Anyone considering a career in UX will need to decide on getting a qualification or not.
A common question we are asked is whether someone needs a qualification to take up a career in UX. The reality is that it depends on the person or organisation hiring. It’s an unregulated field which pretty much allows anyone to slap UX next to their existing job title and command a higher wage. Whilst I find it hard to give a clear yes or no answer to this, what I can do is unpack my approach from an employer perspective. But I would heavily caveat this with the fact that other employers will see things differently.
In my experience as someone who has hired people for UX roles for web agencies, I have a process when assessing someone for a role. I’m generally not too interested in people who have done a General Assembly-type course, in my view these courses are a great insight into what a UX role entails and I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from doing a course like this, but I don’t feel they are enough to give me confidence that I could hire and send them out into the real world on a project. Without other experience, I would only invest time in them if we had a junior role available and the other candidates were not great.
If someone has done a course in UX, has some digital experience, and has a degree in psychology with a BSc rather than a BA then that might well push them into an interview pile. A background in experimental psychology provides an excellent foundation for a deep understanding and appreciation of how humans process information and make decisions. The added Bachelor of Science aspect ensures that they bring a clear understanding of the experimental method, how to design tests, how to observe and stay impartial, and how the experimenter can influence the behaviour of the participants. All of which is critical in user research.
If a candidate has a Masters in HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) or related field, then I would be interested. There are some excellent courses available that would give me confidence that this person has a deeper understanding of the field and has some good coursework to demonstrate their knowledge. So this might raise my interest and get them into the maybe pile. Coupled with experience in the field, and/or a BSc Psychology, then that would move them across to the interview pile.
If a candidate pops up with none of the above, but strong experience in design, particularly in product or digital design and has played a UX role before then that probably puts them into the interview pile. It would depend on factors like how much experience they had, and for what type of organisations and projects.
Once into the interview, I focus on soft skills and the intrinsic motivations of the candidate. I’m looking for them to demonstrate their empathy, compassion, and ethics. These characteristics are an essential part of a good UX professional. In addition, I want to see some emotional intelligence from them when describing their experiences on projects. How they read the emotions of others and reacted accordingly, and how they managed their own emotions. I’ll look for humility when talking about their role on projects, how they made decisions and had to change their thinking. Finally, I look for their desire to do UX, beyond the surface level. I believe the best UX people have a deep desire to make the world a better place, and to enhance the lives of the people they are designing for.
I get frustrated when I look at job adverts listing all the tools and qualifications they want people to have in a UX role. What really matters is not whether you can create wireframes in Sketch, or if you know how to code, it’s the softer skills and who you are as a person that make the difference between an average and an excellent UX person. So before you pursue a UX qualification, first dig deep and assess who you are as a person, and if you fit the profile I’ve described, then work on how to demonstrate that through the work you’ve been doing.