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Software engineer vs. UI/UX designer?

I think I want to become a software engineer or a UI/UX designer. Is there a career that would encapsulate both these roles?

Also, many engineering focused schools, such as Purdue, offers a wide range of specific majors like computer science, UI/UX design, web design, etc. I know that computer science is a really competitive major. Would majoring in UI/UX design (or another niche major) and taking courses or coding boot camps be more beneficial (in terms of getting accepted into that college and working as a software engineer or UI/UX designer later on)?

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Matt’s Answer

Hey there! You've brought up a really cool topic in the tech world: where software engineering and UI/UX design come together. There are actually jobs that combine these two areas, and they're usually called "Front-End Developers" or "UI Developers." These talented folks know their coding stuff (think HTML, CSS, JavaScript, React, or Angular), and they're also savvy with design and user experience. This helps them bridge the gap between pure software development and design.

When it comes to picking a college major, it's a bit tricky. Studying computer science can give you a solid foundation in programming and problem-solving, and those skills can be super useful in lots of tech jobs—including software engineering. But keep in mind, computer science programs often don't go too deep into UI/UX design, which is more specialized.

On the flip side, majoring in UI/UX design will help you become a pro at design principles, user research, and creating awesome interfaces. However, these programs might not delve into programming as much.

If you're excited about both areas, here are some options:

1. **Major in one field, and minor in the other:** You could choose a computer science major with a UI/UX design minor, or vice versa.
2. **Go for a double major or dual degree:** Some schools let you tackle two majors or degrees at once—just be ready for the extra workload!
3. **Learn outside of your major:** Whatever major you pick, you can always take extra courses, boot camps, or learn on your own to cover more ground. For example, if you major in UI/UX design, you can still learn programming on your own time.

Regarding competitiveness and college admissions, it's true that some majors may be more competitive than others. But keep in mind, admissions are based on a lot of factors, like your grades, test scores, extracurriculars, essays, and more. The key is to choose a major that truly makes you happy, not just one you think might be easier to get into.

As for careers, both software engineering and UI/UX design are super popular right now. If you can rock both skill sets, employers will be extra impressed, since you'll be able to contribute to different parts of the software development process. Good luck, and happy exploring!

Matt recommends the following next steps:

No matter what major you choose, you could supplement your education with additional courses, boot camps, or self-learning.
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Atul’s Answer

My suggestions are why limit yourself to UI/UX vs Software Engineer.
If you do the latter you can do UI/UX plus anything else.
Do not limit yourself - acquire as much knowledge with Computer Sc/Eng with many languages.
You cannot go wrong here.
The field is competitive and nowadays every employer will give you test before the interview.
Know the software language, and the field you want to work in. Get as many interviews as you can. Practice is important here. Try the companies where you do not want to explore or work but pass their test to master these tests.
Keep in mind higher GPA do not matter if you cannot pass their tests.
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Zoey’s Answer

Hi there! First off, don't limit yourself. College, especially in the first two years should be able to explore your interests and dip your toes into different skills/career interests.

There is some cross-over between UX/UI Design and software engineer/development work though as a UX/UI Designer, I have yet to code anything entirely on my own. It's important and valuable in the field for developers to understand some fundamentals of UX/UI and for UX/UI Designers to understand how HTML/CSS work together...though it's rarely required that you have to be skilled in both.

When considering development work as a Software Engineer, consider the types of products you'd want to work with such as: do you want to build websites, create apps, or develop biotech...understanding this could help more clearly define your interests and whether UX/UI can be integrated into your specific areas of interest.

Echoing Matt's comment, look into UX Developer, Front-End Developer, and Back-End Developer roles on linked in and see what the skill requirements and job descriptions are. This can help you hone your craft while in college! Good luck!
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Stacey’s Answer

Hi Melinda,

I was in a similar position as you back in 2015/2016. I was tired of my graphic design career and wanted to do something that was more respected by companies in terms of pay, and in terms of influence. I started to learn how to code and made my first website, started taking on web design and web dev projects for freelance work. I wanted to transition to doing this for companies but I didn't know which one I should specialize in.

I ended up going more in the UI/UX route. This was after seeing what I needed to do in the market to work on products in front end development. At the time, it would require learning a lot of JS frameworks and other more advanced coding skills. When I was honest with myself, I actually enjoyed designing the websites more, and thats where I had more previous related experience in. I could not see myself learning more front end and possibly back end technologies and making that my career. It seemed like a new language or framework was popping up every other day. And thats the thing -- some people would love to learn that stuff for the rest of their career. But for me, it wasn't it.

I wouldn't have known that had I not tried developing on my own. I am glad I understand how to build a website so I understand more how to work with developers. And I still love certain parts of it - like creating animations in code. It really helps me to communicate better with my collaborators. I really don't see how you could go wrong trying both. Now is the time to experiment!

Edit: One thing you might also try to keep in mind is that there have been a lot of people trying to transition to UX from bootcamps recently. Its flooded the market. I am not sure if its the same for software development, but if you look at who's been laid off, the devs have been impacted less. Food for thought!
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Dante’s Answer

Hi Melinda. Great question and the responses here bring up excellent points.
Another factor that can work well for your career growth and prospects is having solid foundations in other fields. Explore beyond the two fields you mentioned, maybe you'll discover another one that piques your interest. Important considerations are to seek university programs that embrace multi-disciplinary learning. Of note are likely Purdue, and of course the innovators like Stanford, Georgia Tech, Carnegie Mellon, and there are many others. For example the d.school at Stanford is based within the engineering program.

Will highlight Matt's reply on bootcamps — use those as a supplement, not necessarily as a primary way to break into any field. UX instructors can tell which bootcamp a candidate completed based on the portfolio. The message here is that it's fairly formulaic and it may teach you how to use a design tool, not necessarily how to design.

Hopefully that helps and good luck on a fantastic journey!
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