College student interested in UX career

getstarted

#1

Hi! This is my first time posting here. My name’s Jake, I’m 19 years old and I’m a computer science major at Northampton Community College. I plan to transfer after two years of education here. This is my second semester of college, and ever since I started, I have been interested in pursuing UX Design as a career.

I first became interested in UX Design when an app I use a lot, Soundcloud, got a MAJOR update in 2014 that completely changed the app and the way everyone would use it… for worse. It wasn’t just me that hated it, literally everyone who has used Soundcloud could not stand the new iOS update, almost every single review was terrible. The update was supposed to add simplicity and a more modern design to the app, but it ended up removing TONS of essential features that users loved about the app.

Soundcloud as a company hasn’t been doing so well ever since. I was so frustrated by it and it made me pretty upset, so I thought to myself, “who is responsible for this?” I found the field of UX Design, which I have researched extensively, and found that UX Designers design products and software explicitly with the user and their experience with the product in mind. So, I concluded that it was possible that a UX disaster occurred at Soundcloud HQ. But this field fascinated me, and I have been pursing it as a career ever since.

I first chose Web Development as my major, but when I found that that major doesn’t transfer very well, and that most UX employers are looking for computer science majors, a major that most colleges offer, I switched to computer science. However, I have been struggling with the most important classes of the degree, calculus and computer science itself, and have been contemplating changing my major ever since.

Now, I still really want to do UX Design, and I found that there are quite a few other undergrad degrees that would still lead me to a UX career (since there are currently no bachelor’s degrees specifically for UX, since it is such a new field). MY QUESTION to you guys is, should I stick to computer science if I want a career in UX, or are there other majors I could study that would still lead to a UX career? If so, which majors do you guys recommend for me? Thank you so much for reading through my post, as I am in a very tough place right now and any advice would be greatly appreciated.

P.S. I have watched the UX Mastery video on getting started wth UX Design.


Master's degree or Professional Certificate?
#2

Hey @capaldojacob – I hear you! This is a often lamented problem.

Personally I don’t think that the degree you take is super important as far as your future career goes (I have a degree in architecture but ended up writing software for Xerox) but I DO think it’s important that you enjoy your learning. If you’re struggling with Computer Science, I’d consider dropping it for something that you love and feel passionate about. You can still pursue a career in UX. Take some UX courses on the side.

I really love this summary of the pros and cons of degrees by @AshleaMcKay Ash probably has other valuable advice to add. I’d love to hear from @Louise and @joenatoli on this also.

This article has some great suggestions for ways to get the right experience regardless of your degree.

Hope that helps inform your decision in some way.


#3

@JacobCapaldo, for me UX is a combination of Design and Psychology, specifically Cognitive Science. The more you learn about human beings, how they perceive what they see, read and interact with and what motivates them to do so, the more effective you will be as a UX designer.

Computer Science will teach you tactical skills, but my feeling is (1) you can learn that part almost anywhere, and (2) there is a HUGE number of people who have the tactical part down. Which means career longevity and good pay are hard to come by, because like visual design, coding has become somewhat of a commodity.

You need to be able to offer value, and that value is strategic. UX, when it works, is strategic also. So I would encourage you to check out a Design program that teaches it more as problem-solving/visual communication and less decoration. In addition, any courses or a minor in Cognitive Psychology would be hugely beneficial to you.

Again, this is all about people — the more you understand what makes them tick, the better designer of any kind you will be.


#4

Hey Jake! Welcome to the board! :slight_smile:

Cory Lebson has a book called the UX Careers Handbook, which I’ve found to be helpful. At some point in the book, he presents data from people currently working in UX and asks them how helpful their college major had been in preparing them for their UX career. If I recall correctly, the top scorers (highest percentage of respondents who agreed that their major was either helpful or very helpful to them) were graphic design, computer science, psychology, and human-computer interaction (in no particular order).

It may be helpful for you to craft your major and minor so that you get a mix of both design and research, with extra expertise in what interests you. For example, if you’re interested in the design side, you could major in graphic design, web development, etc., depending on what’s available to you, and minor in psychology so that you’ll gain research cred. If your community college doesn’t offer courses in an ideal design-related major for you (or you have reason to believe that they won’t transfer, like the web development courses you’ve mentioned), then get some of your minor courses and your gen ed courses out of the way instead.

Good luck!


#5

Cory’s book is fantastic. I hosted him in our Slack channel a while back to talk about it.

The transcript is here.


#6

Niiiiiice. Thank you!


#7

Really? Not to do UX work, I suppose :). Or your local market is really still immature?

While having knowledge about computer science definitely doesn’t harm, I don’t think it’ll be a solid foundation for a UX career. One could always argue about the best education for a later UX career, but Cognitive Science, as @joenatoli mentioned, is a pretty good one, although possibly more research focused. You’d be surprised how much UX and Architecture (@HAWK) have in common. In my opinion, the majors that come closest, and teach you design thinking the best, are Product Design or Industrial Design. Not sure where you are based, but in Europe there are a couple of universities that have more than decent PD and ID programmes, and I see a lot of their students ending up in UX.


#8

Hey, thank you all so much! I have decided to stick to computer science and minor in graphic and interactive design. I would prefer Human-Computer Interaction but no schools attainable to me seem to offer that major, unfortunately. I want my primary focus to be on the interior of the software rather than the exterior, although I am concerned about both. What I mean by that is I want to mainly work on the code and what’s under the hood, and also be able to come up with a basic design for the interface. I really appreciate all the information you all have given me here as it is very valuable, especially pointing out that research is part of the UX process as well, of course. I could possibly work that into my curriculum. I will look at all the information you have linked me to. Thank you! :slight_smile: