First thing’s first: UX Content Collective offers certifications in several disciplines, including UX writing, chatbot writing, content testing, and more. It’d be ridiculous for me to claim that I’m coming from an objective standpoint here. That said, it’s actually why I feel a duty to explain what a UX writing certification can and cannot do.
We hear from hiring managers, former students, current students, and others in the industry about what a UX certification is and isn’t. It pays to be fully in the know about what a certification provides, what a certification can’t provide, and what you should know before enrolling in a course.
What does “certification” even mean?
Real talk: Just like roles and titles differ by company, certification can mean different things to different hiring managers or organizations. At the end of the day, the basic concept is to certify or validate your skills on paper.
Think of certification as a skills stamp on your “career passport.” As you travel from role to role, a certification showcases your core competencies at a quick glance.
Certifications act as…
- Third-party verification of skills and qualifications
- Proof of proficiency in job-ready, in-demand skills
- Personal confirmation that you’re knowledgeable in a skills area
- A showcase of core competencies for a specific role or field
- A door-opener that can set certified writers apart from other people who have limited job experience
A certification is a boost, not a golden ticket
Let’s start with what certification isn’t: a UX certification in content design, or any other field for that matter, isn’t a golden ticket to getting a job in tech.
We get a lot of messages asking questions like, “Will this certification get me a job?” and the short answer is “no.” Only you can get yourself a job, which means your skills, your work history, your attitude, your ability to solve problems, and your ability to articulate design decisions all matter more than a stamp on your LinkedIn profile. Your portfolio matters as well.
A certification is a tool to help you along that journey, but it’s not going to automatically get you hired as a content designer.
A certification is a way to learn specific skills the industry demands
If you’re entering a new industry, or you’re aligning your career into an adjacent field, you’re going to have a lot of areas where your knowledge isn’t up to scratch. A certification can be a way to make sure you get a “crash course” in relevant required skills.
Certification courses can provide…
- Hands-on experience with industry tools
- Feedback from working content designers
- Reassurance that you’re on the right path
- Confidence before job interviews or promotions
The key is to make sure the certification you’re enrolled in has been assessed and approved by industry experts.
A certification is not a “set and forget” strategy
It can be tempting to think a certification is something that enables you to work in an industry forever. Don’t be lured into a false sense of security by thinking that a certification is a “gate” that you need to pass once.
Succeeding in a particular industry is a lifetime process. Constantly reading, speaking with colleagues, learning from others, practicing new techniques, and devouring whatever knowledge you can get your hands on. Above all else, succeeding means practicing and practicing and practicing.
A certification is a start. It can’t by definition include all the real-world constraints you might encounter on the job. That means when you do get a job, you need to constantly learn new techniques and learn from others as well.
A certification is just the beginning.
A certification is a great way to learn theory underpinning practice
Ever played an instrument? There are musicians who know how to play instruments brilliantly, but they don’t necessarily know a lot of theory behind what does or doesn’t sound good. Often, those musicians will tell you they wish they knew a bit more theory to underpin their brilliant playing.
A UX certification is a great way to understand some of the principles and theories behind the practice of content design. Understanding heuristics, standard concepts like the design thinking process, atomic design and components… all of these are great tools for framing your work.
This is why a certification can also be a great tool for those who are already in the industry. It helps confidence to underpin great content design skills with a strong background in theory—so don’t think that because you’re already in the industry, you don’t necessarily need some brushing up!
A certification does not guarantee a job interview
One of the most common mistakes I see people make after landing a UX certification is that they expect a job interview straight after finishing. When I ask if they’ve been working on a portfolio and gaining experience wherever they can, the answer is often “no.”
That’s a mistake! A certification is a great way for a hiring manager to know that you understand the fundamentals and have built a solid foundation. But oftentimes, it’s not enough. It can be a long, difficult challenge to land the type of job you really want. Certifications set you on the path.
Not all certifications are created equal
It’s important to remember that not all UX certifications are made for everyone. Before getting involved in one, you should consider who’s behind the program along with the scope of what they teach.
Here’s a list of questions we’d suggest when comparing and contrasting courses, certifications, and other types of UX bootcamps:
Who created the certification program?
Are they people with a relevant background? Truly qualified to teach others? Usually people who come from within an industry—and have a solid and transparent work history—have the best perspectives on what does or doesn’t pass for an authentic education. Ideally, the program creators are expert professionals in the discipline. (If not, why are they in the business?)
What does the industry think about it?
Look at what the industry says, particularly hiring managers. Do they have good things to say about students who have studied the certification?
Better yet, has the certification been reviewed by an independent panel of experts? It’s one thing to simply say you offer a certification, it’s another to actually have your certification scrutinized by people in the industry.
What do previous students say?
This one goes without saying. Always check out stories from past students and listen to what they have to say. Did they achieve the same goals you want to achieve? Did they eventually get a job or a promotion?
We hope this helps, and we’re always here for you at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re very proud of our certification programs, and hope you find what you need from our training.
Patrick Stafford is the COO at UX Content Collective. Connect with him on LinkedIn!