How to Become a UX/UI designer in San Francisco

UX designers and UI designers are in high demand, enjoy generous salaries, and get to solve complex and impactful problems. Read on to learn more about how to get a job as a UX/UI designer in San Francisco.

ux designer san francisco

The San Francisco Bay Area is the technology capital of the world. Home to some of the most influential tech organizations, promising startups, and well-funded venture capital firms, the region’s companies know what it takes to have a competitive edge. Core to their advantage? An early and ongoing investment in UX and UI design. 

A recent LinkedIn report found that UX design is one of the top five in-demand job skills, with this demand expected to grow over the next decade. Silicon Valley firms have been hiring accordingly for years, having recognized early on the importance of UX and UI design to user engagement—a good UX and UI can make or break a product or service. Where businesses in other regions have until recently regarded UX/UI design as a “nice to have,” Silicon Valley companies have long treated designers with UX/UI design expertise as necessities by offering base salaries exceeding $120,000, opportunities to rise through the ranks, at a seat at the executive table.

How to become a UX/UI designer in San Francisco

There’s no set path to becoming a UX/UI designer in San Francisco, but below are some proven tips to get you closer toward that dream UX/UI design job.

  1. Design skills. Regardless of the city or industry in which you choose to work, if you want a career in UX/UI design, you’ll need to equip yourself with some foundational skills such as creating wireframes, user flows, site maps, and high fidelity prototypes; incorporating user research and feedback into graphic design, visual design, and interaction design; performing user testing and being an advocate for the user; proficiency with design tools such as Figma and Photoshop; and collaborating with stakeholders such as product managers and a larger design team. While many of these skills can be self-taught, introductory design courses and in-depth UX design bootcamps are a great way to fast-track your learning, get you up to speed on design process best practices, and help you build a job-scoring portfolio.
  2. Practice, practice, practice. Find opportunities to apply user-centric design principles to projects. UX/UI design is a visual field, so create your own sketches, mockups, and storyboards for how a website, platform, or app can be improved; identify usability problems that can be resolved through UX research and brainstorm possible solutions using design thinking. Even if you have to create your own opportunities through personal projects or unsolicited redesigns, this will give you the chance to practice your skills and show a potential hiring manager your passion and enthusiasm for the craft. 
  3. Show that you think about the user. Even though San Francisco is predominantly a technology hub, there is diversity in the kind of work UX designers perform depending on the company they join. For example, a UX/UI designer working on operating systems such as iOS or Android will have to consider different user requirements than a UX designer working on new products at a fintech or enterprise software firm. When applying to a UX design job, consider the specific end-user experience and the goals of the product or service. Show that you can both understand an organization’s motivations and business goals and be an advocate for the user.
  4. Tech is king. While any experience is better than none, experience in the tech sector—whether at a venture capital-backed startup or a publicly-traded company—is typically valued at a premium in the San Francisco Bay Area. Opportunities in tech beget more opportunities in tech, so it’s worth exploring ways to gain experience at credible tech companies, whether it’s through an internship, a graduate fellowship, a freelance role, or equivalent. Silicon Valley companies are also known for relying on referrals to make hires, so getting a foot in the door—even as a contractor—can be a good way to build a rapport with teammates and learn about new openings and opportunities at other companies as they arise.

What kind of UX/UI design jobs are available in San Francisco?

San Francisco is fertile ground for UX/UI designers at any stage of their career because the city is home to so many companies at different stages of maturity. Whether someone wants to serve as the first designer at a brand new startup or be one of many on a team of designers; whether they want a scrappy workplace or an established campus; or whether they’re fresh out of school or are veterans of the industry, San Francisco’s companies offer opportunities that span the experience gamut. For example, San Francisco Bay Area companies Twitch, Salesforce, and LinkedIn all recently posted job listings for junior UX designers (1-3 years of experience), while companies such as Electronic Arts, Big Fish Games, Asana, and Adobe sought UX designers with at least 5+ years of experience. 

All of this means that there are opportunities for UX/UI designers to rise through the ranks, choose from organizations ranging from enterprise software developers to video game studios, and find new ways to challenge themselves.

What companies are hiring UX/UI designers in San Francisco?

Some of the biggest consumer and enterprise technology companies in the world are headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area. These companies, along with startups of all sizes, are hiring UX/UI designers:

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Apple
  • Netflix
  • Salesforce
  • Oracle
  • eBay
  • Airbnb
  • Pinterest
  • Dropbox
  • LinkedIn
  • Doordash
  • Nextdoor
  • Uber
  • Go Daddy
  • Autodesk
  • Cisco
  • Twilio
  • Zendesk
  • Twitter
  • Cloudera
  • Lyft
  • Asana
  • Adobe
  • Twitch
  • Electronic Arts

UX/UI designer salary in San Francisco

San Francisco tech companies offer some of the most competitive compensation in the world; user experience designer salaries in SF are no different. UX/UI designers in San Francisco make 23% above the national U.S. average, according to Glassdoor. 

Entry-level UX/UI designers in San Francisco earn an average base salary of around $91,685, with cash and stock bonuses that can range between $2,000-18,000.

Senior-level UX/UI designers in San Francisco earn an average base salary of around $122,804, with cash and stock bonuses that can range between $2,000-23,000.

UX/UI designer networking opportunities in San Francisco

There are many casual and formal UX/UI design groups and conferences held in San Francisco where designers can network, share career and collaboration opportunities, and post listings for UX designer jobs. Some of those groups include:

How to land an entry-level UX design job in San Francisco

Many entry-level UX/UI design jobs in San Francisco require candidates to know at least the basics of design—from familiarity with tools such as Sketch and Figma to knowing how to apply design thinking to solve a problem. These skills can be learned without any prior design or technical experience.

Springboard’s Introduction to Design offers a four-week crash course in the fundamentals needed to launch a career in UX/UI design. In addition to covering design tools, principles, and research, the course matches students with a dedicated industry expert mentor who offers both instruction and guidance on the best path into a career in UX/UI design. 

The course is a great way to get a taste of what it’s like to be a UX/UI designer at a fraction of the commitment. Those interested in going further can sign up for Springboard’s UX/UI Design Career Track, a comprehensive, flexible, and mentor-supported course that prepares every graduate for the competitive UX/UI job market.

Ready to switch careers to UI/UX Design?

Springboard offers a comprehensive UI/UX design bootcamp. No design background required—all you need is an eye for good visual design and the ability to empathize with your user. In the course, you’ll work on substantial design projects and complete a real-world externship with an industry client. After nine months, you’ll graduate with a UI/UX design mindset and a portfolio to show for it.

Check out Springboard's UI/UX Design Career Track to see if you qualify.

Not sure if UI/UX design is the right career for you?

Springboard now offers an Introduction to Design course. Learn what designers do on the job by working through a project with 1-on-1 mentorship from an industry expert. Topics covered include design tools, research, sketching, designing in high fidelity, and wireframing.

Check out Springboard’s Introduction to Design Course—enrollments are open to all!

Download our guide to UX design fundamentals

This 50-page guide will take you through the foundations of user experience, including information architecture, user experience, and user interface.

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