Has anyone ever tried doing a career change into UX without a bootcamp/degree?

I’m currently trying to go through a career change from Software Engineer to UX Designer, and I’m not sure the best path for me. I’m currently unemployed and have been considering a career change for a several months now. I want to get a new job and start a new career in 4 months (that’s my safety net money wise without turning to family) and with the least amount of money possible, but I’m not sure if I should do a bootcamp or try my hand at self studying/practicing everything, since I think I have a decent background for the switch and I can try my hand at creating my portfolio myself.

Some background info:
I went to school for Computer Science, and have worked for 1.5 years doing front end development (React, JS, html, css, etc), so I’ve worked with product owners, developers, and designers. I also taught myself all the languages I used for the job, college didn’t teach me them, so I have experience self teaching. I’ve done a freelance project where I designed and developed a website for a client (though I didn’t do any formal UX research so I don’t think I can turn that into a portfolio piece even if it came out well). My senior design project involved working with a scientist at my college and figuring out her goals for an app (not aesthetically pleasing at all so also can’t turn that into a portfolio piece). But that means I have experience working with client to figure out their wants/needs. I also was a startup consultant for a semester and helped conduct interviews to figure out product market fit.

I’m wondering if a bootcamp is worth it for me. Or if I can successfully get a new job in a different field through self study and of course refining my portfolio?

I’d probably be using my network of friends/their friends for user testing. I’ve also downloaded the syllabus General Assembly uses for their immersive bootcamp, so I can use that as a guide.

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As a front-end developer, you’re ideally positioned to be UX Engineer because you understand the “medium” you are working in. You understand the inherent constraints and conventions of a web platform and especially how a React “shop” may work. Depending on what part of UX interests you, you can probably self-teach to start with. This book list is a monster and there are other UX Mastery threads with great book suggestions. Personally I would start with “The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman, “Mental Models” by Indi Young, and “Interviewing Users” by Steve Portigal. There are lots of great UX books out there, but I feel those cover core concepts that many junior “UX” candidates I encounter are missing when coming from a non-UX background like CS or Graphic Design.

My background is also in software engineering, heavy in the front-end and I started filling dedicated UX type roles for enterprise and healthcare about 12ish years ago. HCI, Industrial Design, and Interaction Design were the only degree options for UX or cobbling your own from some CS, Graphic Design, and Psychology program. I’ve had to recruit and hire for UX roles, it’s tough if you restrict to candidates from UX programs. Bootcamps are relatively new, so many hiring managers and senior UX Engineers | UX Designers predate boot camps and probably self-taught the “UX” piece. You are not alone.

If you don’t hate being a front-end developer, I personally would self-teach and keep going for front-end dev positions. Especially since you self-taught your programming languages. A boot camp won’t hurt, but I feel most don’t provide much value to someone who self-teaches well and already has a CS or Graphic Design background. Having a CS or Design degree and some experience should get you in the door already, you just need the knowledge and UX mindset. Look for companies that have UX roles or at the least have tight collaboration between dev and design. Skip those that silo product design from software development. Bring in the UX knowledge and build the skills as much as possible in whatever role you get hired for. Volunteer from the dev position to interview users, get feedback from other teams and do early prototypes/wireframes. Pretty soon you’ll be in a UX role.

Just my 4 cents, but love to see front-end engineers jumping into UX. I’m in my happy place with dedicated UX teams made up of engineers, designers, and researchers.

Wes

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I think a bootcamp is good for you as you will be filling in the gaps in your knowledge, you should also look at learning one or two free online UX courses first and make sense of all the UX job tittles to figure out where you really want to be as we are getting more and more tittle coming out of UX.

Thank you! This is probably the best and most thorough advice I’ve gotten, so I really appreciate it.