Many ask, "do UX designers need a degree?" and for many, the answer is: no. Becoming a UI/UX designer without a degree is achievable, especially if you follow the steps we'll set out here. Furthermore, with the help of many modern online resources, including the option of comprehensive online bootcamps, you don't need to acquire a degree to start a lucrative career in UI or UX design.
While it might seem strange that many organizations don't need you to have a degree to start a career in this detail-oriented industry, the fact is that designers are in great demand. Furthermore, you don't need a degree to develop the skills required to become a designer— a digitally savvy, aesthetically-minded individual can show that they have the necessary skills to craft a stellar user experience with a well-designed portfolio.
Here, we'll walk you through several concrete steps you can take to start down the path of a career in UI/UX design, beginning with finding other people who share your interest and general love for building a friendly, accessible user experience.
The First Step: Join the Design Community
The business world has increasingly become reliant on building and running a complete digital experience, and that reliance on the digital world has spread out into flourishing online communities. This means that you can find like-minded individuals with just a few clicks! For example, there are entire Discord servers and Slack chats devoted exclusively to design.
Similarly, these communities can be found locally through websites like Meetup.com, allowing you to find individuals nearby who share your passion for design and can help you learn. All without ever having to set foot in a University. You can always find people with passion, and as long as that's an option, you'll always be able to find ways to learn what you need to start down a path toward your UI and UX design career.
The Second Step: Network and Seek Mentorship
While joining the community is certainly one thing, it is equally crucial that you build deeper connections within that community. Of course, you can have some impersonal connections within a community, like users whose posts you follow or people you trust to give you information. Still, you can and should establish deeper relationships where possible.
Following someone and being able to rely on them is great, but you should find individuals who you can interact with on a more 1:1 basis and directly seek help from. Building a mentor relationship with one or more industry professionals will help you learn more about the industry, especially when learning how to use design tools and similar experiences that ultimately let you become a successful designer. We recommend being open about your interest in seeking mentorship, as many people are happy to lend a hand.
The Third Step: Build a Display of Your Designs
After joining a community and learning what you can, the best thing you can do is start to build up your personal experience. For most, this means taking the time to build a portfolio. However, since you're likely in the infancy of your understanding, this portfolio may be small: just a few side projects that show what you're learning about the design space.
Notably, you can have small projects to show off. Simply showing that you have a solid understanding of aesthetics, know how to use specific design tools, or even understand the basics of wireframing is often enough to give you a leg up over the competition. Being able to display a hands-on understanding of design goes a long way.
The Fourth Step: Compete and Consider Freelancing
While there are many ways to further refine your UI/UX design skills, the best possible way (outside of the final step) is to shop around your skills and find more ways to build on them actively. Once again, you can turn to the many burgeoning online communities to discover new ways to build on your existing skills.
For example, many communities hold online competitions to build the best possible user interface for a given project, letting you build something on the fly without stress. Of course, if you can win, all the better, but you get to build something in a fun environment while also learning from the designs of others. Similarly, you can offer to work as a freelancer to get more traditional, "professional" work experience in the industry without making any other hard commitments.
If you're uncomfortable putting yourself out there, this step can feel quite challenging, but it doesn't have to be. Most communities allow for a large amount of anonymity, so if you don't want to network or freelance actively, you can still work through competitive projects or even collaborate with others without necessarily showing anything other than your handle or username.
The Final Step: Sign Up for a Design Bootcamp
While all of the tools noted above will help you begin a successful career in design, there is one resource that we cannot recommend enough: a UI/UX bootcamp. So sign up for a UI/UX bootcamp by the University of South Florida today to begin your journey towards a fulfilling career.
While working with the professionals at USF, you will learn all you need about designer user interfaces and improving the overall user experience. This includes learning about various best practices and tools, including design tools, wireframing, and mockup techniques. You'll learn all these skills while building your network, creating a portfolio-worthy project, and ultimately giving yourself a massive advantage in joining the industry.