The Two Best UX Designer Career Paths | How To Advance
The business world has finally perceived design as a Unique Selling Point of change. According to research from Forrester, every $1 spent on UX today brings in $100 more (9900% ROI).
This tectonic shift has sparked Design Thinking, which takes the UX career beyond marketing, to the design methods that solve familiar business problems. These include organizational management, statistical analysis, and competitive strategy.
The UX career goes beyond photoshop and UX tools. It puts UX designers in a collaborative position where they need to buy in all the right people in the company.
David A. Norman, founder of UX, wisely put it this way:
Choosing the right UX career path is therefore crucial to your service offering. An understanding of what it takes to succeed is vital at this point of practice.
Understand the UX Designer Career Path
According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, the annual industry increment rate for UX designers stands at 3% (up to 2028). CNN Money supports this, predicting an 18% growth in demand for UX designers (since 2015).
All UX career varieties merge into two main career paths: managerial and technical.
You’ll learn more in the sections below. Meanwhile, you can get an overview from this Reddit thread.
What Does a UX Designer Do
Just like the UI designer, a UX designer is a generalist who covers all design aspects, including the user interface (in collaboration with a UI designer).
His role, similar to a UI designer, involves a 5-step process called Design Thinking.
The Design Thinking development process can further be broken down as follows:
This applies in principle to both the UX and the UI designer.
UX Designer Skills
UX designers (just like UI designers) perform either technical or managerial tasks. Their skill requirements are further classified as follows:
UX Manager Skills
A UX Manager needs to be a visual designer who is creative, analytical, and task-driven. To effectively manage the team as a UX director, the right candidate should be:
- Software Proficient: He should be conversant with project management software, customer research tools, and graphic design software.
- Business Savvy: A UX Manager should comfortably analyze business goals and match the right team for the project.
- An excellent communicator: He should synergize output from different teams, including researchers, designers, engineers, UI designers, writers, and the business team.
UX Technical Skills
A technical UX expert does the activities that deliver the actual design projects. Their UX job involves:
- User language and empathy: A UX researcher understands how the user interacts with the product. They perform user testing/usability testing as part of optimizing human-computer interaction (HCI).
- Story-telling: He incorporates screen presentations, verbal explanation, and writing for UX that build a compelling story of the final product.
- UI Prototyping and Wireframing: Wireframing and prototyping help clarify key design functionality. Using tools like Justinmind, you supplement UI designer roles and help create a functional user interface.
- Collaboration: Teaming up with UI designers and other professionals helps to complement your skills.
At Quantic, we embrace an Active Learning approach beyond the course content and help you think as a decision-maker. Our sessions are heavily interactive, aimed at making your UX design career more effortless and faster to navigate.
UX Designer Salary Statistics
According to PayScale.com, the average pay for a UX designer is $76,429 per year.
Competing Career Pathways in UX Technical Track vs Managerial
How To Become a UX Designer With No Experience
The following steps will help you transit from a complete newbie to a master in the skillset you prefer:
Step 1: Understand your transferable skills
From your previous career, there are positive aspects you can carry over to your UX career path. These include empathy, collaboration, time management, and clear communication.
Step 2: Find the right mix of mentors and friends
Design mentors will help you strike new levels of UX design since they already know what you’re struggling to learn. They could also point you to UX job opportunities.
Step 3: Keep learning
Make continuous learning a habit through UX courses, blogs, communities, and podcasts. Get well versed with current trends in the field.
Step 4: Get experience
Get hands-on experience with UI design. Enroll at the next hackathon opportunity and learn through collaboration. This exposure will help you gain the exposure you need.
Step 5: Work on your UX portfolio and apply for jobs
Develop a minimum of 3 varied UX case studies to demonstrate your UX work portfolio. For instance, one could showcase front-end web development skills, the other a mobile development, and the other a desktop app design.
To do well in the technical path, you need to:
Learn and Improve your visual design skills
You could sign up for UX courses that will help you build a solid portfolio, and pair you up with an industry expert.
Master a UX Prototyping tool
A UX prototyping tool like Sketch and InVision will help you physically practice what you learn from books and courses.
For more information, have a look at this mammoth 200+ tool list for UX designers.
Build an Online Portfolio Site
A good portfolio site should clearly introduce you (through a photo and contact information) and list your best works built using industry-relevant tools.
Make an Awesome Resume
Only highlight strong points relevant to the job you are eying or the type of clients you want. Be brief and clear, and avoid pitfalls.
Practice To Become a UX Designer
An easy way would be through volunteering at a site like VolunteerMatch, doing an unsolicited redesign challenge, or just applying UX methodologies to your current job.
To effectively lead a design team as a manager, you will need to:
Get a Bachelor’s Degree
This is a prerequisite to a master’s degree, which is today’s minimum standard for UX and design managers. Consider a course like business administration, economics, or engineering.
Get First-Hand Experience
A bachelor’s degree will help you land a job as an entry or middle-level expert. Furthermore, you could master:
- Interactive design: As an interaction designer, you need to understand user research to enhance their experience with the product.
- Analytical acumen: Observing and interpreting customer needs, market conditions, and competitors, with a view of explaining this to stakeholders.
- Problem-solving: Spotting issues with the current design/processes to enhance positive user interaction.
- Collaboration and team-building: UX chiefs are project managers who deal with clients, UX designers, UI designers, the overall product development team, and company stakeholders.
Get a Master’s Degree
A Master’s program arms you with industry knowledge, equipping you with the confidence senior UX designers need to meet the organization’s business goals. According to Coursera, getting an MBA also gives you a 50% chance for a pay hike.
Career Trajectory for a Software UX Designer After MBA
Why Do UX Designers Pursue an MBA?
As a designer, you may feel distant from the reality of business as a strategy. While you’re technically conversant with front-end stuff, Photoshop, and other similar tools, it seems daunting to convert and relate these to a corporate audience.
Luckily, you’re not alone. This is a reality most UX researchers and visual designers like you face.
An MBA will introduce you to concepts like financial accounting and corporate ethics, which will give you an elevated approach to UI design and customer impact.
The Best MBA for UX Designers
At Quantic, we believe that an MBA helps a UX professional better understand business, pain points, workflows, and business processes. These help shape the entire production process, from the initial strategy to the final concept.
We take a pedagogical, interactive approach to learning, making it easier and faster.
You can trust our mentors and tutors to give valuable feedback and aid in your learning and career advancement.
Is an MBA for UX Design Worth It?
Yes. Taking the managerial path requires the necessary skills offered by an MBA.
Our award-winning MBA program provides a curriculum meant for mid to late-career professionals. It comes packaged with the right mix of in-person and virtual meetups, career networks, and conferences to help you advance.
Within 14 months, Quantic students acquire skills and insight that help them scale to senior roles or start a new company. 94% of our alumni acknowledge that they’ve achieved their career dreams after graduating.
Quantic Alumni Who’ve Found UX Success
After working at several startups, Lindsey Allard co-founded PlaybookUX to solve the pain points of user research, which is a crucial aspect of UX design.
PlaybookUX provides video-based feedback, recruiting of the right participants, transcribing of sessions, and analysis of videos with A.I. to extract actionable insights, making user testing accessible and affordable to everyone.
Allard’s career path from product manager to co-founder of a user research company demonstrates how UX designers can leverage their skills and expertise to pursue entrepreneurial ventures in the field of UX design. Read the full case study here.
Amy Dalton’s mindset, self-motivation, and passion for learning have played a significant role in her career success. She is now the Senior UX Designer at GE Aviation and has a passion for empowering women and girls to pursue technology-related careers. Read the full case study here.
The UX design field has a bright future. If you want to branch out into a senior UX designer role, then getting an MBA is a rewarding choice.
So far, you’ve learned about the two broad career paths (managerial and technical) of UX design. You’ve also grasped the Design Thinking process and the skills that administrative and technical users require.
Better yet, you can take up a UX designer career without prior background experience.
At Quantic, we help you take the right trajectory that better your career. Our MBA degree programs are structured for interaction, networking, and relevance.