What Bachelors Degree to Pursue While Preparing to Move Into UX?


#1

New here - what a great community and forum!

Been lurking through the Careers category, but couldn’t find a topic/thread related to my situation, which is:

I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching lately at the same time as wanting to make a decision on what bachelors degree to pursue. I’m greatly interested in making a career shift into UX design as I’ve had some unofficial experience with it in current and previous roles. I also have a huge interest in psychology, have always been drawn to and enjoyed technology and software, and my experience with a site, app and product is always important to me.

However, a major roadblock for me in making a shift of ANY kind is my lack of a degree or certification. Fortunately, my employer provides some tuition reimbursement and is fairly flexible on the degree program that is pursued. I had previously narrowed my choice of university down last winter, enrolled, and successfully completed my first semester of college at 31 years old! But the decision of what major to pursue still looms over me.

So here are the options in front of me with this university and I would love your thoughts, advice and guidance!

Option A:
B.S. in Psychology, Minor in Computer Science

Option B:
B.S. in Computer Science, Minor in Psychology

Option C:
Bachelors in General Studies, emphasis in Psychology, with enough electives to receive Certifications in at least the following (which are just under the amount of hours for a Minor): Web Development, Mobile App Development, Business Information Systems - some other Certification options are: Marketing, Management, Leadership Studies and even “Building a Career in a Non-Profit Corporation”.

Option D:
Something I’m not seeing but this community might suggest.

I know there can be a stigma, right or wrong, around “General Studies” degrees, but UX design seems to require a more broad approach. Plus, if at all possible, I would like to continue my studies with a Masters specifically in HCI or similar, so a “General Studies” degree may not be such an issue for long.

I appreciate everyone’s input!


#2

Hi @jdmcghee,
Its awesome that you’re thinking about a career and UX and choosing your major towards that.
I’m a graduate student in HCI, and my major in undergrad was not directly related to UX. I did Telecommunications in my undergrad, and worked as a web developer for a while before picking this path.
My classmates right now come from Psychology, Journalism, Arts and IT backgrounds. Many of them have gotten into UX a little before they began with the course. So as long as your choice is in one of the related fields, it would be very useful.

These related fields would be:

  • Design
  • Web and mobile app development
  • Psychology
  • Programming
  • (basic understanding of) Data science
  • BIS

Coming to choosing among the options you’ve provided, I think a Computer Science major and minor in psychology would be a very good approach. I say this because many jobs in UX either require a cross between design and UX, or programming and UX. I’ve also heard of some students taking up CS with a minor in HCI. So do enquire if there is such an option at your university.

Hope you find this useful.


#3

Hey @jdmcghee – welcome. :slight_smile:

First up, are you keen to get a degree because you think it will make it easier to get a job in UX, or because you want to do one anyway. If it’s the former, you might find this an interesting read.


#4

That’s a good point. I blagged my way into my first web design job after a 1 day HTML course and then went back to uni part time while working and did Art History. I moved to UX recently after a 1 week conference. I think there are all sorts of ways in to UX.


#5

I appreciate the responses so far!

To answer @HAWK: Really, it may be both, especially after reading that excellent thread you linked (assuming I read it correctly).

It seems that the field of UX is becoming more popular, thus competitive, and having a bachelors would help “get my foot in the door” at the same time as providing a decent foundation and all the other bullet points @lukcha spoke to. Regardless of the success, top performance reviews and promotions I’ve received in my current role, I have not been able to transition to another company despite my many, many interviews - and when questioning the hiring manager and HR, it almost always has to do simply with my lack of degree, which is quite infuriating.

However, I do want to pursue at least a bachelors, if not a masters, because I simply love to learn. And at the same time, I would like employers and/or potential clients to SEE that I’ve learned something. But I do see across this community and throughout the sphere of UXers, that self-learning, experience and a portfolio definitely counts a great deal in this field.

I could be way off here, but my overall impression is that as UX design matures and more companies look to employ such folks, the more the industry may institutionalize the field and demand the piece of paper behind your name, right or wrong. And if all else fails, and I end up not being able to find UX work for some reason, or I end up hating it, I no longer have to hear “well, you just don’t have a degree, sorry…”


#6

I have a Bachelor of Industrial Design and after working in UX for 5 years and realising that the user research side of things is what makes me happy, I’m enrolled in a Grad Dip in Psychology (Monash University) that starts in three weeks. I do get to do a lot of user research stuff in my role, but I’d like to go deeper.

Choose the option that makes you happy - there’s no right or wrong way in and you can tweak and shape your expertise along the way. UXers come from all walks of life and more often than not the only things that really matter are: attitude, empathy and a willingness to collaborate.


#7

Then I think your rationale is solid and you should do it. :slight_smile:

Option C looks like it offers the most flexibility and will expose you to the greatest range of topics – pretty important in UX as there are so many areas in which you could specialise.


#8

I think new web design candidates probably have to have web design related degrees now but I have never had any trouble getting a web design job without one due to experience, they didn’t really exist when I started.

I suspect that UX may end up in a simillar situation where new candidates will have to have a degree but those with the experience wont need one.


#9

I applaud you for going for your degree, and agree with @hawk that option C is your best bet.

I came to UX with a background in journalism and marketing. I have a bachelors in Communication and have relied on it heavily over the last 20 years, but I got in when the internet was brand new.

Familiarity with tech skills is super important. You should at least know how do so some front end development, but I think a more well-rounded degree will give you more flexibility, especially anything that has to do with psychology and human behavior. Perhaps more than the technology, Web and app projects are all about people and politics. Hope that helps!