Becoming a UX writer or content designer can feel like playing with a Rubik's Cube — there’s a ton of levers to pull, and it can feel like there’s a “secret” to winning the game.
An infamous lever a lot of UX writers and content designers pull on their journey to launching their UX content career is becoming a “certified” UX writer or content designer.
That means a company gives you a digital certificate once you complete their UX content certificate program. The idea there is that, by being “certified,” you’re more employable.
Personally, I don’t believe getting a UX writing certification makes you that much more employable, and you can advance just as much in your UX content career without a UX writing certification or UX writing bootcamp.
You don’t need a UX writing certification because:
- Tech is a very merit-driven industry
- It doesn’t actually mean as much as you’d think in the UX writing field
- Not everyone learns the same way
1. Tech is a very merit-driven industry
Tech might be one of the most casual industries out there, where education is more of a “nice to have.”
In tech, you get people who didn’t even go to college becoming directors, founders, and senior-level individual contributors.
Because education isn’t gospel in tech, there’s a lot of value and credibility given to those who teach themselves a craft. And there are disciplines, like the UX writing field and content design, where you can teach yourself. Versus, you don’t really want a self-taught optometrist.
Because of that, formal education doesn’t mean as much in tech as it does in other fields. And that’s partly because that digital UX writing certification doesn’t actually mean as much as you’d think to become a UX writer…
2. It doesn’t actually mean as much as you’d think
When it comes to UX writing courses and UX writing bootcamps, the standards for “passing” aren’t consistent or regulated.
For example, UX Content Collective says, to pass, you must get “a passing score on a challenging UX Writing final project and a final exam.” On the flip side, UX Writing Hub’s website says, “Upon successful completion of the program, you’ll be awarded a UX Writing Academy certificate”
Because of this variation, all UX writing certifications show an employer that isn't up-to-date on bootcamp curriculum is you spent a certain number of hours reading UX writing and content design content that courses offer.
But an employer might see that UX writing certification, and because every program is different, be left wondering:
- Did the education sink in?
- Did you gain UX writing skills?
- Do you know how to do UX writing “right”?
Now, compare that to dental school.
If you want to become a dentist, you have to rigorously study and pass the DAT to get in. Then, you have to go through four years of dental school and pass clinical and written exams to get your initial dental license.
A UX writing certification means much less than a dental license because you get into a UX writing certification program or UX writing bootcamp just by paying. Compared to a dentist, you have to get in, invest 4 years, and then pass another test.
Take a look at the different requirements between a UX writing certification and a dental license:
I’m not saying becoming a UX writer should be as hard and rigorous as becoming a dentist, but I am arguing a dental license means a whole lot more than a UX writing certification. And that’s why you don’t need one to launch a UX content career.
3. Not everyone learns the same way
I’m not saying what UX writing courses offer is worthless — far from it. UX writing courses and UX writing bootcamps can be an excellent way to learn. And UX Content Collective and UX Writing Hub, to name two, have great programs.
A UX writing course or UX writing bootcamp could be a great option for you if you:
- Thrive under structure
- Don’t want to go digging around the internet for online learning resources
- Are busy, and don’t have time to teach yourself
- Want a learning path hand-delivered right here, right now
- Want to speed up the learning process
But, if the only reason why you’re enrolling in a UX writing course or UX writing bootcamp is because you think it’ll help your job prospects, you might be mistaken, my friend.
That said, if you’re looking for a different, more economical way to learn content design and UX writing than taking a UX writing course or UX writing bootcamp, two great options are:
- Teach yourself UX writing and content design
- Find a higher-value UX content program
1. Teach yourself UX writing and content design
You can 100% teach yourself UX writing and content design. I did it, and within ~1.5 months, I landed my first UX writing job with Fitbit and went on to work for companies like Netflix, Verizon, Afterpay, and more.
If you want to teach yourself UX writing and content design, I recommend doing 3 things:
- Practicing a whole bunch
- Creating home-grown work samples
- Forming your unique UX writing philosophy
1. Practice, practice, practice
If you’re like me, you learn by doing.
When I was teaching myself UX writing and content design, I knew the only way I was going to absorb the UX writing and content design best practices and UX writing and content design principles was to try ‘em out.
And that’s what I did. As I went about my days, I’d take screenshots whenever I saw a content design in digital products I thought could be improved. Then, later on, I’d:
- Sit down and analyze why I thought the UX content was failing
- Understand what could be done better
- Using Figma, rewrote the screen with UX copy I’d suggest
- Analyzed what content design best practices and principles I used to improve the screen, why I chose them, and why it was an improvement
The more I did this, the more I came to understand what UX writing and content design was to me. And UX writing and content design is going to be something somewhat different to everyone.
The more you can get your cursor dirty, the more it's gonna sink in, and the quicker you’ll become a UX writer or content designer.
2. Create home-grown work samples
To land a UX writing or content design job, you have to have a UX writing or content design portfolio. I had some UX writing and content design work samples from my previous copywriting gig, but I complemented them with examples from UX writing and content design case studies I made up.
These case studies were more robust and showed off my deep knowledge of UX writing and content design, despite being a newbie.
3. Know your UX writing philosophy
The best UX writers and content designers aren’t always the top-tier experts. Instead, they’re UX writers and content designers who know what the trade means to them.
When you’re interviewing (especially as a newbie,) everyone is singing the same ‘ol song. If you come in with a unique perspective on content design, you’re gonna stand out.
By forming unique opinions on UX writing content design, I was able to answer content design and UX writing interview questions and converse at a much more senior level than I was at. And by knowing what content design means to you, you can do the same.
I also recommend building your own mini curriculum with online UX writing resources, UX writing and contents design books, UX writing podcasts, etc. To do that, make a list of resources, and create a schedule for yourself to work through them.
2. Find a higher-value UX content program
If you want the structure of a course, instead of pouring money into a UX writing certificate program that can cost up to ~$4,000, I recommend finding a bigger bang for your buck.
For example, there are ~$50 courses on Udemy that can teach you enough about UX writing and content design to be dangerous, especially coupled with free online UX writing resources and a few UX writing books.
That means, instead of spending thousands on a UX writing course or bootcamp, you can get away with spending a few hundred.
At the end of the day, if a UX writing certification gives you the confidence you need to catapult your UX content career, go for it.
There’s no “wrong” way to become a UX writer or content designer. I only share this advice, so you don’t go down a path that won’t yield the results you’re thinking it will.
You’ll be welcomed into the UX content community, certificate or not 🤗
Happy UX writing 🖖