It is not uncommon to hear that an individual becomes a UX designer without a degree. Yes, such people exist, and they are bloody good at what they do. In the past, The common trend was – go to college to attain a college degree, join an organisation based on that degree, learn that one defined role designated to you, and stick to that till you can retire. Fast-forward to the present, things are very different – you need to prove your metal before you can be a part of an organisation – they test your knowledge and skillset based on the profile even for an entry-level position.
Innovative organisations are bringing forth new career paths for individuals with multidisciplinary skillset. It is an exciting time to learn on-the-job. Educational systems are not able to cope up at such demanding times and are lacking behind. It is the case for new technology such as User Experience, Data Science, Digital Marketing, Robotics, or even Cyber Security.
Well, I have spoken to a UX designer without a degree – she is pretty amazing at her job and is doing great. I am a UX writer now, but I was not taught to be one, yet here we are! I am not going to dispute the fact that a degree in UX design paves a smoother path, provided that you also possess the relevant skills along with the certificate to get a job.
Every organisation from a startup to a conglomerate has an online presence to promote their products and services. But how does one become a UX designer without a degree? Is it necessary to have a formal education? Let us discuss, shall we?
UX design from scratch
To become a UX designer without a degree, you have to start from the basics. The term user experience describes the experience that a user has from interacting with a product or service.
In my previous blog, I mentioned that UX design is a process that considers every element that shapes an experience. UX design a multidisciplinary field as an amalgamation of psychology, information architecture, sociology, visual design, aesthetics and usability. User experience, be it good or bad, is not coincidental; it is a direct result of good or bad design! That’s why UX design considers every element: be it for an app or a website or a handheld device.
A deeper dive into the subject will lead you through topics like Design principles, design thinking, user research, UX testing, UI design or even human-centred design. Covering these topics, for a start, will give you a working understanding of UX design from scratch.
How to become a UX designer with no experience
Mastering the UX process is 10 per cent theory and 90 per cent of practice. Many available online UX courses are theoretical, making the learning process banal and unpleasant due to lack of practice.
Many people are trying to become a UX designer without a degree, like college grads fresh off the boat, graphic designers looking for a career change, and people from other creative fields. The best part is that it is manageable to become a UX designer without a degree as the bar is set pretty low due to high demand. Please do not expect me to do a sales pitch stating NO DEGREE, NO PROBLEM! However, from personal experience, I can share a few pointers that can help you in your journey –
There are hundreds of books you can find and buy on UX design. Books like The Design of Everyday Things or Don’t Make Me Think come highly recommended. If you are not into that kind of thing, then visit articles, blogs, and podcasts by UX designers in your free time. The idea here is to learn UX design to the best of your abilities, which will help you in your subsequent journey to become a UX designer without a degree.
Look For Mentor(s)
A great asset will be a mentor in this journey – say Mr Miyagi to your Daniel LaRusso. You will need someone who is your go-to person for questions or concerns: a veteran in this field who is knowledgeable. You can find such a person by becoming a part of a community.
Pick a Bootcamp
While you learn UX design, an essential precursor that can make things painless is to pick up user experience course. It will help you prep on the most imperative concepts and tools, allowing you to use them as a practice freely.
After your rigorous training in your respective user experience course, the next step in your journey to becoming a UX designer without a degree is to apply it in the real world. The best way to reflect experience in the field to the recruiters via an internship or freelance jobs.
Start Job Hunting
After all that hard work, now you are ready to look for jobs. Remember, the best jobs in UX design become attainable through word of mouth over LinkedIn, Naukri, or even Glassdoor. Since you’re a UX designer without a degree, the best way to job-search is by interacting with people from different organisations. With a well-built portfolio and a little luck, you can line up a handful of interviews leading to an offer or two.
UX designer for beginners
Becoming a UX designer without a degree might be manageable, yet UX design is a complex field. Adding to that is the complicated job description setup by the recruiter(s), which scares away candidates with a degree, let alone UX designer for beginners.
But there is a simple and effective way to work around this as well –
Gain knowledgeable Experience
Since you are a newbie UX designer without a degree, the best way to gain experience by pursuing DIY projects. Pick amongst the following options, whichever best suits you –
- You can redesign an existing product, service or experience. Just pick one where you see room for improvement and make your solution look unique and pleasant.
- Pitch some pro-bono work for a non-profit organisation.
- Join designathons like UXHack or Design360 to collaborate and compete with other newbies.
- Aid a local organisation gain an online presence with your problem-solving skills.
The goal here is to develop unique and sturdy case studies using your knowledge and skillset. Remember to focus on unique rather than perfect whilst you look for a job. Again, the more interviews you give, the more you can adapt and reflect confident the recruiters your vitality as a UX designer.
Join a UX Community
Think about joining a Design community like UXIndia or UXBeginner to help you gain mentors and job opportunities. Meetups can be enlightening. It would allow you, a UX designer without a degree, to connect with like-minded people who can help review and improve your work, update your knowledge with the latest trend, and get the word out about new job opportunities.
While I was writing this blog, this line from War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy comes to mind – there is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness, and truth.
The career you have chosen will involve a similar pursuit for smart and simplistic solutions to intricate issues. You would also need to utilise the goodness and truth to solve those issues by empathising with the users.
Please understand one thing – I would never encourage you to skip a graduate degree because it comes with its own set of benefits. There shouldn’t be anything stopping you from becoming a UX designer without a degree – to do great things, and become successful. Just remember to leave no stone unturned.