Do I Need a Design Background to Switch to UX?
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Do I Need a Design Background to Switch to UX?

Do I Need a Design Background to Switch to UX? cover

The decision to change careers is very difficult. It's not easy to get out of our comfort zones. It requires planning, discipline, and courage.

In addition, many questions arise throughout the process. One of the most common ones is: Do I need experience in design or technology to be able to transition to UX Design?

The direct answer is no! You don't need a design background or tech knowledge to transition to UX.

However, we understand that simply stating this may not be enough to alleviate concerns, so we have included studies, research, and testimonials in this article that reinforce our answer.

UX is a growing field

It is important to emphasize that the field of UX Design is growing exponentially. A study by the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) predicts that by 2050, a total of 100 million people will be working in UX Design.

Companies have also begun to understand the important role of design in their businesses. As a result, UX teams and design processes are becoming stronger within companies.

Although 2020 was a very atypical year due to the pandemic and health crisis, the UX/UI Design area strengthened during this period. This is because companies had to digitize their products and services, and thus the need to have a UX team became very present.

As the field of UX Design continues to grow, companies seek a better understanding of the qualities and skills that make up the ideal profile of a UX Designer.

Check out two studies below showing that having a different background can actually enhance a UX Designer's skillset.

Reading Tip: The Multidisciplinary World of UX Design

2019 Product Design Hiring Report

In 2019, InVision conducted the first global survey on the hiring of Product Designers.

The result of this survey gave rise to the 2019 Product Design Hiring Report, which has several insights into the UX market and how companies are hiring professionals.

One of these insights is exactly about the background of a Product Designer.

The report shows that companies and managers value a professional with a different background. More specifically, within the surveyed population, the most desirable experiences of a Product Designer are:

  • Product Management;
  • Engineering;
  • Business;
  • Marketing.
Source: 2019 Product Design Hiring Report by InVision

In addition to these backgrounds, Psychology, Finance, and Research also appeared.

The results not only show that UX professionals can come from different backgrounds but also that companies understand that different experiences have a positive impact on projects.

Career Report

The Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) also conducted a survey on UX Design careers.

One of the topics researched is the education level of the UX professionals interviewed.

Although Design appears first in the list of undergraduate courses, it represents only 11% of the total respondents.

There are several other areas that have high percentages among professionals, such as Psychology, Communication, and English.

In the table below, we can see this variety of undergraduate degrees:

Source: 2019 Product Design Hiring Report by InVision

The NN/g survey clearly shows that UX Designers have different backgrounds, which has not prevented them from becoming professionals in the field.

Furthermore, the survey shows some other interesting insights:

  • Both personal and professional experiences are important in UX;
  • The UX professional must learn how to observe, how to think, how to be receptive, and how to measure research results;
  • It is as important to know about business and people as it is to know about design;
  • Having a mentor and on-the-job learning is very important.

Both InVision and NN/g identified and showed that it is not necessary to have studied subjects related to Design in order to transition to UX.

Many more important aspects make a good UX Designer than just academic background.

In addition, having experience in other areas is very relevant for a UX professional.

Check out some examples in the next section!

Reading Tip: Breaking Barriers: The Future of UX and Product Design Careers for Latinos

Different backgrounds bring different skills

We have seen that the market and companies are not only looking for UX professionals with a background in Design. In fact, it is important to have experiences in other areas to complement Design skills. We can say that UX Designers must be multidisciplinary professionals.

But how do disciplines other than Design add value to the Designer?

Let's check out some examples!

Business Administration

Having a background in Business Administration is important because the field of UX Design is strategic within companies.

As a strategic area, UX Design must pay attention to the different types of impacts that its work has on other areas and business outcomes. It must also understand how the work of other areas affects its Design processes.

A background in Business Administration can provide the necessary understanding of finance, marketing, and people management, which are necessary for a UX Designer.


At first glance, it may seem that UX Design has no relation to psychology.

However, as you delve deeper into the topic, you can see that there is a lot of affinity between the two areas. Both areas focus on the human being, or the user, as it is called in UX Design.

In addition, in UX Design, subjects such as usability, interaction, and memory use concepts from psychology in their processes. UX Design is an area that works directly with people's perceptions and behaviors, so a background in psychology makes sense for those who want to transition.

Customer Service and Sales

UX Design is an area that requires the application of research and testing with the user. Good communication and empathy can help in these processes with the public.

In addition, in a time when UX is not yet strong in all companies, a background in sales is important to be able to "sell" UX projects internally to stakeholders.

Having a background in sales helps spread the word about the design culture within companies that are still immature in UX.

The experiences mentioned were just a few examples. Any background can contribute to a career in UX Design, even if, at first glance, this relationship may seem distant.

Testimonials from those who switched to UX from a different background

We have shown a series of information and research that proves that you do not need a background in Design to transition to UX.

However, you may be thinking, "I’ve never heard anyone say they succeeded!"

To show that changing careers is possible, we have separated some testimonials from our MID program students, check them out!

André Borges

André Borges was a Marketing Analyst. He got his first job in UX in just 8 months of study. For people who also want to switch areas, André left the following advice:

"First, set a goal for yourself. Family support also helps a lot. […] So the key is to have a goal, focus, and not let fear get in the way of your dreams. […] Today, in particular, I am very happy with what I do, and every day is a new opportunity to learn and seek knowledge. If I made it, anyone can!" – André Borges

Thiago Alves

Thiago Alves majored in Business Administration. He worked with Digital Marketing and saw in UX Design an opportunity to positively impact people.

"I saw the announcement for the Mastering Interface Design (MID) program in August 2018 and I started it in the same period, probably at the end of the month. I landed my current job in seven months!" – Thiago Alves

Inis Leahy

Inis Leahy majored in Psychology but decided to transition to UX Design and got a job offer to work in Dublin.

"I have a degree in psychology, I worked in the field for a while, but it wasn't exactly what I wanted. So, I decided to completely change and go to the Design field." – Inis Leahy.

She also explains that not having a background in Design is not a problem!

"…then in other experiences, I realized that my background didn't matter that much and that in fact, in the foreign market, knowledge in psychology is very valuable." – Inis Leahy

Fabia Coelho

Fabia Coelho has an incredible story. She transitioned from Customer Service to Graphic Design and then to UX Design, where she got 2 job offers in less than a year!

"Before entering the Design field, my experience was in customer service. But I wasn't satisfied working in that area anymore. So, I decided to pursue a degree in Graphic Design. At the same time, I researched Experience Design, but couldn't find good information about it. It was when Aela opened the first Mastering Interface Design – MID program that I could better understand what Interface Design was from the basics, the areas of a Product Designer's work, and the thousands of opportunities that the UX market is offering." – Fabia Coelho

Maria Resende

Maria Resende majored in Law, but decided to transition to UX and now works and lives in Portugal!

"…I met a MID student who was also here. He explained to me a little about what he did and about the course. I had never heard of UX Design, but it made perfect sense to me. I literally fell in love." – Maria Resende.

"I’ve always wanted to work in a creative field but was afraid of not having the necessary skills because of my background in Law. After being able to transition, I can see many similarities between Law and UX Design. Today, I realize that much of my background is very useful in UX." – Maria Resende

Alexandre Borges

Alexandre is another example of a student who had no background in design, but his interest in the area and dedication to studies made a career change possible!

"I didn't come from a design background. My last job, before MJV, was as an Avon Facilitator in 2017. However, I studied graphic design on my own and have always been very passionate about creativity and, especially, illustration." – Alexandre Borges

The testimonials don't stop there. If you want to know more about students who were able to switch to UX from completely different backgrounds, visit our Blog.

Do I really need to go to college?

There is a lot of controversy surrounding this matter. After all, the answer depends a lot on each person and their future goals.

So far in this article, we have seen different arguments that prove that it is not necessary to have a background in design to switch to UX.

However, it is important that each person analyzes their own situation and their own timing.

Going to college does have its advantages, such as:

  • Knowledge about new subjects;
  • Networking;
  • In some cases, it may be important to have an academic background;
  • Opportunity for self-knowledge.

However, it's important to balance the advantages with the disadvantages:

  • A diploma may not be important for the area you want to pursue;
  • The workload and duration of a college course are heavy and may not fit your current situation;
  • High financial investment.

Another point to consider is that college will provide a lot of theoretical knowledge. However, UX Design is a very hands-on field. It's important to learn the concepts and put them into practice every day.

It's no wonder that having a portfolio is very important to get opportunities in UX Design.

Reading Tip: Tips and Strategies to Transition to UX Design – Interview With Vanessa Sousa

Mastering Interface Design program

Aela created the Mastering Interface Design (MID) program to address the common difficulties that aspiring UX designers face.

These difficulties include:

  • a lack of practical knowledge;
  • outdated curriculums;
  • inflexible schedules;
  • and high financial costs.

Our program is designed to provide the necessary knowledge and practical experience to achieve a career in UX.

Our mentors, who have extensive experience in the international UX market, guide and support each student throughout the program, ensuring that they can apply the acquired knowledge to execute projects at each level.

This enables them to build a UX-focused portfolio. Many of our students have secured their first UX Design job with less than one year of high-level studies in international companies.

Check out our student interviews to learn more.

Reading Tip: Student Testimonials: What Do They Say About MID Bootcamp?

In the MID program, you will also find:

  • Focus on the international market;
  • Networking;
  • Flexible hours (100% online);
  • Content is always up-to-date with market trends;
  • Community of students to exchange learnings, doubts and opportunities.

It is a very comprehensive program and if you want to know more about it, check out this article: What is the Master Interface Design Bootcamp?

Or, if you prefer, send us a message!

With this article, we hope you understand that the opportunity to switch to UX does not depend on your education or background. In fact, all of your experiences, whether personal or professional, can be very useful in your career as a UX Designer.

The key to achieving your goals in UX Design is to dedicate time to studying, keeping up with current content, and gaining knowledge. Your dedication and motivation are more important than your background!

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