UX Interning, Volunteering, and Breaking into Field



Hi all!

A little bit of background on myself: I come from a humanities and social sciences background. I hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees in History and Classics, and I completed my doctoral training in Classics at UCLA. I am looking to transition from academic to industry based research, specifically within the field of UX, but I am having a hard time getting that first junior level position. I have many of the skills that are valued in a UX researcher, e.g. ability to synthesize large data sets, familiarity with qualitative research methods, survey construction and evaluation experience, etc., but even at the entry level most employers seem to be looking for hires with applied design history in an industry setting. Any tips? I am doing a lot of self-education - taking online courses, pursuing certification, readings lots of UX literature - and building out my portfolio, but I’m wondering how best to obtain that starter position. On a slightly tangential note, any UX’ers in Tucson, AZ or maybe Phoenix who are aware of any opportunities or interested in meeting up to talk shop?

Kind regards,

~ H


Unfortunately there are not many junior UX roles out there. Don’t get hung up on it trying to find junior positions. Instead you need to focus on marketing yourself as mid-level. In order to do this you need to build a body of work through personal and freelance work. You need to take a real world approach to UX instead of academic. It’s not easy. Good luck!


I know there is a UX meetup in Phoenix… Might be IxDA.

Definitely work on your research portfolio. Get people to review it and give you feedback.
As ux_dude said, you won’t find many junior positions advertised. Just say UX Researcher and you’ll get more traction. Volunteer as much as you can, network. Also, look for Research Coordinator positions to get in the door.


I agree with @ux_dude and @jdebari.

I’m a medior UX designer (you see what I did there, I’m junior in real), so I’ve got a little experience not long ago. What helped me a lot was creating my portfolio website and writing a case study. I’ve got a lot of feedback from this community, this helps me to improve my case study. Creating my websites helped me think about what I want for my future.

Smart things to do for yourself is write down your mission, vision and plans about where you want to be in one, five and ten years. These combined can be your goals. The goals you can use while applying to make people enthusiastic. Also, it might be smart to do a personality test, to show who you are and personal characteristics you have.

How to write a case study? What I did was search on Medium for much-appreciated UX case study articles. That helped me to create my own and I’ve learned a lot that way.

There’s also your mindset, how do you analyse and approach things. Hacking Growth helped me to form my UX mindset. On my website, you can find more books I’ve been reading.

Good luck! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask me!


I agree with all of the above. In addition, you are welcome to post your portfolio here on the boards, folks will look it over and give you feedback. It’s great!


Thank you all for your advice and input! It’s much appreciated and I will do my best to put your recommendations into action. I will also be in touch when my portfolio is in a more complete state and ready for feedback.




Thank you for posting this. I come from a humanities background too – a design historian, currently a PhD candidate in History and Theory of Architecture at Cal. I am in the same boat as you, and am having a hard time finding that one entry-level job into UX Research. It has been really beneficial to read through the insightful comments here. After exploring several threads in this community, and compiling all the often suggested ways to break into UX I am working on my portfolio and case studies. I am looking forward to sharing it with the community, and seeking feedback once it has taken a better shape.


You know, I’ve never heard about such test. So I tried out of curiosity and … wow, the result was impressive, even dramatic I would say. I can paste some phrases into my CV Soft Skills section :crazy_face:

So, yes. It definitely worth trying!

I like how your website is organized and your case study is interesting to read, you did a great job! Did you use some platform for the site or did you make it from scratch?


Haha good to hear! Which on did you do? 16 personalities maybe?

Thank you so much for your kind words. I’ve created my website all by myself, I did a traineeship to become front-end developer before I got fully into UX. So I know my way around with HTML, SCSS, PHP and jQuery. These are very handy skills to have.


I think you have a great background for UX Researcher and a good basis for a middle level position. You need couple examples of Research projects and you could apply for a UX Researcher position.

Aha, I knew that! I looked at the site code and thought it was too clean to be automatically generated.


It surprises me that a PhD would have difficulty getting a UX position, especially in research. I often hear of PhDs being snapped up by startups for six figure data science jobs solely on the basis of demonstrated quant skills.

I wonder if those hiring for Junior roles wouldn’t admit the PhD is an over qualification. Is there an aspect of your research or dissertation that could be written up as a UX or ethnographic case study? If you are ABD, could you plan your dissertation to include study that is applicable to UX?


I know Airbnb hires PhD’s for UX Research positions…



Thank you for suggestions, and apologies for my belated response!

I definitely think there are aspects of my dissertation work that I could re-frame in terms of UX, or at least use to demonstrate that I have experience conducting anthropological research.