UX design is a fast-moving and diverse industry, encompassing various types of designers with unique skill sets. In this dynamic field, one common question that arises is whether having a degree is a necessity or a requirement for employers. However, it's essential to recognize that professionalism in UX design isn't solely defined by formal education. Whether you hold a degree or not, your passion, dedication, and ability to create exceptional user experiences are what truly matter. In this article, we will delve into the various options for becoming a UX designer, exploring both traditional university routes and alternative education paths.
Let's explore your options and chart a course towards a successful and rewarding career.
Do you need a degree to become a UX designer?
Put simply: no.
While a formal degree in a UX-related field can give you an edge, it’s by no means mandatory.
Employers want to ensure that you have the necessary technical, soft, and communication skills as a user experience designer—a degree alone cannot promise that. That’s why you must craft a perfect portfolio that reflects your experience and knowledge—whether that comes from formal academia or not.
To pursue UX design, you have a few options to choose from. You can opt for a degree program, enroll in in-depth and interactive UX design courses online, or start a self-learning journey, among other options.
Each of these has its own pros and cons; what you decide to go with relies heavily on your needs and what you’re looking for.
Degree options for starting a career in UX
If you’re leaning towards getting a bachelors or master’s degree in UX, there are plenty of world-leading UI/UX design degrees to choose from.
Some of these include:
- BA (Hons) in User Experience Design, University of the Arts London, UK
- BA in UX/UI Design, University of Europe for Applied Sciences, Germany
- BA (Hons) in User Experience and User Interface Design, Ravensbourne University, UK
- MS in Information Experience Design, Pratt Institute School of Design, US
- MSc in User Experience Design, University of Central Lancashire, UK
- User Experience Design, University of California San Diego, US
For a full breakdown of UX schools to consider, take a look at our nine best schools of UX design.
Alternatively, consider if any other studies or experience you have could help you land a UX role. For example, a BSc in Psychology will likely be a lot more useful than a BSc in Chemical Engineering when it comes to the UX world.
Here are some other courses that overlap with UX design:
- Computer Science
- Information Technology
- Human-Computer Interaction
- Graphic Design
- Interaction Design
- Project Management
While these courses aren’t specifically focused on UX/UI design, they’ll prove useful in your pursuit of UX knowledge and skills.
Now, let’s move on to the pros and cons of getting a UX design degree.
Some of the pros of a UX degree
You can always opt for UX courses and learn at your own pace, but having a degree has some pros.
Here are a few of them:
- Meet job requirements: Some companies and employers prefer hiring designers with UX-related degrees and certifications. With a UX degree from a reputable university, you’ll fulfil this requirement.
- Collaboration and networking: Building connections is important in every profession. With a formal degree, you’ll get to collaborate and network with many UX designers and build connections that can help you secure a job down the line.
- Team learning: Teamwork is a key skill in UX design, and degree programs provide you with the environment and tasks to develop teamwork skills.
- Building a strong portfolio: A UX program will help you craft a perfect portfolio and a UX design CV, a requirement for UX job interviews.
- Exploring and experimenting: With a project-based UX design program, you’ll get to experiment and reflect on your choices. It’ll allow you to explore what areas in UX design you’re good at and which career path is right for you.
Overall, a UX degree can help expand your horizons and increase your chances of landing your first UX job, but there are also a few cons to keep in mind.
Some cons to consider
While a professional design degree offers many advantages, it’s not an option for everyone. Before enrolling in a degree program for UX design, consider these cons:
- A UX degree is expensive: A UI/UX degree is more expensive than other options. The cost of your degree depends on different factors, including where you live, which university you choose, and whether you’re pursuing a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree.
- Hidden costs: There will be hidden costs in addition to the university fee. Be prepared to pay for administrative fees, materials, books, tools, travel expenses, accommodation for in-person courses, and more.
- Competitive admissions: Admissions to UX degrees is very competitive which means there’s no guarantee you’ll be accepted.
- Time-consuming and inflexible: Getting a degree takes time, and it often becomes a number one priority—making it pretty inflexible. You may be able to tweak your schedule a little, but it will still be very demanding.
- Outdated materials: You may be learning outdated stuff. The UX field is evolving very quickly, and traditional educational institutions have difficulty keeping up with fields like these.
- Dependance on instructors: Your learning success will depend on the instructor and the feedback style they choose.
So, that’s the cons of getting a Ux degree. There’s a lot to consider, there’s no doubt about it.
However, if a UX degree doesn’t seem like the right choice for you, there are plenty of other routes you can take to become a UX designer.
Alternatives to getting a degree in UX design
While degrees were a requirement traditionally, many companies in tech are no longer requesting degrees, and are instead opting for skills-focused hiring.
So, as long as you’ve got the necessary skills—you’re good to go. Let’s take a look at some other ways you can build your UX skills and knowledge without spending hours in a lecture theatre.
Interactive UX courses
Compared to enrolling in a degree, an interactive UX course is a more time and cost-effective alternative. You can learn the ins and outs of UX at your own pace—often for a fraction of the price
Online interactive UX courses are ideal for beginner, intermediate, and expert UX designers, so you can choose a course that reflects your current skills and knowledge. You can also take more challenging courses to expand your skill set as you advance.
Some UX courses also offer official certification upon course completion. This is essential—it validates your UX knowledge and gives you credibility when applying for UX roles. Make sure to compare UX courses to ensure yours offers the learning opportunities and certification you need.
For example, Uxcel’s online lessons, courses, and assessments offer a well-rounded learning experience to designers of all skill levels. They also provide globally recognized UX design certifications to help you gain credibility and validate your design skills when applying for UX roles.
Interactive online courses aren’t your only option for self-guided learning. As an aspiring UX designer, you can create your own design program to learn UX design through books, blogs, podcasts, UX communities, YouTube channels, and more.
One thing you’ll likely struggle with, however, is assessing your knowledge. Unlike with online courses, entirely self-paced and self-structured learning requires self-assessments. This is tricky to do accurately and effectively.
An alternative is to turn to other options for UX assessments. Alongside online UX courses, Uxcel also provides UX skill tests to help UX designers verify their design knowledge and gain industry accreditation.
Self-learning allows you to take things at a pace that fits into your lifestyle, and skill tests and assessments enable you to ensure you’re on the right path.
Internships and work experience
Another option is to break into the UX industry by gaining work experience through a UX internship. This involves you working—often for little to no money—at a UX firm or on a UX team in order to build your knowledge and experience.
Having an internship or joining a work experience program at a UX research and design firm will give you real-world experience on live UX projects—invaluable for your learning and portfolio/CV.
You’ll also build a network of industry professionals able to connect you with the right people and opportunities to help boost your UX profile. Plus, if you prove to be an asset to the team, you might even be offered a job!
However, one drawback is that absolute beginners have relatively little chance of landing UX work experience., There’s typically a minimum knowledge requirement, so this option is better for those who already understand the fundamentals and basics.
That being said, getting yourself to that level shouldn’t be too tough. You can learn design fundamentals by taking an online UX design course and then apply for an internship once you’re up to speed.
Build a portfolio
As a UX designer, your design portfolio is your most important asset. It shows off your personal projects and skills, which will help you land a UX design job.
Use your portfolio as a canvas to show the case studies you’ve done and projects you’ve participated in. If you’ve developed your skills after taking a UX design course, ensure your portfolio reflects this growth.
Always keep your portfolio up-to-date. Doing so will help you to evaluate how far you’ve come, the new achievements you’ve unlocked, and whether there are still areas you need to work on.
What to look for when choosing a UX certification program?
UX design is a fast-evolving field right now, and you’ve got plenty of courses, programs, and certifications to choose from. So, how do you go about finding the one that works for you?
Here are a few things a UX certification program should focus on:
- Hands-on learning experience: Find a program that teaches you the theory but then provides opportunities to put it to the test. Simply reading about UX won’t suffice when it comes to hands-on research and design, you want experience with UX design projects.
- High-quality learning opportunities: The program material should be up to date with the industry and cover a broad range of topics—from design foundations to high-level UX skills.
- Flexible vs fixed learning: You’ve got multiple options when it comes to UX programs, so consider whether you want full-time or part-time learning.
- Positive career opportunities: Look for a program that offers better opportunities once you’ve completed the certification. Check if others who have completed the certificate program have landed good UX design jobs.
- Experience with different design tools: UX designers are required to use a variety of tools. The program should provide hands-on experience with UX tools like Figma, Sketch, and Adobe XD.
Your individual needs are unique to you—choosing the right UX certification program depends on your availability, requirements, and goals. Evaluate each course, compare them side by side, and then decide if any of them are right for you.
Become a UX designer without a degree using Uxcel
A UX design degree is one way to work towards a UX role, but it’s by no means your only option—nor is it necessarily your best option. There are plenty of other routes you can take.
If you’re looking for flexible and affordable learning that gives you a comprehensive, in-depth understanding of UX design and research; look no further.
Uxcel’s UX design courses enable beginner, intermediate, and expert UX designers to level up their UX knowledge, test their skills, and find their ideal UX roles—all on one intuitive platform.
Sign up to explore in-depth courses, assessments, blogs, podcasts, and more, and start building a stellar UX design today.