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Teachers Make Great UX Designers — Here’s Why

education May 24, 2021

We all know that teachers are heroes. Whether they work with preschoolers or teenagers, teachers make sure the next generation is armed with the knowledge they need to navigate life’s challenges. 

To perform this important job, teachers harness their powers of empathy, creativity, and organization.

Funnily enough, UX designers also need these precise qualities to succeed.

If you’re a teacher looking to make a career pivot, or if you’re just looking for a way to ramp up your teaching prowess, read on! In this article, we’ll compare UX and teaching career paths and explore why teachers thrive as UX designers. 

It’s guac time!

 

First of All, What Is UX Design?

We’re so glad you asked! 

“UX” stands for user experience. User experience designers work to help people have better interactions with products of all kinds, such as mobile applications, websites, and even consumer goods. 

UX professionals want users to have easy and enjoyable experiences with the things they use every day. They often work with a team of researchers, developers, analysts, and more.

The UX design process involves many steps. First, UX designers research users’ wants and needs. UX designers must empathize with their audience to ensure they build an effective product. 

Once they understand users’ needs and develop user personas, UX designers begin creating the product. They define the user’s problem, brainstorm solutions, and create prototypes of the product. Finally, UX designers test their prototypes, fixing any errors or roadblocks test users encounter. 

Sometimes, UX designers reach the final stage and realize they need to go back to square one and conduct more research. The UX process is somewhat cyclic, but one step does not always flow directly to the next. Designers must be willing to revisit and repeat each stage to get a product just right!

If you have a favorite social media platform, video streaming service, music provider, or video game that you just love to use, you can thank a UX designer! Someone behind the scenes worked hard to build a delightful product just for you (and other users with your excellent taste). 

 

Okay, But What Does UX Design Have to Do with Teaching?

More than you think! Surprisingly, these fields share many of the same hard and soft skills. UX designers and teachers both need to be empathetic and creative, and both rely on good communication and presentation skills to get the job done. 

Here’s a quick comparison chart for these career paths: 

UX Design vs Teaching

 

Teachers

UX Designers

Average Base Salary

$62,870 per year

$74,500 per year

Job Growth Outlook 

4% (as fast as average)

*8-22% (much faster than average)

Entry-Level Education Required

Bachelor’s Degree

Varies, but many hold at least a Bachelor’s Degree

Setting

Public and Private Schools

Tech companies, ad agencies, and other creative corporate environments. Many UX designers also freelance.

Duties

  • Review and synthesize subject material 
  • Organize material and plan lessons 
  • Instruct groups of students through activities and lectures
  • Test and evaluate students’ abilities
  • Communicate student progress to parents, advisors, and other educators
  • Help maintain school rules and policies
  • Research users and market trends to understand the need for a product
  • Collaborate with team to ideate design solutions
  • Develop task flows, wireframes, and prototypes of a product
  • Test and evaluate prototypes
  • Communicate and pitch ideas to stakeholders and developers

*Job growth outlook for UX designers is not currently measured by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS forecasts 8% job growth for web developers and digital designers, however, other sources forecast even greater demand for UX designers. 

While these career paths share similar dispositions and duties, they differ in salary and job outlook. UX design salaries average out around $75,000 a year, but mid-level designers can earn $100,000 or more with just a few additional years of experience. 

While some teachers make a comfortable living, it’s safe to say that many educators are underpaid, especially when they hold master’s degrees or higher in their subject area. 

The UX field is also growing faster than teaching, with more and more companies expressing a need for UX and UI designers each day. Teachers who transition to UX design will find many opportunities posted on Indeed, Glassdoor, and other employment sites.

 

From Teaching to UX Design: Transferable Skills

Too often, career-changers do not consider tech opportunities because they feel intimidated by learning unfamiliar skills. We’re here to demystify tech career paths! At Avocademy, we’ve found that nearly anyone can learn complex techniques like wireframing or user testing— it’s soft skills, like empathy and creativity, that can be difficult to cultivate. 

Teaching is just one of the many career paths that can produce stellar UX designers. Here are a few transferable skills teachers bring to the table: 

 

Information Organization

Much of UX design involves simplifying and organizing large amounts of complex information to make a process easier for a user. A UX designer might be tasked with creating a cooking app that lets users search thousands of recipes. How can their users find the right recipe without feeling overwhelmed? 

Teaching involves similar kinds of synthesis and empathy. A teacher might ask, how can I summarize a topic as complex and important as World War II for my 10th-grade students? How can I convey key points and provide scope without overwhelming them?

Both the designer and the teacher must think of ways to make information more accessible to their audience. Whether it’s a well-structured digital interface or a well-structured lesson, organization and clarity are key. 

 

Communication & Listening

Teachers and UX designers both need exceptional written and verbal communication skills. Both must be able to share ideas and constantly engage in dialogue. Teachers check in with students to see if they are grasping concepts, and UX designers must check in with their team to make sure everyone is on the same page throughout the multifaceted design process. 

Teachers and UX designers must also be good listeners. To design effective products, UX designers conduct research and interviews to get a full picture of users’ needs. Similarly, teachers use testing, class interactions, and assignments to gauge students’ progress. Without structured listening and assessment, both UX designers and teachers would fail to understand their audience.  

 

Creativity

UX designers and teachers both need to be creative. Teachers spend their days inventing new ways to engage students, and they perform constant problem-solving to keep lessons running smoothly. From designing visual aids for your lessons to keeping your cool through a whirlwind of papers and people, it takes creativity to succeed in a school environment. 

UX design also requires creativity that goes beyond making something look cool. UX designers must brainstorm ways to make a product more effective and streamlined. They also have to keep up with the needs of their users, their team, and their company all at once. Sound familiar?

Creativity is constantly imagining new approaches and finding solutions. If you can do it as a teacher, you might be great for UX design!

 

Public Speaking & Presenting

Teachers are generally comfortable standing in front of a crowd. They know the tricks and techniques for keeping a class engaged. UX designers require similar skills to present their ideas in meetings and when pitching designs to stakeholders. 

It takes courage and poise to speak in front of any group, no matter the size or age of your audience. If you’re a teacher, this skill will come in handy if you switch to UX design!

 

Empathy

Many teachers are drawn to the profession because they care about helping students succeed. Similar ideals motivate UX designers. The mission of a UX professional is to help users successfully complete, and even enjoy, a task. In a way, UX designers teach their users how to interact with their product by making intuitive and instructional designs. 

Just as teachers meet students where they are, UX designers must meet users where they are. A teacher’s empathy and patience will shine in the world of UX!

 

From Teaching to UX Design: New Skills You’ll Need to Learn

Teachers and UX designers share similar dispositions and values. However, they execute daily work tasks quite differently. UX designers use a variety of tools and techniques that teachers may not be familiar with. 

If you’re thinking about switching from teaching to UX design, here are a few skills you’ll need to pick up: 

User Research

As mentioned above, the first step in the UX design process is understanding your users through research. UX research involves using both qualitative and quantitative methods to understand users’ behaviors and attitudes surrounding a product. With these key insights, UX professionals can make a more targeted and effective product. 

While many teachers likely have some research experience, you’ll need to study UX-specific research skills to transition to this field. 

 

Wireframing

Wireframing is a kind of outlining process where designers sketch the layouts and possible task flows to use in a product. Designers build wireframes to start visualizing the product at a structural level before creating the colors, text, and graphics that give a product personality. Wireframes are flexible and easy to adapt, making them highly useful early in the design process. 

Common wireframing tools include Sketch, Figma, and Adobe XD. Teachers interested in UX should choose a popular tool like one of these to practice with as they begin building their own wireframes. 

 

Prototyping

User interface prototypes take blank wireframes and bring them to life with graphics, animations, completed text boxes, and working buttons. Prototypes are great for user testing since they mimic the final product but can still be flexible. Depending on the stage of the design process, prototypes can be low or high-fidelity, with varying levels of detail. 

Teachers looking to transition to UX need to learn both how to create prototypes and how to use them to make design decisions. UX designers often need to make dozens of rounds of edits to get a product just right. It can be hard to adapt to a work environment where failure, reevaluation, and revision are so common.

 

Design Tools

While UX designers don’t need to be computer scientists or coding masters, they do spend a lot of time using digital UX tools that may be unfamiliar to teachers. The wireframing tools mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg— UX pros also use collaboration tools like Slack, user testing tools like Invision, and flow chart tools like LucidChart to complete their work. 

If you’re looking to make this career pivot, be prepared to explore a wide range of design platforms. Each designer has preferences, and it will take time to find the UX tools that suit your groove. 

 

Information Architecture

While teachers are already experts at organizing content for students to learn, organizing information for a product is a slightly different beast. Information architecture involves structuring content at a high level so a product’s navigation is logical, effective, and sustainable. IA is sometimes a UX specialization, but each designer needs to understand the basics of structuring information. 

Websites, mobile apps, and social media pages all need exceptional information architecture. Teachers transitioning to UX should learn best practices for labeling content and structuring menus to help users avoid getting lost.

 

Five Steps to Transition from Teaching to UX Design

Teachers really can become brilliant UX designers. If you’re ready for something new in your career, transitioning to user experience could be a fantastic choice. 

However, you don’t need to give up teaching to learn UX basics. In fact, picking up UX skills like user testing and wireframing could make you a better educator. You’ll better understand your students and meet their needs through even more engaging, targeted lessons. 

If you still want to make the switch and learn UX design, start with these steps: 

 

1. Identify Your Why

At Avocademy, we encourage students to do a little soul-searching before embarking on a new career. Before starting a UX mentorship program, consider your motivations. Do you care more about understanding users through research, or do you just want to design attractive interfaces? Are you hoping to become a UX expert or just looking for a change? 

Thinking about your “why” can help you choose the right UX learning pathway and identify potential UX specializations to pursue.  

 

2. Set a Timeline & Budget

Luckily, you don’t need 8 more years of college to become a UX designer. However, UX programs vary widely, and it can take between 6 months to 2 years to join the field. 

Program costs vary widely too, from free online learning to $30,000+ for a master’s degree. Be sure to set realistic expectations to reach your goals without blowing your budget!

 

3. Start a UX Learning Program 

With your motivations, timeline, and budget in alignment, it’s time to learn UX design! You can:

  • Start a UX bootcamp
  • Choose a UX master’s program
  • Learn UX online through free or low-cost coursework 

Selecting a program can be the hardest part of transitioning from teaching UX design. Take time to research options and consider your learning needs. For a more in-depth guide to UX bootcamps, check out our comparison article for a breakdown of popular programs by timeline, features, and pricing. 

 

4. Build Your UX Portfolio 

Once you complete your first UX design projects, you’re ready to start building a UX portfolio. 

A UX portfolio provides case studies of your past projects for employers to review during the hiring process. It should highlight your skills as a designer and demonstrate your ability to assess and meet user needs. 

The best portfolios tell a story that sets designers apart from the competition. It’s wise to have your portfolio critiqued by UX experts so you can apply to open roles with confidence. 

 

5. Apply to Jobs & Start Your UX Career!

Now that you’ve chosen a path, learned new UX skills, and built an amazing portfolio, you can start hunting for that UX dream job! 

Practice patience during the job search. At Avocademy, we find that students usually need between 3-6 months and 150 or more applications to land an entry-level UX position. Trust the process.

 

Ready to Make a Change? Schedule a Free Mentoring Session!

If you’re a teacher interested in learning more about UX design, schedule an Avocademy mentoring session!

As educators ourselves, we always look forward to chatting with teachers about UX/UI. Whether you’re looking for a new career or just looking to learn new skills, we’re ready to listen and help you get started.

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