How my HCI graduate education prepared me to be an Interaction Designer

I’ve been thinking lately about my extremely smooth transition from HCI student to Interaction Designer at R/GA.  Where were the feelings of despair?  Where were the thoughts that I was in over my head, that I picked the wrong field?  Nowhere, that’s where.  Through a winning combination of education, networking, and careful selection of my work environment, I became one of the lucky people who love to go to work every day.

I was incredibly honored to be asked to speak about my education experience on a panel at the IDEA 2010 conference in a few weeks, so this is my attempt to distill a few of my thoughts in advance.  I’ll talk a little about how I ended up studying HCI and what I took away from my experience, and I’ll try to isolate the precise reasons I am so incredibly satisfied with my current job.

Why I studied HCI

After college I spent a colorful 8 years in Montana and Vermont living a ski bum lifestyle, working at a cocaine treatment center, working with the mentally ill, advising students on their loans, and producing web content for a food magazine.  I finally became interested in a User Experience career after studying web design, working on some large scale information architecture projects, and seeing Google’s ‘Interaction Designer’ job description.  The description seemed to perfectly describe my interests, and it required a background in HCI.  I decided on the Human-Computer Interaction program at the University of Michigan’s School of Information because of its interdisciplinary nature and high regard; Umich was also my undergrad alma mater, so I knew it’d be a relatively smooth transition back to Ann Arbor.

How grad school prepared me for my job:

Going back to school after an 8 year hiatus was the best thing I have ever done, and it helped me get a job I love every day.  Here’s why.

  1. Presentation skills
    This week one of my coworkers said I seemed like the type of person who never was nervous speaking in front of other people.  Actually, until recently I was a chronic blusher who would get physically ill before every speech or talk.  In grad school we had to present in nearly every class, usually multiple times per semester, and I jumped at every chance to get up in front of people and practice speaking.  Over time I developed a degree of confidence and poise that have helped me successfully present my work to clients.

    Introducing a student design challenge to SOCHI, our HCI student group

  2. Taking part in SOCHI, the HCI student group
    As an officer for SOCHI, I helped plan and lead group brainstorming sessions and design exercises; I helped bring in speakers and coordinate local events for professionals; I mentored other students and networked with professionals from companies like Mozilla and Yahoo!.  Our group also held career events like resume and portfolio reviews, and mock interview design challenges.   Aside from helping me grow as a person and leader, my SOCHI experience helped me connect with local UX professionals and get prepared for the sometimes grueling interaction design interviews that I experienced.

    Mock interview design challenges with SOCHI!

  3. Sketching practice
    Whether alone or in teams, I probably spent at least a solid month of my life sketching in the past year.  My interaction design class was heavy on the sketching homework assignments, and group sketching was part of every team design project I worked on.  I may not be the best artist in town, but I’m confident that I can quickly communicate through sketching.  At work I find myself reaching for a piece of paper and pen during nearly every discussion – it’s simply much faster to illustrate ideas than to talk around them in circles.

    This is my real hand. Photo by Annie Fang

  4. Defending my work
    Similar to #1, I had practice presenting my work to a highly critical, analytical audience of teachers and students. My Interaction Design and Information Visualization classes were run as studios, with weekly design challenges and presentations as well as milestone deliverable presentations. Both were taught at the time by Mick McQuaid, an excellent design teacher and wonderful, warm-hearted person who could nonetheless turn a meek person to stone with a hard-hitting question and stern look from behind his thick fishbowl glasses. Fishbowl glasses, is that even a thing?  We learned from Mick and other teachers to be prepared to defend every design decision, or risk minor public humiliation.

    Explaining our design challenge sketches (photo by Kerry Kao)

  5. Learning to receive feedback & work collaboratively
    During my schooling I and my teams were subjected to cross-examinations, critiques, gentle criticisms, general feedback and heartfelt praise.  I learned to love getting feedback from other people and to seek it out, because it always resulted in a better design.  This led me to gravitate toward a highly collaborative environment like R/GA, where group sketching and brainstorming sessions are commonplace and I rarely work in a vacuum.

    Group sketching and ideating for our semester project

  6. Evaluation methods
    I feel fortunate to have had the experience of following many projects through the entire interaction design process, from user research to wireframes and prototypes and usability testing. I find it rewarding to design for users that I’ve spoken with.  During school I learned the fundamentals of user research and system evaluation; I had significant experience with rapid contextual inquiry, user interviews, comparative evaluation, heuristic evaluations, personas and scenarios, surveys, and usability testing.  The result is that I feel well-equipped to deal with front-end project research and planning, where someone with less experience might be somewhat overwhelmed.

    Affinity diagramming with the team

  7. Graphic design
    Though I’ve always been a crafty girl and not too bad with a pencil and paper, prior to grad school I had pretty much zero experience using tools like Illustrator or In Design.  They intimidated me.  They made me feel small and inconsequential. Last fall I took an awesome Graphic Design class and learned these tools pretty well, which meant that I didn’t flail helplessly at work when I started creating wireframes exclusively in In Design.

    A timeline of my favorite books and authors I made for the class

  8. Testing the waters: the internship
    My internship at VMware, a virtualization company in San Fran, was surely one of the most valuable experiences I had during my school career. During my 3 months there I designed a mobile application that lets enterprise IT guys monitor and manage their virtual machines.  Say wha?  It was such a valuable experience to have to go from 0 to 90mph along the highway of virtualization technology knowledge…I had to ramp up quickly, and I got to do my own research, design, and usability testing through the project.  It was incredibly helpful to be able to talk about this self-directed project in job interviews, and I began to learn over the course of the summer what kind of work environment was right for me.

    Me and my VMware coworkers at Great America

  9. Student conference rates
    Arguably one of the most important things I did in school was go to professional conferences and networking events.  Indeed, I was a prolific conference attendee; I went to five conferences in two academic years, a pace which I plan to keep up as long as my personal conference funds hold strong.  I also hit up Bay CHI meetings and other HCI talks in California and Michigan.  Because of all my frenzied networking, I had 3 job offers when I graduated and I’ve personally met a host of hard hitting HCI or IxD rockstars.  And really, most importantly, I feel like part of a supportive community of practice.

    I met awesome people at conferences, like Amanda Schonfeld at IDEA2008!

    RIchard Saul Wurman at DRC 09, in a giant scarf

    Sweet ice luge at the Interaction 10 conference in Savannah

    I saved the best for last.
    I have been impressed, inspired, and fundamentally changed by the people I met at school.  World class artists and intellectuals, inquisitive and analytical thinkers, unselfish collaborators.  Taeho Ko, for example, who could take a drawing done by a cat, wave his magic in its vicinity, and reveal a data-driven flash-based  visualization. Debra Lauterbach, probably one of the calmest, smartest, and most self-actualized people on the planet.  Leanna Gingras, the first person I saw make a paper prototype of  an iphone application. I could go on.  My fellow students are now at places like Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, Adobe, Apple, and IBM, and a fair number are also at smaller start-ups and agencies. I count myself fortunate to have walked in their midst.

    Sometimes we all went out for beers. Pictured: the halcyon days

How could grad school have prepared us better?

I’ve loosely surveyed a group of my fellow students to learn how grad school prepared them for their jobs, and what they wished they would have learned in school.  Most of the good preparation was covered above – presenting, defending design decisions, having a good theoretical foundation, collaborating, and working with clients were all considered helpful.

Prototyping and wireframing were commonly-mentioned skills that people didn’t get enough of during school.  It’s excellent to be able to show these kinds of deliverables to prospective employees, but because our work groups were generally 4 to 5 people, usually someone in the group was an expert programmer or designer; so more often than not, that person would take on all of the prototyping or wireframing work.  Which leads to my next point.

Independent projects were seen as vital to being able to secure a dream job-type job.  At U of M, all of our work is in groups; it is definitely up to students to take the initiative to work on an independent project (of course, it is well worth the effort.)  Some students mentioned they would have liked to have an independent capstone design project of the sort that is typical in Interaction Design programs.

The art of persuasive talking and defending decisions… I’ve talked quite a bit about the fact that we did have to defend our design decisions in certain classes, and this helped prepare me for my job.  But I wasn’t quite prepared for the sheer amount of time I’d need to spend advocating for design decisions and arguing my case.  Truthfully, at this point I find it fun, but in the beginning it was somewhat scary.  I think some kind of persuasive arguing class would be incredibly useful for any prospective Interaction Designer.


And also, one last thing.  How did I end up in a zany, collaborative, wild work environment that seems tailored to my personality?  First, I visited my friend who works at Facebook one day, and I fell in love with the work setting there.  It felt open, fun, hard working.  There was wit flying around the room.  My goal from that day forward was to find a work environment like that.  Then I met Mark Shewmaker from R/GA at the Interaction 10 conference by chance, and that meeting turned into an interview with him and Chloe Gottlieb – Executive ID director at R/GA who made a hilarious salame joke during my interview. Hilarious salame joke + successful design challenge presentation during my second interview = me, living in Brooklyn and commuting to Manhattan every day, getting off the stinky subway and buying a muffin from the cute mexican pastry cart, going into work and being happily challenged on a daily basis.  So it’s all about the networking.

There may be more to say.  Until then, lots of love to my program, my school homies, my zany R/GA peeps, and Liberty Richter foods – importer of Finn Crisps, the Original THIN CRISPS, which fueled this post.

46 thoughts on “How my HCI graduate education prepared me to be an Interaction Designer

  1. Thanks for sharing such an inspiring experience! I am a prospective student who is preparing for my application for UMich HCI program. Hopefully I can tell some wonderful stories like yours years late!

    • Yay, glad to hear you’re heading into SI in the fall! I’m sure you will have a wonderful time. Be sure to take every opportunity and use the career counselors – they are awesome!

  2. Katie,

    Your story really inspired me, showing me that after 8 years it’s not always too late to pursue what you want. I”m 24 and clueless with my life.

    Although I do want to ask you: how was tough it to get into the UMich’s HCI program? What did you do that stood out? How did you receive scholarships and grants to go?


    • Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your comments! The program was not too difficult to get into at the time, though I think they are starting to be a little more selective. But if you want to stand out, I think it’s a mixture of things – having good grades and test scores are part of it, but also expressing your interest and *excitement* about the program. There are limited merit scholarships available that are awarded based on the total application package – grades, scores, essays, etc. If I were you I would get in touch with the recruitment office at SI now and start a conversation. They are very awesome people!

  3. Hi Katie,

    I occasionally found this article and I found it really inspired me, especially for those very significant and insightful suggestions for graduate students majored in HCI. I’m studying in Human-factor and Ergonomics program in California at my first academic year and I’m looking for an internship in UX, so I have several issues that I want to consult with you. Thanks a lot!

    1. After reading your article, I found that you highlighted independent project as a good opportunity to secure a dream job type. And I agree with that. But I’m a little confused about whether I should conduct a entire interaction design process in my independent project. Suppose I want to redesign a mobile app, should I start on my project from user research, and then to wireframes and prototypes and finally usability testing, just like the projects you did for your portfolios.

    2. If I will conduct the project based on the interaction design process, how to present UX Skills I have through this project? I saw your portfolio and just got some inspiration from your project “mibo”, that is to write down the whole UX design process. Do you have another suggestions about which way to present my skills?

    3. As for internship, I still have no idea about how to start, the only thing I can prepare is to work hard on my independent project, I know this is not enough to nail it. In your article, you emphasize the networking, which make you get your first job and also make me realize the power of networking. But I think this might be hard for me because I’m a little shy and not confident when I talk with those UX professionals, so I’m wondering, how do you start your conversation with those UX rockstars when you attended the conferences you mentioned in your article.

    I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

    Happy New Year!


    • Hi Yi Feng,

      I will try to answer your questions!

      1. I would recommend getting experience with the full UX process, from research to design and testing, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pair up with others or form a group. You might still get good experience and exposure even if you’re working with others. But recruiters do want to know what YOUR role was for various projects and deliverables, so keep that in mind.

      2. Try taking pictures and screenshots of your process – of user interviews, sketches, etc – and document your reasoning for doing certain activities. If you can organize your portfolio so it showcases the process, that would be great. We also maintained blogs (like wordpress blogs) in grad school for all of our projects. That can be a great resource to point people to.

      3. Networking is as easy as turning to the person sitting next to you and asking them about themselves. It’s about being curious and interested in other people and being willing to talk about what you do. You don’t have to necessarily walk up to the person who just stood on stage speaking – you might make great connections just by talking to those around you.

      Good luck! 🙂

      • Hi Katie,

        Thank you for your insightful suggestions for my issue. I appreciate your time and your help! Could I add you in my professional network by Linkedin?

        Yi Feng

  4. Hello Katie,

    This is Abhinit from India. Highly interested in pursuing my Career in HCI Field. Its highly inspirational to read your article which describes your Experience in HCI.
    This made me feel that “Yes, I have chosen the right path which I wanted !”.
    Good to hear that you love to go to work every day. Very few people in the world are satisfied with their jobs.

    Katie,I would like to ask u Some questions regarding HCI :

    1. What are the Job Titles and positions in industry which comes under HCI ?

    2. Which Universities in U.S. are good for HCI Masters as well as for guiding through
    internships and career in Industries. ?

    Waiting for your Reply…
    Thanks in Advance Katie 🙂

    • Hi Abhinit,

      Thanks for your comment! If you feel strongly that this career will suit you, I encourage you to go for it. A few quick answers:

      1. Job titles can vary widely. User Experience Designer, User Experience Researcher, Interaction Designer, Information Architect, Experience Architect are just a few – those are mostly on the design side of things. It’s also possible to go into more of an academic research role if that is your preference.

      2. I can vouch for the career services at the University of Michigan program – they are excellent at helping prepare students for internships and jobs. As far as which program is best for you, you will need to do your research and think about what you want your focus to be. If you are very technology-oriented, Carnegie Mellon has a very techy HCI program. They also have a great Interaction Design masters program. If you want to focus more on design I would recommend that program or especially the NYC School of Visual Arts Interaction Design program ( I had a wonderful experience at the University of Michigan. I would say do your research, google to find different programs, and talk with people to determine if you would be a good fit there. Good luck!

  5. Hi Katie,
    Your article gave me a good amount of confidence to pursue a career in HCI. I am a tech savvy person and I have done IT projects like creating a website, windows application and an android application.All these projects were successfully accomplished and were the actual implementation of my ideas.I am good at generating ideas, programming, evaluating things and providing suggestions.I am not an artist nor a graphic designer but I can do some rough free hand drawings.The only thing that makes me worry is that whether i should be good at drawing/sketching for a career in HCI? I would really love to change the way people work or interact with things. I feel that HCI is for me and i am planning to do MS in HCI. Do i need to take some extra drawing related courses or anything else? I would be really thankful to you if you can provide me with some guidance….
    Thanks in advance 🙂

      • Hi Katie, thank you so much for the reply. I will definitely start to focus on my sketching skills from now and will let you know about my achievements as I progress.

  6. Hi Katie, I love your blog post and it really helped me to decide on going to SI this fall. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind posting what were your favorite courses (if you happen to remember) and what made them stick out to you. Thanks.

    • Hi Nick,

      Great to hear! I think you will get a lot out of the program (as long as you put a lot into it, of course!)

      My favorite classes: I would definitely say the interaction design course (now 582) was great – though the instructor has changed. At the time I took it it was a studio course with an emphasis on design critique and presentation, skills which I have found to be absolutely critical in my job(s). The evaluation course, 622 I believe, has also been a great foundation for me – I come to my projects with a much better understanding of usability testing and other forms of design validation than many of my peers. I took this really great course in the business school called Co-Creation of Value by Venkatram Ramaswamy – all about creating systems and services that engage people by helping them create something new/create unique value for themselves. Think NikeID that lets you design your own shoe. I also really liked the course on Data Visualization, 649. I am not sure who teaches that now, maybe Eytan Adar. A few other highlights for me:
      520 Graphic Design
      529 Ecommunities
      530 Principles in management

      If I went back now I would pursue some of the Health Informatics courses, as that’s now my focus (at least, designing for healthcare is now my focus.) I also would have loved to take a course on networks, as I love to think about ways of visualizing networks and ecosystems of people/services/information.

      If you have a design focus at all, I would highly recommend seeking out some very design-oriented coursework that will give you hands-on experience with both individual and group work that you will be able to show to prospective employers when you graduate.

      Best of luck!

      • Hi Katie,
        Thank you so much, this really helped me with picking classes for the upcoming semester (and beyond)!!
        – Nick

  7. Hi Katie,
    I stumbled upon on your article while researching a bit about HCI..And I sure am glad!!.:D…It has given me great insight about the program..Thanks!!…I am not very well versed with programming..but I am fairly good at sketching..and conveying my ideas.Also,I have this knack of thinking from the other perspective…in this case…the end users’ perspective.Is this program appropriate for me?..Also,is the program at UMich very tech oriented?!!..I am looking at ones that are more design-centric!Help?!!…

    Good Luck..and always do what you love!..:D


  8. Hi Katie
    Loved your article! I have a similar doubt as Prashant- is the program at Umich tech oriented? if so should i be taking any programming classes beforehand?
    Thanks ans lots of love
    Mary 🙂

    • Hi Mary and Prashant,

      Thanks for your comments! The SI program is not super tech-oriented, though there is a tech component. There are some tech class requirements, with the goal of giving you enough of a technological background to at least be able to talk with developers or empower you to build your own digital products as the case may be. I would not stress about taking classes prior to the program, but if you want to do it, you might be able to get out of a class at SI. If you are looking for very design-oriented programs, you may want to check out the SVA interaction design program or the Carnegie Mellon Interaction Design program. I found SI to be a good survey of design, tech, research, and ‘information.’

      • Thank You Katie ! 🙂

        Just one more doubt- Since Umich happens to be a bit more expensive option for me Im considering other Universities too. Id just like to know that from your experience as a user experience designer- have you heard of the HCI programs at the following colleges? .Just would like to know if they are good universities where interaction designers do get picked up for jobs or universities where the HCI courses are heard of and doing well.

        I know its deviating from your original post so if you’d like you could reply to me at

        1. UMich-MSI
        2. Indiana Univesity-Bloomington(HCI/d)
        3. Oswega, State University of New York(HCI)
        4. University of Washington- (HCDE)
        5. Any more i missed out?

        Sorry i forgot to mention- I’m a computer engineer :). But I’m not looking for a too technically oriented one like the one at CMU and neither for a purely design one (like the ID at CMU) because as you said- Eventually we have to work with programmers and it would be nice to develop our own products.

        Id really love to hear from you.Even its one sentence. Thank you for taking the time out to read this. Lots of love from India.

      • Hi Mary, #2 and 4 are familiar and I know they are good, though I am not familiar with Oswega. You may also look into Georgia Tech HCI. They have a reputable program. Good luck!

  9. Hello,
    I was really glad to have found this article because I feel that I’ve been on a similar journey to yours in the past couple months. I graduated from Carnegie Mellon in May of this year, but with a degree in Psychology and Biology. After realizing that I wanted to find a career in applied psychology and trying my hand in design, I decided to move forward in pursuing HCI. In July, I took a summer intensive at SVA in Interaction Design where we studied app design, prototyping practices, user research and collaborative teamwork, and am now interning at Warner Music Group as their UX Intern in NY. I am now considering applying to the HCI Masters Program at Carnegie Mellon this coming year but am not sure if this is the right step. I think most of my hesitation stems from uncertainty in finding a full-time position when my internship is over. Do you have any advice or stories about how a similar situation has worked out for yourself or any HCI friends?

    Thank you!

    • Hi, Jess! First, I don’t think you will have any problems getting a job when your internship is over. We are in very high demand. Every person I went to grad school with has an awesome job; some at tech companies like facebook/google/IBM, some at agencies like R/GA (where I worked). You may want to consider the Interaction Design programs at Carnegie Mellon or SVA – they are two of the best, and unless you are wanting to be super technical/academic, they could be a better fit. Good luck!

  10. Hello, firstly thanks for writing this article! The article helped me to get a better insight on the HCI field, and it’s also very personal and well written! (:

    I’m currently a high school senior who is entering Carnegie Mellon this Fall, and I’m thinking of double majoring in Information Systems and HCI.

    The question that I have is: I’m really interested in changing the way people interact with electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, all the new wearable techs like Google Glass, etc. But also, I noticed that there are so many everyday public electronic devices like ATM machines that are very badly designed in terms of UI/UX, but we just take it for granted. I really want to pursue my career in these kind of fields, where I can improve the user experience of these devices, whether it be public instruments or consumer electronics.

    Could you please give me an advice on what kind of road to take after I graduate from university? What kind of specific job titles should I search for, and which companies best offer the jobs that I’m interested in?

    Thank you so much (:

    • Hi, thanks for your comment. I think the most important thing for you will probably be to get an education and experience that will help you hone in on the direction you’d want to take after you graduate. That means having a good interdisciplinary background in information, HCI, and design. I encourage you to take a wide range of courses at CMU so you can find out where your passion lies. Who knows which job titles will exist by the time you graduate! Work closely with your career services department and keep looking at job and internship descriptions in the next few years, and I’m sure your direction will solidify. From what you described, current roles that would fit might be ‘UX designer’ or ‘interaction designer.’ But like I said, titles change and in 4 years we might be designing less for screens and more for gestural interactions – and a new title might arise.

  11. This is a helpful post. I’m a digital project manager, and my team is constantly on the hunt for new interaction designers. Although we’ve had success with folks from many different disciplines, our most prepared and forward thinking interaction designers always come from an HCI background. It was great to read your post about why that is!

  12. Pingback: HCI resources for post graduation | We Are Design

  13. Hello,
    I was really glad to have found this article as I am starting my graduate studies in HCI at Umich this fall. This gives me an insight into what can be expected at the program. It would be really helpful if you can throw some light on what courses should be taken in the first semester based on your experience. Further, can you also suggest some good readings and books.


  14. Thanks so much for posting this! I am going into my senior year at the Rochester Institute of Technology studying Psychology/Criminal Justice. I am looking into graduate schools for HCI. I am hesitant because I haven’t been able to find too much information about the HCI and careers in HCI since it is a growing field. It was nice to hear your personal account. I was just wondering how much knowledge of computer programming you have/need and if that was taught in your program at University of Michigan. I am currently teaching myself Java… what other languages would be most beneficial to learn to prepare for a career in HCI? I am really looking for an equal mix of tech and design, if anything leaning more towards tech.

    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts!


    • Hey Christina, you’re welcome! My advice would be to have some sort of baseline knowledge in the technology you’ll be working with – my background in basic web development (HTML, CSS, some PHP, javascript and database architecture) has been a huge benefit in helping me communicate with developers and plan projects. I’d done a certificate program a few years before starting school at a local college. But I recommend that you speak with the admissions people at whatever schools you are considering and get their take on which technologies would be helpful to learn; each program has a different level of technical focus, so they’ll be most able to help you prep for specific programs. Personally I am less technical and more strategy/product-oriented, so I do not use or interact with code on a regular basis. But people who work more on the coding/interactive/robotics side of HCI would have much more of that. Hope that’s helpful!

  15. Hey Katie! I know you posted this article a long time ago, but since people on the web (i.e. me :P) are still finding it today, I’m sure a lot of the information is still relevant. I have a few questions, if you don’t mind my asking – I really want to study abroad and get a HCI/UX masters in England or Ireland, but I currently have student loans (around ~$11k) and am not a huge fan of the idea of taking out more before I pay these off. When you went back to school, how did you afford it? Did you go back with no debt? Thanks!

    • Hi there, I was fortunate not to have debt going into grad school, but I know many of my classmates did have some. I was lucky to have a partial scholarship for grad school but I did take out loans, which I am still paying off. The investment has been totally worth it, and I will likely pay off all of my loans within 6 years. Good luck!

  16. Hi Katie, this was really great! I work as a designer, but I’m looking to get a more HCI/research approach to my work. Do you have a portfolio so I could see the kind of work grad students do at UMich? And also, are there any sort of assistantships offered?


  17. Hi Katie,

    I am Abhinit Parelkar, have been following your post since 2012.
    Could you please guide me for choosing one of the following universities, which would be best for my M.S. H.C.I. program including employment outcomes, social connections, reputation.

    I have applied to following universities for fall 2016:

    Indiana University Bloomington (MS HCI)
    DePaul University (MS HCI)
    Oregon State University (MS in Computer Science[concentration HCI])
    IUPUI Indianapolis (MS HCI)
    Florida Institute of Technology (MS Human-Centered Design)
    Rochester Institute of Technology (MS HCI)

    I have completed my MSc in Computer Applications from India. I have a sound knowledge of software development and technical aspects for product development. I want to focus more on design and want to be an UX designer for the rest of my life. The reason I chose to complete MSc in Computer Applications is to gain immense knowledge of how technology works, because I believe that before designing a product, you should know how the product[technology/science] works. As you mentioned in your comments above, it becomes easier for designer to communicate with developers and other tech people in the company if you understand the product’s technology very well.

    I am design enthusiast, and I am willing to gain immense knowledge about design. If possible, could you please let me know which of the universities mentioned above will be suitable for my interests?

    I would be obliged, if you give your opinion about it! 🙂

    Best Regards,
    Abhinit Parelkar.

    • Hi Abhinit, glad to hear you are considering these schools. You are going to have to do your own research and make your own decision about what school would be most appropriate for you – I am not familiar with their specific programs. I would recommend talking with the recruiting teams at all the schools you are considering and find out which one might be best tailored for you. Good luck!

  18. Hi Katie,

    I received admits from following universities for M.S. HCI :-

    Florida Tech.
    DePaul University
    IUPUI(received scholarship & assistantship)

    I am quite confused between DePaul University & IUPUI in terms of reputation & employment outcome in User Experience field.

    I liked DePaul University’s syllabus [focused on Interaction Designer, UX Designer & UX specialist job profiles]
    IUPUI syllabus is diverse [didn’t find it focused] & some of the relevant courses are available only for spring batch.

    I would highly appreciate if you could guide me!

  19. Hi Katie,
    Although your blog post is 5 years old, it still does apply. So thanks for sharing your experience!

    As a prospective student of UMSI (HCI), I would like to ask that how much does the university matter when we actually graduate and start searching for a job in the UI/UX domain?

    Along with University of Michigan, I have also been accepted to IUPUI (Indiana-Purdue University) for the same course. Thinking of choosing UMich due to its excellent ranking but its fees are steeply on the higher side as compared to IUPUI.

    So as a working professional in HCI, what would you suggest?

    • Hello, thanks for your question. I can’t really answer this for you – you might do some additional research and speak to the type of employers you think you may someday want to work for, and ask them the same question. I’d also recommend speaking with the career placement teams at each of the schools you are looking at – they can give you more perspective.

  20. Pingback: So you’re interested in UX Master’s programs? | Spencer Lee James

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