User experience designers are responsible for how a product or service feels to a consumer. If a product makes the customer feel good, he or she is more likely to buy that product. That’s why good UX designers are in high demand. And designers love the job, too. UX designers report high career satisfaction and low on-the-job stress. In fact, CNN Money ranked UX design number 14 on its 2015 list of the Best Jobs in America, with ten-year job growth of 18 percent.
So, congratulations! You’ve picked a great career to pursue. Whether you’re currently a UX designer or you’ve just started sending out resumes, you want to make sure you know where you’re headed. Where can a UX design career take you? How much can you expect to earn? And what skills should you concentrate on honing? Read on to find out.
Where is your career going? The path to promotion varies according to company and location, but you can generally expect a trajectory resembling the following:
- UX designer
- Lead UX designer
- Senior UX designer
At some companies, you could continue on to become head of UX, UX director, and even chief experience officer.
While a bachelor’s degree isn’t necessary for some UX design jobs, it could give you a leg up on the competition. According to data gathered from Paysa, 61 percent of UX design job applicants need a bachelor’s degree. In addition, 18 percent of applicants are required to have a master’s degree, and 1 percent need a doctorate.
But education doesn’t end with a degree. As in many tech fields, UX designers can go through certification programs that could help you stand out when applying for a job or working toward a promotion. User Testing Blog offers a list of top “programs from some of the most respected names in the UX and research fields.”
- Nielsen Norman Group: UX and UX Master Certification Programs
- GeneralAssemb.ly: User Experience Design Immersive
- Human Factors International: Usability Analyst or User Experience Analyst Certification
- California State University at Fullerton: Certificate in User Experience and Customer-Centered Design
- Bentley University’s User Experience Center: UX Certificate Program
- TheTeamW/Weinschenk Institute: User Experience Certificate, Advanced UX Certificate, Brain and Behavioral Certificate
- UC San Diego Extension: User Experience (UX) Design Certificate
- San Francisco State University Extension: Mobile UX/UI Design Intensive Certificate
- University of Baltimore: Certificate in User Experience Design
University of Washington: Certificate in User-Centered Design
- Southern Methodist University: User Experience Design Certificate Program
Technical Skills and Responsibilities
UX design is a broad term that can mean different things depending on which company you’re working for. But there are plenty of common skills and responsibilities to use as a guide when you’re looking to get that big promotion.
Fast Company gives us the broad strokes:
UX designers are primarily concerned with how the product feels. A given design problem has no single right answer. UX designers explore many different approaches to solving a specific user problem. The broad responsibility of a UX designer is to ensure that the product logically flows from one step to the next. One way that a UX designer might do this is by conducting in-person user tests to observe one’s behavior. By identifying verbal and non-verbal stumbling blocks, they refine and iterate to create the “best” user experience. An example project is creating a delightful onboarding flow for a new user.
The article further breaks it down like this:
- Deliverables: Wireframes of screens, storyboards, sitemap
- Tools of the trade: Photoshop, Sketch, Illustrator, Fireworks, InVision
- You might hear them say this in the wild: “We should show users the ‘Thank You’ page once they have finished signing up.”
Photoshop is indeed one of the top skills included in job descriptions for UX designers. 45 percent of applicants need to know Photoshop, according to data from recent job postings. In addition, 71 percent should have a history with user experience, 64 percent need to know user interface design, and 49 percent should know web design.
Above all other social skills, a good UX designer needs to have empathy. In order to know how to design an experience for the user, you need to be able to put yourself in his or her shoes.
Other skills that will serve you well as a UX designer include:
- Attention to detail
- Excellent communication skills
- Works well with others
- Creative vision
- Analytical thinking
UX Designer Salaries
Negotiation is key when navigating a pathway to promotion, so it’s helpful to know where to start. Here are the average salaries you can expect for each level in your career:
Based on 5,800 profiles on Paysa, the average market salary for a UX designer is $113,000 per year, ranging from $66,100 to $166,000. Average market salary includes $89,000 base salary, $16,000 annual bonus, $11,900 signing bonus and $33,500 in annual equity.
Average market salary for a UX designer per Paysa data.
Lead UX Designer
Based on 580 profiles, the average market salary for a lead UX designer is $128,000 per year, ranging from $79,100 to $181,000. Average market salary includes $103,000 base salary, $14,700 annual bonus, $12,400 signing bonus, and $44,300 in annual equity.
Average market salary for a lead UX designer per Paysa data.
Senior UX Designer
Based on 2,300 profiles, the average market salary for a senior UX designer is $134,000 per year, ranging from $79,600 to $194,000. Average market salary includes $104,000 base salary, $15,200 annual bonus, $13,400 signing bonus, and $36,200 in annual equity.
Average market salary for a senior UX designer per Paysa data.
Top Companies for UX Designers
The top companies for UX designers include Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and General Assembly. The data detailed below shows you basic salary trends, education needed, average time to promotion, and skills required. Even if you’re not applying to or working at one of these companies, it’s good to know how the top companies are doing things. You can then compare the size, assets, and function of these companies to the organization that is relevant to you in order to discover where you fit in.
Based on 370 profiles, the average market salary for a Microsoft UX Designer is $248,000 per year, ranging from $190,000 to $308,000. Average market salary includes $149,000 base salary, $30,800 annual bonus, $21,800 signing bonus, and $46,900 in annual equity. 60 percent of applicants need a bachelor’s degree, and 17 percent need a master’s. It takes an average of 3.1 years to get promoted at Microsoft. Top skills needed are user experience, user interface design, interaction design, and graphic design.
Average market salary for a Microsoft UX Designer per Paysa data.
Based on 160 profiles, the average market salary for an Amazon UX Designer is $209,000 per year, ranging from $165,000 to $255,000. Average market salary includes $119,000 base salary, $20,800 annual bonus, $41,300 signing bonus, and $38,300 in annual equity. This information is based on data calculated from 160 profiles. 66 percent of applicants need a bachelor’s degree, and 14 percent need a master’s. Average time to promotion is 2.5 years. Skills required include user interface design, interaction design, web design, and Photoshop.
Average market salary for an Amazon UX Designer per Paysa data.
Based on 110 profiles, the average market salary for a Google UX Designer is $199,000 per year, ranging from $134,000 to $269,000. Average market salary includes a $105,000 base salary, $16,900 annual bonus, $22,600 signing bonus, and $56,800 in annual equity. 62 percent of applicants need a bachelor’s degree, and 15 percent need a master’s. It takes an average of 3 years to get promoted at Google. Top skills include user interface design, interaction design, and information architecture.
Average market salary for a Google UX Designer per Paysa data.
Based on 93 profiles, the average market salary for a General Assembly UX Designer is $150,000 per year, ranging from $118,000 to $183,000. Average market salary includes $109,000 base salary, $14,300 signing bonus, and $26,100 in annual equity. 53 percent of applicants need a bachelor’s degree, and 9 percent need a master’s. Top skills include user research, wireframes, and Photoshop.
Average market salary for a General Assembly UX Designer per Paysa data.
Top Locations for UX Designers
Another good metric to look at when you’re thinking about career trajectory is location. How much money you make depends on where you are almost as much as what company you’re working for. Just keep in mind: these top locations also come with heavy competition, as other UX designers will also want to go where the money is.
- Seattle, Washington – Average market salary of $190,000 per year
- San Jose, California – Average market salary of $150,000 per year
- San Francisco, California – Average market salary of $129,000 per year
- Boston, Massachusetts – Average market salary of $106,000 per year
- New York, New York – Average market salary of $98,600 per year
Negotiating a Fair Salary
Paysa market data shows that 36% of professionals are underpaid relative to market. Armed with data from Paysa, you’ll be able to negotiate your UX design salary smartly, whether it’s for a great starting salary or for a fair raise when it’s time for a promotion. Sign up now to personalize Paysa for you.