Pursuing a degree in UX design is an attractive option for individuals seeking to become UX designers. UX design is a career that engages both their creative and analytical minds and includes a variety of psychology, design, organization, and collaboration with other team members in the tech field as part of daily job responsibilities.
UX also offers designers high career satisfaction, lucrative pay opportunities, and a growing job market.
UX design has become a popular career option in recent years for these reasons and more. With booming tech fields and businesses increasingly understanding how important it is to have an online presence, UX design shines as an exciting and profitable career option.
What Does a UX Designer Do?
UX design crafts a user’s experience as they interact with a product or interface. This usually refers to websites, computer software programs, and mobile apps, but it also encompasses things like a TV remote or even a dashboard in a vehicle.
Ultimately, a UX designer’s job is to collaborate with other product designers, developers, and graphic designers to create a seamless experience for the user. The goal is to increase ‘conversions’—email signups, purchasing items online, and more.
There are four main categories of UX designers: UX researchers, UX architects, UX interaction designers, and experienced strategists.
How To Become a UX Designer
Many paths are available to become a UX designer and start a successful career. When deciding between paths to a UX design career, it is important to consider many different factors, such as:
- Learning style — Considering personal learning style and comparing that to the learning style offered in the program, course, degree, etc., will significantly impact the way the student learns and the extent to which they can obtain a meaningful education.
- Time available to commit to a program
- Cost and budget of the different UX design education options
- Familiarity with the topic — Many people already work in the tech field as graphic designers or developers. They have a deeper understanding of the dynamics of UX design as a profession. Others are completely new to the field and would most likely require a more comprehensive program than those already immersed in a UX design-adjacent professional field.
- The type of UX design that is most appealing. As discussed above, there are many different branches of UX design. Choosing the right path to a UX design career will depend on the other programs offered in a given path.
UX Design Degree
Pursuing a degree in UX design is a popular option, and for good reason. UX design degrees offer a comprehensive approach to UX design as a professional field and often train students in all major UX design disciplines discussed above.
When pursuing a UX design degree, students receive constant and plentiful feedback from instructors, who often have years of professional experience. Assignments are graded, and students have opportunities to improve their skills and assignments in a collaborative environment.
UX design degrees also offer options for both remote and in-person learning. In-person or remote learning may be preferred depending on the student’s learning style. In-person education may be more beneficial for a student that enjoys or requires a collaborative environment or a classroom setting to learn. A student who likes remote learning would benefit more from a program where they can work on their own time and be free from the distractions of a classroom setting. Choosing the right type of UX design degree is a matter of personal preference, schedule, and learning style.
While UX design degrees can be an effective way to enter the UX design workforce, some conditions may not work for everyone.
Cost is a common roadblock for students who consider pursuing a UX design degree. Enrolling in or returning to higher education can be expensive. Therefore, those who want to become a UX designer but are on a tight budget can choose an alternative path to this career, such as an internship, specific courses, or a UX design bootcamp.
UX Design Bootcamps
Many well-known companies offer UX design bootcamps that prepare their students with real client experience and career counselors. These students leave the bootcamps with real work training and readiness to enter the job markets.
When deciding whether a UX design bootcamp is the right fit, considerations listed above—such as learning style, budget, and time to devote to the program—all apply.
UX design bootcamps usually take between four and six months to complete when taken at a full-time pace. These bootcamps often also provide education on a part-time basis to offer additional options for working students or those with other commitments. While part-time paced bootcamps can take longer to complete, they can still be completed in under one year. The amount of time a student can dedicate to their UX design bootcamp will determine the length of time needed to complete the program.
Most UX bootcamps also offer job placement assistance, which can be very helpful for someone unfamiliar with the job market or finding a job in the technology field. Preparation such as building resumes and writing cover letters are often included in these services.
As with any path to a UX design career, it is important to consider the advantages and challenges associated with enrolling in a UX design bootcamp.
Most bootcamps are remote, which can be an advantage or hindrance to a student, depending on their learning style.
While UX bootcamps are substantially more affordable than obtaining a UX design degree, they still often cost between $6,000 and $12,000 to enroll. While payment plans are available, this money may still be outside a student’s budget.
Are you interested in learning more? Check out our complete UX design bootcamp guide.
UX Design Courses
Another popular avenue to pursue a UX design career is taking one or several UX design courses. These are available as standalone programs or as part of an overall academic portal.
University professors often teach these courses at a much lower cost. Since these UX courses are usually remote, it is important to consider if this matches learning styles and lifestyles.
Some UX courses offer certification, and some offer a class by themselves. Some courses are self-paced, while other courses stick to a rigorous syllabus on a timeframe. The courses that follow a syllabus and offer certification are more likely to offer feedback from instructors and opportunities for collaboration with peers.
UX Design Internships
Through internships, many people have entered the UX design field. This option is usually for students to learn more about a profession they may be interested in.
While internships are usually short-term, it is possible to gain relevant experience and, in some cases, be hired as full-time employees by the company through which they completed their internship.
UX Design Requirements
While there are no official requirements to be considered candidates for a UX design position, hiring managers usually look for at least a certification. Bachelor’s degrees in similar or related fields can often fulfill the requirements.
However, many UX designers do not hold degrees and have built up years of experience.
The most important tool in a UX designer’s application is their portfolio — a visual and analytical representation of previous work, usually presented in a case study. A more robust portfolio may outrank an official degree, depending on the caliber of work and the company hiring.
As discussed above, it is also common for people to make job changes from another tech field into UX design, which often suffice for similar experiences.
The best pathway to becoming a UX designer depends on learning style, budget, and other considerations listed above before making a decision.
UX Design Career Path
Once someone has established a career as a UX designer, they may follow many different successful career paths.
While the different paths one may follow depends on career goals, situations, and the opportunities available, there are two main paths into which a UX design career path unfolds:
- Technical path: following this path leads to increased specialization of UX design, particularly within one of the quadrants discussed above. For example, one may become a subject matter expert in UX research to further their career.
- Managerial path: this path leads to gaining increased experience in UX design and managing the process of product development and launch, as well as the collaboration between team members. Product designers, VPs of user experience, and chief experience officers (CXO) have often followed this path.
Determining which path is a better fit ultimately comes down to career goals and fulfillment for each person. Increased experience in the field, mentors, and many other factors can ultimately help a person determine these goals.
UX Design Career Outlook and Salary Information
UX design as a career is growing rapidly and much faster than the average for all jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), UX design as a career is expected to grow 8 percent from 2014 to 2024. The BLS reports a median salary of 67,900 in 2017. Moreover, UX design has been cited as the fastest-growing job in product design.
As more companies are developed, and existing companies begin to understand the importance of having an online presence, the demand for UX designers continues to grow.
Moreover, many companies have begun doing business online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has spiked another drastic increase in websites and digital interfaces through which customers interact with a product.
UX design is known for its lucrative payscale, collaboration with team members, and high job satisfaction. It is a particularly desirable career for those who enjoy variety in their work and are looking for a career that offers the opportunity to engage both their analytical and creative minds.