It’s 2021, and there’s never been a better time to find work in user experience (UX) design.
As more companies begin to understand the value and impact of a thoughtful UX strategy, the demand for UX designers has exploded. Qualified UX designers can command 6-figure salaries in less than four years. Junior UX designers can start off with a salary in the high 90s.
A career in UX design is exciting and constantly evolving. Advancements in technology have made it even easier to jump into a UX design career. Don’t code, and don’t want to learn it? No problem. If you can draw it, you can do it. With minimal effort and no coding, you can translate your thoughts into designs.
In this beginner-friendly guide, we’re sharing our top tips for finding the perfect UX job. Whether you’re a complete beginner with absolutely no experience or skill set, or a hobbyist who’s ready to turn professional, these tips will help you plot a path to a rewarding UX career.
Here’s a look at what we’ll cover (feel free to jump ahead):
Table of Contents
- Finding the Right UX Designer Job for You
- The Typical Duties of a UX Designer
- How to Prepare For a Career in UX Design
- The Skills You Need to Become a Successful UX Designer
- The UX Design Tools You Need to Know
- UX Designer Salary
- UX Job Boards/ How to Find a UX Design Job
- How to Land a UX Designer Job Interview
- How to Ace Your UX Designer Job Interview
- Check Out Our UX Designer Job Board
1. Finding the Right UX Designer Job for You
Freelance vs Agency.
Agency vs In-house.
Not sure which career path to choose?
The good news is that you have options.
Companies of all sizes—from large corporations to mom and pop shops—are beginning to recognize the value of UX design. So, whether you’d love to work in the burgeoning atmosphere of a startup or prefer the fast-paced, ever-changing ambiance of an agency, you can find it.
But what exactly are you looking for?
Before searching for UX designer jobs, first decide what type of office environment appeals to you.
Here’s a quick look at your options:
Many UX designers start their career at an agency, and for good reason.
At an agency, you’ll likely work on a diverse range of projects. Not only will you get exposed to different types of projects, you’ll also work with different types of clients. At many agencies, UX designers are expected to work on multiple projects at the same time. You’ll need to be able to shift focus quite regularly when working at an agency.
Because you’ll be working with a team of other designers, you’ll have built-in feedback from other creatives who are working towards the same goal. The collaborative environment of an agency can’t be beat, especially when you’re starting your career as a junior UX designer. You may be able to find mentorship from senior UX designers at the agency. These designers can offer valuable guidance that you can use to avoid potential speed bumps or landmines in your career.
Of course, agencies aren’t for everyone. Not everyone thrives in the often-frenetic atmosphere of an agency.
Also, agencies may not be forever. You can start your career at an agency and then decide to move on to an environment that better aligns with your career goals.
The next career option for UX designers is to apply for an in house position at a company.
If you work at an agency, you’ll likely work on projects for multiple brands (sometimes simultaneously). However, if you take an in house position, you’ll work exclusively for one company. There are pros and cons to this set up.
The obvious pro is that you’ll be able to go in-depth with a UX project. One big frustration with working at an agency is that you only get to see part of the project. You may not see the final outcome. However, when you work in house, you’re present every step of the way. You get to “own” both the product and the process.
If you thrive on variety and get bored easily, tinkering away at the same product in house may not be the right option. This option is better for UX designers who want more autonomy over their projects.
The third option is to freelance, aka work for yourself. If you choose this option, you’re in good company—Over a third of the American workforce freelances.
Freelancing is an appealing option because it puts you in control. You choose your clients. You set your rates. You decide how, when, and where you work. You’re not assigned a task. You choose your destiny.
While freelancing has a lot of benefits, it may not be the right option for you, especially at this stage of your career.
First of all, the number of freelance UX designers is growing. This equals increased competition for freelance opportunities. Plus, when given the choice, many clients opt to work with an agency over a freelancer, citing issues with dependability and trust.
Also, freelancing doesn’t offer any guidance or mentorship. You either sink or swim and there’s no one to rescue you if you fail. This can be a scary position for new UX designers. If you’re just starting your career, you’ll benefit from the shepherding and living example of other UX designers. Freelancing is a better option for UX designers who’ve experienced
Do everything but not all at the same time. Each of the above options have merits and considerations. The final call depends on your career goals, your temperament, and what you need to develop in your career currently.
Do you need to learn from other UX designers? Choose an agency.
Do you want to focus on one product/ industry? Choose to work in house.
Do you long to be your own boss? Choose freelancing.
To learn more about UX designer career paths, check out these sections:
- Agency vs In House: Where Should I Work as a UX Designer?
- Should I Become a UX Designer Intern?
- Should I Create a UX Designer Consultancy?
- The Pros and Cons of Working With a Startup as a UX Designer
2. The Typical Duties of a UX Designer
What’s it really like working as a UX designer?
If you’re an aspiring UX designer, you may not have a clear understanding of what it means to work in user experience.
But you’re not alone.
Many companies have no clue either.
If you spend a morning browsing through UX designer jobs, one thing will become obvious: There is absolutely no consistency in UX job descriptions. This is partly because user experience is a very broad field with multiple aspects. UX design includes user research, journey mapping, wireframing, prototyping, and testing, just to name a few.
UX design is also a relatively new concept for many businesses. Some companies may be after an information architect while others are looking for someone to perform user research. Then, there are other organizations that want to hire a one-stop UX designer who can do it all.
That’s why there are so many different job descriptions for the term “UX designer.”
When you’re new to UX design and attempting to figure out where you fit in, this inconsistency can be confusing and frustrating.
Let’s cut through that confusion and look at the most common job responsibilities for UX designers.
- Do product research
- Understand user psychology
- Conduct user research through interviews, focus groups, and online surveys
- Conceptualize new experiences to help the user meet their goal
- Perform usability testing
- Gather feedback
- Interpret feedback
- Convert data into quantitative and qualitative information
- Create wireframes
- Develop prototypes
- Develop workflows
- Solve problems in the user experience
- Conduct competitive analysis
- Create user personas
- Create navigation for a website/ app/ product
- Collaborate with other UX designers, UI designers, and developers
- Consult with team members at different stages during production and testing
- Create workshops to help identify business objectives
- Educate team members on UX framework
- Communicate product design and strategy to key stakeholders
These are the most common duties you’ll be asked to perform as a UX designer. You may naturally gravitate to one aspect of the user experience. If you do wish to specialize, be deliberate in your job hunt. Look for UX designer jobs that give you the opportunity to concentrate on your chosen area.
Learn more about what it takes to be a UX designer in 2021 here:
- A Day in the Life of a UX Designer
- The X Most Common Tasks of a UX Designer (A Beginner-Friendly Guide)
3. How to Prepare For a Career in UX Design
How do you prepare for a career as a UX designer?
Do you need a college degree to become a UX designer?
Do you need to invest years in learning UX and UI?
Or can you wake up one morning, decide that you’d like to be a UX designer, and go after it?
First things first, no, you don’t need a college degree to become a UX designer. While you’ll come across a lot of job descriptions that mention bachelors or even masters degrees as a preference, it’s generally not a make-or-break requirement. Even companies like Google and Apple don’t require college degrees.
So, if you don’t have a 4-year degree, don’t despair. Modern hiring managers are starting to value experience, demonstrated skill, and a high quality portfolio over a college diploma.
But starting your career as a junior UX designer will take more than bright-eyed optimism and vague design experience. To truly compete with all of the other UX designer candidates out there and find the job you want, you’ll need to boost your qualifications.
From bootcamps to workshops to full-on programs that require months to complete, there are many education options available to you. Look for a course that may provide a qualification or certificate. Obtaining a seal of approval from a respected organization can be the deciding factor between you getting the job over your competitor.
One of the best ways to grow in your skills is to join a group of other UX designers. UX design communities are great resource hubs. Ask questions about the industry and your skills. Get inspired. Get feedback. Becoming an active part of a UX community is crucial because you can learn so much so quickly. Our top recommendations for UX communities is of course The Designership (subscribe for free weekly goodies!) and Dribbble, a great place to find inspiration and share your work.
Podcasts are fabulous because you can listen on the go. Or while you’re designing. There are tons of excellent podcasts that deal with UX design, and because they’re free, there’s no reason for you not to use these podcasts to improve your skills and see what’s new in the UX industry. A few of the best UX podcasts for beginners are User Defenders, Design Details, and What is Wrong With UX.
Not all resources are available online. Shocking in 2021, right? But it’s true.
A lot of valuable design advice is tucked away inside of books. Respected UX designers and thought leaders have penned must-read books on user experience that go beyond a blog post in depth and treatment. If you haven’t already pick up a copy of:
These are my top 5 paperback books to help you think through user experience and become an effective UX designer.
While books can provide a solid foundation in UX design and thought, you also need to read blogs. Unlike books, blogs can provide up-to-date insights into the UX industry. If you’re starting a career in UX design, some of the best beginner-friendly blogs to subscribe to are CareerFoundry, UXPlanet, and of course us, The Designership.
Practice makes perfect.
Even if you don’t have experience working on an actual job, you can still have an impressive portfolio. If you’re currently taking a course, put the skills that you’re learning into practice. And then add those projects to your portfolio. You can also volunteer your services to an organization in exchange for building up your portfolio.
The point is to practice so that you’re not stuck in theory but you know what works and what doesn’t work for you. You’ll start to get more comfortable with design tools and understand your workflow. These things will help you as you move forward in your career as a UX designer.
Check out the resources below to level up as a UX designer.
- Top UX Design Courses
- Top UX Design Books
- Top UX Design Blogs for Beginners
- Do You Need a Degree to Become a UX Designer?
4. The Skills You Need to Become a Successful UX Designer
What skills do you need to become a successful UX designer in 2021?
UX is a field that’s ever-evolving as users become more comfortable with technology and technology becomes more intuitive. As a UX designer, you must constantly upgrade your skills so that you’re able to keep up with the shifting landscape of UX design.
That said, there are some skills that are fundamental to a career in UX design. Below, we list the critical, core skills that every UX designer needs to have before applying for a job.
Soft skills are non-technical skills that may be considered a personality trait, behavior, mindset, or a social attitude that you exhibit towards others. You typically can’t teach soft skills. Soft skills are “baked into the cake” of your personality. These are your natural abilities.
To be an effective UX designer, you need to be:
Curious – You must be curious about how things work, and what happens when they don’t work. Curiosity will drive you to ask the right questions that help shape a user’s experience.
Asking questions is a big part of what you’ll do as a UX designer. If you don’t understand something, you’ve got to ask questions to find clarity.
This is the ability to see things from the user’s perspective. You need to see the problem and your solution from their eyes. By deeply understanding the users (and their motivations and behaviors), you’ll be able to design a smarter product that seems intuitive to that user.
It’s not enough to understand an idea. You also must be able to share that idea with others. Whether your communication is through visual, verbal, or written instruction, the ability to clearly convey your ideas and goals is vital for every UX designer.
Collaborative – You must be able to work well with other members of your team as well as with clients or other stakeholders. People should feel comfortable working alongside you. You should be able to communicate with others as you work towards a common goal. It’s also key that you can receive and apply feedback without a negative attitude.
Organized – There are a lot of moving parts in UX design. From interviews to wireframes, you’ll have tons of data and deliverables that you’ll need to keep track of. A good UX designer must create systems so that they stay on top of their work.
Problem-solver – UX designers identify problems in a design that prevent a user from accomplishing a desired goal. UX designers must be able to think creatively and logically to bypass those problems.
Detail-oriented – UX is all about the details. It’s the small things that make a huge impact on the user experience. While you must be able to see the big picture, it’s critical that you can zoom into the small details that create a delightful and intuitive experience.
Hard skills are teachable. Unlike soft skills, you aren’t born with these skills, but rather you learn them through education, training, or both.
To be an effective UX designer, you need the following hard skills:
User research skills – Leaning on your natural curiosity and inquisitiveness, you must research users to understand who they are, what they want, and how you can help them. In addition to collecting user research, you must be able to correctly analyze the research.
Wireframe and prototype skills – While the two go hand-in-hand, they are not the same. Wireframing is creating simple layouts to help bring your ideas to life, similar to blueprints. You should be able to create these designs to help your team or client understand a concept. Prototyping is often a more advanced model of the product that you use to validate ideas. You’ll need to know how to do both of these things to bring your ideas to life.
Interaction design skills – You must be able to create a product that empowers your user to meet their goals in the simplest and quickest way possible. Interaction design involves tweaking every element in the user flow to improve the way that the user engages with your product to achieve their goal.
For a deeper dive into the skills you’ll need as a UX designer, check out these posts:
- Do UX Designers Need to Know Coding? (video)
- X Skills You Need as a UX Designer
5. The UX Design Tools You Need to Know
What are the top tools you’ll need to know and use as a UX designer?
Ask 10 UX designers this question and you’ll get 10 different answers. Because the field of UX design is so broad, there isn’t just one standard set of tools that you’ll need to know. Plus, one employer or team may favor a particular tool set, and when you change jobs, you’ll find your new employer/ team favors a totally different tool set. It can be frustrating, for sure. But the good news is that the most popular UX tools are—no surprise—easy to use. Once you’re familiar with the top UX tools, you’ll be able to easily adapt to similar tools.
Below, we’ll share the most popular UX tools that you need to know. You may not use all of these tools in your role as a UX designer, but it’s good to be aware of them just in case a future employer or client asks for it.
- Adobe XD – This is a vector graphic design toolkit that enables you to wireframe, prototype, and even animate.
- Axure RP – This popular wireframing and prototyping tool is great for collaboration.
- Balsamiq – Use this tool to build low fidelity wireframes quickly.
- Drift – Drift provides “conversational marketing” tools such as chatbots that can be installed on a website to collect user insights.
- Feedier – Feedier is an experience management platform that enables UX designers to collect feedback and convert it into actionable data.
- Figma – This collaborative tool is one of the most popular prototyping tools because it’s easy to use and free to get started.
- Flinto – For Mac users, Finto offers the ability to create interactive and animated prototypes for apps.
- FlowMapp – Use this simple tool to create low-fidelity prototypes to map user flows.
- Fluid UI – You can use this UI prototyping tool to collaborate real-time with your team.
- Framer X – Create high fidelity prototypes that include animation and other graphic effects.
- HotGloo – HotGloo is an easy-to-use wireframing and prototyping tool that’s easy to use and provides a lot of support for new designers.
- Indigo.Design – Indigo.Design is a design-to-code system that integrates prototyping, design systems, and user testing.
- Invision – This tool allows you to design by hand and create interactive prototypes.
- Marvelapp – In addition to creating wireframes and prototypes (both low and high-fidelity), Marvel allows you to perform user testing.
- MockFlow – MockFlow provides everything you need to plan UI , including an easy to use wireframe editor and built-in collaboration features.
- Optimal Workshop – This user research platform makes it easy for you to gather insight into how your users think and behave.
- Origami Studio – Use this tool to build and visually layout interactive components for your prototype.
- Proto.io – Using Proto.io’s drag and drop interface and library of templates to create prototypes.
- ProtoPie – ProtoPie is an intuitive prototyping tool that enables you to create interactions with coding.
- Sketch – When it comes to designing apps and sites quickly and simply, Sketch cannot be beat.
- UserGuiding – UserGuiding allows you to create a product walkthrough with no coding so that you can nail user onboarding.
- UserTesting – As its name implies, you use this tool to test your designs on actual users.
- UXArmy – UXArmy is an online usability testing platform that makes it easy to conduct user research remotely.
- UXfolio – Every UX designer needs a portfolio. Use UXfolio’s customizable templates to create a professionally looking portfolio in minutes.
- UXPin – Use the robust set of tools and built-in libraries on UXPin to design and then manage your UX/ UI project.
- VisualSitemaps – This tool automatically generates visual sitemaps and screenshots so that you can improve user flows.
- WebFlow – Use this tool to build beautiful, functional websites, animations, and interactions without coding.
- Wireframe.cc – This minimalist tool empowers you to quickly create interfaces.
- Whimsical – From flowcharts to wireframes to mind maps, Whimsical is a visual workspace that makes it easy to manage projects with your team.
- Zeplin – Finalize your Figma, Sketch, and Adobe XD designs using the collaborative tool Zeplin.
To learn more about the top UX designer tools, check out these posts:
- Which UX Design Tools Do You Need to Know?
- Figma vs Adobe XD vs Sketch
- What UX Designers Need to Know About Photoshop?
6. UX Designer Salary
How much can you expect to earn as a UX designer (especially if you’re new to the scene without a lot of experience)?
I hate to say it depends, but it absolutely does.
How much you earn as a UX designer depends on so many factors including your experience, your location, the company that you’re applying for, and your ability to negotiate.
That said, there are industry averages to help you gauge you earning potential as a new UX designer.
To give you a fair assessment of UX salaries around the world, we’re using the crowdsource site UXDesignerSalaries.com.
The global average UX salary is $52,683.
The three countries that pay the most for UX designers are:
- Switzerland (average salary $100,890)
- United States (average salary $97,153)
- Australia (average salary $76,194)
And here’s the average salary in other popular countries around the world:
- UK – $62,137
- France – $52,669
- Singapore – $51,684
- India – $21,539
For new UX designers with less than 3 years of experience, the average salary in the three top paying countries is:
- Switzerland – $82,492
- United States – $76,996
- Australia – $56,030
As a junior designer in other popular countries, here’s what you can expect to earn:
- UK – $42,729
- France – $44,618
- Singapore – $47,182
- India – $15,227
Not bad, right? Although Switzerland seems like the place to be as a UX designer, you can still earn a great salary anywhere in the world. Plus, due to the recent global pandemic, many companies are open to hiring remotely. So, even if you’re not located in a top-earning country, you may be able to find a job remotely there.
What’s the secret to securing a great salary?
First of all, be confident in your qualifications. If you’ve taken a course, received a certification, or have hands-on experience in UX design, you should be able to get a great-paying job. But don’t be afraid to negotiate a little, especially if you’ve done research and know what the company has offered other designers at your skill level. Glassdoor Salary Search is a great place to start your research.
Salary negotiation is even more possible if you have cross-over skills from a previous career that you bring with you. Skills like customer service, project management, marketing, copywriting, graphic design, etc. can also be used in your career and will make you more marketable as a new UX designer.
The good news is that, even if you don’t have any other experience, you can start your UX career with a high paying role. UX professionals are paid well across the globe, with very few exceptions. Even if you’re a complete beginner, you can command a very comfortable salary.
There’s increased demand for UX professionals. More companies are starting to understand the critical value that UX designers bring to every business and product. Pursuing a career in UX is a smart idea, and a way to future-proof your earning potential.
To get a more in-depth look at salaries for UX designers (and what it takes to make 7 figures), check out the links below:
- What’s a Realistic Salary for an Entry-Level UX Designer?
- How Do I Become a 7-Figure UX Designer? (video)
7. UX Job Boards/ How to Find a UX Design Job
So, you want to start searching for a job in UX, but you aren’t sure where to look?
Job boards are a great place to start your search. Here’s why you should absolutely search job boards first when you’re on the hunt for a new position:
- Job boards save you time – You don’t have to spend hours searching through individual company websites for job opportunities. Everything is neatly organized in one central location.
- Job boards are teaming with opportunities – The platform is dedicated to facilitating employment. Most of the popular job boards are updated daily, if not hourly, with new UX positions.
- Job boards make it easy to apply – Many job boards allow you to upload and save your resume and contact details so that you can apply with the click of a button.
- New job postings can be sent directly to your inbox – Instead of visiting the job board itself (something that you’ll inevitably forget to do), you can subscribe to get email notifications every time a new job is posted. This guarantees that you’ll never miss a great job opportunity simply because you forgot to check in.
Start your job search here at the Designership. We have a dedicated job board to find top-earning positions in UX. Check out UX design jobs now.
That said, job boards aren’t the only way to look for jobs. You can use social media, particularly LinkedIn, to find amazing job opportunities that no one else is privy to. The key is to approach leads directly with a personal appeal. In other words, don’t copy and paste the same message, but craft a unique, thoughtful pitch for your services.
We’ve actually created a few in-depth resources to help you find a great job in UX. Learn more below:
- Top Job Boards for UX Designers
- Finding Leads on LinkedIn
- Using Facebook Groups to Find UX Designer Jobs
8. How to Land a UX Designer Job Interview
It’s tough to land an interview for a UX design position. Why? There are a ton of other UX designers out there vying for the same job. Forget about the interview for a second. You’ll have to blow them away before they actually meet you.
How do you do that?
For starters, you need to create an impressive portfolio that shows your potential employer what type of skills and razzle dazzle you offer.
In addition to a portfolio, you’d benefit by creating a dedicated website to host your portfolio. Dribbble is great, but if you really want to level up your game and show your employer that you’re a professional and not just a hobbyist, you need a website in your name.
You’ll also need to create a resume because some companies still ask for resumes that show your career background and skills. Don’t fret if you’re completely new to UX design. You can still build a solid resume for your experience.
When you’re job hunting, remember this: It’s easy to get a job. It’s hard to get a job interview. But, if you’re pragmatic, you can build a brand for yourself that makes potential employers want to hire you.
Here are a few resources that you definitely need to check out so that you can build up your online reputation as UX designer.
- *How to Create a UX Designer Portfolio
- *Should You Create a Website to Get More UX Designer Jobs?
- *How to Craft an Elevator Pitch That Gets You More UX Designer Jobs
- *Create a UX Designer Resume (And Why Most Resumes are Rejected)
- *X Tips for Creating a Winning Cover Letter for UX Designers
9. How to Ace Your UX Designer Job Interview
You’ve done it! You’ve secured a job interview for a company that you’re excited to work for. Congratulations! That’s the hard part. Now, here’s what you need to know to ace your interview and start getting paid as a full-time UX designer.
The first step is to prepare yourself for the interview.
Here’s a rundown of what you should do before your interview:
Research the company – Get to know the company that you’re interviewing for. What is their mission? What are their values? What is their culture? A quick Google search will give you everything you need to know about the company. Be sure to check out their products/ services, and any recent press releases to round out your knowledge of the company.
Research your interviewers – If you know ahead of time who will be interviewing you, take some time to read their bio. You can use this knowledge to connect with your interviewer and build rapport.
Talk with your contacts about the company – Do you know someone who’s worked with/ for the company before? You may be able to fish this out through your contacts. Use your network to learn more about the company.
Practice answering common interview questions – Are you naturally awkward when it comes to talking about yourself? It’s important to exude confidence in your interview. When you’re self-assured, it makes others believe in you, too.
So, be sure to work on your self presentation. The most important thing to focus on is your responses to common interview questions. If you fumble over your words, you won’t display confidence or win the interviewer’s trust.
For a supersized list of frequently asked UX job interview questions, check out the post below.
Choose your outfit – It may be unfair, but people will judge you based on your outward expression. It’s crucial that you choose an outfit that communicates who you will be as an employee (dedicated, cooperative, approachable, etc.). Even if you’re meeting over Zoom, you’ll still need to dress appropriately for the job. It’s okay to dress a little more formally than normal. It’s an interview, after all. You want to put your best foot forward. You can always blend into the company’s culture after getting the job.
Arrive at the interview early – The first impression is a lasting impression. Be sure to arrive before the time of your interview (even if it’s on Zoom).
We created several interview resources to help you succeed and get the job you’re after. Check them out now.
- What to Expect During an Interview (the UX Designer Interview Process)
- Nailing Interview Questions
- Following Up After a UX Designer Job Interview
10. Check Out Our UX Designer Job Board
Did you know that the Designership has a dedicated job board? We’ve curated the best job opportunities from across the web and the world and put them here for your convenience.
Check it out now.
Now that you’ve made it through this beginner’s guide, it’s time to spread your wings and fly. You have what it takes to be a great UX designer. How do we know this? Because you’ve made it to the end of this gargantuan beginner’s guide. That shows dedication and passion, the first two ingredients to a successful career in UX design.
Be sure to check out our job board to see what opportunities await you. Good luck!