Career Guide

How to Become a UX Designer

UX design, or user experience design, is a growing field within web development that offers high salaries and excellent job satisfaction. UX designers are part of a greater field of programmers that include web developers, UI (user interface) designers, and others. 

User experience designers are vital to consumer software and web development. These professional programmers shape the online world, and are behind every site and program we use. UX designers are part of the reason you can tell the difference between an old and new site. 

  • According to Glassdoor, UX designers earned a base salary of $85,011 per year.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that web developers (including UX designers) will enjoy a fast job growth rate of 13%.

$85,011

Average UX Designer Salary

15,000

Open Job Listings

5,000

Hiring Companies

What Is UX Design?

UX (user experience) designers create systems and products that provide a helpful experience for users. They ensure that websites are easy to navigate, visually attractive, functional, and logically oriented. 

User experience designers are the last line of defense for a digital product. They are in charge of everything the user sees and directly interacts with. This includes the layout of the site, colors, button location, menus, graphics, and everything else they deem helpful to the user.

What Do UX Designers Do?

User experience designers build the visual and interactive parts of a website, software product, or application. Everything from social media sites to phone interfaces are designed by these professionals. 

However, user experience design is most commonly associated with web development. And while they don’t always code, UX designers can use their coding skills to create the features of a site. Also, they arrange everything in a way that’s easy to navigate and helpful to users.

User experience designers aren’t as concerned with the ‘inner workings’ or ‘backend’ development of a site. Nonetheless, they do collaborate closely with backend and other front end web developers. This ensures all features work together in harmony to create a sleek and functional product.

UX Design Job Description

UX design is a complex and technically challenging field, with a lot of job duty variations between positions. One UX designer’s task list is likely completely different than another product designer. That’s true even if they work in the same building. However, most UX designers (and front end web developers, for that matter) have certain job duties in common. We compiled a list of some of the most common shared aspects of UX design job descriptions.

Coding and Programming

Not all UX designers know how to code. But coding can be a big part of any UX designer’s daily life. Everything you see on a website originates with code of some sort, often HTML, JavaScript, or CSS. We’ll cover common web development coding languages below.

Collaboration

UX designers almost always work with other developers and a design team. Sometimes, there is a great deal of bureaucracy involved with deciding on a design for a website. Plus, the remaining front end and backend programming needs to be completed in congruence with the UX designer’s work. Early in your career, teamwork can make finding a mentor easier, expediting your career and helping the team as a whole.

Debugging

For UX designers who are involved in coding, debugging will be a big part of life. Like it or not, all programmers have to deal with debugging on a fairly regular basis. Code is complex, and scripts can seemingly run forever. When something inevitably goes wrong, or when users begin reporting problems, it’s the developer’s job to find the issue.

Designing

Obviously, design is a big part of a UX designer’s career. That means they must understand what is functional, modern, and visually appealing. This process often requires experimentation and trying different layouts until one fits.

Updating and Modernizing

Websites and applications need a UX-refresh from time to time. Imagine if YouTube was still using its 2006 layout. It would seem antiquated and lack important features that are ubiquitous over a decade later. UX designers follow industry trends and listen to users, then update the product. This keeps everything aligned with the latest standards and keeps users happy.

UX Design Technologies and Programming Languages

Some UX designers don’t code very much, and others only learn a few languages. However, learning how to code is often recommended (and sometimes necessary) for virtually all parts of web development. 

UX designers vary in their preferred languages, but many learn the same set of 3 or 4 early on. The coding landscape changes constantly. But 4 languages have a long history with UX design (and probably aren’t going anywhere anytime soon).

HTML

HTML, or Hypertext Markup Language, probably isn’t a true coding language. Nonetheless, it’s one of the most common and basic languages used in web design. HTML is used to format very basic text on web pages, and it’s quite easy to learn for many people.

CSS

CSS is another extremely common coding language used in UX design. CSS is useful for many things, but it’s primarily used as a formatting tool for complex sites. CSS allows a site to adapt to mobile screens and desktop computers, and a variety of other layouts.

JavaScript

JavaScript is just as common as HTML. In fact, they go hand-in-hand in UX design and other forms of web development. JavaScript allows developers to add certain fluid and interactive features to a site, such as slideshows and buttons. JavaScript helps turn a static webpage into a vibrant and interactive experience.

Python

Python, while more commonly used in backend (server-side) web development, is a useful language to know as a UX designer. This multipurpose programming language is used by all kinds of developers for virtually anything.

What Are the Required Skills for UX Design Careers?

UX design is a challenging (yet rewarding) career path, offering high salaries and a wide range of work and freelance opportunities. However, being a user experience designer requires specialized skills, most of which required dedication and training to master. Nonetheless, anyone with motivation and time can learn what it takes to become a UX designer. Here are a few of the most important skills needed to start a UX design career.

Attention to Detail

Attention to detail and a keen eye for design are important skills to develop as a UX designer. Understanding what makes an easy-to-use and attractive interface is the key to generating a positive user experience. This skill is particularly important in usability testing of interactive designs, and when searching for bugs. UX designers should be able to notice and solve problems throughout the design process.

Teamwork

As we mentioned earlier, UX designers are usually a part of a greater web development team. Most UX designers can’t code the server-side portion of a website. But somebody has to--and it has to work seamlessly with other aspects of the client side. As a result, it’s important to be a team player if projects are to turn out well.

Observing Trends

A great UX designer stays on top of the latest industry design trends in order to stay up-to-date. It’s not difficult for a website or application to become obsolete. This is especially true in a time where technology and styling trends change rapidly. Good UX designers stay on top of it, and update their products accordingly.

How Much Do UX Designers Make?

User experience design, like most web development jobs, can be very lucrative (even early on in your career). According to Glassdoor, the average base UX designer salary in the United States is $85,011. Plus, designers make an additional $7,000 or so in bonuses and overtime. That brings total compensation quite close to $100,000. 

And like most fields in the tech industry, salaries vary widely based on a few factors. The factors that have the biggest impact on salary are geographic location, experience, education, and company. Here, we compiled the average UX designer salaries from 15 major metropolitan areas.

CityAverage Salary
San Francisco, CA$102,166
Los Angeles, CA$84,453
Portland, OR$76,884
New York, NY$88,302
Philadelphia, PA$73,194
Seattle, WA$92,506
Minneapolis, MN$75,364
Atlanta, GA$78,612
Phoenix, AZ$75,214
Boston, MA$83,097
Miami, FL$75,538
Chicago, IL$78,006
Milwaukee, WI$73,689
Cleveland, OH$69,345
Dallas, TX$79,670

$85,011

Mean Annual Salary

13%

Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)

238,000

Number Employed

UX Designer Salary by Years of Experience

  • Average Salary

How to Become a UX Designer

UX design is a growing career field with plenty of opportunity. UX design, along with the web development field as a whole, has a pretty low barrier-to-entry. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the typical education for the field is an associate’s degree.

An associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in design or computer science certainly helps. Nonetheless, many UX designers don’t have any degrees. The tech industry is quite flexible with education requirements. In many cases, experience and ability matter more than education, though not always.

Coding bootcamps are an alternative to college, and they’re a popular route into a web development career. Bootcamps, which are short-term career training programs, offer a fast way to learn a lot of coding skills.

Both coding bootcamp and college have their own pros and cons. Everyone should weigh the options and decide on the path that works best for them. Some UX designers are entirely self-taught. And while uncommon, it’s theoretically possible to get into the field from any angle.

UX Design Learning Paths

UX Design Bootcamps

Coding bootcamps are a popular option for UX designers. Bootcamp usually lasts around 6 months or less, but UX design course schedules vary. Students learn a variety of industry-standard coding languages, and train specifically for the career they want to pursue. Additionally, many bootcamps offer job placement guarantees and tuition-deferment programs. Coding bootcamps are the fastest way to learn UX design.

College/University

Colleges and universities offer the most secure path into a UX design career. A bachelor’s degree or master’s degree offers career mobility, and college graduates can often command a higher starting salary. An associate’s degree in web design or computer science can help students prepare for a UX design career. Students often major in computer science. Graphic designers are also common in the field.

Self-Study

Many UX designers are self-taught, and began their career from a cold pitch or freelance work. Self-taught web developers rely on resources such as YouTube tutorials to learn the skills they need to do the job. This path, while difficult and often time-consuming, is the least expensive option and works well for some people.

What Companies Are Hiring UX Designers?

Facebook

Cybersecurity Engineer Positions: 98

Average Salary: $118,745

Apple

Data Science Positions: 112

Average Salary: $155,167

Amazon

Data Science Positions: 487

Average Salary: $153,126

Google

Data Science Positions: 97

Average Salary: $139,508

2020 Best UX Design Bootcamps

FAQ

Will coding bootcamp help me get a job?

Absolutely! Coding bootcamp is a proven way to train for a job in tech. Many coding bootcamps offer job guarantees, and some refund tuition if graduates can’t find a job in the field they trained for. In fact, coding bootcamp teaches skills that many college computer science graduates lack.

How much do coding bootcamps cost?

Coding bootcamp tuition varies. Coding bootcamps in New York City cost around $10,000 to $20,000. However, many scholarships and tuition deferment programs are available, so what you see doesn’t have to be what you pay.

What are income share agreements?

Income share agreements, or ISAs, are a new way to pay for education. These programs defer tuition until after students graduate and find a job in the industry. Once students are employed and making above a certain income threshold (usually $40-60,000 per year) they begin paying a fixed percent of their income, often for around 2 years. If students can’t find a job, many bootcamps waive the cost of tuition.

Do I have to learn coding to work in the tech industry?

You don’t have to learn coding to work in the tech industry. In fact, there are several non-coding bootcamps in New York City. These programs train you for a position in tech sales, marketing, or product management–all of which are well-paid positions with plenty of advancement opportunity.

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