What To Consider Before Hiring UX Designers Without Degrees

Apr 12, 2022Mikenzi Ross

There are many factors to consider when hiring a UX designer… but should a formal UX design degree be one of them?

Should you avoid UX designers without college credentials? Or are they the key that unlocks revolutionary user experiences because they aren’t bogged down by higher education’s (sometimes) restrictive environment?

It’s time to answer those questions—and we’re here to help (of course!)

The Design Project’s team of UX experts is here to share their thoughts on the pros and cons of hiring UX designers without degrees and pitfalls to avoid if you decide to choose a DIY-educated professional.

Are UX design degrees necessary?

The short and sweet answer is no. UX designers don’t need a degree to be effective and excellent at their craft. As long as the candidate demonstrates their understanding of fundamentals, a solid design strategy, and the hard and soft skills that come with UX expertise… a formal degree isn’t necessary (in our opinion.)

Quite frankly, you’d be surprised just how many professional and well-renowned UX designers have zero formal education in their field.

It’s not to say that having formal design education isn’t valuable, just that it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker when it comes to hiring a UX designer.

Possible pros of hiring a UX designer without a degree

One of the most beautiful and empowering aspects of living in the modern world is our unlimited access to information. Thanks to the internet—and platforms like YouTube, and Skillshare (not sponsored), we can learn pretty much anything from the privacy of our living room.

That said, it’s absolutely possible to obtain valuable and applicable UX and UI expertise without a college degree. In fact, that could even be some surprising benefits to hiring UX designers without degrees.

  • They’re innately passionate and self-driven
  • They’re more free-flowing and out-of-the-box thinkers
  • They know how to problem-solve
  • They’re adaptable

Possible cons of hiring a UX designer without a degree

We don’t like bringing negative vibes to any discussion, but we always give you all the details—even. So, now we’ll disclose some of the (possible) disadvantages that may arise when choosing a UX designer without a degree.

Let’s be clear here with a BIG disclaimer: every UX designer is a unique individual—which means these potential hurdles won’t apply to everyone, or even most. It’s just something to watch out for when reviewing potential candidates.

  • They may not have an extensive portfolio
  • They may be unfamiliar with certain fundamentals
  • They may be unaccustomed to team-oriented environments

How to hire a UX designer without a degree

Hiring UX designers without degrees will follow the same process as hiring UX designers with degrees. At the end of the day, the qualities of a desirable candidate remain the same.

How do they develop a plan?

Ask candidates how they go about strategizing initial mock-ups. Where and how do they collect inspiration and data? Do they understand the importance of a design system, and how do they execute one?

What is their process, and can they explain it clearly?

Ask them to describe how they take a project from low-fidelity to high-fidelity. What tools do they use, and how do they apply feedback—what are they looking for in feedback?

How do they feel about, and perform, user testing?

One of the most important qualities a UX designer should have is a value for user testing after a product goes live. Find out how that obtain and apply user testing reports.

While a college education may polish some of these skills or give students access to strategies and software that a non-college-educated professional may lack, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice effective UX.

If you choose to consider a UX designer without “formal” education in the field, ask them the same questions you would ask a college-educated candidate. Ask for insight into their process, make sure they understand the difference between UX and UI, and how they track KPIs.

Final thoughts on hiring UX designers without degrees

Who you choose to hire and why is ultimately up to you and your unique goals. UX is constantly evolving, so a student mindset and love for learning are two of the best soft skills any designer could have.

In all frankness, not everyone has access to the privilege of formal education—but that doesn’t mean they lack the drive, creativity, and motivation to achieve incredible strides in the UX industry.

In our professional opinion, we suggest that worrying about whether a UX designer has a college degree should be a secondary concern. Instead, assess each professional by their portfolio, personality, and how they solve user experience problems.

Don’t get us wrong, we love our college-educated UX pals—they rock and work incredibly hard to get where they are… but don’t let that lone piece of paper determine the value of someone’s skills.

Knock, knock! It’s us—and we’ve got cookies!

Okay, maybe we don’t have actual cookies… but we do have deliciously bite-sized UX tips, tricks, and insight sent straight to your inbox twice a month!

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