Guide to Starting Your UX Design Career

Guide to Starting Your UX Design Career

Get started with all the most frequently asked questions about starting your UX design career. We take you chapter-by-chapter through all the most essential information and resources you need to kickstart a successful design career.

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Gone are the days where we simply had “web designer” or “graphic designer” positions. Search for “designer” these days and you’ll find mentions of UX designers, UI designers, mobile designers, motion designers, and more. So what do the different designer roles actually mean and what do they entail?

(Note: salary ranges for each position are from Glassdoor.com and are in US dollars.)

UX Designer

UX designers focus on creating user-friendly experiences in digital products. They’re responsible for making sure that a product meets user needs and wants. Beyond that, they aim to create products that are more than adequate; they focus on creating products that delight users.

Their main focus is on user research and how to translate that research into product functions and features. They work closely with UI designers, UX researchers, and other stakeholders to create digital products that exceed user expectations and beat their competition.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for UX designers is excellent. CNN Money expects UX design to grow by 18% between 2015 and 2025. Nielsen Norman Group predicts explosive growth in the field. In 2020 they estimated there were roughly a million UX designers worldwide and by 2050 that number may grow to as many as 100 million.

Salary Range

$81,000–165,000 per year

UI Designer

UI designers are responsible for the look and feel of digital products. They create the interfaces we use every day. While they keep user experience in mind, their focus is more on using visuals to create exceptional user experiences in attractive ways.

UI designers use creative problem-solving techniques to design interfaces that are both innovative and user-friendly. They work closely with UX designers and developers to create products that meet user needs while also being visually appealing.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for UI designers is good. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 10-year growth expected for digital designers (and web developers) is 13% between 2020 and 2030. That’s a faster-than-average growth rate compared with other careers.

Salary Range

$69,000–127,000 per year

UX/UI Designer

UX/UI designers combine the roles of UX and UI designers, often guiding a digital product through the entire design process. They conduct user research, create wireframes, and translate those wireframes into finished products.

UX/UI designers may work with other designers, developers, and any other stakeholders on a design project. They need to have both strong analytical skills as well as strong creative problem-solving skills. It’s an excellent option for people who love both the data-driven side of design along with the more creative aspects.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for UX/UI designers is on par with that for each specialization individually. As mentioned already, that means faster-than-average growth for this position.

Salary Range

$55,000–125,000 per year

UX Researcher

UX researchers focus on the — you guessed it — user research aspects of a design project. They focus on both quantitative and qualitative data about the users for a digital product, and help translate those things into usable information for the design team.

UX researchers conduct most of their work at the outset of a project, before the “design” parts happen. They may be heavily involved in things like creating user journeys and basic wireframes. They may also conduct user testing throughout the design process.

Job Outlook

In 2017, CNN Money estimated the 10-year job growth for UX researchers to be 19%, which is much higher than the average growth across careers. It was ranked #39 that year for the best jobs in America.

Salary Range

$79,000–210,000 per year

Visual Designer

Visual designers have a role similar to UI designers, but work on digital designs for things other than user interfaces. They design everything from content marketing and social media graphics to infographics and editorial illustrations.

Visual designers need to have strong digital design skills first and foremost. They also need to understand how to create visual elements that will appeal to their target audience, so some basic UX knowledge is also helpful. Visual designers may work with UI and UX designers, content marketing teams, or any other department that has a need for digital graphics.

Job Outlook

According to Zippia, the demand for Visual Designers is expected to grow by 3% between 2018 and 2028. While there’s some career growth for visual designers, it’s not as high as some other design roles.

Salary Range

$50,000–120,000 per year

Motion Graphics Designer

Motion graphics designers create a variety of graphics for digital products. They may create animated video content, animated GIFs, splash screens, or even microanimations for user interfaces. Their work spans beyond user interfaces to also include content for social media and advertising.

Motion graphics designers work alongside UX and UI designers to create the moving parts of user interfaces.

Job Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for “Special Effects Artists and Animators” is expected to be 16% between 2020 and 2030, twice the average growth for all occupations.

Salary Range

$42,000–102,000 per year

Mobile Designer

Mobile designers work primarily on the interface design of mobile apps. They may also work on mobile versions of web apps or websites. They need to have a thorough understanding of the patterns that create highly usable mobile products, which differ in many ways from the UIs of websites or desktop apps.

Mobile designers work closely with developers, UX designers, and other stakeholders on mobile apps.

Job Outlook

While it’s difficult to find statistics specifically for mobile designers, the job outlook is similar to that for other UI and UX design positions. A quick look at LinkedIn Jobs shows over 10,000 open mobile UI designer positions.

Salary Range

$58,000–134,000 per year

Many of the skills and qualifications for these design roles are the same or similar. In all of these positions, creative problem-solving skills and the ability to collaborate with others will take you far. Salary ranges are also fairly similar for all positions, and they all have good job growth outlooks over the next 10–30+ years. Which positions is right for you will depend on the exact types of design projects you most enjoy working on.