We all know that the tech industry is red hot right now, but that doesn’t do you a lot of good if you’re coming from a liberal arts background… or does it? You might not have heard of these jobs yet, but most of them simply require critical thinking skills, creativity, strong communication skills, and—best of all—zero coding ability.
Guest writer Deirdre Quirk shares some insight she gained after attending an event called “Digital Careers You’ve Never Heard Of (But Might Be Good At),” taught by two Reed College alumnae with degrees in library science and careers in Digital Humanities and User Experience Design. Could you see yourself in one of these tech jobs for non-technical people?
Looking at job listings in the tech and start-up field can sometimes feel like you’re reading another language. Interaction design? Search engine optimization? Ontology? What do any of these mean? And how could you possibly be qualified for any of them? This guide to some of the more obscure job titles and lingo used in the tech field is here to help. There are an amazing number of jobs in the tech field that are open to those without programming experience—you just have to know how to find them.
What is it? Exactly what it sounds like, the intersection of computing and humanities.
What’s the job like? In practice, this has a broad range of applications, from online curating to analyzing cultural data. It is mainly a research-based, academic field.
Who’s a good fit? If you’re nostalgic for the days of researching papers and interacting with academia, this might be a great field for you. Liberal arts degrees are particularly well-suited for digital humanities jobs.
User Interface (UI) Design
What is it? User interface designers work on the designs for websites, computers, smartphones, applications, and software to make sure they are understandable and usable by the average customer.
What’s the job like? Your job would be to think about how the visuals of a website or an app could be improved and to communicate that to the programmers using mock-ups (essentially a fancy term for drawing boxes and rough sketches).
Who’s a good fit? Someone with a good eye for visuals and an understanding of the average user. No technical degree required.
User Experience (UX)
What is it? Similar to user interface design, but with a broader application. Rather than just focusing on the visual interface, you are looking at the entire subjective experience of the user.
What’s the job like? You would be making decisions about which features and information are most important to the user, how to structure the product so that those are easily accessible, how to keep the product consistent throughout, and other similar concerns. Will probably involve conducting user testing (asking people to test out your design and interviewing them about the experience).
Who’s a good fit? People who can empathize with the average customer and understand their experience. Good communication skills are also important.
[Editor’s note: For more about UX, check out all the UX-related content we have on the AfterCollege Blog.]
What is it? An incredibly broad field that includes many of the other items on this list (information architecture, ontology, analytics, search engine optimization). Information science focuses on the storage, retrieval, analysis, dissemination, and general movement of information.
What’s the job like? This job involves a good deal of organizing and storing information for easy accessibility—whether that information is data, images, audio files, or something else entirely.
Who’s a good fit? Do you enjoy organizing? Do you have experience working with large databases or with digital collections? Then information science might be a good fit for you.
What is it? In the broadest sense, information architecture refers to how information is structured—how it is classified, divided, and stored.
What’s the job like? In terms of websites, it means carefully considering each piece of information on the website and how it should be classified, which other pieces of information it should be grouped with, and how users should be able to access it. For example: should this event come up when users search “party,” or “carnival,” or both? Should it appear on the homepage, or only on the events page? How long should the post be available after the event is over?
Who’s a good fit? An intuitive understanding of websites and a love of organization are great for this job. The many hours you spent browsing the internet instead of doing your homework are now a marketable job skill!
Information Modeling & Taxonomy / Ontology / Data Modeling
What is it? In its simplest terms, mapping how things relate to other things.
What’s the job like? In terms of software engineering, it involves creating diagrams that demonstrate how different types of information relate to each other, what properties the different types of information share, and how they can be operated on.
Who’s a good fit? A good choice for those who like flowcharts; involves some knowledge of programming.
Interaction Design (IxD)
What is it? Quite similar to both user interface and user experience design, interaction design is decidedly non-programming focused, emphasizing the human rather than the computer side of human-computer interaction.
What’s the job like? Questions you’ll find yourself answering include: How do people interact with the technology they use? What are the themes? How do things change dynamically over time? What types of organizing systems best express these trends?
Who’s a good fit? If you’re a big-picture type of person with an interest in psychology, you might find yourself drawn to interaction design.
[Editor’s note: Find more info on Interaction Design right here on the AfterCollege Blog!]
What is it? Content strategy focuses on making sure that a brand or company stays on message across different platforms and often involves creating content (things like blog posts, infographics, videos, etc.).
What’s the job like? Writing and outlining blog posts, working with designers to create infographics, and thinking of other ways to share information with customers or potential customers. Does the store location have the same feel as the publications? One aspect of this, especially for stores, is content auditing—making sure that items are called the same thing on the website, in the catalog, and in-store.
Who’s a good fit? One of the more writing-focused terms on this list, content strategy also calls for attention to detail and an ability to see the large picture.
Search Engine Optimization
What is it? Ever wondered why one website appears on the first page of a Google search while another one doesn’t? Search engine optimization is why.
What’s the job like? This job involves staying up-to-date on how search engines work (Google is always refining their strategy, which means SEOs need to stay informed), what people actually search for, and the search terms they actually use and then adjusting both content and HTML to increase the likelihood that your page(s) will show up higher in search results.
Who’s a good fit? Problem-solvers who enjoy seeing the results of their work pay off would do well in this field. Basic knowledge of coding languages is a plus.
What is it? Web analysts look at the pure numbers of website viewing. Web analytics covers both off-site analytics (the website’s potential audience and general buzz) and on-site analytics (the behavior of visitors to the actual site).
What’s the job like? You will be crunching the numbers to answer questions such as: How many people are mentioning the website on social media? How many people visited the site? How did they find the site? How long did they stay? How many return visitors were there?
Who’s a good fit? Best suited for data-minded types.
Software Quality Assurance (QA) and User/Usability Testing
What is it? Often a component of user experience or interaction design, usability testing is the process of testing a product or program on actual human beings. Software quality assurance is a slightly broader term for a similar job, generally involving more knowledge of coding.
What’s the job like? Setting up scenarios in which you ask users to perform a sample task and then observing how well they are able to complete it. Can involve either trained testers or a group of random people; often involves surveys or questionnaires as well.
Who’s a good fit? If you’re good with understanding people, making them feel comfortable, and getting them to talk about their experiences, user testing might be a good choice.
What is it? Being a team leader. Project management exists across fields and is not necessarily tech-specific, but project managers are a crucial part of the technology industry.
What’s the job like? You’ll be planning a project, assigning tasks, following up with team members, and making sure each team member has the resources they need to complete the project on time.
Who’s a good fit? Remember group projects and how one person always seemed to end up in charge? If you were that person, project management might be the job for you.
What is it? Data visualization is the translation of raw data into a graph, chart, or other image that effectively conveys the data in a way that more people can understand.
What’s the job like? Using software to create different graphic visualizations of data for different purposes: determining a range, sorting, correlating, finding anomalies, and so on.
Who’s a good fit? Data visualization is great for those who understand both data and graphic design. Ability to learn new programs quickly is also a plus.
What is it? Essentially, their job is to become an expert in the particular market that a company is operating in.
What’s the job like? Keeping up on trends, analyzing the market data, and then presenting the most relevant information to colleagues in a way they can understand.
Who’s a good fit? If you’re the type of person who becomes obsessed with a topic and wants to know everything about it, the position of research analyst might suit you very well.
Homework time! Want to learn more about these fields? Check out the following resources: skillshare.com, codeacademy.com, generalassemb.ly and lynda.com for learning new programming or other tech skills; The Grindstone column by Jen Dziura for general career advice; IxDA talks for learning more about interaction design and networking with other interaction designers; Beautiful Visualizations and Designing Data Visualizations by Noah Iliinsky, for those who want to learn more about data visualization; and The Inmates Are Running the Asylum by Alan Cooper, for an excellent argument on why we need more human-centered technology design.
Deirdre Quirk just graduated from Reed College with a degree in theatre and is a recent transplant to Oakland. She loves reading, doing crosswords, and going on hikes with her dog on the weekend. Eventually she wants to go back to school and become a librarian.