UX Career Development

Your constantly-updated definition of UX Career Development and collection of videos and articles
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What is UX Career Development?

UX career development is the activity professionals take to grow into more fulfilling user experience design roles. They can create career maps to measure their progress and stay focused in the right direction. Whatever their role, individuals should invest in themselves to avoid stagnation and realize their potential.

Your UX career development is a journey you should plan. However the role begins—e.g., networking—a career map helps you focus on long-term goals, find relevant shorter-term ones and stay motivated as you log your progress. So, as you deliver on job expectations, you can invest in your career and master your expertise.

"Obstacles can't stop you. Problems can't stop you. Most important of all, other people can't stop you. Only you can stop you.”

– Jeffrey Gitomer, Author, professional speaker & business trainer

See why following your passion and doing great work is the most important career development device for a junior designer.

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© The Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA-NC 3.0.

UX Career Development—Set a Course to Meet a Happier Future You

Whatever your proficiency and career status in user experience (UX) design, the only way to advance is to work on yourself. That means to focus on growing your skillset and planning actionable goals. These should become vital stops on a liberating personal voyage. The alternative is to stay on a “safe”, familiar plateau—to keep practicing your craft as “a job” and hope years of hard work will somehow automatically catapult you to somewhere better. The reality is that a circular path leads nowhere. Career satisfaction is about proactive self-actualization—tapping the resources you find and taking the time to strategize how to blossom into what (and where) you want to ultimately be, stage by stage while leading a productive work life.

UX roles keep evolving.

As UX tools and UX roles keep evolving, this is a risky industry in which to stagnate, regardless of how content or accomplished professionals may feel. There’s always something new to learn, to stay competitive. If you’re applying straight from university/college or hoping to side-step from, e.g., graphic design, some inroads are:

  1. Internships—Typically 1 month–1 year at low/no pay, these can be powerful career starts (with the right organization and program).

  2. Offering your services informally, cheaply—E.g., designing friends’ websites.

  3. Career development programs at work—Developing your skillset to transfer to your company’s UX department.

  4. Networking—Joining online and/or local groups to make connections.

For designers, these are often fundamental stepping stones to gaining the experience they’ll need for compelling UX portfolios and can serve as important parts of their UX resumes.

Use a Career Map to Stay Hired and Inspired

Unless you’re well established at the most senior stage of your career, you should prioritize creating a career map. It’s a customizable tool to help you plot how to develop and advance. Work on your map daily to get a clear picture of the direction, objectives and assistance you’ll need, and to course-correct that much earlier when you feel lost.

You should use these steps, paraphrased from the Addison Leadership Group:

  1. Put as much into self-development as into your career daily—Even with a hectic schedule, you can make time without overcommitting to a rigid educational or training program. Instead, you can find ideal at-your-own-pace online courses and books. Snatches of time you spend here and there throughout your day will help.

  2. Take incremental steps—Break your long-term goal into a series of shorter-term, week-to-week objectives: e.g., seek small managerial duties to build experience.

  3. Master your strong points—Rather than raise your weaknesses to a mediocre level, stick to optimizing your specialization/s. Complement your expertise by keeping up with the latest industry-respected software releases.

  4. Find a coach/mentor—The former can help you structure everyday efforts; the latter, longer-term ones. If you ask for help from others (e.g., colleagues), you may find a wealth of insights, too.

  5. Keep moving forward, daily—Don’t let fatigue or drudgery derail your dream. Provided they’re useful and meaningful, those moments you invest in keeping your self-development efforts current will add up.

  6. Log your progress:

    1. By reviewing how far you’ve progressed, you’ll find it easier to stay motivated.

    2. You’ll notice which activities are worth pursuing most.

    3. You’ll have a document to help explain your objectives and efforts—and prove a serious mindset about your ambition.

Remember to keep self-development a daily activity. By working well at what you do now, you may get recognition (or at least keep your job), but you’ll need to take charge of your own path to a better future and treat it as a separate concern—to arrive somewhere ideal instead of escaping. Only you can care enough to make it happen.

Learn More about UX Career Development

Take our UX Portfolio course to consider your UX career development path.

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UX architect at Respond Software Liam Friedland explores how career roadmaps help in UX career development.

UX Mastery discusses ways to advance as a UX leader with some industry heavyweight.

Questions related to UX Career Development

Is 40 too old to become a UX designer?

Absolutely not! Age is not a hurdle in the UX design world. What truly counts is passion, commitment, and the skills you acquire. Transitioning to UX after 40 can be advantageous, as experience from other sectors can provide unique insights. Many have successfully made the switch at this age and beyond. If you're considering a shift, check our guide on How to Become a UX Designer. Age is just a number; your skills and perspective matter in UX design!

How much a UX designer make?

Are you thinking about a job in UX? Good news – it pays well! In the US, in 2023, a new UI/UX designer can make about $75,057 a year. With more experience, you might earn between $90,000 and $128,000 yearly. Want details on what you might earn in different places? Check out UI & UX Designer Salaries: How Much Can I Earn in 2023?

How hard is it to get a UX job in 2023?

In 2023, the demand for UX professionals remains robust as companies prioritize user-centric designs. However, with the growing awareness of UX's value, there's also an increase in the number of aspirants. This makes the field competitive, especially for entry-level positions. Factors like your portfolio's strength, practical experience, and the region you're applying to play crucial roles. For detailed insights on earnings and market trends, refer to our article UI & UX Designer Salaries: How Much Can I Earn in 2023. Nevertheless, a UX career in 2023 is entirely achievable with dedication and the right resources.

Do you need a college degree to become a UX designer?

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No, you don't necessarily need a UX-focused degree to kickstart a career in UX. Many UX professionals come from varied backgrounds and have learned through hands-on experience. While a bachelor's degree might be a plus for some employers, showcasing a robust portfolio often matters more. It's essential to have the right skills, an understanding of the UX process, knowledge of critical tools, and a grasp of foundational design principles.

To help navigate the UX realm, consider exploring the vast resources available at the Interaction Design Foundation. We pride ourselves on offering many quality UX materials, including expert advice and in-depth articles.

To dive deeper, enroll in our beginner's course, User Experience: The Beginner’s Guide. And if you aim to refine your portfolio, our course How to Create a UX Portfolio can guide you.

Will AI take my UX design job?

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AI has its strengths in automation and data handling, but replacing the human touch in UX design isn't on the horizon. AI can't mimic the depth of human creativity and the innate understanding of emotions. Human designers grasp subtle aspects of behavior and can craft unique, creative solutions. While AI can support designers by streamlining tasks and offering insights, the core of design remains human-centric. Curious about blending AI with UX design? Dive into our Master Class on AI-Powered UX Design: How to Elevate Your UX Career.

What does a UX designer do?

Depending on the project size and team dynamics, a UX designer's responsibilities can vary. In smaller teams or projects, they often wear multiple hats, handling everything from user research to visual design elements like icons. They might also craft user flows, wireframes, and prototypes, or even shape the brand identity. On the flip side, in bigger teams or for intricate products, roles may be more specialized. You might encounter positions such as UX researcher, interface designer, or UX writer.

Dive into these free articles for a clearer picture on UX roles:

Is coding essential for a UX career?

In a nutshell, no, you don't need to code to be a UX professional. But, understanding basic coding can be a plus. It helps you work smoothly with developers and grasp how digital products function. It's not about becoming a coding expert but enhancing collaboration and efficiency. In most organizations, UX specialists focus on design, not coding. For more insights, check out:

Should You Learn Coding as a UX Designer?

How to become a UX designer?

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Diving into a UX career can sometimes require a specific UX degree. Many in the field are self-learners, building skills on the job. While some employers prefer a bachelor's, a strong design portfolio can sometimes speak louder. The key is showing you've got the essential UX skills, know the design flow, and can use industry tools effectively.

Be cautious, as there's a mix of accurate and misleading info online. The Interaction Design Foundation offers a trusted, extensive, open-source library for UX learning. Curious? Explore our free articles. New to UX? Dive in with User Experience: The Beginner's Guide. If you're looking to impress with your portfolio, our course How to Create a UX Portfolio can guide you.

Where to learn more about UX design?

For those keen to delve deeper into UX Design, the Interaction Design Foundation is an invaluable resource. We recommend starting with the course User Experience: The Beginner’s Guide, designed for those new or looking to reinforce their foundation in UX. For a comprehensive grasp of the underpinnings of UX, our course on HCI Foundations of UX Design is perfect. These courses, combined with our extensive literature and articles, offer a holistic understanding, setting you on a path to mastering UX Design.

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Literature on UX Career Development

Here’s the entire UX literature on UX Career Development by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about UX Career Development

Take a deep dive into UX Career Development with our course How to Create a UX Portfolio .

Did you know the average UX recruiter spends less than 5 minutes skimming through your UX portfolio? If you want to join the growing and well-paid field of UX design, not only do you need a UX portfolio—you’ll need a great UX portfolio that showcases relevant skills and knowledge. Your UX portfolio will help you get your first job interviews and freelance clients, and it will also force you to stay relevant in your UX career. In other words, no matter what point you’re at in your UX career, you’re going to need a UX portfolio that’s in tip-top condition.

So, how do you build an enticing UX portfolio, especially if you’ve got no prior experience in UX design? Well, that’s exactly what you’ll learn in this course! You’ll cover everything so you can start from zero and end up with an incredible UX portfolio. For example, you’ll walk through the various UX job roles, since you can’t begin to create your portfolio without first understanding which job role you want to apply for! You’ll also learn how to create your first case studies for your portfolio even if you have no prior UX design work experience. You’ll even learn how to navigate non-disclosure agreements and create visuals for your UX case studies.

By the end of this practical, how to oriented course, you’ll have the skills needed to create your personal online UX portfolio site and PDF UX portfolio. You’ll receive tips and insights from recruiters and global UX design leads from SAP, Oracle and Google to give you an edge over your fellow candidates. You’ll learn how to craft your UX case studies so they’re compelling and relevant, and you’ll also learn how to engage recruiters through the use of Freytag’s dramatic structure and 8 killer tips to write effectively. What’s more, you’ll get to download and keep more than 10 useful templates and samples that will guide you closely as you craft your UX portfolio. To sum it up, if you want to create a UX portfolio and land your first job in the industry, this is the course for you!

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