Can I expect cutting-edge material and programs if I study Human-Computer Interaction? 

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What does cutting-edge mean?

Technology frequently applies the term in reference to the most current inventions and developments. Automotive, medical, engineering, and electronics are examples where cutting-edge is at the forefront. The movie industry makes cutting-edge films to attract viewers with amazing digital graphics, or a laptop with hyper-speed has the label of cutting edge technology. The thesaurus dictionary uses synonyms as original, contemporary, ingenious, inventive, state-of-the-art, and innovational.f

How does the term apply to college programs?

Some schools attest to their program as having unique qualities by offering cutting-edge techniques taught by World-Class faculty. The University of Kentucky‘s Department of Geography has an online Master of Science in Digital Mapping that teaches technical skills through sophisticated maps, geo-data, spatial visualization, and cutting-edge techniques.

Colleges and universities offering an exclusive discipline could also be considered cutting-edge. Probably not many students opt for a Master of Science in Foresight, which sounds like acquiring the ability to predict the future. That is precisely the theme of the program available at less than a handful of learning institutions. One of the select few is the College of Technology at the University of Houston with an M.S. in Foresight. Graduates enter professions whose success is predicated on forecasting future trends, markets, and conditions. Anticipation helps companies prepare and adjust to future demands and needs of consumers and clients.

What about HCI?

Human-computer interaction is not as uncommon as future foresight and planning; however, you will not find as many choices as the more popular disciplines. Business, psychology, engineering, nursing, and education programs are plentiful. The most recent data (2017-18) from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) placed the business field first, followed by health professions, social sciences, engineering, biological sciences, and psychology (116,432 degrees conferred). Computer and information sciences (79,598) were just below education (82,621).

HCI is a multidisciplinary field involving human cognition, sociology, information technology, computer science, and human factors engineering. One must understand the user (human) to realize how they interact with the machine (computer).  Therefore, it is crucial to know how the machine works to best suit its functions to the operator’s needs and wants. This endeavor incorporates user experience (UX), user interface (UI), software development, design, cognitive psychology, and more.

The University of Advancing Technology (UAT) in Temp, Arizona, offers programs to the technophile. The school’s site states that it is at the forefront of academic programs focused on new and emerging programs. UAT uses terms as – rising technology, uniqueness, artistic, ideal, technology-focused, and benchmark. All of which could describe cutting-edge programs. And it delivers on this premise by offering a Bachelor of Science in Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Advanced Computer Science, Robotics, Technology Innovation, Game Design, Human Computer Interaction, and more.

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The UAT BS in HCI emphasizes the interplay between humans and the machine to highlight the interactive experience. The program explores real-world situations involving innovative computer technology applications in virtual and augmented realities, education, and user interfaces. Its cutting-edge material studies cognition, behavior, authentication, design principles, and methodologies. Internships, community projects, and apprenticeships round out the state-of-the-art program recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency (NSA).

Students undecided on a master’s degree in HCI may opt for a graduate certificate, such as the one available at Tufts School of Engineering. The four-course program is a collaboration with the Departments of Psychology, Engineering, and Occupational Therapy. Two courses: HCI and Engineering Psychology, satisfy the foundation requirements. Students choose the remaining two courses from a list of nine. If this is your choice, you’ll join a school researching human-robot interaction, and visualization and graphics. Tufts boasts that HCI certificate grads will have the knowledge and skills to meet complex programming challenges.

At the graduate level, the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland has an M.S. in HCI whose “innovative curriculum” merges theory with practice and hands-on learning. Another unique feature is that students work on projects with 400+ industry partners at their iSchool (i =Information). World-famous research centers and labs are part of this leading-edge program. One of the iSchool’s facilities is the Human-Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL) that researches various topics. For example, Informal STEM Learning through Alternate Reality Games (AGR).


The above examples are representative of the HCI programs available at colleges and universities in the United States. This field is relatively new as it emerged as a specialty area of computer science in the early 1980s with the proliferation and application of computers. As personal computing expanded, so did the need and demand for expertise in assessing and researching the interaction between the device and the human user. Similarly, schools hopped on the bandwagon offering state-of-the-art programs.

Additional Resources: 

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What areas outside of programming will I study during an undergraduate degree in Human-Computer Interaction? 

What kind of competition can I expect when applying for a Human-Computer Interaction program?