Is a UX Degree Important to Start a Career in UX Designing?
The short answer is No. You do not need any sort of designing degree to start working as a UX designer. But, employers might have a bias towards the candidates who hold a degree. Not because they can turn out to be better designers, but because they have other skills that are imperative to work and grow in a competitive professional ecosystem.
Having said that, nowhere is it written that you cannot work as a designer if you do not hold a UX degree. The likes of Elon Musk have openly spoken about the non-usability of education to work at Tesla. He only says that the person should have the skill, will, and attitude to learn and adapt. The same goes for any IT-related job as the employers want to know what your abilities are and not how you have learned to do it.
In any case, there is a mixed response to the question: do I need a UX degree to work as a UX designer? Let's explore its aspects further.
Why is a Degree Important for UX Designing?
There is a big difference in going for an interview with a degree in your hands as opposed to going without one. Yes, you might land the job and work in your desired company as a UX designer, but before you can work on your company-provided Mac, be prepared to answer a series of questions, mainly relating to why anyone should hire a person for a job without any UX designer degree.
This brings us to starting three most important points of getting a UX designing degree.
1. Employers are Looking for Graduates
Before anyone is called for personal interaction, be it online or at the office, the employers will skim through the submitted cover letters and resumes. While you may have a lot of show in terms of experience, not having a degree is a big red flag for some employers.
Quite frankly, you cannot expect to come across an Elon Musk in every company. So, not having a User Experience design degree can directly lead to rejection, and you will not be called in for an interview. Employers hiring a person for any UX role needs to know your understanding of the UX basics.
Even though UX design is a dynamic field, the core tenets and rudimentary concepts are universally accepted. And a degree is the best to prove that you have what it takes to learn in-depth about UX designing.
2. It's About the Essence of Graduating
Graduation is not only about theoretical knowledge. But it also prepares you for the wild wild west out there. After leaving school, going to college means getting access to more advanced skills that will act as a foundation of your success. Studying to graduate involves working on reports, conducting research, developing your communication skills, and building presentations while presenting them.
It builds your social skills that will be required in your profession. In other words, getting a UX degree is not only about learning to design but there are additional aspects associated with studying in a college.
3. Graduation Builds Your Network
Graduating from a college with a degree in your hands directly translates to opportunities and the ability to build a network. Your network helps open several doors of opportunities for you that lets you move ahead in life.
Employers also rely on your network to help them leverage your circle of friends and associates to build new connections. The people you have studied within your life can either become your associate or your clients. In any case, it is the network that you earn while graduating that helps you stream ahead and explore better opportunities.
So, Is It Imperative to Have a UX degree to Get a Job
As per the Center on Education and the Workforce of Georgetown University, 35% of the jobs in 2020 will require a bachelor's degree. The report does not state whether UX is designing a part of this statistic or not. But there are a few reasons that make a solid case in favor of having a degree to get a job in UX designing.
Remember, it is not mandatory to have a UX degree per se. The degree can be in any field, but having proof that you have completed your college degree with flying colors is always better.
Having said that, a UX design degree is better for three reasons;
- The Dynamism of Tech Industry: The tech industry is ever-evolving. If you want to take an example, look at the phone you are holding today (probably while reading this article) and what you used ten years back. We have come a long way and have many more miles to go.
So, it is imperative to build the core skills required to build your future in an ever-changing domain. Having a degree means understanding these changes and observing the changes they have brought into the world as we see it.
More specifically, having a UX designer degree pacifies the employer that you understand how the entire industry has evolved and also know what the future might hold for the same.
- UX Designing is a Practical Field: It is not always the case that the employer will take your application just on the basis of the UX degree. The reason being, UX designing is a highly practical field. Here, experience and your ability to leverage what you have learned matters more
So, don't be surprised if the interviewer does not ask any book-based questions and focuses the interaction on your practical skills and experiences. So, even if you have a degree in UX designing, make sure that you get the maximum amount of experience on your hands.
- Unrelated Background is better: It seems strange, but it is true. But hear this, Facebook's product design lead, Julie Zhou, joined the company as a Software Engineer, and look what she is doing now. Similarly, people coming from different backgrounds without a specific UX design degree are preferred.
Again, your practical skills matter more than your theoretical knowledge. So, a person with a specific UX designer degree with no practical experience pitched against a person completing his degree in maths but with substantial UX designing experience will win.
So, UX designing is less about what you know and more about how you apply whatever you know. It is about the core skills that you possess.
High-Impact UX Skills Required To Start a Career
Four types of skills are imperative if you want to start a career in UX designing.
1. Core UX Skills
These are the skills that any UX degree course will teach you. It includes UX research, wireframing, prototyping, UX writing, visual communication, and user empathy. These are the core tenets of a good UX design.
To help you understand them better, let assume that you are creating an application design. First, you will need to conduct UX research to identify the users who will use the app. It is important to understand the user's behavior, how they make a choice, and what kind of interface is best for them.
Following this, you should know how to create wireframes and prototypes of aspects that came out of the research. Further, UX writing and visual communication are also instrumental to attract the end-users and make sure that they interact with the design effectively.
Lastly, user empathy in the field of study helps you learn to stand in your end-users shoes and resonate with their behavior while learning how they make every choice. While creating the application design, you need to know these things because if you are not creating a solution for your end-users, they won't use it. After all, your perspective of what's right is different from the users.
2. Soft Skills
These are the skills that are rarely taught in any User experience design degree. Numerous soft skills are an essential part of every UX designer's journey. These are curiosity, empathy, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration.
In terms of their practical application, let's take an example of a designer who is given a task to create an interface for elderly users. If you have gone through the core skills part, it must be evident that UX research is the first thing to do.
A curious and empathic designer will undoubtedly go into the depths of understanding the end-users of the solution. This will help the designer create the right paths and set correct precedents for the users to follow.
Critical thinking implies the ability to create a solution that perfectly resonates with the users and creates a positive experience. Lastly, communication and collaboration involve sharing the perfect story with the users and reeling in all the stakeholders to create a successful design.
3. Industry Skills
The skills that come under this category are wireframing and prototyping, UX writing, UI, and user testing. Starting with wireframing, you should be taught about these skills in the UX degree course. Wireframes and prototypes help create the design without ever writing a single line of code.
UX writing and UI have been covered in the above part. And user testing is about evaluating the final design by letting people use it and provide their feedback. User testing follows an iterate approach where you create the solution and send it for testing, followed by making the changes wherever required.
4. Crossover Skills
This part of the skill-check includes aspects like Business acumen, Analytics, customer service, and coding. Starting with business acumen, it relates to a UX designer's understanding of the company goals, vision, colleagues, and customer problems. Learning these things and using them to create effective designs is always better.
To gather customer intelligence, a UX designer must know how to collect data and interpret it for better understanding. Experience in customer service can help create customer-centric designs. More importantly, it can also help you hone traits like active listening and problem-solving skills.
Becoming a UX designer does not require you to complete a user experience degree. Given that a degree can help you learn better auxiliary skills and help you understand the basics, it does not decide your future in UX designing.
Rather it is imperative to gain practice design experience and work on as many projects as you can. It is all about how well you understand the industry and its nuances.