What career path to choose if I wish to use Design as a medium to bring about a social change?


Like all the other members of this community, I too declare my heartfelt gratitude towards Kaiting Huang for curating this extensive list of universities for helping out people like me.

I have somehow always lacked in making life decisions by myself and have relied extensively on other people to make those decisions for me. And yet again I am standing at the same point of my life, unable to decide whether to prepare for a Master’s degree or to switch jobs.

A small brief about my background:
I graduated as a Computer Engineer in May’19 and post that have been working at a small Tech Startup as a designer (formally I have no design background, nor did I take any course for the same). We are a small team of 5-6 people with 3 Developers, 1 Marketing person and 1 designer (me), we are still trying to figure out the right way to position ourselves in the market. As far as designing is concerned, I’m responsible for creating the UI of the ideas that my boss comes up with. I feel like i am not able to get a full feel of what it’s like to be a UX/UI designer. No research or Ideation it’s just simple implementation.

I am interested in designing for creating a social impact and have no prior social work or research experience. I am still not sure of how as a designer I can contribute to the betterment of the society, but I know that I want to pursue a career in this field of work. Are there any other agencies or companies out here who does this kind of work? If any one is aware of that please do let me know.

Now I am unable to decide whether attaining a Masters will give me clarity on designing for social needs and help me in any way if I wish to do this.
Also, if i do start to prepare for Master’s, what is the foremost thing i should focus on? GRE, TOEFL/IELTS or my portfolio? because GRE & TOEFL preparation takes upto 3 months total dedication, but preparing a solid portfolio also takes quality time. What should I do? What did you guys do?

Or should I try working at an NGO?

Or maybe a design agency where I can get a feel of what it is like building projects from the ideation phase to the implementation phase. And once I get a hang of the design UX cycle and have clear fundamentals of design basics try to apply for IDEO or similar organizations?

Hi Sandhini,

I think “social change” is a very broad and somewhat subjective concept. You can work at an NGO, an agency or a large company and “feel” like you are making social changes. For example:

Even your team or project doesn’t have a direct “.org” or “ngo” title, you can still work on “socially impactful” projects, such as building affordable devices, distributing the Intenet to rural areas, designing education tool for the disadvantaged, making financial service accessible…etc.

Similarly, although there are programs specifically target social impact like Stanford, it’s not required for kicking off your journey of making social changes. A regular UX program can still teach you the basic design process and skills that you can use on any project.

With that said, I think pursuing a Master or not will depend more on the following things:

  • Do you feel a Master’s program can teach you knowledge/skills you are lacking to be a good designer?
  • Do you want to pursue a career in another country?
  • Do you feel the country of your choice might give you better job opportunities (e.g. many NGOs you are interested in)?

At last, people can give you recommendations, but your life is YOURS. Talk to as many people as you can to gather inspirations, and make sure to evaluate what people say with YOUR needs and wants. Good luck! :slight_smile:

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Thank you Kainting for sharing your point of view. I’ll make sure to focus on my needs and wants when making a decision. :slight_smile: