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User experience field diversity

Susan Farrell and Jakob Nielsen have made a survey of UX professionals’ careers followed by the analysis — “User Experience Career Advice”. I’ve quoted a few snippets I found surprising or very interesting.

The strongest finding from this research is that there is no single defining characteristic of user experience careers. For each of the main points we considered, our respondents provided an immense diversity of answers.

On a more detailed level, when we asked about specific activities such as making wireframes, gathering requirements, or running usability studies, it was also striking how diverse UX professionals’ jobs are. Fully 75% of respondents said that they perform at least 16 different UX activities.

This makes sense, especially in small teams where one person has to cover a lot of ground. A need for a lot of knowledge and experience is making it challenging, especially because there are not a lot of dedicated educational institutions that can help at the moment. That’s why people are entering user experience field from diverse areas.

There’s no single degree to define the field: design, psychology, and communication were the most common major areas, sharply pursued by English and computer science. All of these fields make some sense as a partial educational background for UX professionals, but together those five disciplines accounted for only 45% of bachelor’s degrees.

Digging deeper than the title on the diploma, we asked people which of the subjects that they studied had actually turned out to be useful. Continuing the diversity theme, there were lots of different things that UX pros claim to find useful. The top scores in order of usefulness were web design, writing, programming, psychology, design, and research methods. Any list where programming and psychology are next to each other is clearly indicative of an interdisciplinary field.

If you’re interested in starting or transfering to a UX career, be sure to read the analysis or even the the whole report if you like details and helpful hints.


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