Was doing your degree a waste of time? UX-related degrees you might already have

Completing a degree can be so hard.

It’s been years of blood, sweat and tears in trying to finish your degree. Towards the end, you may have had a quarter mid-life crisis along with a few mental breakdowns since you never really had a passion for that degree. Having heard about UX design, it may seem like a pretty good career to pursue. However several questions inevitably crop up.

What would be the best degree to pursue if you want to do UX design? Do you really have to go back to school to start a whole new degree? Was your degree a waste of time?

Obviously, this can be seriously stressful if you do not have the time nor the money to go back to school.

In this post we will focus on UX-related Bachelor degrees that you might already have and how useful they could be in a UX role.


One of the best ways of figuring out what kind of education and training to pursue when going for a UX career, is looking at the UX professionals already in the industry.

The industry recognized Nielsen Norman Group surveyed a group of 963 UX professionals already working in the industry to find out the degrees that they studied at university.


Some background

The years of experience that participants held in the industry.

Years employed

A large portion of the participants held a degree but some were already working in the industry despite not having a degree and being self taught.

Formal education


What degrees do UX professionals have

The Bachelor degrees that the UX professionals held, broke down in the following way.

Bachelor degrees


The chart above shows how diverse education is at the undergraduate level for UX pros. Several things are particularly interesting about the top bachelor’s degrees:

Design topics represent only 11% of the total degrees. Psychology, Communication, and English commanded only 9% each. The specialty degrees for Interaction Design and HCI barely made it onto the list (most likely because they are relatively recent programs available at only a few universities so far).

The Masters degrees that the UX professionals held, broke down in the following way.

Masters degrees

We see more specialization at the master’s level, as expected; but half of the master’s degrees were apparently unrelated to HCI and UX directly. Even so, most represent very marketable skills aimed at communications, design, technology, business, and understanding people and information.


How useful were these subjects

More importantly how useful were these degrees in day to day work?




Top takeaways

  • It’s important to realize that UX professionals come from so many varied educational backgrounds and not strictly traditional UX streams.
  • You almost certainly need at least one university degree, but it doesn’t have to be in HCI if you have some coursework or training in HCI topics too
  • Respondents recommended that students going into UX take a wide variety of classes. It’s difficult to know in advance which knowledge may turn out to be useful in your work, because the world of UX work is so broad.
  • It takes a combination of formal and informal education as well as on-the-job experience in order for most people in UX to become well-rounded professionals.


Some quotes

How to sell your ideas to executives to make them understand why they are important for the business. “Become a strong writer and everything else will fall into place.”


“Take something that can prepare you to work with engineers and developers.”


“Sciences are very useful in that they carry an innate sense of organization—alot of usability has to do with making order out of chaos, just as a lot of sciences seek to achieve the same thing.” Learn about data analysis.

Calvin Pedzai

Analytical problem solver who enjoys crafting experiences and currently is the Senior UX designer at an awarding winning agency.