Is it worth getting a master’s degree in UI/UX Design?

The market for UI/UX design is getting more and more competitive. To stay ahead of the competition, is it worth getting a master’s degree?

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The market for UI/UX design is getting more and more competitive. To stay ahead of the competition, is it worth getting a master’s degree in UI/UX design? The answer is more nuanced than a simple yes or no.

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The Pros of a UI/UX Design Master’s Degree

If you had already graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in another field, it makes more sense to get a Master’s Degree in UI/UX design, rather than a Bachelor’s. UI/UX design didn’t exist until a decade or two ago, so compared to most other fields, it’s a relatively new discipline. Until recent years, it wasn’t an option to pursue a degree in UI/UX design. Now that most universities have caught up with the latest development in design and technology, a UI/UX design degree is now more common.

There are several advantages of getting an advanced degree like a Master’s Degree in UI/UX design.

Opportunity To Specialize

Most Master’s Programs are focused on giving students the opportunity to do deep dives into specialized topics. It is beneficial for people who want to become specialists in certain areas and in the scenario of UI/UX design, specialties like user research would be a perfect example.

Time to Network

On the other hand, it takes time for us to network and slowly work our way into an industry. By attending a Master’s Program, we are also buying additional time to network with industry decision makers to increase our chances of getting on someone’s radar the next time hiring opens. Networking is not a sprint but a marathon – if you attend a prestigious program, you may get the opportunity to network with top-tier companies that are otherwise hard to get connected to.

Boost Your Credentials In Certain UX Disciplines

Certain design disciplines prefer candidates with more advanced degrees, such as user research, which is more academic than general UX practices.

If your interest lies in ones of those disciplines, you may find yourself having an advantage by holding a Master’s Degree because specialized training is often required.

The Cons of a UI/UX Design Master’s Degree

However, every coin has two sides. There are some significant disadvantages associated with pursuing a Master’s Degree in UI/UX design, especially if your priority is to start or switch your career to design in a cost-effective way with the best ROI.

Most Junior UI/UX Design Positions Don’t Require Specialist Knowledge

On the surface level, it seems like getting a UI/UX design Master’s can do no wrong, but if we really dig deeper, there is a paradox that’s hard to solve here.

Most people who transitioned to this industry or just starting out in the industry will qualify primarily for junior level UI/UX design positions. Here’s the problem, junior design positions don’t require specialized knowledge – in fact, most companies prefer a generalist who can do a little bit of everything because they save money that way.

If you are competing for junior positions with an advanced degree, not only will your degree not make a big difference, it can hurt you in some instances because companies might view you as too expensive to hire due to perceived higher requirements for salary with your degree.

Senior UI/UX Design Jobs Require Experience, Not Just A Degree

On the other hand, if you go for senior positions, it won’t work either because companies value experience much more than degrees for senior positions. It will only work out in your favor if you have both years of experience in the UI/UX design field and an advanced degree.

See where the problem is here? If you are someone who has never had experience working in UI/UX design and went for a Master’s Degree, it’s poor product market fit. If you already worked in UI/UX design, and money for tuition isn’t an issue, then getting that advanced degree could boost your career prospect.

Alternatives of a UI/UX Design Master’s Degree

The best alternative to getting a UI/UX Design Master’s Degree is enrolling in a well-respected and well-structured design career program.

Instruction Quality Over Big Names

If you are attending a UI/UX design bootcamp instead of pursing a Master’s Degree, the bootcamp’s instruction quality should be the number one benchmark. How can you determine the school’s instructional quality before attending it?

It’s actually not that difficult. First, you can attend an info session before the program and ask questions about the school’s instructional methods. Generally speaking, a school with a highly-curated team of instructors who have actual teaching experience fares much better in instructional quality than those that outsource their teaching to hundreds of “mentors” around the world.

Another way to gauge a school’s instructional quality is by reading student reviews. Most respected student review platforms like Course Report or Switch Up can guarantee a high probability of real student reviews. Dig deeper and see what students are saying – do they find a lot of value in the course? How did they interact with their instructors?

Curriculum Strength Over Quick Completion

In addition to curriculum strength, finding a school that teaches students with the most comprehensive and updated curriculum can make or break your career prospect in UI/UX design. The reason is a large number of “bootcamps” nowadays whip up quick curriculum content that are either outsourced from around the Internet or missing crucial components such as visual design foundations. The result is the lack of foundation and craft shows up glaringly in students’ portfolio. How can a student compete in a market that’s more and more saturated with subpar quality of work? The answer is obvious, they can’t.

In Conclusion

Investing in education is probably one of the most important and worthwhile investments you will ever make in your life – make it smartly by understanding where your priority lies and which path will get you the result with the lowest investment and maximum return. Is it worth getting a UI/UX design Master’s Degree?

It’s worth it if:

  • you already have experience working in UI/UX design
  • tuition fees for a master’s program (around $50,000 or higher) in UI/UX design is not a roadblock
  • time needed to complete the master’s program (1-2 years) is not an issue
  • in addition to having worked in UI/UX design, you’d like to specialize in certain UX disciplines and get into a management position in the future

It’s not worth it if:

Are there any other pros and cons you can think of? We are curious to hear from you.

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