The Top Certification Programs for UX Professionals

| October 6, 2014
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This post was updated on September 25, 2015.

I’ve always considered myself a lifelong learner. I have not one, but two college professors in my immediate family. The importance of education and continued learning has always played a big part in my life. So when I came to work at UserTesting a few months ago, I got to thinking, what should I learn about UX, and how could I learn it?

Most practitioners in UX will say that experience is the one thing you need.  Ok, maybe experience and innate curiosity… and an awesome design portfolio…and superior communication skills…and research skills… and a working knowledge of human psychology… and… You get the idea. There isn’t one thing you have to know – you have to know a lot about a lot of different things.

Different ways to learn UX

I started my UX education with some comprehensive books on the subject: Steve Krug’s books, Don’t Make Me Think and Rocket Surgery Made Easy. I went on to reading blogs, including many of UserTesting’s top UX blogs.

But I know I’ve always been a classroom learner. I like the opportunity to interact, ask questions, and talk to others about what we’re learning. I also know I’m not ready to sign up for a master’s in Human Computer Interaction. I went looking for something with a bit less commitment.

It turns out, several schools and other organizations are putting together UX curricula and certifications and making them available to professionals and companies. This is probably a reaction to more and more companies recognizing the importance of strong UX strategies.

So here is a list of 7 programs from some of the most respected names in the UX and research fields that could teach you from scratch or help you polish up your UX skills.

1. Nielsen Norman Group: UX and UX Master Certification Programs

Who is this for?

Both experienced and beginning professionals.

Online or in person?

In person, at NN/g events such as Usability Week. If contacted, NN/g can set up on-site corporate training.

How long is the program?

5 full days plus exams to earn a UX Certification; or 15 full days plus exams to earn a UX Master Certification. Each course can be taken individually, and can be accumulated over months and years.

How much does it cost?

Varying, depending on when and where you take the courses. Estimated costs for the UX Certification if courses are taken at Usability Week is $3,110 (and triple that for the UX Master Certification).

More information:

NN/g has suggested course paths depending on your current skill level, and specialty tracks that include Interaction Design and Mobile Design, among others.

2. GeneralAssemb.ly: User Experience Design Immersive

Who is this for?

Those who want to get into UX and have the time and resources for a full time program.

Online or in person?

In person at one of General Assembly’s 12 campuses (8 in U.S., 4 international).

How long is the program?

Full time, Monday-Friday, 9am to 5pm for 10 weeks.

How much does it cost?

Tuition is $9,500.

More information:

General Assembly is an education startup that focuses on technology, design and entrepreneurship. The UX program covers a lot of ground—from user research and information architecture to design and interaction.

3. Human Factors International: Usability Analyst or User Experience Analyst Certification

Who is this for?

The Usability Analyst program is for beginners in the field, while the UX Analyst has advanced level courses for experienced professionals.

Online or in person?

In person at a number of different US and international locations.

How long is the program?

Each of the tracks consists of four courses over ten days.

How much does it cost?

About $6,000 for each track.

More information:

HFI is a consulting firm that specializes in user experience. Training is one way they deliver on helping companies grow UX strategies and teams.

4. California State University at Fullerton: Certificate in User Experience and Customer-Centered Design

Who is this for?

Anyone interested in bringing the concepts of user-centered experience to their job.

Online or in person?

Online and/or in person—although because this is a Cal State school, there are some restrictions for those taking the course outside of California.  See the website for more details.

How long is the program?

Six courses for a total of 9.8 credits, which translates into 98 hours of lectures and labs.

How much does it cost?

$430 per credit (or $4,214 total)

More information:

The courses focus on user-centered design that can apply to many areas of expertise.

5. Bentley University’s User Experience Center: UX Certificate Program

Who is this for?

Both experienced and beginning professionals.

Online or in person?

Classes can be taken in person on Bentley’s campus in Waltham, Massachusetts, and most courses are also available online. Bentley will also deliver classes on-site to corporate clients.

How long is the program?

The program consists of three required courses, and six elective courses. Each course is two days and presented in person over a Thursday and Friday (or online).  Taken back to back, the courses would take 8 weeks to complete.

How much does it cost?

Each course is $1,250 – so eight classes would be a total of $10,000.

More information:

Credits can be transferred and applied to the school’s Masters in Human Factors in Information Design. You would need to apply and be accepted into Bentley’s McCallum Graduate School of Business.

6. TheTeamW/Weinschenk Institute: User Experience Certificate

Who is this for?

UX pros, and anyone working in designing websites and apps that wants to broaden their knowledge.

Online or in person?

Pre-recorded sessions can be bought and viewed at your own pace. Dr. Weinschenk will also come to your campus to do corporate team training.

How long is the program?

There are four required courses of varying lengths plus two additional electives to be chosen from four other courses. Total lecture hours depends on the electives chosen, but a the most needed is around 15 hours. My estimate is that the courses, exercises, quizzes and certificate exam could be comfortably completed over two or three weeks.

How much does it cost?

Again, depends on the chosen electives, but the most you will pay is $615 (I love that the first one is free!). Inquire with theteamW.com about pricing for corporate training.

More information:

Dr. Susan Weinschenk, who is known as The Brain Lady, has designed a program that teaches you to apply psychology to design. She wants everyone coming out of the program designing usable and engaging products! And with course titles like, “Secrets of Intuitive Design” these courses showcase her expertise even before you begin.

7. UC San Diego Extension: User Experience (UX) Design Certificate

Who is this for?

Those who want to break into the UX field that have a basic understanding of HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) and basic knowledge of HTML and CSS.

Online or in person?

Required courses are offered online, with limited onsite options. Note: some elective courses may not be available online.

How long is the program?

The program consists of five required courses and two electives, which can be completed between four to eight quarters, depending on your desired course load.

How much does it cost?

Tuition ranges from $595 to $795 per course, as well as a one-time $60 certificate fee upon acceptance to the program.

More information:

Online courses in this certificate are led by live instructors, but students may view lectures according to their own schedules.

8. San Francisco State University Extension: Mobile UX/UI Design Intensive Certificate

Who is this for?

Anyone already familiar with UX principles who wants to get more experience with mobile UX and UI.

Online or in person?

Due to the hands-on nature of the program, it is only available on site in San Francisco.

How long is the program?

From 9 am to 5 pm, Friday and Saturday for three weekends.

How much does it cost?

Tuition is $1,500.

More information:

This course will introduce students to best practices and hands-on experience with methods to design for iOS, Android, tablets, and mobile sites.

9. University of Baltimore: Certificate in User Experience Design

Who is this for?

The Certificate in User Experience (UX) Design program emphasizes interaction design, information architecture and usability analysis.

Online or in person?

The program can be completed entirely online, or in person at the Baltimore campus.

How long is the program?

The certificate is a 12-unit program. Classes are offered evenings, weekends and online.

How much does it cost?

Tuition is $16,166 with an estimated cost of books and supplies of $1,600.

More information:

Students must complete a Hypermedia Proficiency Examination before starting the certificate program. If not, students can complete an introduction to web development.  

10. University of Washington: Certificate in User-Centered Design

Who is this for?

Anyone interested in gaining specialized skills and experience in the fields of UX and UI design and research.

Online or in person?

This is a hands-on program offered at the Seattle campus.

How long is the program?

The certificate is a 13 credit program, which can be completed in one year.

How much does it cost?

Each credit is $729, totaling $9,477 for the entire program. There is also a $35 registration fee and a $50 certificate fee.

More information:

Successful completion of the certificate course will earn students graduate credit that can be applied to the Master of Science in Human Centered Design and Engineering.

11. SMU: User Experience Design Certificate Program

Who is this for?

Anyone interested in further educating themselves on the user experience, from visual and interface designers, to marketing and product managers.

Online or in person?

This program is offered exclusively on SMU’s campus in Dallas.

How long is the program?

The course can take as little as three months, with classes offered during weekdays from 6 to 9 pm.

How much does it cost?

Tuition is $2,195.

More information:

This program offers a unique, face-to-face format that gives students hands-on exposure. It also provides flexibility in scheduling, so students can take courses one at a time, or opt for the full course certificate.

Are you certified?

I’m still considering what my next step will be, and of course, before you decide to commit to any program, you’ll have to do your own research into which one may be right for you.

Are you a UX professional? Do you hold a certification? How has having that certification helped you in your career?  Share your experience with us on Twitter.