In this article, we will focus on the qualifications of UX Designers, including their educational backgrounds and recommended knowledge sources.
We will also provide tips for your first job interviews. If you enjoyed the first part, you'll love this one too.
What is the academic background of a UX Designer?
One of the main objectives of the UX Careers Report is to understand what kind of education/training is necessary to have a career in UX Design.
This is probably a question that many people starting out have. Check out the text we've already written on the subject: Do I Need a Design Background to Move into UX?
The results of the UX Careers Report show that the majority of professionals have at least a bachelor's degree, but not necessarily in Design or User-Centered Design.
Keep in mind that this report was based on a survey of over 960 professionals, and 70% of the participants were from the US, UK, Canada, or Australia.
The undergraduate degrees that appeared most frequently in the survey were:
- Design (11%)
- Psychology (9%)
- Communication (9%)
- English (9%)
- Computer Science (7%)
Although Design is at the top of the list, it is not very representative, given that the sum of the subsequent 4 courses results in 34% of the total and they are from diverse fields.
The graph above shows a great diversity of educational backgrounds among the respondents.
Interestingly, the courses in Interaction Design and HCI – Human-Computer Interaction – appear at the bottom of the list. This is because they are relatively new courses and few universities offer them.
This confirms the interdisciplinary nature of UX Design and that it is possible to move into the field from any area!
At our Mastering Interface Design (MID) program, we have students who have come from various fields such as:
Graduate courses appeared frequently in the survey
A large portion of the respondents also reported having a Master’s degree.
As for these Master's programs, we observed that there is more of a relationship with UX Design.
Although HCI is at the top of the list, the other courses are also quite representative, and some do not necessarily represent a specialization in UX Design.
As we've seen in the survey, it's important to have a diploma, but not necessarily in Design or UX. Knowledge in UX is multidisciplinary, and you can virtually add any knowledge to UX/UI Design.
In addition, a career in UX is heavily based on practical learning and other fields such as Psychology, Communication, and Business.
The interviewees in the report gave some tips on what knowledge they considered important for UX, such as:
- Presentation techniques/public speaking;
- Project management;
- Technical writing;
- Persuasive communication;
- Design Thinking;
That is, much of the essential knowledge and learning does not necessarily come from formal college courses. But it can come from free courses or other types of informal education.
Types of Informal Education in UX Design
As seen in the previous topic, it is interesting to have a mix of formal education – learned in universities – and informal education, for a career in UX Design.
Informal education is that acquired through self-taught learning, courses or programs, or even mentors, for example.
A mentor is a person with more experience who can guide you in your career in UX Design, intending to pass on knowledge and learning.
The UX Careers Report shows that 74% of respondents had some contact with mentoring. Most of them had the opportunity to have a mentor at work.
Mentoring was highly recommended by the interviewees, who left some tips on the subject:
- Find people you admire to be your mentor;
- Network and try to find professionals in areas you would like to work with;
- Follow people you admire on social media;
- If you work with consultants on a project, try to strengthen teamwork.
There are also groups of professionals who gather and exchange tips and experiences. This is the case in our Community. There, the exchange of experiences is intense!
"I think what counted the most about the MID was the community. I was going through several situations in which I was getting frustrated with the market, and I realized that in the Aela community, there were also people in these situations. We talked about how to solve these problems. This exchange of information and knowledge with mentors and students from different levels also brought me a lot of peace of mind." – Daiane Thomé
Our MID program has an exclusive team of mentors to help you improve your work and implement your career.
"The live mentoring classes with the professors were essential for me to learn how to elaborate a complete line of reasoning. In fact, I learned not only to elaborate this reasoning, but also to be able to present it to others." – Diego Crovador
Reading and Learning
There are many books on UX Design, or related areas, that are very important and can make a difference in your learning process.
Reading is a good way to increase your knowledge and does not necessarily require spending a lot of money. And you can evolve in many areas at the same time.
- Find topics you would like to study and reference authors on the subject;
- Read not only about UX but also about other related topics, such as Psychology and Business.
Using your own background in UX Design
UX Design is a multidisciplinary field, and different backgrounds can be useful in this career.
The UX Careers Report interviewees strongly emphasized soft skills, such as empathy, persuasive communication, and the ability to see the whole.
In addition, the participants themselves gave examples of how their different backgrounds help in their day-to-day work in UX Design. We have separated some quotes to illustrate (see more in the report):
"Music has helped me a lot – I look at projects as if I were conducting an orchestra – and the experience I have in music creation has helped me with that approach."
"I'm a teacher. So my presentation and public speaking skills have helped me a lot in my career in UX."
"Everything I need to know about UX I learned from playing RPGs. I needed to put myself in each player's shoes, set up scenarios and situations and set up the story so we could play. There is a lot in common with User Journeys and Workflows!"
How to prepare for work
Most participants in this study offered some advice/tips for those who are thinking of starting a career in UX Design. The most frequent and valuable tips were:
- Participate in workshops/lectures and practice;
- Attend conferences, professional groups, and discussions;
- Look for an internship or job to start with;
- Train your skills with personal projects or redesigns;
- Find mentors.
In addition, we suggest you read a lot of content on UX Design. There are a lot of articles and videos online.
To summarize: don't stop studying. Transitioning to UX is not impossible, but it requires a lot of study and dedication!
Where are the opportunities, and how to get them?
According to the report, the industries that hire the most UX Designers are:
- IT/Software/Internet (23.3%);
- Freelancer (16.5%);
- Finance/Banking/Insurance (10.6%).
The UX market is experiencing significant growth, with more and more companies across different industries recognizing the value of UX Design. It's an exciting time.
In fact, we may see a surge in the number of companies hiring UX professionals in the near future. So, if you're interested in UX, keep an eye out for exciting job opportunities coming your way!
What do recruiters usually ask UX/UI candidates?
A part of the participants in the study are people who interview and hire UX Design professionals.
To help people in the initial process of a career in UX Design, there is a section in the UX Careers Report focused on the main questions asked in job interviews.
Interviewers generally ask you to:
- Criticize something;
- Draw something;
- Explain methods and processes;
- Explain what level of experience and tools you know how to use;
- Respond about why you entered UX;
- Explain UX/HCI/usability concepts;
- Respond about why you want to work in that company;
- Respond to questions about teamwork;
- Tell stories about projects and what you learned from them.
Of course, the questions and selection processes vary from company to company. But practicing your answers to these frequently asked questions will help you in the next job interview!
Lessons learned in the first year
As a final insight, the UX Careers Report highlights what the respondents learned in their first year as UX Designers.
To do this, the answers to 3 questions were consolidated:
What is the best type of company and assignments to start in UX?
- It is important to get a job where you can do a lot of activities in UX;
- It is best to work in a mature company that recognizes UX, has a budget, and support;
- It is interesting to work in a place where you have the opportunity to make a difference. Look for places where there are well-established UX processes.
What helped you the most in the first year of your career?
- Participating in different projects and activities;
- Having a mentor, observing the activities of others, and not being afraid to ask questions;
- Being in a collaborative team in a company that valued UX;
- Training and learning in different disciplines of UX Design;
- Reading regularly.
What would you do differently in the first year of your career?
- I would be more focused on learning about UX Design activities, tools, and concepts;
- I would do more user testing;
- I would do more iterations;
- I would work on my networking.
Reading Tip: LinkedIn for Designers: Tips to Boost Your Profile
Embarking on a career in UX Design demands dedication, study, and discipline. However, as we’ve explored in these two articles, it’s a profession that can offer great career satisfaction and many opportunities for those who pursue it.
We hope these insights from the UX Careers Report will help you toward your UX journey!