Career in HCI?


I’ve started applying to the universities now for doing my MS in Computer Science mostly.

Recently I stumbled across the course HCI(Human Computer Interaction) and I realized I love all those courses in the curriculum.

However, from what I saw it doesn’t seem as HARDCORE as the other branches.

So what do you guys think? Is it worth it? How is it as a Career Option comparitively?

Also I want to start-up a company as soon as it’s feasible, maybe after a few years of work ex after my Masters. Will this field be too much of a specialization for what I want to do?

All replies will be appreciated,
Thank you

I might not be on the same level as you, but I’ve just started learning about HCI at college. It’s definitely one of the most interesting classes I’ve taken, and it’s a unit my lecturers have loved teaching. My main HCI lecturer done HCI in his masters and said it was the most fun thing he done, and from a job point of view apparently there are loads of jobs with firms looking for people with HCI talent.

If you’re looking for help in this area it might be a good idea to talk to a careers advisor at a university next time you go. They’ll usually be able to refer to a professor to talk to or know first hand where people go after they graduate. A lot of lecturers and professors take pride and joy when their students head out into the real world and get a good job in a big firm.

My main HCI lecturer done HCI in his masters and said it was the most fun thing he done

I hope your lecturer can speak better english than that!

I would tend to think that the more specialised a discipline the harder it would be to start your own company focusing on it. Mostly because your marketing needs to target a smaller group of interested clients. Opening shop as a general developer, perhaps with a specialisation in HCI would IMO be easier.
Working for a larger, existing firm may also be more practical (especially soon after you graduate) because the size could justify having specialist staff for HCI.

The university and teaching staff should have a reasonable idea of the job prospects and practicality of specialising in HCI.

Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realise I was posting on GrammarNaziPoint. I challenge anyone else to attempt to type properly at half three in the morning.

For the record, he probably can’t. :slight_smile:

Also, how would you plan to utilise HCI in what you’re selling? Many people (by people I mean students, if you consider them to be people) usually start off in a big firm, then branch off when they have the real-world experience in what they wish to do.

L O L :rofl:

I’m a business major and, as far as what I was taught anyways, I think the best thing to do would be to specialize in the HCI niche. A small company has no chance to compete with larger companies in multiple markets. If you specialize in just HCI, you will be able to concentrate all your time, resources, etc on it, and eventually get to a point where you can do it better and for cheaper than the larger companies, which would then warrant customers choosing to do business with you instead of them. That would be my advice, hope it is of some help.

A friend of mine has a HCI degree. She now does research at Intel, figuring out how people naturally want to use/manipulate electronic devices and software.

… And the job pays pretty well :slight_smile:

My University have specliased HCI courses, including MScs, I would be more than happy to discuss them with you.

This is what I do; I’m the UI Designer at a mid-size software company. I am the person responsible for designing the look & feel of new features, improving existing features, and (to use an awful cliche) “thinking outside the box” to see if there are better ways to accomplish the user’s goals than the feature set they think they want. I went to school in a related field (cognitive science) but spent 9 years in tech writing and product management before edging sideways into HCI/UI design.

Some HCI folks are “hardcore.” Some aren’t. Hardcore for the sake of hardcore doesn’t matter much. If you’re good at what you do, you’ll earn respect. As for job prospects and salary, as with anything, if you can do something that most people can’t, it’s easier to find (better) jobs. So, yes, ability/willingness to code usually means more pay.

I’m confused about the starting a company part – you want to be an entrepreneur, but don’t care what the business is? … Practicality seems to indicate that it will wait until you are experienced in something, have a solid network, and know the problem your business will address. Keep an entrepreneurial frame of mind – it WILL help you in your career no matter where you are – but don’t sweat it just yet. FWIW, I do think that a decent percentage of HCI people are independent consultants. But only the best can charge six-figure fees. It may take a while for you to build up the experience & portfolio for that – or, to give your skills the benefit of the doubt – for others to perceive that you have the experience necessary.

Good luck deciding. It’s a fun field. And even if you decide you don’t want to do it full-time, I think it’s useful to be familiar with HCI issues anyway, so they can help you be better at whatever else you decide to do.


Oh I forgot, I’m from India, doing my Bachelors in Information Science Engineering.

We don’t have “Careers Advisors” here. We just join the highest paying company that we can get into :smiley:

Thanks for your reply…

Dont think there are many companies with focus only on HCI…then again i wouldnt know.

Yeah, I’ve been told to work for atleast 2-3 years with some firm to gain experience.

Thanks Cranial!

Wow, that sounds exciting!

Thatz an interesting way to look at it, you are right, thanks joe.

I do care what the business is, but am not sure of it yet. I’m in my last year of the Bachelors Course, I will be doing my Masters after this. I figure I have another 2-3 years to make up my mind on what I want to do.

I’m applying for the Masters in HCI course at Carnegie Mellon University. Dont know about my chances, but well :slight_smile:

Thanks for everything guys, cant believe it made it to the highlighted list!

Nicky, saw from your profile that you teach HCI at UCLan, will get in touch with you as soon as my exams are done with. Hope you dont mind being bombarded with the dumbest questions possible.

I’ve been thinking, I dont think I want to do “HCI” solely, I’m interested in applying the concepts on the other things I’ll be doing. I dont know if a Masters degree is justifiable considering that, but I feel that’s what will help the most.

We make all our students do HCI as it can carry through into all other diciplines.

Art *** fad… 90%+ of it being rheotoric with no fact or even research behind it. After 30+ years of nonsense like it (how many times have they applied a new buzzword name to the same bull?) leading to constant revision of how programs and sites look without fixing underlying functionality issues (yes Operating System UI’s, I’m looking at you!) just alienates me from it further… The term ‘flash and no substance’ comes to mind.

I’d be more open to the ‘field’ if they didn’t completely change what it means every two years - throws it into the realm of a ‘career eductator’ field, not something practical outside of the school environment. Yet Another piece of paper that shows you know how to take tests, and nothing more.

That and it’s being overhyped right now, just as marketing was in the early 90’s… Which means much like most of the marketing graduates of a decade past I have just one bit of advice.

<venkman>I’m sure someone with your qualifications would have no trouble finding a top-flight job in either the food service or housekeeping industries.</venkman>

EXCEPT - if you are REALLY good at flim-flam, chutzpah, and in generaly talking out both ends at the same time, you COULD make a career out of it just like most ‘professional lecturers’ do with topics that have tons of theory, and no implementation. GREAT cornerstone for some form of scam.

HCI has nothing to do with art actually, unless someone made a stupid hiring decision by bringing on a graphic artist as a software UI designer. It has its roots in computer science and psychology. For example, there are not very many “touchy feely” topics listed here.

And it’s not necessarily the HCI guy’s job to fix underlying OS issues; he/she might point it out, but it’s probably a developer/engineer that needs to fix it and a manager that needs to approve that work (we are talking about big companies like Microsoft here, so add a few managers in for good measure).

Okay, so what did it mean in early 2005 and what does it mean today, I’d like to know.

And I’m sure a lot more people would be more open to ‘web development’ if it didn’t change every 4-5 years. Why does this guy want me to pay to update my site to some newfangled “standards” I’ve never heard of? I already did that in 2001, Flash and pixel fonts are fine with me!

I said “Art ***”, not art. Derogatory, injunctive. Censoring may have obscured what I mean. Artsy fartsy - not art. Like the difference between a Renior and a Jackson Pollack. I had some fried pollack last night, went down Kevin, came up Jackson… I say, I say, that’s a joke son.

Sorry, but that wiki link gives me the same types of willies modern art does… ‘value sensitive’, ‘affordance’, and most every other term that all inherits from the ‘user freindly’ experience makes me want to go make my own little piece of modern art… if you follow my drift. It reeks of the same pseudo-science psychobabble that you find on college campuses alongside PETA literature.

But then, I was a contributor to DROSSDOS/8E and the Basic Misinterpreter so… I may be JUST a bit jaded on said subject.

You guys are focusing entirely too much on this word ‘art’ and missing the point entirely.

Human Computer Interaction tends to happen in a visual environment.
(unless your using a screen reader)

Because of the ‘visual’ nature of this interaction, having the properly designed graphical content is fundamental to creating a usable system.

HCI is not about graphics, it is about how we can design systems that are intuitive.

For example, designing how a person would use a washing machine or a mobile phone would come under HCI.

You seem to be using a very narrow definition of the term:

:eek: I rest my case.

While I was getting my degree in business administration I realized certain market opportunities that often presented themselves at this level. I keep a close eye on the owners skill levels & make great money teaching business owners how to better interact with the equipment they already own. I would go out of the way and buy them a nice optical mouse when the roller mouse was dirty and barely worked…

These HCI ‘extras’ I was willing to do for people quickly became my signature as owner referred me to owner. In not too much time, I would walk in and the boss would get up and give me their seat to start working on their computer “first”.

Needless to say, my willingness to work at this level has helped me keep some clients since I graduated, 6+ years now. Anytime another tech would come by - I felt bad for the poor schmoes - because they would inevitably get compared to me. Usually this wasnt pretty.

Everything flows through this nexus & I am so exceedingly capable at configuring acceptable ‘points of interaction’ with computers that I doubt I will ever need to look for work again.