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Do I need a UX degree to become a UX Designer?

If you landed here confused whether you need a UX Design degree to get a job or simply whether you need a UX Degree to become a designer in the first place, then you have come to the right place.

Do I need a UX degree to become a UX Designer?

A career in UX or User Experience design is slowly becoming the game plan for most of the creative students and even working professionals out there. The business industry has started to understand the importance of UX, with even startups embracing the best practices to stay ahead of their competition. The profession is here to stay with about 8000 – 12000 job openings that can be found at any given point of time. This just adds to the appeal of the profession. 

Although the field is home to individuals coming from diverse backgrounds, it does not mean it is easy to get in on the action. But it’s not impossible either. You do need to keep in mind that you are facing competition from people not only from UX background but every other possible background as well.


Jump to any section below:

  1. Can I get into UX Design from other careers?
  2. Do I need a UX Design degree to get into UX?
  3. A Formal Education in UX does have its merits…
  4. When and how will a UX Degree help me out?
  5. How to become a Product Designer without a degree?
  6. Conclusion

Can I get into UX Design from other careers?

The vast possibility of the profession means there is not one specific educational background you need to have to enter it. But that also poses some ambiguity for those trying to get on top or just beginning to discover UX. UX design is a solace to so many people coming from non-UX backgrounds such as:

  • Engineering
  • Fine Arts, Graphic Design
  • Literature and communications
  • Psychology, Behavioural sciences
  • Classical Design education – Product design, Interaction design, Fashion Design
  • Management studies 
  • And so many more fields

So which path do you take to get the maximum recognition? And is it even right for you? If you are wondering about these questions, worry not, you’ve come to the right place. Let us discuss the possible educational backgrounds you need and figure out the pro’s and con’s of all the options.


Do I need a UX Design degree to get into UX?

Short answer – It depends.

As mentioned above, UX designers are a mixed bag of different qualifications and qualities. Most of these skills are inbuilt in some people. You just need to realise the presence and purpose of it. 

The boon and bane of the profession is that you need to be well versed in a border skill set than any other professional course which might seem daunting to people on the outside.

Skillsets UX Designers use in their job:

  • Communication and Writing – It’s essential to clearly convey your ideas, designs, problems, solutions to different stakeholders
  • Empathy – towards users, businesses, scenarios, people in general
  • Reasoning – Understanding the why, where, how and what of things
  • Problem Solving – Being a 24/7 idea machine, trying to reach the right solution
  • Research & Ideation – conducting market research, having the wit to understand several scenarios and warp yourself through those, ideating on the go
  • Wireframing & Prototyping – being comfortable with design tools and the process of wireframing your ideas
  • Basic design principles – Color, type, processes, best practices, visual design

In a broader sense these are the basic skills a company is looking for while considering you for the job. And if you look closely, you can develop these skills by conditioning your thinking process and approach to solving problems. Most of these skills are inbuilt in you, as a professional, as a student and as a human being – you just need to find the perfect vessel to showcase your talents.

Try watching some videos on these topics and reflect whether you have what it takes. If you already possess some of these skills, at whatever level it may be, then you don’t even need a degree. You just need to put in the effort of honing those skills, learn whatever is missing and go forward.


A Formal Education in UX does have its merits

Having a degree under your belt is never the wrong choice. This is not to say that if you do not have a degree, you are useless. But the world of recruiters, companies and even people in general find that extra credibility in you, if you are a learned professional. To pursue a career in UX Design, you can be coming from any educational background.

A 2019 study by the Neilson Norman group found that 82% of their participants had some sort of a degree to back them up and not all were based in the design field.

But having a professional course in design to back you up can always be that ace up your sleeve, that just might put you ahead of your competition. It is true that these courses are just now getting popular and the number of institutes providing them compared to other subjects is low but they do have their advantages.

ProsCons
You get a well-formulated, well tested and proper guidance early on.Most of the times, it’s quite expensive
You have a deeper knowledge of design basics & thinkingUX is not a theoretical subject to be just taught at school. You have to do the dirty work anyway to understand.
Adds greater credibility to your portfolio & resume
You get to be a part of a huge network of designers – your professors, dean, classmates

There are several degrees related to design for Undergraduate courses:

  • Bachelors in Design
  • Bachelors in Industrial Design
  • Bachelors in Graphic Design
  • Bachelors in Interaction Design
  • Bachelors in Architecture
  • Bachelors in Arts
  • Bachelors in Fashion Design

These are some of the undergrad design courses that can help hone your skills as a designer from an early stage. For all you students looking for a push into the right profession, we can guarantee that being in the UX field is rewarding both financially and mentally since you end up doing work that always contributes to the success of a product.


When and how will a UX Degree help me out?

There’s nothing in a UX Degree or a Product Design degree that you can’t pick up online, from a mentor or from experience. But you cannot prove this stuff to your future employers. Whereas when you get a UX/Product Design Degree, it is proof without a doubt that you know something. 

There are employers who look for a degree in UX before letting you in. Before you take a call whether to pursue a UX Degree, go take a look at some of the job opening sites for UX Positions. See whether they require an User Experience Degree. Now don’t play the game of averages and say that 8/10 companies do not require a formal UX Education so you won’t study either. No.

What you should rather be doing is to be particular about the companies you’re looking for a job at. If you want a job at Google, then best of luck to you. They almost always require either a UX Design bachelor’s degree for junior-mid level positions or a UX Design master’s degree for senior positions. 

You do stand a chance of getting in if you have an equivalent experience in a relevant field though. But what if you’re new? 

If you’re a newbie and you want to get into some of the top companies right away, then a design degree will go a long way in helping you out. Or else, you could try for an internship even without a degree. Most companies transition interns into full time employees if your performance is good. 

But if you’re willing to wait a few years and also do not have the money, you could learn UX on your own, get into companies which do not require a degree, learn your trade and then try your luck at the big shots with experience in your pocket.


How to become a Product Designer without a degree?

But if you have already completed your Undergrad or Masters in another stream, you might be wondering, do I have to spend another 4 years in any of these courses? The answer is no, you do not have to, but you can if you want to. There are a lot of benefits that you can add to your resume even if you come from a non-design bachelors course. The same Neilson Norman survey also found that professionals hailing from any background had a lot to extract from their various courses like:

  • A behavioural science graduate said that his education helped him understand clients and users on a deeper level
  • Another UX Designer coming from a journalism background said that asking questions, preparing surveys became a breeze in the UX field

Fun Fact:

Did you know that some of the top UX Leads and UX Researchers in your dream companies started their career doing something else?

  1. Deepak Pakhare – Manager of UX team at Amazon started out as an applied arts graduate from Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Art, Mumbai
  2. Vijay Verma – Design Chief at Zomato started his career as an MCA post grad
  3. Naman Mathur – UX Research Lead at Uber was first a systems engineer at Infosys as a B.tech graduate

All this seems great, right? But it is important to note that every UX professional who steps in from another area needs to develop the skills we mentioned earlier. Ultimately the goal is to create a stellar portfolio with meaningful work that can translate into a working environment. UX is a field that is constantly changing and evolving.

Moreover it is and can be used in any area of business and industry. So keeping yourself updated on all things Tech, Business, Trends is vital.

ProsCons
A side course, coupled with your original degree could be the right mixture many companies are looking forSome companies & recruiters might choose a formal education over you
Quick courses mean, quick ways of learning more and more specific skill sets which you’re more drawn towards.Need to put extra effort into networking, making yourself stand out and getting feedback.
Learning Job-specific skill sets.You will certainly not cover everything in your self-learning phase.

Conclusion

The bottom line in UX Design is, you need to be good in solving complex problems and have empathy for your users. If you can showcase your passion and skills in a way that is honest, any company will be thrilled to have you. The industry is flexible enough to add people from all walks of life. So all you need to do is get yourself immersed in learning all the tricks of the trade.

No matter your background, you need to have an impressive portfolio and work experience to become a member of the UX community. More people will respect your work only when you give back to the community. To know more about how you can perfect your portfolio visit our article on Building an Amazing UX Portfolio as a Beginner in UX.

Author avatar
Anjana Ramesh

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