Is UX Design the Next Gold Rush?

Ugly Unicorns-Eric Abrom-UX Design is the NEW GOLD RUSH-UX Gold rush
Eric Abrom
Eric Abrom

UX Design Leader and Mentor

What up, Unicorns! Back with another banger! No, really, it's just a blog. I hate when I read blogs that are all formal with zero personality. Maybe it's because I make Youtube videos and want my blogs to be interesting. I feel this blog will cause a little drama, but your boy is ready for the smoke!

UX Learning and Investment

I want to revisit something that came up in my last post because it rubbed some people the wrong way. I was talking about people who seemed unwilling to invest in their growth and wanted their entire UX journey to fall into their lap with no effort.


It’s vital that I make this clear: investment doesn’t just mean spending money on a Bootcamp or resources. I’m not saying you shouldn’t look for freebies or blow a wad of cash on anything you’re not excited about. But you need to invest in your UX journey, one way or another.


Investment doesn’t have to be money alone. It’s really a mindset. What are you willing to do to learn and grow? Are you going to put serious time or money (or both) into this path? Or will you wait for someone else to make it easy for you?

Because I guarantee you that waiting around for freebies is a slow road to success (if you even get there).


The Burning Question

Okay, on to a question that’s been on my mind. And the suspense is kind of killing me. Here it is:


Is UX design the new gold rush?


I don’t care if you’re reading this in your dorm room, at work, or taking a bite of a sandwich; if you’re into UX design, then take a moment to think about this question. Is UX design the new gold rush?


Because I see some parallels when I think about that original Gold Rush when so many people were flocking to California to mine gold and get rich. It was a mass exodus with so much buzz. And who really got rich? The newbie miners?


Not so much. The people selling supplies were passing out shovels and such at the right moment. The people who were able to position themselves and profit from all those excited people rushed to beat each other to the gold.

What does that have to do with UX design?


Think about it. You don’t need a formal education or qualifications to get into UX design. It’s not like becoming an accountant, where you probably need an accounting degree. It’s not like trying to join a law firm with no law degree. And it’s not like becoming a surgeon without prior medical training!


In other words, people from almost any walk of life can get into UX. And I’m an example of that, considering that I got my first UX job before I even finished a Bootcamp or had a pretty paper certificate to hang on my wall. Which is amazing!

So why does that make this like a gold rush?


Because even though UX design is so accessible to people from a lot of different backgrounds, not everyone is going to make it. At least, not everyone trying to make a career or UX design is going to.


Many people are positioning themselves and their products to take advantage of the excitement around UX. A massive influx of new Bootcamps and online courses is coming out.


Why? Because since you don’t need a formal degree to get into this field, there is a market for people who want to learn and need validation or certification. It’s a brand-new field, so it makes sense that people will look for ways to capitalize on it.


A UX Design Bootcamp Costs HOW Much?

I was researching, and some of these Bootcamps cost as much as a master’s degree! I’ve seen options all the way up to $15,000 or more.


There’s Interaction Design Foundation, Flatiron, Design Lab… all with their own unique options and a range of pricing. Georgia Tech, Kent State, and many other universities are starting to offer Bootcamps or courses on UX design.


Springboard (where I started) has options that can include just UX design or UI/UX. The option I chose cost about $5,000, but there was a $10K option too.


Of course, there are also smaller commitments, like the on-demand courses that can cost a few hundred dollars per year, or 3-4K in total. Even some mentorships or coaching could fit in here.


What if it Doesn’t Work?

Okay, so we see that there are many ways that people new to UX design can start learning or seek certifications.


What if that doesn’t help? Let’s say you paid $3,000, or $10,000, or even $15,000 to go through one of these UX design Bootcamps. But for some reason, you never get a UX job. Or it takes a year or more to get a response to your applications.


That’s why I’m calling this a gold rush. So many of us are headed to where we think the opportunity is, but only some of us will make it.


How would you feel about that?


Know Your Goal

You have to identify your goal if you want to measure your risks accurately. Is your goal to get a full-time UX design gig?

I have many friends who did a UX Bootcamp and then partnered up with someone or started their own business. Which is awesome.


But I also know people who never got a UX job.


I’m not saying that to discourage you, but it’s important to be realistic. Before the pandemic shut down all the UX meetups I used to go to, it seemed like many people were not finding jobs even after a year or more of searching. But all the while, many UX Bootcamps, and online courses were being marketed to them.


Like selling shovels during the Gold Rush.


Now, to be clear: you need shovels if you’re digging for gold, and you will need resources if you want to learn something new. So there’s nothing wrong with investing in your UX design journey. Just watch out for what you need, and skip the rest.


Being Well-Rounded

Knowing your goal can help you decide how best to invest in learning beforehand. What route do you want to take? Do you want to dive deep into the UI design side of things? Do you want to focus on UX research or strategy?


I’m always a little surprised when people seem excited about this field but don’t want to learn UI design or improve the visual side of UX. And when I meet them, I usually advise them to work on that anyway!


The age of the specialist is almost over. Gone are the days of narrow skill sets: if you want to succeed in UX design, you should also develop skills on the visual side. You should really make sure you can deliver on what’s expected. Because the odds are good that companies or clients in your area do not just want to hire one person for UI, one person for UX, one for UX research, one for prototyping, and so on. Large companies with lots of money can take this approach, for a startup is not likely. 


They’re usually looking for unicorns, no pun intended. The kind of people with some core specializations but are comfortable with many indirectly related tasks.


Picture your core UX design skills at the center of a wheel, with all your related knowledge and practice connected like the spokes of a wheel. If you don’t have a well-rounded set of skills and knowledge, things will just not roll forward smoothly.


What Next?

Okay, so maybe you’re wondering whether you have a well-rounded set of skills or whether there are areas you need to improve. Are you making choices that make sense for your goals? Is your inner Ugly Unicorn shining through to potential employers? There are a few key things you can do:

  • Ask yourself what your goals are
  • Decide how much time and money you’re willing to commit to your UX design journey
  • Be wary of buying too many shovels – or signing up for pricey programs unless you really want to make the most of them
  • Find a mentor who will tell you like it is (and who won’t sugarcoat things for you, that’s your mama’s job)
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