classroom setting if that’s more suited to your learning style. But I don't think you being a new designer (if you are one) necessarily makes a difference as to which option is the better for you.
How was the support that you received while you were there?
Once you start the course, you get access to 1) a tutor 2) a mentor and 3) a student advisor. Here are some notes on the process:
The CF curriculum is self-paced in that you get to decide how many tasks you want to submit per week leading up to the end of your course. However, you do have to finish your course by a certain date— otherwise, you will not receive your certificate. For the UI design program, I believe each student is allotted 6 months and a 2-month extension (if requested). I personally liked that the program was self-paced but still had a course deadline, otherwise I might have lost motivation and not finished the course on time.
Each "task"/assignment must be approved by your tutor. If your tutor reviews your task and sees that it's not quite there yet, they will mark it according to a rubric such as this one:
And here's an example of an approved task:
Your tutor and mentor will also provide written feedback that you can always refer to anytime.
I was satisfied with the quality of feedback provided by my tutor and mentor. However, not everyone has the same tutor or mentor. Again, you can always request a new tutor or mentor if you feel that yours is not a suitable match.
The student advisors are great because they are always quick to answer your questions about the program. You can also ask your student advisor to check up on or even switch your mentor/tutor/career specialist if they go MIA or you would like to request someone who is a better fit.
Lastly, you get paired with a career specialist if you decide to do the optional “Job Prep” portion of your course.
After completion, how did they help you with your job search?
I was actually freelancing before I took the course...so at the time, I wasn’t sure if I actually wanted to apply for a tech job after graduating as much as I wanted to grow my skillset and have a better understanding of UI/UX design. At the same time, the “job prep” factor was a big reason why I wanted to enroll in case I decided to pivot and change my mind.
I graduated from the course at the end of April, so it hasn’t been too long (at the time of me writing this post). Since I had already updated my portfolio, website, and resume by the time I got to the job prep course, I was able breeze through the first Achievement.
The 2nd Achievement of the Job Prep course pushes you to reach out to people on LinkedIn and do some networking. The Job Prep course will probably take much more time/work for someone who is doing a complete career change or coming from a vastly different background. In my case, I am slightly pivoting from what I’m already doing, so perhaps the process didn’t take me as long as it did for other students?
As a CF student, you get access to their "exclusive job board" which seems to be updated pretty regularly. Of course, this is not essential as you can find listings on LinkedIn, Indeed, etc. But it's cool because the CF job listings are more international (quite a few Berlin-based jobs) and will probably get your application read faster due to CF's connections.
Were you able to land a job after the completion of your program?
At the time of writing this blog post, I have not found a job in UI/UX design. Finding a tech job is not a top priority for me at the moment, as I already have some freelance projects going on. However, I am keeping an open mind should the right opportunity present itself.
I check the CareerFoundry Slack threads every week and it seems that the job hunt is pretty grueling across the board but will be worth it in the end. Students are always sharing their successes/failures (and tips) in the Slack channels! One UX design graduate recently shared that she landed a contract product design position at Microsoft. And I know of a few students who had found jobs while they were still taking the course. Overall, it seems that more students have found jobs after graduating.
I will say that I have gotten quite a few more inquiries through LinkedIn and on Behance for design gigs/potential opportunities (some of which I received prior to graduating and right before I started the job prep course). Just goes to show that your portfolio, which the course requires you develop, is definitely a crucial element for your job hunt.
Is it worth the investment?
This will depend on the person and what they are looking to get out of the course, but I personally found it to be worth my investment for a couple reasons:
Breadth of topics covered - As a self-taught designer before starting the course, I found the discipline and foundation in UI/UX design invaluable. I did not know much about UX design principles prior to taking the course, but now that I have more knowledge, I know I can infuse this into my freelance design services. Obviously, there’s only so much a 6-month course can cover, but you will learn a lot!
Portfolio - Because a portfolio is so important in job apps, it's great that they really push you to build yours and require you to add more than one portfolio piece (which I've heard some intensive design programs do like General Assembly?).
Access to the CareerFoundry Slack Community - The Slack community is super active. This has allowed me to connect with and meet up with other designers in person and be alerted of any job opportunities and interview tips! You can also hear from others about their interview experiences, find out about design meetups, network with people in your area, exchange feedback with other students, find study buddies, etc. I didn’t think I’d use Slack so much but now I do.
Connections - Getting to know other designers in a similar career stage has been really encouraging. The job search process can be quite isolating, so it's nice to be in contact with other students.
Final thoughts & advice!
As a part-time freelancer during the course, I did find it challenging to juggle my studies while working. However, if you budget your time wisely and plan ahead, you will be able to complete the course. I know some people who had full-time jobs while doing the course, so it’s definitely not impossible! Just keep in mind that there is a reading for each module of each “Achievement” or section of the course, and depending on the length of the readings, this can be very time-consuming (on top of that, you’ve got the actual assignment itself).
Keep in mind that this is not a one-off online course but a bootcamp-style course. In other words, this is a big commitment, so do take some time deciding whether or not you want to enroll.
Transitioning into something that is unfamiliar and different from your current job can definitely be scary. I studied Economics in college so I don't have a formal design education either! In addition, being completely self-taught prior to taking the UI Design course, I also had some insecurities and doubts. Don’t let that deter you though!
Even after all your work, one thing to keep in mind is that most online bootcamp courses are designed to give you a thorough crash course on whatever field you are transitioning into. This really is “just the beginning.” You are encouraged throughout the course to read up on design trends and practice your skills outside of the course. Don’t forget to follow other designers, network, continue to brush up on your design skills, do your own research, etc. after you graduate.
With any course, you really get out of it what you put in. I’ve seen some really high-quality submissions by my peers throughout the course, and then I’ve also seen some not-so-great submissions, which has led me to believe that most people can graduate from CareerFoundry but not everyone might necessarily be equipped for a junior-level position.
You'll get 5% off your first CareerFoundry Course as long as you enroll in one of three courses: web development, UI design, or UX design!👍
Whether you choose to join CF or not, I hope this post helped you reach a decision! And let me know if you have any other questions in the comment box below :)