Learn more about the roles, responsibilities, and salary of an entry-level UX designer.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
The world of user experience (UX) is both very broad and very specific. It’s very broad in the sense that it applies to virtually every physical, digital, social, and omnichannel experience. It’s very specific in that it’s a relatively small yet crucial piece of the whole business and product development puzzle.
As a new and rapidly expanding field, UX is attracting people from all sorts of backgrounds. But what do the entry-level UX jobs look like and what do they entail? That’s what this piece is about: New UXers, which in their first year or two often take internship-type positions with job title designations such as these, with any combination of “design” or “research” mixed in:
UX is important because it attempts to fulfill a user's needs through positive experiences that encourage loyalty to a brand or product. A meaningful user experience translates to a successful product and overall business strategy.
“People should never feel like a failure when using technology. Like the customer, the user is always right. If software crashes, it is the software designer/developer’s fault. If someone can’t find something on a website, it is the web designer’s fault… The big difference between good and bad designers is how they handle people struggling with their design. Technology serves humans. Humans do not serve technology.”
This quote, by Joshua Porter, co-founder of Rocket Insights, illustrates why user experience is the new battleground in business; it’s all about making technology work better for people. Simply delivering a set of features or capabilities for a fair price to consumers in B2C or professionals in B2B is no longer enough.
End users expect easy learning curves (how often are instruction manuals tossed aside right out of the box?). They want intuitive interactions that reflect a true understanding of their needs, expectations, pain points, and workflows. They want technology to work for them, not to become frustrated and fight with “workarounds”, help documentation, or customer support. They want outstanding experiences and actively seek out companies who understand this (think of how loyal Apple customers are!) while abandoning companies who don’t (think of all the search engines Google beat out and why). Who wouldn’t?
Oftentimes, new UXers start out as generalists. This isn’t necessarily because it's their choice but rather that’s what the market demands. UX is a challenging field, covering elements of design, research, technology, project management, strategy, and business, so companies tend to expect that practitioners have an experiential foundation that spans most or all of those specialties. Typically, interns, analysts, assistants and/or associates, aka new UXers, have responsibilities like these:
As you may have gathered, many of these responsibilities consist of supporting more senior-level practitioners. UX is a field where learning by doing is particularly important, so much like apprenticeships, finding good mentors is a vital element of success!
Successful entry level UXers tend to have certain qualities that will naturally carry them toward the right junior and mid-level roles where their budding specialization begins to emerge. For instance, UX designers are often a bit more creative, artsy and quirky than UX researchers, who trend toward being more logical, scientific, and orthodox. There are a wide range of personalities in both, of course, and many outliers, but the generalization typically holds (that’s why it’s called a generalization!).
In any case, new UXers are unique in their tenacious willingness to jump into a novel and complex field, where working with unknowns is the norm and a people-first attitude is key. With foundational understandings of common user experience design and research techniques, they know enough to get started with collaborating and contributing to key projects. Since they are new to the field, the ones who excel soonest are usually asking lots of questions and networking as much as possible too!
The base level of technology skills for entry-level UXers isn’t super broad or advanced. In addition to standard office tools, proficiency in design tools and survey software should suffice. With each job will come exposure to more technologies, where additional skills are acquired so after a few years, you should have no problem walking into a new company and hitting the ground running! Regardless, here is where new UXers should spend their time in training:
As of September 2020, an entry-level UX designer salary will average about $59,500 in their first year, per Glassdoor. A number of factors impact salary, such as location, company size, industry, compensation packages, and actual job title.
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This post was written by Rylan Clark, the COO of The UXology Group, a leading UX Research firm. Rylan is also a Springboard mentor and UX subject matter expert.
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