The rise of the internet and social media has shifted the balance of power away from producers and towards consumers. Companies are responding to this change by focusing on the experiential side of business—creating positive interactions to keep customers happy and eager to come back. At the center of this effort is the user experience (UX) designer.
A UX designer is responsible for influencing the consumer’s behavior as they interact with a product or service. UX designers achieve this by ensuring that the user sees the product as useful, easy to access and doesn't require many calls to customer service. The focus is on the human—what they need, and what makes them feel good.
In 2019, Kent State University predicted that “this is the decade of UX design,” and the average salaries are looking mighty impressive. The question is, what can you really expect if you pursue a career in this much-hyped industry?
If you’re thinking of diving into the world of UX, here are 15 hard numbers every prospective designer should know.
1. What You’ll Do as a UX Designer
According to a 2020 Digital Skills Survey by Brainstation, the key functions of a UX designer include:
- User research: While some organizations have a dedicated UX researcher or research team to gain user insights, a large number of organizations require that their designers perform their own user research.
- Persona development: Once the designer has discovered an adequate amount of user insights, they synthesize this information into user personas—basically, archetypes of the target customers their end designs should appeal to. These are often placed on specially designed user journey-maps that show how the persona interacts with the product at multiple touchpoints.
- Information architecture, or IA: IA refers to the way that information is laid out, or "mapped," within the interface so that the target persona can smoothly and successfully navigate the product.
- Wireframing: In UX design, wireframing is the process of creating a sort of low-fidelity 'blueprint' of the design to guide the construction of a functional prototype.
- Prototyping/high-fidelity (hi-fi) design: During the process, the wireframe is used as a guide to create a first iteration of the final product.
- User testing: Once the prototype is completed, UX designers will work with a sample of users to test the product and make adjustments based on their feedback.
In terms of the types of projects you can expect to take on, the survey by UXTools.co identified the project types that UX designers had worked on at some point in their careers:
- Web apps (68%)
- Websites (63%)
- Mobile apps (58%)
- Desktop apps (44%)
- Digital media (23%)
- Branding (22%)
- Print media (13%)
- Physical experiences (9%)
- Miscellaneous (3%)
Keep in mind, the UX designer’s primary focus is on functionality—not aesthetics—so they aren’t typically responsible for the entire finished product of a website or app. Graphic designers will often work in collaboration with UX designers to take care of the aesthetic side of things.
2. The Typical Experience of a UX Designer
UXtools.co, a free resource for UX designers, companies, and classrooms, runs an annual survey for design tools. In 2022, it received 3,149 responses, painting a clear, current picture of the UX design landscape.
According to the survey results, the highest number of UX design professionals (around 30%) polled had over 10 years of work experience. Approximately 20% had 6-10 years of experience and just over 25% had been in the field for 3-5 years.
3. Five Skills You’ll Need as a UX Designer
UX design applies to almost every modern day industry, and its methodologies draw from a diverse range of subjects. It’s part web design, part psychology, part marketing, and a whole lot more! Once you’ve attained a solid set of fundamental skills to launch your UX career, there is no limit to professional and personal growth in the field.
So, what are the most important skills for UX? The American tech giants at Adobe have narrowed it down to a solid five:
- Frontend development: UX Designers who can code are in high demand and hard to find!
- Voice design: There is a rapid surge in voice technology, opening opportunities for designers who can apply voice design skills in the area of voice design.
- Writing microcopy: Creating the text that the user interacts with when using a product. This is a rare skill among UX designers.
- User interface (UI) design skills: Understanding how users will interact with the platform, and creating designs that seamlessly guide the user to whatever they need. This kind of design goes beyond aesthetics—it’s about strategically improving functionality.
- Understanding data: analyzing the results of customer research to make informed, strategic decisions. This helps you determine whether the designs you create will meet the needs of the users and, if not, how to iterate better designs.
4. Here’s What the Average UX Designer’s Salary Looks Like
Attempting to find the average salary of a UX designer is a complicated process because different sources use different methods to come to the answer.
According to Indeed, the average UX designer's annual salary in the United States is around $98,131.
Glassdoor data also shows that some companies offer higher salaries to UX designers. Apple, for instance, offers salaries between $148,000 and $236,000. Adobe offers between US$142,000 and $222,000, while Google offers between $166,000-265,000.
5. Salaries by the Hour for UX Designers
With the proliferation of projects done by freelance employees, some UX design projects may pay by the hour. The online marketplace ZipRecruiter presents UX designer average hourly rates for the 50 states in the U.S.
According to the tally provided by ZipRecruiter, the highest hourly remuneration is in Washington ($54.34) and the lowest is in Louisiana ($35.82), according to current data.
6. UX Designer Salary Averages Based on Experience
A recently-updated article on Skillcrush.com provides salary statistics based on years of experience:
- Entry-level UX Designer - ~$75,000 (0-2 years’ experience)
- Intermediate level – ~$90,000 (3-9 years’ experience)
- Senior-level - ~$110,000 (10+ years’ experience)
In terms of specific years of experience, here are some estimates of what you can expect to earn in the U.S.:
- 0-3 years – $76,996
- 4-7 years – $98,732
- 8-12 years – $112,203
- 13+ years – $123,447
You can see the averages for other countries in the world here.
You can see the averages for other countries in the world here.
7. The 5 Best US Cities to Work as a UX Designer
CareerFoundry.com recently provided a tally of the best cities to be a web designer, based on the information analyzed from reviews on the job site Indeed. It's not surprising that the home of Silicon Valley, San Francisco, California, sits right at the top of the list.
Here is the list:
- San Francisco, CA: US$118,766
- New York, NY: US$112,480
- Seattle, WA: US$109,043
- Los Angeles, CA: US$106,581
- Chicago, IL: US$105,359
8. Where You’ll Find the Most UX Designers
It’s not easy to pin down the numbers when it comes to the area where most UX designers are located globally. However, the survey by UXTools.co provides a clear picture of where most UX designers are located in the world. Out of 4260 respondents, the five countries with the highest responses were:
- United States
- United Kingdom
9. Current Demand for UX Designers
To provide an idea of the demand for UX designers, the website CareerFoundry.com asks, “Why do we need user interface designers?”
Globally, more than 4 billion people are using the Internet.” All of these need the skills of a UX designer in one way or another. UXDesignInstitute.com cites the Mind the Gap: A Report on the U.K.'s Technology Skills Landscape, produced by Hired.com, which shows a “289% increase in requests for UX interviews."
10. What the Future of UX Looks Like
In 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that job growth demand for UX designers may decrease by 4% (through 2029).
11. Size of Companies Hiring UX Designers
To get an idea of the size of companies (by the number of employees) looking for UX designers, we looked at the job portal Glassdoor. Below is the number of jobs advertised under each category on the day when we checked the site (April 2023):
0 to 50: 16%
51 to 200: 15%
201 to 500: 15%
501 to 1000: 7%
1001 to 5000: 16%
5001 to 10000: 8%
12. Average UX Team Sizes
In a 2022 survey by Nielsen Norman Group, 676 UX professionals were polled about hiring and retention at their respective workplaces. Across respondents, the average team size was 9 people, but nearly a third of respondents said they work on a team of 6, while another 17% said they work with a team of 3.
13. How Much Education You’ll Need to Be a UX Designer
GetEducated.com, a website that says it’s “The independent, trusted guide to online education for over 21 years,” suggests that “at the very least, you will need a two-year degree, while some UX designers will have master’s degrees or higher."
14. The Most Popular Design System Tools for UX Designers
A 2022 survey of UX designers revealed the tools that are used most by the designers:
- Figma is the most popular tool for UI design, design systems, and basic prototyping
- ProtoPie was the most popular tool for prototyping
- Miro was the most popular choice for digital whiteboarding
- Maze was the user testing tool of choice
- Notion was preferred as a research repository
- UserTesting was the go-to choice for user research recruiting
- Code was the top tool cited for portfolio building
15. Senior Positions for Experienced UX Designers
For those looking for upward mobility, there are senior roles in the UX space—maybe more than you'd expect. At the time of writing, LinkedIn Jobs currently has 658 open positions in the United States matching 'UX design' jobs at a Director or Executive Level, while Glassdoor.com currently features 380 open job postings matching the "Director of UX" query.
What Do You Want To Know About A Career In UX Design?
The CX Lead community is here to help UX, CX, and design professionals get better and grow in their careers. If you have a question about your career in UX design, share your questions in the comments below!
Related List of Tools:
- Customer Experience Manager Salary Guide: CX Salaries & Roles
- 10 Best UX, CX & Design Thinking Books
- 15 Of The Best CX and UX Meetups For Experience Design Aficionados
- 8 Of My Favorite CX, Design Thinking, and UX Podcasts
Join The CX Lead
Sign up for The CX Lead newsletter to stay up to date with articles showcasing the latest thinking, practices, and research in the UX and CX fields.