User Experience (a.k.a. UX, UI, or UED) is one of the hottest gigs out there today (just check out all of these open positions!). Basically, the field is a combo of visual design, usability, and web development, with the goal of creating beautiful product experiences for users.
But in a field that requires expertise in so many different areas, what's the best way to get a foot in the door?
After chatting with several UX professionals, we learned that, really, there's not just one. While there are many specialized degree programs and certifications out there, people often begin their careers in other ways. Many start as developers or designers, then get into the field because they're interested in their work from a user perspective. Others come to the table with a psychology or cognitive science background (and one UX Designer we talked to even started as an accountant!).
To learn more about breaking in to this quickly growing field, take a peek inside the career paths of these five UX pros.
Head of User Experience, Quantcast
After graduating from UCLA, Erica was searching for a practical application for her cognitive science degree outside of academia, and she stumbled upon the Usability Professionals Association, which promotes usability resources, projects, and education around the globe.
As she did more research, she discovered she had a passion for how humans and computers interact—essentially the heart of user experience. When she found digital insight company Quantcast, she saw a place where she could continue studying human-computer interactions and make a much bigger impact.
Director, User Experience, DOOR3
When Michael first came to software design agency DOOR3, he worked primarily in web development, but he was always interested in understanding a project’s cycle from a more holistic perspective.
So he began shifting toward client-facing tasks and—with his programming background—he found a niche where he could happily work across disciplines and blend his deep technical knowledge with an intuitive sense for aesthetic design.
What does he love most about UX? From creating wireframes to composing aspects of the visual design to chatting with clients about their projects, "you never know what you're going to get," Michael explains. "And that keeps things very fresh, very interesting, and you're certainly never going to get bored."
Interaction Designer, Omnigon
Christian started his career in accounting—but after five years in the finance world, he wanted a change of pace. So he enrolled in an interactive telecommunication program at NYU, and it was there he fell in love with digital communications.
The contacts he made while in his program turned out to be helpful, too, eventually leading him to his current role at digital agency Omnigon, where he's involved in everything from design to coding for his clients.
Hear More From Christian
iOS Developer and UX/UI Designer, Hipmunk
"I have a bizarre route I used to get here," admits Danilo. He studied business in school, but was interested in programming, so he taught himself how to code on the side. "To get where I am right now required me bashing my head against programming books every single night for about four months."
But Danilo's also a self-described UX nut. He keeps a copy of Edward Tufte’s Envisioning Information at his desk, which proves to be quite an inspiration to the products he works on.
And by works on, we mean designs and creates: He spends his days sketching out features for new mobile products, then getting to work building them.
UX Lead Designer, Lore
Katie went to school for UX—she graduated in May of last year with a master's degree in Interaction Design. While there, she also uncovered a passion for education: Much of the school work she did was education-related, and she even started an after-school program that taught high school students how to design.
When she graduated, she found an opportunity that let her combine both of her passions: a lead UX Designer position at online education startup Lore. "It's a really cool place to work when you're interested in learning," she shares.