HCI Grad School Right Out of Undergrad?

20 Mar 2011 - 5:10pm
5 years ago
2 replies
2012 reads

Hi all,

I'd like some advice on my current situation. I'm about to graduate from undergrad with a BS in Computer Science this year, and I've been accepted at Michigan and Indiana for their HCI Masters programs. I've been interested for several years in UX, IxD, usability, etc, and I really think I'd be happy working in the field. 

My concerns of course relate to the cost, but also the viability. I have not worked in industry for any serious period of time yet, and I wonder if that will be a serious disadvantage when I try to get a job during grad school and afterward. I've met one successful person who went straight from undergrad to Michigan and is enjoying a great UX career currently, but I wonder if this is the norm? 

In short, I know it's preferable to have industry experience, but can I still be successful if I go straight into getting my masters in HCI? Advice is much appreciated. Thank you!


24 Mar 2011 - 7:29pm
Samantha LeVan

I'd like to share some thoughts to hopefully help you weigh the pros and cons. I had work experience before college, and between college and grad school. That experience helped me manage my time (grad coursework can be pretty intense) and finances fairly well. I never really felt overwhelmed and was used to working long hours. Most of my classmates had worked a couple of years prior to grad school and adjusted to school pretty well.

It's completely doable to go right after college, however. I know several people who have done this and been successful. Those who were less successful had different personalities from the successful ones. What mattered more than work experience was having a lot of passion, drive, motivation, self sufficiency, self reliance, and no problem working their asses off. You have to get your work done, you have to find your own path, and you have to work hard at getting a job after graduation. Think perfectionism. Edit your portfolio and resume, practice interviewing, etc. That is what gets a job after grad school.

Right now, grad students are having trouble getting work. Lots of competition makes things tough but if you're open to a post-grad internship, there are always ways to get paid for UX work. You were accepted to great schools. If you are on the fence, defer for a year and work before going. Good luck!

25 Mar 2011 - 4:41pm
Michele Tepper

You can have a great career going directly from college to grad school and then into work. But I encourage everyone to take a year between college and grad school. All you've known your entire life, if you're like most college seniors, is going to school. Take a year outside of academic life. Maybe you get a job in the field; maybe you don't. Maybe you're really excited about going back to school at the end of that year - maybe you get a job in a field you end up liking better!

All I can say is that whether you took time off in between college and grad school hasn't been a consideration pro or con in any hiring I've done so far in my career, unless the candidate did something particularly awesome between the two.

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