Ask The Experts: How Important Are UX Design Certifications?

17 Nov 2020 6:45 AM | Audrey Bryson (Administrator)

Ask The Experts is a series in which we ask design leaders from our community common questions from UX professionals or those seeking a career in UX. This month we're covering Design Certifications. 

In your opinion, what is the value of a UX Design certification? Do you feel this is valuable for design professionals or candidates to have? 

If you feel that design certifications are important, are there any specific programs that you recommend? 

 We see relevant experiences, portfolio, skills, and education as more important than design certification in a job candidate. Because design is a broad space, you can consider a specialized certification to broaden and complement your strengths. For example, if your only experience/education is on visual design, educating yourself through a certification process on user research, human factors, or design thinking can better prepare you for a career in user experience design. We recommend that you select design certifications that allow you to work on a project that can be added to your portfolio. In other words, design certifications do not by themselves secure jobs. Demonstrated experiences, an enhanced portfolio, broadened knowledge and skills, some of which may be gained from design certifications, are more valuable to an employer.

Here are some examples of design certifications:

Huifang Wang, Senior Manager of User Experience Design 

 In your opinion, what is the value of a UX Design certification? Do you feel this is valuable for design professionals or candidates to have?

UX certifications vary greatly. Some focus on a specific topic area (e.g., IAAP's accessibility certifications), and some are short boot camps that intend to teach you the basics of UX in a week. In general, certification programs can help you achieve your career goals. For example, a UX boot camp could be a first step in establishing your base knowledge in the field and figuring out your interests. 

Keep in mind there is no accepted industry-wide UX certification, and it's simply impossible to claim expertise because you have a Nielsen Norman Group or Human Factors International certification. If you're thinking about a certification program, I think you should ask yourself, "will this help my career?" and not, "will this look good on my resume?". To be a great UX professional, you must make learning part of your career. Certification is not a destination, but it can be a milestone for your journey.

If you feel that design certifications are important, are there any specific programs that you recommend?

As a graduate of Bentley University's Masters in Human Factors in Information Design program, I would recommend their UX Boot Camp or Certificate Program because of high-quality instructors. You can apply credits earned from the certification to the Master's program."

Andrew Wirtanen, Senior Product Designer

 A certification may help prove dedication and growing mastery to oneself.   That confidence lift carries intrinsic personal value.  I feel the outward value to others is dependent on context.   In an organization with relatively mature UX practice, awareness of the certification may create a moment of creditability among stakeholders or interviewers.  But the substance of what follows will govern what others think of your capabilities.   If the context for you is a rather constant change in stakeholders (e.g. in consulting or serial contract work), the credential may help land some consideration.  However, I’ve not seen UX hiring or stakeholder confidence pivot on UX Design certification.   I’d recommend pursuing any cert based on how it makes you feel about your own skills and passions."     

Aaron Stewart, Director Next UX & UX Research 

 Certifications are useful when you don't have a body of work, portfolio, or recommendations to demonstrate your capability. I definitely look for certifications or degree programs in hiring for junior positions. That said, certifications only tell me that you have learned a skill, not how well you have mastered the ability to apply that skill. Therefore, a certification may get you an interview, but landing the job will depend upon how well my team and I think you will be able to execute those skills in a live project, based on your portfolio and interviews. The certification is a starting point, but we also look for the interpersonal skills required to collaborate with a team and interact with stakeholders." 

Randy Early, Experience Manager 
Atlantic BT

 For me and many others, the ability to explain your process to have a portfolio showcasing quality work is essential. For people already in the field, I think time is better spent working on actual project work than pursuing additional certifications (unless it's for a specific skill you need to acquire that you can't do "on the job"). Certificates can have value for candidates who lack a portfolio and don't have good opportunities to take on actual project work, but even then, I would encourage people to be creative about finding real projects before spending time and money in a certificate course. I don't know about specific programs as me and most designers I know did not go through that type of program."

Erik Johnson, Co-Founder Purpose UX 
Purpose UX

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