Master's degree or Professional Certificate?



Hey wonderful UXers! I am new to the community and couldn’t be more excited to learn from you all.

My name is Diego Fontes, and I am a Digital Analyst at a Hispanic Digital Agency in San Diego, CA. I completed my undergrad about a year ago with a degree in Business Administration/Marketing and first discovered UX late in my academic career while doing a digital marketing internship. I immediately fell in love with it and ever since I have grown more and more passionate about the field, but have come across one little problem: I don’t know where to start.

Given that I was already in too deep in my Marketing curriculum, I continued with it and graduated as a Business Major and find myself wanting to go back to school to learn the strategic value of UX, the problem-solving/visual communication side of it and about human beings, how they perceive what they see, read and interact with and what motivates them to do so, to become a successful UX designer.

My question is:

Given my Marketing background and Digital Marketing work experience, what would be more beneficial/necessary to build a portfolio and break into the field?

A Masters’ degree in a related field (UX, HCI, Cog. Sci, Human Factors Ergonomics)?


A professional certificate from an accredited school?

Here are some examples of the programs I am looking into that are accessible both from a cost perspective and from my ability to get accepted into the program:

MS in HFE - San Jose State:

UX Design Prof. Certificate - UC San Diego:

UX Design Prof. Certificate - CSU Fullerton:

Looking for some guidance and would love any advice on what my next steps should be.



Welcome, Diego! It’s great to have you here.

I can’t speak to whether a MS or professional certificate would be more beneficial, except to say that a Masters is certainly more striking to the average Joe, and I’ve seen more job openings reference the need for an MS than a professional certificate.

What I will say is that practical experience will trump classroom learning 9 times out of 10. One of the great things about the UX field is that it draws people in from all walks of life. Here at UX Mastery you’ll find architects, corporate trainers, high schoolers, journalists, and a whole group of other people that are passionate about solving problems and making life easier for those of us on the internet. The biggest prerequisite is to have that passion, and the drive to learn the appropriate skills.

Because of this, many people who work in the UX world don’t have a formal education in the field. Personally, I studied journalism in college, worked as a sports reporter, and didn’t pick up UX until I’d been out of school for six years.

Whatever route you decide to go, make sure that you don’t neglect your practical experience. Employers will value this just as much-- if not more-- than your educational background.


Hey Diego,
Great to hear from you. Thanks for jumping straight in.

I support what Doug says. I think this field is getting more competitive, so your formal quals will make you stand out from the crowd, but it’s SO important to have practical experience – whether through doing a certificate, pro-bono work, your own projects… whatever.

If it’s feasible to do your study while building your portfolio up on the side, that would be ideal.

This topic is probably a good read for you. I’ve referenced quite a few articles about the pros and cons of degrees.


Thank you for such a detailed reply.

Very helpful. I will keep everything that was said in mind as I make my decision.

My biggest challenge is trying to find a role within my current company that will allow me to get the experience needed to land my next job and try to get closer to UX little by little.

Also working on a personal project that I think will be portfolio worthy. Once I have stared I will share my progress for feedback and critques :slight_smile:

Thank you.



This is great. Thank you as well for the detailed response.

I will take a look through that topic and read up on some of the articles in there, as I think they will be really useful.

Thank you for sharing!