Career paths in the growing field of user experience (UX) design encompass a variety of roles, including user research and UX writing. Those who want to enter the UX design field typically study computer science, visual design, information architecture, and computer programming. UX designers come from a variety of backgrounds that include creative, technical, and research-based fields.
While many UX designers have college degrees, a UX design bootcamp can be a great way to quickly gain some of the experience necessary for becoming a UX designer. Read our guide to learn more about UX design careers, what UX designers do, and the skills needed to enter the UX design field.
What Is UX Design?
UX designers enhance the usability and functionality of websites and mobile apps. UX design professionals must possess a deep understanding of how people interact with technology, and have familiarity with coding, computer logic, and software.
As more and more people turn to their laptops, tablets, phones, and watches to manage their daily lives, the demand for UX design continues to grow. UX design is also an attractive career when it comes to compensation. In 2019, Glassdoor ranked UX design sixth among the 25 highest-paying entry-level jobs across all industries.
What Do UX Designers Do?
A recent study found that over 90% of UX designers surveyed worked on web-based applications over the past five years, and over 75% worked on mobile apps. While only 15% focused on artificial intelligence (AI) products, AI projects may increase in popularity and importance over the coming decade.
The tasks most often performed by UX designers include building prototypes and wireframes, designing graphics, conducting usability testing, collaborating with subject matter experts, contributing to style guides, and producing user flows, journeys, and storyboards. Other job activities may include performing competitive reviews, writing user stories, producing sitemaps, creating user personas, and developing content strategy.
UX Design Career Outlook
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report specifically on the job outlook of UX design, it projects an 8% job growth rate between 2019 and 2029 for web developers — the job category most closely aligned with UX design. The BLS reports that 148,340 web developers and digital interface designers were employed in 2019, earning a median annual salary of $73,760.
UX design bootcamp graduates tend to land entry-level positions, which pay an average annual salary of $62,550, according to PayScale. While a degree may not be necessary to secure a job, some employers still prefer them. Degrees do not have to be in UX design or computer science; UX designers often hold degrees in graphic design, visual communication, and fine arts.
UX Design Career Paths
UX design bootcamp graduates find employment in such positions as UX researchers, usability analysts, information architects, UX writers, and UX/UI developers. This section describes each of these job titles, their typical responsibilities, and how to prepare for this type of UX career.
- UX/UI Developer
This type of developer combines visual design principles with programming expertise to create seamless interactive user experiences. This job involves both user experience and user interface (UI) design, as well as front-end web development, which implements the technical side of the user interface. UX/UI developers earn an average salary of $76,930, according to Glassdoor.
- UX Researcher
UX researchers collect, analyze, and synthesize user data to help guide the work of UX designers. According to PayScale, UX researchers earn an average annual salary of $63,930. Common work duties include conducting qualitative usability tests, interviews, field studies, and surveys. These professionals also frequently collaborate with subject matter experts.
UX researchers often have an undergraduate degree in a social science, the humanities, or information science. They tend to be skilled at oral and written communication. Prospective UX researchers can learn job skills through bootcamps that cover topics like selecting the best user research methods, identifying users' needs, analyzing data, and addressing common UX problems.
- Usability Analyst
Usability analysts evaluate what works and what needs improvement in a user's interaction with software and websites. These professionals earn an average annual salary of $70,470, according to PayScale. Their typical tasks include designing websites, documenting and updating usability guidelines, and collaborating with web production teams. They also decide how to structure usability tests, moderate usability tests, and collect and analyze behavioral data.
Usability analysts need to be curious about human behavior. They should have both creative and analytical skills, such as graphic design and data analysis. They must also be proficient in a variety of software, including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe Dreamweaver, and Microsoft Excel.
- Information Architect
Information architecture involves organizing digital content to improve user navigation. Information architects create sitemaps and improve interface functionality to enhance user interaction.
PayScale reports that the average annual salary earned by information architects exceeds $100,000, although salaries for entry-level positions tend to be much lower. The main duties in this job include categorizing data and using categorization models to create a website's structure or an app's interface.
While information architects may hold a bachelor's degree in computer science, they can also possess other forms of technical training and on-the-job programming experience.
- UX Writer
UX writers write the text that users encounter throughout a website or mobile app, including menus, buttons, and error messages. UX writers focus on guiding users with fluid and intuitive text that adheres to a company's brand voice. According to Glassdoor, the average UX writing salary is $85,280.
In addition to writing digital interface text, UX writers develop content style guides and work with designers and developers to ensure website and app features communicate information clearly to users. UX writers often have other writing experience, such as in journalism or marketing. They possess skills in communication and collaboration, and can keep up with rapidly evolving methodologies.
What Kind of Skills Do UX Designers Need?
UX design involves a variety of hard and soft skills. Hiring managers look for applicants who possess creativity, customer service skills, and attention to detail. UX designers must be able to adapt to changing technology and stay current in their technical skill sets. The list below describes five key hard skills that employers often look for.
- Front-End Development Basics
Designers who can code stand out in the job market. The ability to code can make a UX designer a more valuable team member and facilitate better collaboration between design and development. Knowing the feasibility of technical elements of a project streamlines the design process, saving companies time and money.
- Voice and Conversation Design
The rise of Siri, Alexa, and other AI technologies creates UX design career opportunities for professionals trained in voice and conversation design. Professionals working in this area apply familiar UX design skills like information architecture, prototyping, research, and user flows to digital voice interactions.
- Microcopy Writing
Employers look for UX designers who can write clear and compelling text for welcome screens, user instructions, and product terms and conditions. Microcopy includes text that appears on menus, in search bars, and when a user hovers over a button.
- UI Design Fundamentals
Hiring managers value UX designers who understand how user interface design works. UX and UI designers work together, and the two roles often interlink. UI design focuses on the visual design of a digital product and how users interact with it, which contributes to the overall user experience.
- Data Awareness
UX designers can help shape company strategy by making design improvements based on analytics. UX designers already take a data-informed approach while conducting usability testing, but they can have an even greater edge by expanding their skills while working with data.
Why Pursue a Career in UX Design?
UX design careers appeal to individuals who are interested in working in the tech sector and also have a creative streak and curiosity about human behavior. They tend to be problem-solvers, adaptable learners, good communicators, and team players. UX design professionals need to be empathetic because their job depends on understanding users' experiences and feelings.
UX designers also need analytical skills, and must balance detail-oriented work with the ability to see the big picture. They must understand how the user experience correlates with their employer's bottom line.
Where Can You Work as a UX Design Professional?
The BLS lists the computer systems design industry as the largest employer of digital interface designers, followed by the software publishing industry, which also ranks as the highest-paying industry. Digital interface designers working in software publishing make an annual mean salary of $132,260.
California and Washington top the list of states with the highest employment levels of web developers and digital interface designers
According to Glassdoor, the top companies that hire UX designers include Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Adobe, and LinkedIn. So, it may not come as a surprise that California and Washington top the list of states with the highest employment levels of web developers and digital interface designers. Top earnings for UX designers also correspond with these tech centers, with professionals in the Seattle metro area making an annual mean wage of $138,600, and those in the San Francisco Bay Area earning $110,790.
Frequently Asked Questions for UX Design Careers
- Is UX design a good career?
UX design careers mix diverse tasks with the potential for advancement and high salaries. A recent survey found that, on a scale of 1-7 rating job satisfaction, 83% chose scores of five and above for job satisfaction. For pay satisfaction, 67% selected scores of five and above.
- Is there a demand for UX designers?
The demand for UX design appears to be growing. A LinkedIn post ranked UX design fifth in a list of the top hard skills companies need in 2020. Additionally, a global survey found that managers expected to increase their design teams by an average of 21% in 2020.
- Can I be a UX designer without a degree?
A recent study reported that 82% of UX designers hold degrees, but not necessarily in a computer science field. Many hold degrees in design or the arts. Hiring managers may not require a degree, but they do prefer well-rounded candidates with experience and the desired soft skills.
- Does UX design pay well?
According to the BLS, the median annual salary for web developers (which includes UX designers) is $73,760. The top 10% of earners in this field make at least $142,080 per year. Washington state pays the highest UX design salaries, and software publishing is the highest-paying industry for UX design.