How to Level Up Your UX/UI Design Career

Take a stroll through along your future career path as a UX/UI Designer. Learn more about salary expectations, job titles and responsibilities, areas of specialization and more!
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User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) Designers are the hidden MVPs of the online world. These related professions are responsible for the look, feel and functionality of digital products like websites and mobile and desktop applications. It’s no surprise that demand for these roles has steadily increased, with Glassdoor adding them to their list of best 50 jobs to have and CNN Money predicting an 18 percent growth in the field by 2025. 

As a professional in the UX/UI field, you’re faced with several options when it comes to climbing the career ladder. The two primary career tracks are technical and managerial, but from entry all the way to senior-level positions, you’ll be faced with several options and potential pivot points. 

In this article, we’re breaking down what your potential UX/UI design career can look like. From job titles and salary expectations, to critical skills and networking tips: here’s everything you need to know about this in-demand technical profession! 


UX/UI Design Skills

UX and UI are two related, but not interchangeable fields. UX deals with the overall experience a user has when interacting with a given product. They focus on creating structural design solutions to meet users needs and removing any pain points throughout the prototyping, testing and iteration process. UI designers specialize in the visual touchpoints that users interact with like buttons, icons and responsive design. They often take more of a technical approach in optimizing interactions between people and computer systems. 

Fortunately, the skillset between the two roles are similar enough, such that individuals can gain professional experience on both sides of the design world, or take on roles with overlapping responsibilities in UX and UI. Fundamental UX and UI skills to know include:

  • Design Thinking
  • Working knowledge of Front-end Development and coding
  • Principles of User Research and analytics
  • Industry design tools, like Sketch, Invision, Adobe XD and Figma
  • Presentation and communication skills 
  • Familiarity with the prototyping, testing and wireframing process

As you’ll see below, these core skills come into play at all levels of a design career, so acquiring them is critical as you look towards landing your first role. This will likely take a great deal of time and commitment and might require the completion of a formal educational program—like an associate’s degree, undergraduate degree, or a specialty bootcamp.Then, the truly challenging part begins—finding a job! 


Entry-Level UX/UI Design Roles

At the beginning stages of your career, you’ll likely work as part of a larger team, as you build your skill toolbox and learn new business and design systems. Your job title might be Junior UX Designer, UX Designer, Associate UX Designer or UX Apprentice. You’ll see similar job titles on the UI Side, although many positions might give you a taste of both skillsets, so you can further specialize down the line. 

At entry-level, designers are typically given a series of tasks by more senior team members to allow them to gain familiarity with business research, brand and user-interface guidelines and UX/UI best practices. New team members work with project managers and developers to craft a cohesive team focused on meeting the needs of users. 


Entry-Level UX/UI Design Salaries

According to data from Indeed.com, entry-level UX and UI roles typically fall in a salary range of $50-$75K. Some people will find themselves with a higher starting cap and position right out of the gate, but most will need to spend time learning the ropes in this ever-changing field, by taking a junior position before they progress.  Proving yourself in this role is an excellent way to ensure long-term career success!

RoleAverage U.S. Salary
Junior UX Designer$48,781
Associate UX Designer$60,905
UX Design Intern$36,383
UX Designer$89,386
UI Designer$77,684

Mid-Level UX/UI Design Roles

Once you’ve settled into entry-level UX/UI roles for anywhere from 2-6 years, you might be faced with the professional decision to choose which track you want to take your career on. The managerial track is for those looking to lead a team and generally focuses on planning, strategy and communication. You might obtain a role like Design Ops Manager, UX or UI Manager, or UX Director. Managers take a step back from day-to-day design work to formulate company processes, work cross-functionally with other departments and present to executive stakeholders.

On the other hand, the technical track will appeal to those who want to develop expertise over a particular domain in the UX/UI world. In a role like UX Designer, Senior Interaction Designer or UX Researcher, you’ll remain at the forefront of trends and technologies of the design world and take on complex tasks within your subject area of choice. 


Mid-Level UX/UI Design Salaries

At this stage in your career as a design professional, it’s not uncommon to command a low six-figure salary. This figure can vary based on geographic location, industry, and years of expertise. 

RoleAverage U.S. Salary
UX Researcher$71,130
Senior Interaction Designer$77,684
Senior UX Designer$112,039
UI Manager$100,245
UX Director$95,214

Senior-Level UX/UI Design Roles

After several years of climbing the professional ladder, you’ll surely be more than ready to tackle a UX or UI leadership role. At larger organizations, you might find yourself a member of the C-Suite as a Senior Design Manager, Design Director, Chief Design Officer (CDO). These jobs allow the individual to influence the direction of an entire department, overseeing product strategy, performance reviews, team collaborations and more. 

For those less interested in the tasks that come along with managing people, a role as a Senior or Principal UX Designer might be more their speed. These individuals take a hands-on approach to the design process, from the first pitch meeting to the final prototype and mentor junior team members along the way. 

Throughout their career, both managerial and technical UX and UI professionals gain a deeper understanding of their craft and how their work fits in with an organization’s wider business goals. 


Senior-Level UX/UI Design Salaries

At this point in your career, you can expect to take home at least six figures a year. In major tech hubs, such as New York City or Silicon Valley, your take home pay might even be closer to the $250-300K range. These roles often include additional compensation in the form of stock options, profit-sharing, or other on-the-job perks. 

RoleAverage U.S. Salary
Senior Design Manager$102,611
Design Director$102,424
Senior UX Designer$112,039
Chief Design Officer$159,673
Principal UX Designer$163,429

Advancing Your Design Career

Ready to jump into a UX/UI career but looking for even more ways to optimize your climb up the corporate ladder? Here are a few of our top tips:

  1. Don’t Overlook Internships – Taking on temporary roles at the beginning of your ways is one of the best ways to gain hands-on experience and get your foot in the door at major organizations. Don’t be afraid to cast a wide net in the early stages of your career and explore areas that you don’t consider to be of primary interest. Keep in mind that many businesses are also now offering virtual internships, so you’re never constrained by your geographical location!
  2. Never Stop Learning – Design is a field especially affected by ever-changing trends and best practices, so be sure to stay up-to-date with whichever way the industry winds are blowing. A great way to do this is by obtaining additional education in the form of online courses or specialized bootcamps. Some major software and industry tool providers offer their own in-house training as well. 
  3. Invest in Certifications – A number of top-tier organizations and industry groups offer certifications for designers that are widely recognized across the business world. Want to fasttrack a promotion or make a lateral move into a new subject area? Obtaining a certification indicates your competence and passion for the role to recruiters and can help upskill you quickly and cost-effectively. 
  4. Network, Network, Network! – You can truly never know where your next professional opportunity will come from. Expanding your network is one of the easiest, but most impactful ways to grow your career. Seek out a mentor in your field who can provide you guidance on future career moves, and opportunities to be on the lookout for. UX/UI designers can also connect with like-minded individuals and seek inspiration from online communities like Behance and Dribble


Learn More About UX/UI Design

This article only scratches the surface of the vast options available to you in the wide world of UX and UI Design! If you’re curious about other ways you can kickstart a design career, be sure to take a moment to browse our bootcamp offerings or check out additional articles on the topic below! 

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