User Experience is a great discipline to get into, especially right now. Hundreds of companies around the world have started applying UX principles in their processes and products, and many more are starting to “get” that UX, properly applied, adds tremendous value.
If I was just now getting into UX, the first thing I would do is identify any particular areas of focus you may have. What do you like to do? If you like meeting and talking to people, you may want to pursue user research. If you are a detail-oriented individual, you may be better suited to detailed design and documentation. While it’s important to have a broad understanding of the discipline, it’s also important for you to find your “niche” and get very good at it.
When it comes to a structure of your ongoing education, I’d get some books on cognitive psychology and some of the key UX books (my recommended list is here: http://www.quora.com/What-are-best-10-books-about-user-experience-design/answer/Joseph-Dickerson). I’d also try and find any local UX groups and attend meetings if/when you can. Getting to know local UXers will help you in both your development and your career.
I’m a big fan of learning by doing, so I’d recommend getting and internship. Two former interns I managed ended up having very successful careers (one with CNN), and I’d like to think that my mentoring helped them along… if just a little bit. The thing that is great about interning is if you fail, it’s OK… and learning from failure is one of the best ways to learn, in my experience.
Look for conferences that has good beginner tracts, to pick up on different techniques and ideas.
There’s tons of resources online for learning. I like UX Mag (http://www.uxmag.com) for the depth and breadth of articles, and I edit a site that does a weekly recap of the newest UX articles called This Week in UX (http://www.thisweekinux.com). Finally, I’m working on a book, UX 101, that may help you. I’m writing it in “serial” form, and it’s available at http://www.userexperience101.com.
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