Hey Nick! Great to have you here. Hopefully we can get you pointed in the right direction.
My first piece of advice is to start hitting the books now. Whatever route you decide to go, there’s nothing to lose by starting your learning today. Whatever route you want to take in UX, there’s probably been a book written about it. A few common UX book recommendations that come up:
- Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things.
- Stever Kurg’s Don’t Make Me Think.
- Jesse James Garrett’s The Elements of User Experience.
Secondly, recognize that there is no single school of thought about which approach to take on your path to a UX career. UX thrives because the diversity of experience professionals bring to the table only adds to our perspective about what makes great usability.
To that end, some people (like myself) are self-taught pros that found a passion and put into practice. Many others have taken some form of formal UX education, such as a boot camp or university degree.
In general, self-taught UXers have better practical experience in narrow fields, while those getting some sort of formal education are usually stronger in a broader range of topics. Self-taught pros seem to suffer more from imposter syndrome, while the formally educated struggle more with applying concepts in real-world scenarios.
Finally, know that whatever route you decide to take, it’s absolutely possible to get a great job in the field. My recommendation: if you think that getting formal education fits your personal learning style better, then sign up ASAP. If not, get studying and start making the moves you need to make to get into the field. There will be varying opinions about what software to learn, what techniques to focus on, and what direction to take. The truth is it matters less what decision you and more that you make a choice and move confidently in the direction of your career.
I hope that’s helpful. Let me know if you have any questions!