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Back on the job market? Look at this UX design salary guide first

Learn about the top six careers in UX, their tasks, salary expectations, and tips on how to get a competitive salary for your next gig.

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User experience (UX) design is an exciting and fast-evolving field with new specializations emerging all the time—in areas like user research, design, copywriting, and product strategy. It also happens to be one of the most sought-after professions on the market right now.

Glassdoor named the discipline one of the 50 best jobs in America. And, generally speaking, the job market is looking good: As the economy continues to recover from the pandemic, businesses across industries are hiring new talent. The jobs index increased to 66.6 out of 100 on Dec 2 in the Forbes Advisor-Ipsos Consumer Confidence Weekly Tracker.

That trajectory is likely to continue in UX design, according to Gleb Kuznetsov, a venture capitalist and chief design officer of Brain Technologies. “Both in-house corporate design departments and small boutique agencies understand that the very best designers have a disproportionate impact on the final quality of a product,” says Kuznetsov. “As a consequence, the talent battles for top designers will be extremely competitive and result in an increase in both hourly rates and total compensation.” What it means is that you will likely be in hot demand.

If you're a seasoned UX professional and interested in where you can take your UX career next, this guide is for you. It outlines the top six careers within the UX world, their tasks, salary expectations, and has practical tips on how to get a better UX design salary for your next gig.

See the day-to-day tasks and salaries of these UX design jobs:

1. UX designer

2. UI designer

3. UX/UI designer

4. UX writer

5. UX researcher

6. UX strategist

7. Skip to the salary tips

A UX designer is responsible for the wireframe of a product and ensuring it's functional and reliable. Image via: Stocksy.

1. UX designer

The term "user experience" was coined by legendary designer and researcher Don Norman in the 1990s, and he said that user experience describes all aspects of the user's interaction with the company and its products. A UX designer is a professional responsible for creating smooth interaction between the user and the product. The goal of user experience design is to create functional, reliable, usable, and enjoyable products.

UX designers typically practice the design thinking process that has five stages:

  1. Empathize. Gain an empathic understanding of the user's needs and wants.

  2. Define. Define the core problem(s) that a product team needs to solve to make the user's life better.

  3. Ideate. Aim to find the best solution for the core problem(s).

  4. Prototype. Prototype a solution.

  5. Test. Validate the prototype by testing it with real or potential users.

This process is iterative—the results of testing can give UX designers new insights to start over again and come up with a better solution at the end of the new cycle.

UX designers try to find a sweet spot between the user and business needs. They consider all elements that make up the user experience. As a result, they typically bridge the gap between the product team and stakeholders. Typically, UX designers report to design directors or chief design officer.

Daily tasks of UX designer include:

  • Learning business requirements (learning the business goals and conducting competitor analysis to understand the product niche and identify opportunities);

  • Conducting user research (find out who the target users are and what their needs are in relation to a product that is designed);

  • Defining the information architecture of a future product (label content and create meaningful for users content structures);

  • Designing scenarios of interaction (when UX designers solve a particular design problem they typically consider the user’s entire journey because it helps them better understand how a product fits in the user's daily life and define more realistic scenarios of interaction).

  • Creating wireframes/low-fidelity mockups (set out the bare-bones blueprints for the future product) and cooperation with UI designers (guiding UI designers so that they can turn the low-fidelity design into pixel-perfect mockups);

  • Conducting usability testing (collect feedback from actual or potential users on how easy or hard it is to use a product and find areas of improvement).

As with most jobs on our list, a UX designer salary varies based on how much experience you have and the company you work for and your location. If you have a senior UX designer role (i.e., 3-5 years experience) and work in large tech companies, you can negotiate a better salary. The average salary for a UX Designer is $116k per year in the United States, according to Glassdoor, with a salary range between $81k and $165k per year. Zip Recruiter shows a $98,816 per year salary, ranging between $45k to $155k.

An illustration of a woman designing a user interface with multiple open windows.
UX and UI designers work closely together, but they're not the same. UX designers prepare low-fidelity wireframes, and UI designers create a consistent and aesthetic user interface for the product. Image via Stocksy.

2. UI designer

A UI designer is a professional responsible for creating a product’s user interface, or the point of interaction between the user and a product. This medium can be visual (like a graphical user interface), voice (like a voice-based user interface), or haptic (like a haptic user interface). In relation to websites and mobile apps, UI designers design actual screen/page layouts as well as elements of interactivity, like animated effects. They define the look and feel of a product.

Here are a few significant goals that UI designers pursue in their work:

  • Creating intuitive interfaces. UI designers are familiar with common interaction patterns and actively use them in their work. Well-designed user interfaces have a zero learning curve (meaning users don't have to spend any time learning how to use it).

  • Pleasurable user interface. Design is communication, and skilled UI designers create a visual language that positively impacts users. They achieve this goal by carefully considering each and every UI element that users might encounter (icon, button, input field, etc.) and applying good visual styling (proper typography, color scheme, spacing).

  • Reflecting brand values in UI design. UI design aims to reflect the brand's uniqueness in a product's interface. They typically reinforce brand attributes (such as brand color scheme) in the interface they design.

  • Accessible UI. Skilled UI designers always try to make interfaces accessible and inclusive so that people with all abilities can interact with a product. For example, when it comes to a graphic user interface, UI designers aim to find proper color combinations to create good contrast and improve readability.

A great product experience starts with well-thought UX followed by UI. That's why UI designers typically work together closely with UX designers. UX designers prepare low-fidelity wireframes, and UI designers turn them into high-fidelity designs that are consistent and aesthetically pleasing. UI designers also work closely with developers to turn mockups/prototypes into fully-fledged products.

Daily tasks of UI designer include:

  • Conducting design research (exploring various design solutions available on the market to find the design direction for the future product);

  • Crafting high-fidelity mockups for individual screens (creating the pixel-perfect design of future pages/screens) and turning them into prototypes (adding required animated effects and visual transitions);

  • Creating responsive design (adapting design to various screens and resolutions);

  • Handing off design to the development team. Supporting developers with implementation of design and creating style guides and design systems.

The average salary for a UI Designer is $93k per year in the United States, ranging from $69k and $127, according to Glassdoor. As you can see, it's more than $20k less than UX designer salary, but it's vital to mention that design-driven companies like Apple are willing to pay more than average for UI designers. Indeed shows slightly lower average salary for UI designers— $78k per year.

A UX/UI designer often has a lower salary cap because smaller companies typically hire for the role, but it can give you a diverse skill set. Image via Stocksy.

3. UX/UI designer

It's a known fact that to create the best possible product, user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design should go hand-in-hand and complement each other. Yet, it really can be hard to find a proper balance between UX and UI when different people are responsible for two domains.

From the first glance, the UX/UI designer role seems like an ideal solution for this problem, since a UX/UI designer is a versatile designer who can cover both UX and UI. At the same time, both UX and UI design are complex fields, and in real life, it can be hard to find a professional who will have the same level of expertise in both areas. As a result, most UX/UI designers lean more towards either UX or UI.

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a UX/UI designer is $83k per year in the United States (ranging between $55k and $125k). You may wonder why UX designer salary is more than $30k than UX/UI designer (despite that the role of UX/UI designer has more responsibilities).

UX/UI designers tend to be more popular within small and mid-sized companies because larger companies tend to separate the UX and UI design roles. That means a UX/UI designer salary is limited by the budgets of smaller companies. But the role is good for people who want to gain more practical experience in two different specializations, and become a very strong candidate for the role of senior UX or senior UI designer in a couple of years.

An image a person drawing a wireframe on a notepad.
Copy is part of UX, too. UX writers are responsible for the text a user sees in an interface. Meanwhile, UX researchers work behind the scenes to research the functionality of a product.

4. UX writer

In 1996, Bill Gates wrote his famous essay titled "Content is King." In his essay, he defines the primary role of content in digital products: "Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet." It's highly relevant today, since the quality of content defines the quality of the user experience, and the quality of user experience defines whether or not the users will want to use your product again.

"UX Writer" is a relatively new role in the field; it emerged as a response to the growing need to prepare user-focused content in digital products. The UX writer is responsible for the text we see in products. Well-crafted text can significantly improve the user experience of a product.

Sometimes the role of UX writer mixes with the role of marketing writers, and it's vital to understand that those are two different roles. A UX writer creates content for people who already use a product (writing content to improve the experience of existing customers). In contrast, a marketing writer is responsible for writing promotional content to attract potential customers (i.e., writing texts for ad campaigns).

The role of UX writer is mainly relevant to large companies with dedicated design departments. In small and midsize companies, UX designers typically work on content.

Daily tasks of UX writer include:

  • Conducting user research. Understand who the user is, what they read, and how they speak. This information will help UX writers to find a relevant tone and voice.

  • Defining tone of voice for the product. Define what words and sentences to communicate with users. A proper tone of voice improves user experience since it feels more natural for the target audience.

  • Manage content development. Writing both microcopy (short sentences such as labels and help text) and macrocopy (information messages in products and non-promo text on website pages).

Glassdoor mentions that the average UX writer salary in the US is $113k (ranging between $80K and $159k). Interestingly, the UX designer salary is almost equal to the UX writer salary. Zip recruiter gives a slightly different average salary— $119,531 per year. The salary ranges from $65k to $161k.

A UX researcher dedicates their time to researching product functionality. They often have a psychology and data analysis background—if you love numbers, this could be for you. Image via Stocksy.

5. UX researcher

Research is a cornerstone of product design. It's impossible to create a solid product if you don't invest in research. UX researchers are professionals that dedicate their entire time to researching the functionality of a product. They focus on learning user behavior and finding out what kinds of problems and pain points users come up against and how to solve them.

UX researchers typically have solid data analysis skills. They typically have a solid psychology and data analysis background. So that they can conduct proper research and analyze research data to find critical product design decisions.

UX researchers work closely with other team members (UX designers, UI designers, UX writers) and share insights about user behavior with them.

Daily tasks of UX researcher include:

  • Mapping user research. UX researchers conduct solid research to find who the target users are and what problems they face. User interviews, usability testing, online surveys are just a few tools that UX researchers use to better learn about people who use the product.

  • Competitor analysis. UX researchers are always looking for new ways to create a more compelling user experience and a significant part of the time is dedicated to market research. UX researcher analyzes experience of other products available on the market, identifying its strengths and weaknesses.

  • Mapping out user journey. A UX researcher considers all aspects of the user's journey, including all channels (where interactions between a user and the product takes place, for example, if your product is a website a channel can be a mobile phone with a browser).

  • Creating reports and conducting presentations. UX researchers are very skilled in analyzing their findings and distilling them into actionable suggestions.

UX researcher salary in the US ranges from $79K to $210k with an average of $129k per year (according to Glassdoor). Indeed gives $71k as an average salary for UX researcher in the US.

A UX strategist works with stakeholders and internal teams to advocate for product UX that meets user and business needs. Pay encompasses a wide range, so check your local area to be sure your salary is competitive. Image via Stocksy.

6. UX strategist

The role of the UX strategist varies drastically depending on the organization. Generally, UX strategist is a multi-faceted role that combines product design and project management responsibilities. UX strategists work at the intersection of user needs and business goals. Typically, a UX strategist has a solid UX designer's background but can communicate user needs to business so that business starts to understand better the importance of creating great user experiences.

Daily tasks of UX strategist include:

  • Work closely with stakeholders to define product goals. UX strategist aims to understand business goals and connect them to users' needs through product design.

  • Collaboration and communication with product team members. UX strategist builds bridges between different departments (i.e., development and design) and communicates product design decisions;

  • Planning design activities such as user research, UI design, prototyping, usability testing.

The salary of a UX strategist ranges from $56K to $182K, with an average of $101k per year (according to Glassdoor). Ziprecruiter provides $128,316 per year as an average salary for UX strategists.

A quick way to get the competitive salary you want? Do your research for salaries in your area from several sources. Image via Stocksy.

Tips for getting the UX design salary you want

Now when you have a better understanding of UX design fields, it's time to discuss practical tips that will help you get a better UX design salary.

Use these actionable tips to negotiate a better salary:

  • Research salaries in your area. The salary you can expect will depend largely on where you live. Large metropolitan areas such as San Francisco or New York offer more career opportunities and larger salaries.

  • Look at several different sources, like Glassdoor, Indeed, Zip Recruiter, and LinkedIn to determine what the competitive salary range is in your area.

  • Diversify your skill set. Your level of expertise plays a tremendous role in how much money you can expect. Generally, the more experience you have in different fields, the more valuable as a professional you become for a company that will hire you.

  • Create a solid portfolio. Think of your portfolio as an investment you make in yourself. The better you showcase your projects, the more chances you will have a better salary. A personal website makes your work searchable—potential clients can come to you. And, it’s easy to share. Meanwhile a PDF or your work can be curated for specific clients or interviews. It doesn’t hurt to have both.

  • Improve your communication and organizational skills with free courses like this one by Coursera. Both are essential tools of a UX professional's toolkit. Communication defines the success (or failure) of any design process.

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