If you own a site or are thinking of starting one, you’ve likely come across the idea of “user experience.” User experience, or UX, is an integral feature of website design and layout. After all, when you visit a site online, you want to enjoy the experience. You don’t want the web pages you’re viewing to be crowded with too much information or ads, and you certainly don’t want to have to hunt for the information you need either.
So when it comes to owning, managing, or building a site, UX is an important consideration. But as you may well know, not everyone experiences life—both online and offline—in the same way. What works for some does not necessarily work for others.
There’s a running joke that in order to become a UX expert, you need to have experience, curiosity, a portfolio, superior communication and research skills, a working knowledge of social psychology and… the list goes on.
All jokes aside, UX isn’t about learning just one formula. There is no one master trick. Mastering UX means knowing about a wide range of things—hence the “requirement” of curiosity.
Lucky for you, you won’t have to enroll in several courses and complete two or three degrees. Learning UX has never been easier than right now.
Reinforcing the idea that UX is a field that encompasses so many factors that it cannot itself be easily defined are the number of ways in which it is described.
UX is the most common moniker, but it also goes by others such as User Interface (UI—another common term), User Design, Human-Centered Computing, and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). And because there are so many different names for it, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that there are a number of different ways to learn UX too.
One of the oldest, most common ways is to pick up a textbook (or three) and work your way through them. But of course, this isn’t the most thorough, accountable, or certifiable means of learning anything. What you really want is a learning program that results in certification, after all.
Another popular means of brushing up on existing knowledge or entering into a subject is to find an online course. These are majorly convenient, as they often allow you to work at your own pace while still holding you accountable and offering a recognized certification upon completion.
The third means of receiving a certification in UX is to partake in a part-time or short course either on-campus, at an event (see our first listing below), or even as part of an on-site corporate training program.
Finally, you can also elect to enroll in a full-time course. We’ve split our list into two, giving more attention to the part-time options (both online and in-person) before discussing the best two full-time programs.
The Nielson Norman Group (NN/g) have been an authoritative leader in the User Experience field since 1998, known for their groundbreaking research, interfaces, and design. They provide reports and training and offer consultation services as well.
NN/g offer two courses particularly pertinent to our topic of discussion: the UX and UX Master Certification Programs. Both programs are available as in-person courses at UX events, such as their UX Conference, Usability Week, but NN/g also offers on-site corporate training.
The programs are suitable for anyone who already has experience, as well as for those looking to start out.
Their UX Certification Program is a 5-day course, plus exams. Prices vary depending on the event, but if you book for early registration at the NN/g Usability Week the program (including exam fees) costs $3,861.
The UX Master Certification Program lasts 15 days, plus exams, and—again, based on early registration for the UX Conference—costs $11,583.
Both of these are full-time short courses, making them suitable for freelancers and professionals who are able to incorporate the training time into their work schedule by special arrangement.
The Human Factors International (HFI) has been pioneering the UX field since its inception in 1981, and bring decades of experience to the plate. They provide a host of services, including consultation, training, and tools.
One of their certification programs is the Certified Usability Analyst (CUA) Track stands at the fore as a thorough yet condensed course ideal for beginners.
The CUA program is a full-time 10-day short course, which is hosted internationally as well as in 16 US locations. At the end of the program, users complete an online examination before receiving their certification.
If you register for the full CUA track (four courses plus the exam fees), you’ll only pay $5,860——a massive 20% saving compared to paying for everything separately.
Also known as The Brain Lady, Dr. Susan Weinschenk is a certified psychologist and Weinschenk Institute’s Chief Behavioral Scientist. The Team W offer a wide range of services, most notably their research on behavioral sciences. Their User Experience Courses and Certificates have been designed with a focus on how users behave online, giving actionable insights.
There are 24 different bundles to choose from, some aimed at specific UX niches—such Design Concentration. Some of these are available for free, but others cost $125 or $595. The full Advanced User Experience (UX) Certificate program retails at $2,700, and the only prerequisite is that you first complete the UX Certificate. This, in turn, requires that you first do the prescribed bundles.
Once you’ve purchased your online package, you can expect to spend (on average) 15 hours working through it. Part-time, it should take you two or three weeks. Because these are all online module based, there’s no limit as to how many people may sign up.
Best of all, you’re free to work at your own pace, without any set deadlines, making the Team W programs highly suitable for anyone wanting to learn or expand on existing UX knowledge on the side.
Mobile search is fast catching up to, and nearly ready to overtake, desktop search. The importance of mobile site design has never been greater. For this reason, the San Francisco State University Extension has introduced a Mobile UX/UI Design Intensive program.
Some prior experience or training in UX is certainly advantageous when enrolling, so it’s not a beginner’s course per se. The university themselves highly recommend some level of familiarity with the basics of UX design concepts.
Of course, the program is only available on-campus, due to the hands-on nature of the course. Duration is three weekends: Friday evenings from 18h00 to 21h00 (three hours) and a full Saturday (09h00 to 05h00). If you work and live within a commutable distance from the campus, then this is certainly a program worth looking into. The course is available quarterly and costs $1,500.
Udemy is one of the top recognized online tutoring and certification providers worldwide and for a good reason. All of their courses are professionally formatted, and the site allows you to compare any given course with alternatives that are also hosted by them.
Their User Experience: The Ultimate Guide to Usability and UX more than certainly lives up to its name. With a price tag of around $150, it’s not their cheapest UX program, but it certainly is their most thorough. Keep an eye out for specials too—the course was recently marked 75% off for a limited period!
This particular program includes almost 12 hours of on-demand tutorial videos, seven articles, and 12 supplementary resources. You can also access it via your smartphone, tablet, or even your TV, and once you buy it, you have lifetime access to the material. With as little as an hour to an hour and a half of dedicated learning, you can receive your certificate of completion within two to three weeks.
DesignLab is an online learning platform dedicated entirely to UX and UI. Interactive projects include mentoring by experts from Nike, Dropbox, Basecamp, and other major sites. You can also book a weekly session to discuss the program and your progress via Skype.
Expect to be challenged when working through the assignments. Some basic knowledge prior to enrolling may be of major benefit but is not a requirement.
The UX Research and Strategy program is probably the place to start for most. With limited space available, the four-week course is run back-to-back, so don’t feel too bad if you don’t make it for the immediate upcoming one.
Expect to pay either $399 or $499, depending on whether you enroll in time to catch their special discount price.
No doubt you’ve heard of MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) before. Coursera is the pioneer program that led to MOOC, and as the “grandaddy” of the field, they enjoy working with renowned universities across the globe.
All of the Coursera programs are free of charge—you simply sign up on the site, complete a very basic and unobtrusive questionnaire that helps them suggest the right courses, and enroll in a program. It’s as simple as that! You do have the option of joining the enterprise membership for a few extra benefits, but this is entirely optional, and there is no pressure applied.
Some of the programs are offered in two options though, such as the Introduction to User Experience Design. You can elect to do the course free of charge, or pay $49 to receive an official certificate upon completion. All it takes is 1-2 hours a week for five weeks.
Available all over the world, including 11 US regions, the GeneralAssemb.ly User Experience Design Immersive is a full-time short course lasting ten weeks. Keep an eye out for when they’re in a city near you, as the program is only available in certain regions at certain periods in the year.
It’s also one of the priciest options featured on our list, and certainly the most expensive program in this Part-Time and Short Course section. Depending on the host city, you can expect to pay either $13,950 or $14,950.
More than 1,000 universities make use of the Interaction Design Foundation (IDF) resources, and around 140 companies are subscribed to them as well. The IDF offers a comprehensive User Experience: The Beginner’s Guide online program.
The course is just one of their 34 UX training programs, but if you’re just starting out then, this is the one for you. Designed comprehensively with evidence-based content, it provides participants with the opportunity to seek help with tests, share ideas, and interact on the forum.
With a new lesson becoming available each week, the program is designed to allow you to work at your own pace. There are ten lessons in total, but they remain available to you for life, so there is no immediate pressure to complete the program in the ten weeks. Depending on your dedication however, working through the material for as little as an hour a day can result in successful completion within this time frame.
The course is available for free provided you are an IDF member. Student membership is priced at $72 billed annually, Pro membership at $96 annually, and the IDF Design League membership at $150 a month. The major perk of signing up for the most expensive package is that you gain access to a personal coach, which the Student and Pro options do not have.
Bentley University has recognized that not everyone needing UX certification has the luxury of attending a full-time degree course. To cater for the resultant gap, they developed their UX Certificate Program.
The program constitutes of 8 two-day classes, which are held 09h00 to 17h00 on Thursdays and Fridays spread over the course of three months. Bear in mind that there are enrollment limits. Each two-day class is priced at $1,250, making for a program total cost of $10,000.
The program is suitable for beginners and working professionals alike. Bentley University will also provide on-site corporate training on request.
SMU has been providing quality education since the 1950s, and have moved from strength to strength. Some sites have claimed that you can complete the course in three months. However, the course structure is of such a nature that it will take a minimum of about four months, as per SMU’s site. You also have the option of completing it over a maximum of 18 months should the need arise.
All of the User Experience Design Certificate Program classes are scheduled for the evening, making it ideal for part-time students who are working full-time jobs or even wanting to supplement their existing field of study with UX training. The only exception is one full-day tutorial session, which takes place on a Friday.
At priority rate (valid up to two weeks before the program’s starting date), the full certificate course will cost $2,895 plus $50 registration fee. Provided they have space on the program, you can still register up until the day before the program starts, but missing the priority date means the price increases to $3,145 (plus registration). SMU also recommend that participants purchase The Design Studio Method: Creative Problem Solving with UX Sketching by Brian K Sullivan. The textbook can be bought on Amazon for between $21.91 (Kindle) and $195 (hardcover) but is not strictly required for the course.
Additionally, students may also choose to take both elective workshops rather than just one, for an additional $295.
Career Foundry offers a host of learning options, designed to help absolute novices become UX professionals with a recognized certification as quickly as possible.
In fact, Career Foundry give their online students a guarantee of 99% success rate in helping you get work in the UX field within six months of completing their course, based on an average of 15 job applications. Their students have been employed worldwide, for both the UX Certified and UX Certified Plus programs.
Both courses also give you the opportunity to book telephonic mentor support (they do require booking 48 hours in advance), and you can call in up to 100 times for the duration of the course. Career Foundry has mentors in 22 of the world’s 24 time zones, so no matter where you are there’s someone who can assist. And as an online program, their only requirements for participating are that you have a laptop and internet connection.
The Certified UX Designer course is a three-part program that takes 5 - 10 months to complete, and costs $6,000. Their Plus version is a five-part program, with a duration of 8 - 14 months, at $8,500. How long it takes is entirely dependent on your time management. Career Foundry recommends a total of 600 and 840 hours respectively.
The UC San Diego Extension offers an extensive part-time online certification program in User Experience Design. There are four required courses (each with four units), a minimum of two electives (there are 16 to choose from, most of which have three units each), and a final portfolio class. It is possible to do the course over the course of 5 to 8 quarters (15 to 24 months) by doing two courses at a time and working for just six hours a week.
You’ll be able to work at your own pace for the most part. However, there are assignments, critiques, and online discussions that you will be required to take part in according to a specific time frame. Some of the electives are not available online and do require attending a class in person.
The course price ranges from $595 to $795 each. Assuming you do the minimum required number of courses to complete the program (seven), you can it will cost you a total of between $4,165 and $5,565. There is also a $60 administration fee upon acceptance into the program.
If you’re looking for a full-time graduate program rather than a part-time or short certification course, then our top recommendation would be the University of Washington’s User-Centered Design Certificate.
There are some strict admissions requirements though: you need to have completed a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, plus have a minimum of two years’ full-time work experience in a related field. This makes the program more suitable for those who have already completed full-time studies and are now looking to enhance their skills after working in the industry for a while.
An application fee of $50, registration fee of $45, and tuition fees totaling $10,049 are applicable. There may be additional costs involved, such as textbooks and other learning materials not provided by the University. The course has a duration of one year.
On the other hand, if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree and two years’ worth of work experience, but you still want to commit to a full-time course, then the CSU Fullerton’s User Experience and Customer-Centered Design program is the one for you.
The program is broken up into six modules, which are presented either online or in-person (selectively) through the course of the year. Each module, or class, is priced separately based on their duration. For example, the third class—User-Centered Design for Web and Mobile Interfaces—has a one-month duration and costs $650. The fourth class, Prototyping User-Centered Design Solutions, lasts for about a month and a half, costing $780.
At the time of publication, there was no information available as to how much the other classes would cost or what their duration would be.
User Experience is a game-changer in how we present ourselves and our businesses online, no matter how large or small. The term UX has itself been a buzzword in the design and online communities since roughly 2005.
Don’t wait to catch up. Whether you have enough time to enroll in a full-time course or can only commit to studying part-time, there’s a certification program for you.
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