Overview of Human Computer Interaction Bachelor's Degree Programs
Human computer interaction is a new, rapidly growing field in the world of computer science. It is concerned with useful and usable technologies that we use every day, like phone applications and interactive websites. Human computer interaction (HCI) program coursework focuses on how to design, implement and evaluate these services and applications by combining principles of engineering, design and social sciences. You might consider this program if you have an interest in computer technology and a background in mathematics or design. This article provides detailed information about admission requirements and coursework, and highlights some career options for a degree in human computer interaction.
Admission Requirements for Human Computer Interaction Programs
Human computer interaction programs are still rare and therefore tend to be both small and competitive. Schools may only admit several dozen students per year into their HCI program, and you may only be considered after completing one or two years of prerequisite coursework. This includes basic mathematics and computer science courses, and the purpose is to ensure you are interested in the field as well as to build a strong academic foundation needed for more advanced HCI coursework. Maintaining a high grade point average, particularly in these areas, will help with your admission prospects. Admissions committees are likely to look at your application in a holistic manner by considering your academic record, your likelihood of thriving in the program, and perhaps by assessing application essays or a personal portfolio.
Human Computer Interaction Program Coursework
Below is a list of courses you can expect to take in a human computer interaction program.
Foundations in Programming
Programming is a core skill in computer science and you can expect to take an introductory programing course early in your HCI program and then build more advanced and specific programing skills over time. This course includes various programing languages such as C++ and Java. Within these languages you will learn how to problem solve and develop algorithms and applications.
Mobile and Web Design
This course teaches students how to build and maintain static and responsive websites and mobile applications. It covers the different types of coding for websites including HTML and Java as well as design principles like styling, page structure and content layout. It also includes topics such as server technologies, search engines, and nuances of different operating system software in both computers and mobile devices.
Cognitive psychology is the study of how humans learn, remember and use information. In HCI, understanding human cognitive capabilities is essential to informing the design of everyday technologies. This course covers theories of human cognition with the goal of increasing the usability of computer systems and services and could focus on different topics such as safety, convenience or efficiency. Areas of study include language use, reasoning, patterns of recognition, decision making and attention.
User Interface Design
This course brings together knowledge of cognitive psychology and computer design to build usable interfaces. It will consider the challenge of building platforms with different technology and design requirements as well as different prospective users. The course might also introduce tools for analyzing interfaces and apply this to solving future interface development challenges.
Prototyping and Usability Testing
The purpose of this course is to understand how to evaluate and improve designs. It will introduce the concept of iterative or cyclical design as a way of improving user experience. The course will also cover different prototyping techniques and methods for evaluating users, as well as analyzing those evaluations to inform improvements.
How to Choose a Human Computer Interaction Program
The field of human computer interaction moves quickly, so when choosing a program you should seek the school that offers the most up-to-date information and facilities. Another factor to consider is the program's proximity to and connection with leading HCI companies. They might provide internship opportunities for students or jobs for recent graduates, giving you a head start in the industry. You could also consider the research or teaching opportunities within the program, which, if available, will provide practical experience in the topics you'll study.
Career Options for a Degree in Human Computer Interaction
A degree in human computer interaction will prepare you for a career as a software developer, perhaps specializing in application development or systems development. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for all software developers was $102,280 in 2016, and the predicted job growth was much faster than average at 24% between 2016 and 2026. You could also pursue any number of other related career paths, some of which are listed below.