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Shall I do a PhD in HCI to become a good UX researcher?

Hi there! 👋 Thanks for stopping by. USERWEEKLY is your weekly email to understand what is happening in User Research. It's the best way to keep up on trends, methodologies and insights in UX Research. It is written by me, Jan Ahrend. Each week I capture the pulse of our community and answer a simple question: What mattered in User Research this week?

Since I handle user research at Google and am 4.5 years into a PhD program (ABD! ), I frequently get asked if a PhD in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) is required to work as a successful UX researcher. There are benefits and drawbacks to being a UX researcher although earning a PhD in HCI is by no means a prerequisite.

Let's start by outlining what a PhD in HCI requires. In particular, how people interact with and utilize computers and other technology is the focus of the HCI field, which focuses on the design and use of technology. An substantial amount of study and research in this area is required for a PhD in human-computer interaction.

Let's now examine the justifications for earning a PhD in HCI as a UX Researcher.

1. A PhD in HCI can provide a deeper understanding of the field.

It is crucial for a UX researcher to have a solid grasp of the theories and guiding principles of HCI as well as the most recent findings and advancements in the discipline. Through courses, research projects, and exposure to the most recent advancements in the area, a PhD in HCI can offer this expertise. As a result, UX researchers may be better able to comprehend user behavior and demands and create more user-friendly and intuitive technologies.

2. A PhD in HCI can provide credibility and expertise.

Particularly when it comes to conducting research and publishing papers, having a PhD in HCI can demonstrate credibility and experience in the subject. Additionally, careers in academia and research, such as those at universities or research organizations, may become available with a PhD in HCI. UX researchers with a PhD in HCI can contribute to the growth of the discipline and expand the body of knowledge in HCI in these positions.

3. A PhD in HCI can provide networking and collaboration opportunities.

The pursuit of a PhD in HCI might also open doors for networking and cooperating with other academics and industry experts. UX researchers with a PhD in HCI can connect with others working in the field and work together on projects and research through conferences, seminars, and other activities. This may result in fresh chances, perceptions, and relationships that help the person and the industry as a whole.

Of course, there are other considerations against a UX researcher earning a PhD in HCI.

1. A PhD in HCI can be time-consuming and costly.

It can need a large time and financial commitment to pursue a PhD in HCI. A PhD program can be finished in 4 to 7 years, depending on the institution and the student's research interests. This can require a major time and energy commitment, especially for people who are currently employed in the area and might not have the time to enroll in a full-time degree program. Additionally, financial help and scholarships might not be sufficient to pay the cost of tuition and other costs, which can be substantial.

2. A PhD in HCI may not be necessary for certain UX research roles.

A PhD in HCI may be helpful for some UX research positions, such as those in university or research institutions, but it may not be required for all positions. A PhD is not typically required for many UX research positions, especially in industry, and experience and abilities may be valued more highly than advanced degrees. In some situations, having a PhD in HCI might not give you a distinct advantage over other applicants.

3. A PhD in HCI may not be directly applicable to all UX research projects.

The ideas and theories of HCI can be well understood through a PhD, however they might not always be directly applicable to all UX research initiatives. The topic and methodology of UX research projects might vary greatly, and a PhD in HCI may not necessarily provide the specialized skills and expertise required for a given project. To be successful in these situations, UX researchers with a PhD in HCI may need to complement their expertise with additional abilities and experience.

Although having a PhD in HCI can provide you a thorough understanding of its theories and principles, not all UX research projects will necessarily benefit from this knowledge. A PhD in HCI may not always provide the precise skills and expertise required for a given project because UX research projects might differ greatly in terms of focus and methodology. UX researchers with a PhD in HCI may need to complement their knowledge with other abilities and experience in certain situations in order to be successful.