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The "Where should I go to school" question comes up so regularly on IxDA and (already!) on UXExchange, there's clearly a need for this info.

Do educational instututions not answer this need? Do they lack credibility in the eyes of those who ask for career-starter info? WHAT is the definitive solution to this recurring question/need?

Personally, I'm interested in questions and answers about methods, tools, process, theory, and professional development for existing practitioners, but it's obvious that good career-starter information will influence how others (not just prospective students, but also executives, clients, HR departments) perceive UX practice.

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closed as not constructive by JonW Jun 10 '12 at 14:44

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4 Answers 4

I find it interesting that this question is here discussed as a problem. I see it from a different point of view.

I think that prospective students ask this question because they want to hear the personal experiences of people who have chosen different options to become UX practitioners. These personal experiences can give a great insight into whether one would be happy in a certain university degree or not.

Of course universities do provide information on their websites, and its not that they lack credibility, but the university is trying to sell itself, and will only communicate all the aspects that will make it look good.

Personal experiences of people who have studied there provide far richer insight into the university course, the lecturers, and job opportunities afterwards, and we should be happy to keep answering the questions, and sharing our experiences.

Our job is all about user research! So why do we see it as a problem when prospective students are doing a bit of user research of their own, namely finding UX practitioners to ask their feedback about different degrees and career paths?

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Hi Sabrina. I don't think it's a problem but it does highlight a problem our industry has with marketing itself. One of the aims of UX Exchange is to provide a knowledge base for people new to the industry. I personally welcome any such questions :) –  Matt Goddard Oct 21 '09 at 20:12
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No degree is good enough!

Good user experience frequently needs to address more and more variables – it is simply too broad for any academic course to cover sufficiently. We have moved from focusing on cognitive factors and design principles. We often need to address the wider eco-system in which interactions take place. Good design is likely to address social and other contextual elements. There is also a move towards designing more engaging, playful and emotional experiences.

As a result, we have a need for researchers from diverse backgrounds. Furthermore, experiences must align with a company's brand identity, personality, market position and business strategy. Taken together, I cannot see any degree that equips an individual with sufficient knowledge and skills as required in our increasingly more complex work.

I believe that good UX is a team sport. People should study subjects that excite them and focus on the areas that they love. Ultimately, technologies change fast. Therefore, specific tools and technology related skills become obsolete. In contrast, solid thinking paradigms, creative problem solving tools, analytical research thinking and learning how to ask the right questions is long lasting.

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Whilst i agree with the sentiment you're expressing. It doesn't resolve the issue of "where do people go" to become a UX Professional. We all have skills that can be accounted for and taught, and those challenges aren't any different in our profession as in anyone else's. What makes our's so difficult?? And why should we make entry so opaque? –  Matt Goddard Oct 18 '09 at 20:56
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To be honest - I don't think this problem is unique to UX. I see the same sort of questions come up on developer related lists. My bro the engineer says he gets the same sort of questions too.

Professions are complex things. When you're standing outside looking in it's difficult to see where to start. Asking the people on the inside seems to be the best approach to me.

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I think the problem is that user experience is still too wooly a subject in terms of courses and career paths.

Is it psychology? Do I do compuer science with HCI? Is it design?

Fundamentally it's still such a young industry that is not yet established. On top of that UX still is not an ingrained business function. Most business have been producing "good enough" software products for years without having to add additional costs.

Which is why the established education system is not addressing the need head on. Simply. there is not enough demand. The commercial courses that do offer specific training do so by selling to the enlightened.

There is much todo, the industry is making significant inroads into becoming established but it will take a little longer to be pervasive.

What to do now? Well that's the million dollar question. We need to address the prevailing wind. Everybody wants to make more conversions because the promised land of SEO hasn't delivered the increase in sales the boards were expecting. If we talk in the language of conversion and the role: usability, accessibilty etc plays then we'll start to make sense and then specific course will be created.

By addressing these fundamental question - I can see that it will be easier to make inroads into this profession so that we can concentrate on the "how to's". Until then i suspect every open forum for UX will continue to be besieged by such questions.

I personally don't mind this - after all we all began somewhere.

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