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What job can you get with zero qualifications? Car mechanic? Airline flight attendant? School teacher? Singer? All of these desirable jobs require at least some demonstrable talent and/or skill, aka “qualifications.”

Articles and videos hoping to sound inspirational to UX juniors and those looking to move into CX or UX sometimes suggest you can get a UX job with no qualifications. Agile and scrum practitioners often believe unqualified non-UX workers can do UX work after reading a book, which feeds their ideas that UX specialists aren’t needed on the team.

It’s important to bust such false ideas.

People Who Don’t Understand UX Believe They Can Learn it Quickly and Easily

There is a new flood of UX boot camp and trade school graduates looking for UX jobs. Yet few can find such jobs because companies prefer to hire those with a year or more of experience. They don’t want newbies — even promising newbies — to show up needing training and help. Employers want those with experience who cut their teeth elsewhere to show up, hit the ground running, and get quality work done efficiently.

These boot camp grads spent an average of 12 to 40 weeks studying UX intensively. Yet many employers don’t consider them “ready” to do a UX job. Even after 40 weeks of training, these people haven’t yet leveled up their skills and abilities enough for the average employer to consider hiring them. Then why are proponents of agile, scrum and other software approaches so sure that UX specialists can easily teach everybody how to do UX jobs in case of a bottleneck?

The reality is a non-UX role given some “quick training” wouldn’t qualify to be hired by the same company in a UX job. UX is mission critical. We shouldn’t give work to anybody who isn’t qualified. We don’t have unqualified non-engineers writing code.

Related Article: Should We Hand Over UX to Just Anyone?

Can I Just Self-Study and Practice UX?

Articles like “How To Land a Career in UX Design With Zero Qualifications” oversimplify and suggest that you learn design thinking, which is not UX. The author then suggests that your path just needs exposure (read, watch, attend events, self-teach), experience (practice what you’re learning), and credibility (build your portfolio, get some certificates). In addition to offering such general advice, the article then undoes its title by giving suggestions on how you can become more qualified to start your UX career.

Self-teaching can be a great way to learn many things. But practice without expert coaching is guessing. How will you know when you are doing tasks well or could do them better? You need an expert, veteran UX specialist who can review your work, give you honest feedback, give you time to make changes, and then review that work again. Cycle through this a number of times to learn the best ways to do the work.

Working closely with a mentor or coach can also teach you the strategic side of UX: how will you know which tasks to do (and how) given a project’s needs, timeline and budget? This is often hard for juniors to figure out since it’s learned through experience. Having a veteran coach in your corner will help you learn by doing, being corrected and being advised by an expert.

Hackathons seem like good places to practice, but again, these are not real jobs or work scenarios. This is building something in a day or two, often without any real UX process. Chances are your team didn’t plan, execute, or interpret UX research before deciding what to build, and you might not have planned, executed, or interpreted UX testing. UX work at hackathons is often sketching screens, which will not look like a very thorough UX approach in your portfolio.

You’ll often hear that you should freelance or just do some free work, but without a coach or mentor, how do you know if you are doing this work correctly or well? Businesses expect freelancers to have experience, which means it can be hard to get freelance work as practice. People have mission-critical work they need done right the first time, and might not feel comfortable going with someone who is new and still learning, even if the work is being done for free.

Related Article: Design Thinking Isn't User Experience

Hiring Managers Need Talent and Skill

Ultimately, hiring managers are looking for talented people who can hit the ground running and get work done at each person’s current experience level. There are very few junior or entry-level UX jobs that are learn-on-the-job, heavy-mentoring or training environments. Jobs expect to pay already-trained, already-experienced people to do things well. That’s not unreasonable. It’s what you expect from your plumber, hairdresser and doctor. You don’t expect someone still learning or hoping to be trained as they go.

Hiring managers are also less and less impressed by certificates. What did that 20-hour certificate in "Human-Centered Design" really prepare you to do? What does having a design thinking certificate mean you can do? What can you do strategically or tactically after any particular course? There’s nothing wrong with seeking more courses and getting certificates, but they might not help you get jobs.

Therefore, it’s very unlikely you will get a decent UX job with zero qualifications. And if we consider the outcomes of such an idea, it’s probably for the best. We want mission-critical work to be done by people who are qualified.