About a year ago, I wrote a post about enrolling in Kent State University’s User Experience Design (UXD) Master’s program. Since I wrote that post, several people have emailed me—as I invited them to do—asking about the program and my experience over the last year.
Since most of those people were asking the same questions, I thought I’d write a followup post to talk about my experience now, as I’m more than halfway through the program.
Some pros and cons
Major pro: this program got me a job…FAST
Shortly after I wrote my initial post in December of 2014, I applied for a real-life UX job here in Northeast Ohio. After a few weeks of interviews and such, I accepted a position at MRI Software, where I’ve been working for the past year designing user interfaces for a suite of real estate management software.
Were it not for the UXD program at Kent, that never would’ve been possible. After just one semester I already had a decent portfolio of UX deliverables, and enough knowledge of the industry to land a junior-level position.
I don’t want to give the impression that my experience would be the same for everyone. My former experience as a graphic designer, the self-teaching I’d done before I enrolled, the nature of the role—there were a lot of factors at play here. Kent’s program played a huge part, though, in giving me the confidence and skills to take that first step. For me and my family, that was invaluable.
Pro: the program runs year-round
Since I’m taking courses throughout the fall, spring, and summer semesters, the program goes by very quickly. I’ll be graduating at the end of the Summer, but it only feels like I started the program a few months ago, not a year ago.
Con: the program runs year-round
Most classes have a one-week break in-between, with a longer winter break (from mid-December to mid-January). After a while, I and many of my classmates feel pretty fatigued by that.
Con: grad school costs money
It’s probably not a surprise to you, if you’re considering enrolling in a program like this, that it comes with a hefty bill. To me, the cost was/is well worth it, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it.
Pro: deep dives into several UX specializations
The way the program works (at this time) is that there is a semester of introductory courses—which give you an overview of the broad, nebulous UX field—and thereafter you jump onto a “carousel” of courses that explore a particular discipline within UX, such as information architecture (IA) or user research. Everyone that isn’t in the introductory courses takes the same classes, then, and you graduate after hitting all the specializations.
Pro and con: the courses are constantly being refined and updated
From what I hear, the team at Kent State is constantly changing and adding to the curricula to reflect the current state of the industry, and provide a better learning experience. So far, there hasn’t been any part of our coursework that seemed outdated, or that didn’t match up with the “real-world” situations I encounter at work.
On the other hand, though, there have been a few times where the workload didn’t seem to be balanced well, or where the course materials were a little rough around the edges. When that happens, though, the faculty is always very understanding and receptive to feedback, so I hardly count this as a “con.”
Pro: courses are taught by bona fide UX professionals
To date, all my course instructors have been adjunct faculty—people who are actively working in user experience positions and who seem to have a genuine passion for the work they’re doing. (That passion by itself is pretty encouraging.) On assignments, the feedback we get is usually pragmatic and supported by the instructor’s experience.
It’s not for everyone, but I would definitely say it’s for me
Like I’ve said in each email response I gave, this Master’s program has been really valuable to me. If you’re deciding right now whether or not to enroll, I highly recommend reaching out to the staff at KSU UXD to ask whatever questions you have and take a closer look at the program.