What are the top West Coast graduate User Experience (UX), User Interface (UI), and Human Computer Interaction (HCI) schools?

Top 5 Graduate UX/UI/HCI Schools and Colleges in the West - 2024 Rankings
1University of WashingtonWashington
2Stanford UniversityCalifornia
3San Jose State UniversityCalifornia
4Academy of Art UniversityCalifornia
5ArtCenter College of DesignCalifornia

Our 2024 rankings of the Top 5 graduate UX/UI/HCI school programs in the West. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
University of Washington

University of Washington (UW) has several graduate programs for students who are interested in UX/UI/HCI. Most options are based in UW’s College of Engineering. Serving approximately 5,615 undergraduate students, the College houses the Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) Department, which has MS and PhD options.

Students with a bachelor’s degree and two years of work experience can also earn a User-Centered Design (UCD) certificate. This evening graduate program consists of four courses including three required courses (User-Centered Design, Usability Studies, and UX Speaker Series) and one elective. Sample electives include User-Centered Web Design; Interaction Design & Prototyping; and Information Visualization.

The College of Engineering at University of Washington also houses the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering which, in partnership with HCDE, the Information School, the Division of Design in the School of Art + Art History + Design, and faculty from other UW departments, comprises an award-winning research group known as Design: Use: Build (DUB).

This cross-disciplinary collective serves 33 students (from more than a dozen academic backgrounds), enrolled in a Master of Human-Computer Interaction and Design (MHCI + D). The project-based curriculum for the program consists of a core and electives. Examples of core courses include Design of Interactive Systems; Ideation Studio; Usability/User Research; and Interdisciplinary HCI+D Seminar (DUB Seminar). Elective examples include Interactive Information Visualization; Advanced Introduction to HCI; Usability Studies; Input and Interaction; Designing Information Experiences; and Advanced Projects in IxD.

Students may also take the Portfolio and Professional Practices course which focuses on creating a portfolio, both online and for a portfolio presentation. The course also addresses other professional practices, such as job searches.

After 11 intense months of study, the MHCI + D program at University of Washington culminates with a Capstone project. This three-course, 14 credit hour culminating experience includes the Capstone Planning Seminar; Research Studio; and Capstone Studio. In teams, students will choose a focus area such as health, assistive technology, travel, the environment, education, or retail. Student teams will navigate the iterative design, prototyping, and evaluation process, resulting in an exhaustive project solution and presentation.

The HCDE PhD at University of Washington is a 90 credit hour program designed for students seeking careers as researchers and scholars. During the first two years students will select a dissertation advisor, begin their research in a concentration area and complete academic coursework. Examples of concentration areas include Human-Centered Data Science; Inclusive Design; Socia Computing; and Science & Technology Studies. The remainder of the program consists of extensive research and the completion of the dissertation.

The HCDE MS at University of Washington is an interdisciplinary program that attracts students who are interested in designing, researching, and engineering interactive technology. 50 credits are required to graduate. This includes 26 credits of HCDE electives and elective courses in specialized content areas, and 24 credits of required courses such as Usability Studies; User-Centered Design; and Experimental Methods.

Specialized content areas include Design, Strategy, and Engineering. Course examples across areas include Designing a Human Centered Venture; Information Visualization; International User Experiences and Communication; Physical Computing and Prototyping; User-Centered Web Design; and Design and Management of Complex Systems. Elective examples include Empirical Traditions; UX Speaker Series; Web Design Studio; Programming Concepts; DUB Seminar; Computational Concepts in HCDE; and the Internship. 

The HCDE MS program at UW culminates with a Capstone project. Graduates are prepared for leadership roles in HCDE education, government, industry, and non-profits.

Across programs, examples of companies and organizations that have hired UW HCDE alumni include Boeing, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google, Disney, Alaska Airlines, Intel, Expedia Group, IBM Designs, Intuit, Lyft, GoDaddy, Razorfish, T-Mobile, NBC Universal, Accenture, GE Digital, Capital One, Verizon, Publicis Sapient, Getty Images, Getty Images, Adobe, Nike, Starbuck’s, , Raytheon Technologies, Cisco, Uber, and Bungie, Inc.

Established in 1861, University of Washington serves approximately 60,095 students across campuses in Seattle (main), Bothell, and Tacoma, Washington. Collectively, these campuses provide more than 470 programs and 845 degrees housed across 18 colleges and schools. University of Washington is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) and is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU). UW Engineering is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

2. Stanford University, Stanford, California
Stanford University

The School of Engineering at Stanford University was established in 1925. Serving more than 1,500 students, the School houses nine academic departments and several institutes. The interdisciplinary Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (also known as "the d.school") brings together faculty and students in business, engineering, education, humanities, and medicine to learn design thinking and address problems in a human-centered way. The Woods Institute for the Environment is a collaboration between students, staff, and faculty from the centers and institutes at Stanford. The Institute highlights education, interdisciplinary research, and outreach with a focus on the environment and sustainability.

Another Stanford Engineering highlight is Global Engineering Programs (GEP). Through GEP, students have access to international opportunities such as self-designed engineering internships. These internships allow students to learn about technology and engineering in a global context; gain real world experience in an environment; and build professional networks.

Established in 1965, the Department of Computer Science within Stanford School of Engineering houses the graduate CS program. Leading to an MS, this option provides the opportunity to enroll in an in-demand specialization such as Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Artificial Intelligence, Visual Computing, or Systems. The program features hands-on learning; research opportunities; and participation in the internship program.

Possible courses for the graduate CS program with an HCI specialization include Introduction to HCI Design; Interaction Design Studio; Topics in Human-Computer Interaction; Human Centered Product Management; Human-Computer Interaction Seminar; Design for Learning: Connection and Community; Programming Methodologies; Web Applications; Social Computing; Data Visualization; Computer Graphics and Imaging; Client-Side Internet Technologies; and Computer Organization and Systems.

Students with an undergraduate degree can also earn an HCI graduate certificate. Consisting of at least three courses and the highly recommended Human-Computer Interaction Seminar, this program prepares students for positions that require skills such as building virtual social environments, creating visualizations, and designing user interfaces. Students in this program have access to many of the same courses as students in the MS program do.

Across programs, graduates are also prepared for careers in Computer Science and any industry that requires a background in HCI, UX and UI. Examples of companies that routinely hire Stanford alumni include Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, Meta, Netflix, Snapchat, VMware, LinkedIn, and Arista Networks.

Stanford University was established in 1885 by former California Governor Leland Stanford, and his wife, Jane. The school opened its doors on October 1, 1891 with 555 students. Today, Stanford University is home to approximately 17,325 students served 2,300+ faculty members. Nearly 300 programs are provided across seven schools, supplemented by dozens of centers, institutes, and labs. Schools include Engineering; Humanities and Sciences; Sustainability; Business; Education; Law; and Medicine. Stanford University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

3. San Jose State University, San Jose, California
San Jose State University

The College of Humanities and the Arts and the College of Engineering at San Jose State University (San Jose State or SJSU) provide two graduate programs for students seeking careers in UX/UI/HCI. Options include the Master of Design (MDes) with a specialization in Experience Design (XD), and the Human Factors and Ergonomics MS (HFE MS).

Housed in the Department of Design within the College of Humanities and the Arts, the MDes with a specialization in XD is a two-year, multidisciplinary program that highlights advanced studio courses, seminars, and internship opportunities at the companies, museums, design firms, and start-ups in Silicon Valley. Students in this 60-unit program also have the opportunity to take on a teaching assistantship and/or collaborative projects with faculty as research assistants.

The XD specialization requires 20 units. Students will select courses from the following options: Design Research Methodologies; Human Dimensions in Experience Design; Designing with Data & Emergent Technology; Graduate Studio: Experience Design (to be completed twice) and Professional Practices. Other course examples (core) include Contextual Studies; Graduate Seminar in Design; and Professional Writing in Design.

The culminating experience for the MDes at San Jose State University is the Master’s Project. Throughout this four-unit course, students will work with an approved faculty chair and committee to execute, publicly exhibit, and defend the merits of their Master’s project.

Graduates of the MDes program have gone on to work at tech companies, consulting firms, and start-ups such as Samsung, Chase, Whipsaw, IDEO, Tesla, Astro Studios, LinkedIn, Yelp, Airbnb, Lyft, and Volkswagen. Program alumni have also gone on to work in academia, pursue research careers, and enroll in PhD programs at top universities.

The Human Factors and Ergonomics MS at San Jose State University is housed in the College of Engineering’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE). This STEM-designated, interdisciplinary program that provides multiple tracks and emphasis areas that focus on Human-Computer Interaction; Human-System Integration in Workplace and Production Design; and User Experience, among others. Students in all options have ample opportunities to study UX/UI/HCI.

Across options, students will take courses such as Human-Computer Interaction; Interaction Design I-II;  Usability Evaluation and Testing; Interactive and Interface Design; UI Design; Research in Human-Computer Interaction; Ethnographic Techniques; Ergonomics for Design; and Seminar in Perception. The culminating experience for the program is the Thesis (Plan A) or Project (Plan B).

Graduates of College of Engineering at San Jose State University are prepared for leadership roles in areas such as computer networking, manufacturing, government, healthcare, aerospace, internet and software, telecommunications, civil engineering, and many others. SJSU Engineering alumni have been hired at places such as NASA, Amazon, Lockheed Martin, Google, Tesla, eBay, Apple, Cisco, SAP SE, Intel, IBM, Kohl’s, PayPal, and the City of San Jose.

Established in 1857, San Jose State University is Silicon Valley’s Public University. Serving approximately 36,000 students, the school provides more than 250 areas of study at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Programs at SJSU are housed across nine colleges and dozens of departments and schools. San Jose State University is accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

4. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
Academy of Art University

The School of Interaction & UI/UX Design at Academy of Art University has two graduate programs for students seeking leadership roles in UI/UX. Options include MA and MFA degrees in Interaction and UI/UX Design. Across programs, students benefit from hands-on learning and state-of-the-art classrooms and access to Motion Graphics Labs, Computer Labs, and virtual and augmented reality studios featuring the latest software, equipment, and emerging technologies

Students in the School of Interaction & UI/UX Design also benefit from guest speakers, workshops, and collaborations with designers and artists outside the classroom, as well as internship opportunities at major tech companies such as Google, X (formerly known as Twitter), LinkedIn, PayPal, Eventbrite, Facebook, and GoPro.

The MA and MFA at Academy of Art University share many of the same courses. Examples include User Experience Design; Digital Graphics; Visual Design and Typography; Copywriting; and Motion Graphics and Video. MA students will take other courses such as History of Graphic Design; Future Agency; and User Experience: Human Centered Design. MFA students will take other courses such as Balancing Creativity and Profitability; Directed Study; and Professional Practices for Designers and Advertisers.

The MA program culminates with a final project portfolio. The MFA program culminates with a portfolio and a final thesis. All graduates are prepared to pursue careers in UX/UI/HCI.

Graduates of the Interaction and UI/UX Design programs at Academy of Art University have gone on to work with corporate sponsors and other companies across the San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley and around the world. Examples of companies that have hired Academy of Art graduates include Apple, Google, IBM, Sapient Razorfish, LinkedIn, Tesla, Ancestry, Facebook, and AKQA.

Established in 1929 and serving more than 7,000 students, Academy of Art is one of the nation’s largest private art and design schools. Family-owned and divided into 22 schools, Academy of Art University provides more than 125 degree programs across 40+ areas of study. Programs lead to the AA, BA, BFA, BS, B. Arch, MAT, MA, MFA and M. Arch degrees. The Academy of Art is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

5. ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, California
ArtCenter College of Design

ArtCenter College of Design (ArtCenter) has a graduate Interaction Design program that explores interface design, human-computer interaction, and data visualization. Leading to Master of Design (MDes), this 36 credit hour program emphasizes hands-on product and experience design projects with engineers, investors, product managers, and other collaborators. ArtCenter industry partners include Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Ford, Netflix, BMW, DreamWorks, Mattel, Nike, Facebook, Walt Disney Imagineering, Riot Games, Honda, Blizzard Entertainment, and WB.

Through hands-on prototyping and labs, students will also create UX and interaction design work for their final project and portfolio.

In addition to UX design, research, and technologies such as machine learning and AI, the curriculum for the ArtCenter MDes focuses on professional creative development. Course examples include IxD History and Futures; Creative Prototyping 1 and 2; Product, Services, Systems; Writing for Interaction; Investing in People, Process, and Leadership; Design Research and Strategy; and Topic Studio.

At the end of each semester, MDes students will complete a Grad Lab course. This program requirement consists of assignments, weekly one-on-one group meetings, workshops, and a lecture series. In the Lab, students will also have opportunities to complete an internship and participate in conferences and competitions.

The Interaction Design MDes at ArtCenter College of Design culminates with the Capstone and Thesis. Final work will be shown across multiple mediums such as code, video, streaming, and mixed fidelity prototypes. The MDes can be completed in just one year.

Graduates of the Interaction Design MDes program at ArtCenter College of Design are prepared to pursue careers and leadership roles such as UX Designer, UI Designer, Digital Director, Interaction Designer (IxD), Lead Designer, User Researcher, Information Architect, Creative Director, Content Strategist, Creative Technologist, Producer, Social Media Director, Design Strategist, Mobile Designer, Designer/Developer (front-end or back-end), and Web Designer.

ArtCenter College of Design serves approximately 2,425 students from across the U.S. and more than 50 countries. Founded in 1930, ArtCenter has campuses in Pasadena and Los Angeles, California, along with satellite studios in Petersen Automotive Museum (Miracle Mile, Los Angeles), and Berlin, Germany. ArtCenter provides 21 degree programs in the industrial design, and visual and applied arts disciplines. Undergraduate minors in Business, Creative Writing, Material Science, Research, and Social Innovation, are also available.

ArtCenter College of Design is fully accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).