Which path to go for product design/usability/human factors?
October 2, 2008 1:16 AM Subscribe
I'm a jack-of-all-trades type of guy interested in getting into product design/usability/human factors. I'm somewhat convinced getting a degree in industrial engineering is a good start. Any other paths to consider before I commit to that?
posted by NeoLeo to education (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Hi MeFites, I'm a relatively new member, yet another person in their mid-20s looking for some career guidance. Well, at least I have a good idea of where I want to be -- something related to product design/usability/human factors -- but I'm not 100% positive as to which path is the best for me to get there -- and the problem is, I have no relevant experience and many undeveloped skills/lack of knowledge, so I think I'll need a new degree.
I'm interested in many aspects of this field, such as the product hardware design, software design, and research involved in product development. Ideally I could utilize one of my strengths (versatility) and not need to specialize in a specific area. However I do recognize the possibility that specialization may be necessary to get a good job, but I want to hold on to the hope that this isn't true for every job out there in this field.
One side issue is that I already have a B.A. degree (in Asian Studies), so I'll have a tough time with finances (little financial aid); I'm in the process of figuring out how to deal with that. (Any advice and/or links to relevant scholarships would be helpful.) However, in the past, I have never felt the sense of clarity that I do now in terms of what I want to do in the future. I want to be prepared and qualified, and I want to do an excellent job in this field.
There are several ways to go, with certain routes having certain emphases and possibly less versatility:
-B.S. in Industrial Engineering
This is the option I am learning toward. I believe that it offers the most flexibility in choosing which area to pursue. Also gives a technical understanding to design that other fields lack. Unfortunately getting a second degree in this would probably require 3-4 years of schooling. (One side benefit to this path is that engineers will be in demand in the near future.)
-B.S./B.A. in Industrial Design
I'm torn about this option. It would take less time to complete than an industrial engineering degree but I don't feel "artsy" enough to do it. Even though I don't consider myself to be good at basic arts (drawing/painting/etc.), I have a pretty good eye for what looks good, and can draw decently with a computer and a tablet with trial and error (thanks Undo button :). Photography and videos is something that I've done fairly well with in the past as well. Does that qualify enough for a degree in this?
-B.A. in Graphic Design
Similar "artsy" issues as the Industrial Design degree, but moreso. Another way that can get into the field, but has little emphasis on anything technical. In the end, a portfolio lands you a job, so paying up cash for a degree in this seems unnecessary. I can just teach myself some graphics tools via book/cheaper classes.
-B.S. in Computer Science
Many CS majors (esp. with HCI emphasis) have the chance to get into some of my desired fields, but I feel this narrows me down specifically to software-related fields. Depending on the program, CS tends to be less on the practical side and more on theory. Instead of a degree, I can teach myself commonly used programming languages through books or cheap classes.
-B.S. in Cognitive Psychology
I feel that this limits me to research-oriented areas. However, this may be the cheapest option (in terms of both time and money).
-Network Like Crazy; Land Entry-Level Job
Hard with my current degree that is completely unrelated and a lack of professional-level skills. Possible, but seems to be a big risk because there is no guarantee when and if I can get a job, especially with the current state of the economy.
After that, I can do one or a combination of:
- A Human Factors/Ergonomics graduate degree
- An Industrial Engineering/Product Design graduate degree
- A Human Factors International certificate
- Networking, networking, networking
- Any other possibilities?
My current plan:
- B.S. in Industrial Engineering, if time permits, minor(s) in Industrial Design/Cognitive Psychology. During that time I will learn some common programming languages and the skills to use some common graphics/CAD tools. Also networking/internships during this time. Biggest problem here is figuring out the financial aspect.
- M.S./M.A. in Human Factors/Ergonomics OR a M.S. in Industrial Engineering/Product Design plus an HFI certificate. Of course, networking/internships/programming and graphic tool skill development during this time.
Now, I hope you can help me decide which way to go! I really like my current plan, but I hope that you guys can expose any flaws in my thinking and/or recommend any other possibilities. My plan seems too perfect and perhaps too idealistic. Feel free to rip it apart (with rationale, of course)!
Thanks a lot, and I hope to contribute useful info to MeFi in the future!