User Experience (UX), User Design, User Interface (UI), Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), and Human-Centered Computing are all terms used to describe usability, which is still a relatively new area. They are not all synonymous, although many are. All of these terms refer to what may be the most intriguing new area of computer science and engineering – the interface between humans and computers.
What precisely is user experience? As evidenced by the numerous names linked with the field, design is still very much in the air. According to the User Experience Professionals Association, “User experience design is a field that encompasses all of the aspects that comprise an interface, including layout, visual design, text, brand, sound, and interaction.” UE strives to coordinate various aspects in order to facilitate user interaction.” What this means is that a number of computer scientists, designers, and engineers are primarily concerned with how humans interact with computers and how they, as creators, can make that interaction more fluid, efficient, and productive.
What is certain is that, regardless of the term, UX Designers are in high demand on the job market, with the phrase “designer drought” commonly appearing in magazines devoted to UX design. And, although some organizations are developing in-house training and internship opportunities in usability, many forward-thinking colleges and universities are preparing students for careers in user design. These programs may be housed in computer science, psychology, engineering, or other unexpected locations – anywhere a few faculty members are willing to take on the challenge. While the majority of graduate programs are designed for those with some understanding of computer programming or coding, because UX is an emerging, interdisciplinary area, it attracts graduates from a variety of disciplines, from business to engineering to the humanities.
While UX Design is a relatively new subject, many industries do not require a master’s degree in the discipline to obtain employment. However, enrolling in a residential graduate school confers numerous benefits on the job market, not the least of which are networking opportunities, access to internships, and confirmation of a diploma earned on the job by others. There are few specific UX or HCI majors; the majority of degrees are in Computer Science or Information Science with a concentration or specialty.
Naturally, cost is a consideration for the majority of working professionals returning to school to earn a new certification, as well as for first-generation and poor students seeking entry into a wide-open industry. That is why Value Colleges has developed this rating of the Best Values in Master’s Programs in User Experience Design. Prospective students may feel bewildered in a new subject, with little real facts and information to guide them; with the assistance of a Best Value ranking, they may be confident that the degree program they choose will pay off in the long term.
The User Experience Professionals Association, the Interaction Design Association, and the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society all contributed information that was essential in developing the first list of UX programs for this list. Following that, schools were graded using Value Colleges’ standard metrics:
Pascale’s College Salary Report for 2015-16— (early career pay)
(where applicable/various rankings) U.S. News & World Report
Tuition as it is (as reported by institution)
Our algorithm achieves the optimal balance of quality and affordability based on reputation, return on investment, and cost, among other criteria. We demonstrate unequivocally which degrees are worth the investment and which are not.
Top best UI UX schools
1 MIT Media Lab
Since the 1860s, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has set the standard for polytechnic education in the United States. As a pioneer in computing and a university known for its entrepreneurial spirit (students and faculty routinely found firms based on their work in school), it’s unsurprising that MIT would also be a leader in the developing discipline of UX Design. Graduate students at the MIT Media Lab are driven and innovative, coming from a variety of disciplines ranging from arts and music to computers and engineering, and working on projects that solve issues and improve the world. While MIT is undoubtedly selective, individuals who make the cut for the Media Lab receive full support for their research – there is no need to spend a dollar on what may be the greatest education in the area, with a return on investment of over $800,000.
2 Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University is another institution synonymous with the polytechnic model in the United States. It was founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie – whose passion for education is reflected in the number of libraries and institutions bearing his name – and the Mellon family – wealthy bankers and businesspeople who founded the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research. The Masters in Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University is the first graduate program of its kind, having launched in 1996. It is also one of the pioneers of what would become known as user experience. Students in the HCI program collaborate with business partners to develop hands-on solutions to challenges, with an emphasis on the interaction of humans and computers. This is a 12-month intense master’s degree program.
3 University of California – Irvine
Considered a Public Ivy (a public university with the prestige of the Ivy League), UC Irvine is a relatively new institution, having established in 1964, yet it has evolved to become one of the most recognized and highly ranked colleges in the United States throughout that time period. Irvine is largely recognized for its proficiency in engineering and computer science, with several corporate connections around Orange County and Southern California that provide students with excellent prospects for study and employment. The Department of Informatics offers a well renowned graduate program in Human-Centered Computing, which is supported by various other departments and schools through collaboration and cross-disciplinary collaboration. Graduate students at UCI are equipped for success and a high rate of return on investment through a reputable faculty and a great degree of flexibility.
4 Stanford University
One of MIT’s few rivals for the greatest technical institute world-wide, Stanford University is most notable as the birthplace of Silicon Valley, as Stanford attracted and fed numerous tech companies in the area beginning as far back as the 1940s. Today Stanford, for obvious reasons, is one of the most desired educational destinations for computing students, and they continue to innovate and experiment. One such site for bold exploration is the Symbolic Systems Program, an inter-disciplinary program pulling together faculty from computer science, psychology, linguistics, and more to lead graduate students in study of how the human mind and computers influence and shape each other. It’s pioneering work related to UX Design, and Stanford’s high ROI and connections to the hub of technology in Silicon Valley means limitless career potential for graduates.
5 Purdue University
Purdue University was founded in the 1860s as a land-grant public university in West Lafayette, Indiana, with the mission of providing an accessible and affordable education in agriculture, engineering, and technology to the people of Indiana. Not surprisingly, as computing developed and matured, this commitment to technology and industrial education expanded to encompass computer science, and Purdue is now known for their technological and entrepreneurial achievements. Many of Purdue’s technology programs are housed in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, including the MS in Computer Graphics Technology, which permits graduate students to concentrate on human-centered design and development. Purdue is the definition of a great bargain in terms of a public university that combines affordability with globally renowned excellence.
6 San Jose State University
San Jose State University, the oldest public college or university in the western hemisphere, in San Jose, CA, competes with the world’s best private and public computer science departments. U.S. News & World Report ranks San Jose as the top computer engineering school, with more alumni hired by Silicon Valley corporations than any other school. While Stanford and MIT garner the most attention, San Jose gets the job done. Graduate students interested in user experience design should consider San Jose State University’s Master’s degree in Human Factors and Ergonomics, a flexible, interdisciplinary, exploratory program that allows students to tailor their concentration. San Jose State is a steal, thanks to the California State University system’s inexpensive tuition rates.
7 University of California – Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley, widely regarded as the finest public university in the United States, if not the world, has a highly active research faculty and a reputation for innovation and leadership. The School of Information, Berkeley’s newest school, was founded in 1994 to address rapid changes in information systems and computer science. Due to its proximity to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, the School of Information maintains connections to some of the world’s most influential information technology companies, including Google, Linkdin, and others. The I School offers a two-year master’s degree in Information Management and Systems that is interdisciplinary in nature and prepares students for the future of technology.
8 Georgia Tech
Since its founding during Reconstruction to accelerate the transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy, Georgia Tech has been the premier name in polytechnic education in the south. As the only school in the south that can compete with MIT and Stanford, the Georgia Institute of Technology has played a vital part in transforming Atlanta, GA, into a world-class center for technology and industry, attracting young engineers, computer scientists, and researchers to the area. Georgia Tech provides a Master of Science in Human Computer Interaction to aspiring UX designers. With Atlanta’s strong job market and the high return on investment associated with technology, this is an investment that is certain to pay returns.
9 University of Virginia
As a Public Ivy, the University of Virginia possesses a historical reputation comparable to that of Harvard or Yale, as well as the dedication of a public university to provide education to a diverse population. And, while technology is not the first thing that comes to mind when most people think about UVA — alma mater of leaders, legislators, businesspeople, and eminent intellectuals – UVA’s computer science and engineering programs are world-class. The Department of Systems and Information Engineering provides a master’s degree in Human Computer Interaction that draws on UVA’s renowned engineering, psychology, and design disciplines to provide a comprehensive advanced study experience. UVA’s connections and reputation ensure a strong entry into the job market, making a UVA education a timeless value.
10 California State University – Long Beach
California, with its California State University and University of California systems, may boast the world’s most spectacular public higher education system. CSU Long Beach is known as one of the most diverse and ambitious institutions in the system, attracting students from all socioeconomic backgrounds and races from throughout Orange County and California. Long Beach University provides a Master of Science in Psychology with a focus in Human Factors, in keeping with the interdisciplinary character of UX design. Students are immersed in a range of subjects, from human-computer interaction to engineering and psychology, in order to graduate with a degree that can be applied to practically any industry. Long Beach’s unique traits make it an excellent choice for rounding out the top ten best value rankings.