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I'm graduating from university next summer and I'd like to go into a UX/usability/interaction design job, but my degree is a straight BSc Computer Science. What can I do to convince people that I'm capable of working in the field and maximise my chances of getting a job in it?

I don't want to do a masters because it's so expensive, so I've already been doing the following:

  • Writing about UX on my blog
  • Reading loads of UX books
  • Picking all the related modules on my course
  • Choosing a dissertation with UX in it
  • Joined the UPA

Is there anything else I'm missing that you would advise?

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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about career advice –  Erics Nov 13 '13 at 7:23
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closed as primarily opinion-based by ChrisF, rk., Erics, Benny Skogberg, Matt Obee Nov 13 '13 at 17:15

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

8 Answers

You're doing a lot of things right, and there's more you do. For example:

  • Get hands-on experience. Is there a possibility of a practicum or co-op opportunity through school? Or volunteer opportunities?

  • Start building, or keep building, your portfolio (samples of your work). This is easier than you might think. For example, when you get assignments that touch on usability, information architecture, or user-experience design, do them well, get specific feedback, and then incorporate that into another iteration, for your portfolio. A portfolio piece can be a prop that lets you explain your analysis and decisions.

  • Most universities don't offer much UX content or usability content in their computer-science programs. What options or elective courses can you take from the design department?

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One word - Internship

Internships are meant for people either in college or fresh out of college. They are there to educate within the work-a-day world. An internship not only gives you a good idea of how UX functions within a corporate environment but, in a normal internship, there are people around you to ensure that you are implementing best practices and learning correct principles.

For the last 2 months, where I work, we have been doing a lot of interviews for UX Designers.For those that are fresh out of college, it always looks very good when they have some sort of internship experience under their belt as opposed to doing a bunch of websites from their basement and reading a lot of books and blogs.

There is no substitute for real world experience.

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If you are already reading a lot of UX books, then you should consider meeting up with a UX book club. There's bound to be one in your area. It's a great way to network and discuss books in a non-threatening environment, as the audience generally ranges from students to experienced practitioners.

There are plenty of UX conferences out there, many with a student rate. Nielsen/Norman Group do a dedicated three day seminar on usability and it's quite useful as it involves a lot of hands on workshops rather than just listening to presentations.

Really, just put yourself out there. I see you're based in UK, but I'm not sure whether that's London. If you happen to be based in London, sign up to the London IA group. It's the best way of keeping track of upcoming events, from bar camps to book clubs and seminars.

Good luck!

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There's a discussion on starting a career in IxD/UX/IA on The Interaction Design Association's mailing list with lots of useful responses and links.

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I feel I'm somewhat representative of a small group of practitioners who are hired as developers but see themselves as UX people.

Although my work involves a lot of coding, software architecture and design, I do all this with and understanding of how it impacts UX. Granted, I just graduated with a Masters in HCI (my BSc was in CompEng), so I do have a bit more grounding, but it doesn't stop me from solving problems for the user, and not just from a system perspective.

I don't see CompSci work as separate from UX. I see it as an overlap, and sometimes as a way to express UX solutions. In some ways, you could start there, and work your way to include more UX-focused methods like user research, personas, etc. These are all just tools - what's more important is the process and the outcome, and you can achieve that whether your company calls you a developer, a software tester or a UX designer.

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Jerome -

The key barriers to entry to the notoriously difficult UX employment arena that I found were:

1) Commercial experience

No matter how much you've read, or studied, very very few organisations will even give you an interview if you don't have any DEMONSTRABLE commercial experience in an HCI-related field. I have a directly relevant MSc (in HCI) and PhD yet neither were sufficient to get me an interview - despite having 15 years experience in more technical fields (networking and system engineering). Getting commercial experience is of paramount importance imo, whether that is voluntary, or an internship, or whatever it takes to get in the door and to start building a portfolio.

2) Portfolio

This almost goes hand in hand with the commercial experience. There's no point in having that commercial experience if you can't demonstrate it to a potential employer, so that's where a porfolio comes in. I have a portfolio from my MSc, but because it's an academic portfolio and not a 'real world' portfolio it had much lesser value in the market. Employers want to see how your problem solve, the apps you use, what projects you've worked on...so that they aren't buying in someone blindly.

3) Network, network, network!

Get hooked into the UPA and other organisations in your area. Make friends on LinkedIn and milk that network to get your foot in the door (internship, maybe even a sponsored MSc??).

I had a frankly horrific time getting my foot in the door - something that I was genuinely surprised about (given that in previous lives people have loved me lots!!). The current economic climate certainly isn't helping, but if you've got the experience and a portfolio to back it up it makes life significantly easier.

Hope this helps - best of luck

N

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I do agree that experience is among what employers look for the most when hiring. But I also think that comercial experience is hard to achieve, once real world opportunities are based in the amount of real world experience you already have, and round it goes.. Unless you start with internships or volunteering, it can be tough finding opportunities. I am too a begginer in UX, but since I'm long out of college I believe it'll be even harder, since internships are out of the question! I'll certainly follow these precious tips I find in this post :) –  Renata Neira Feb 12 '10 at 10:41
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Is there anything else I'm missing that you would advise?

I'm probably stating the obvious here - but just in case :-)

Do as much user experience work as you can.

When you're hired to do UX work - do as much as you can. When you're not hired to do UX work explicitly - find a corner where you can do some (when sitting in a developer role than can often be quite easy!). When you don't have a job - go find some volunteer work where you can apply your UX skills.

The biggest advantage you can get in proving you can do good UX work is having a history of doing good UX work. Folk give a lot more weight to a history of good work than they do degrees, reading lists, etc.

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I think, it is largely dependent on your location. If UX is demanded by the employers in your area and there are very few people who have experience (or are interested in UX at least), you have a very high chance of getting a UX job.

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