What’s the UX Job Market Like?
I’m choosing to transition into User Experience Design because it is a discipline that balances form with function, and uses empathy to drive measurable change. As it turns out, a lot of other enterprising folks exploring career options feel the same way! I’m currently in an 11-week immersive UX Design course with General Assembly, a program that has already had 1100+ graduates, with many more to come.
Hold on. How many UX designer jobs are actually out there, and do they live up to the expectations of optimistic “career switchers” like myself?
A search on Indeed.com showed 389 open, full-time jobs within 10 miles of Washington, DC (where I live), with 290 of them available to designers with 5 years of experience or less.
To better understand the opportunities in this space, I reviewed 18 UX job descriptions spanning the government/nonprofit, start-up, creative agency, and corporate sectors. I found positions under the following titles:
- User Experience Designer (most common)
- Interaction Designer (had greater emphasis on web design and technology)
- User Experience Researcher (focused on the research and initial parts of the UX design process, emphasizes interpersonal skills and/or field work)
- Designer (more of a catch-all position, often combines UX with visual design)
The desired skills and responsibilities were quite consistent across different titles and organizations, and definitely reflected the themes that attracted me to UX in the first place.
- Strong, clear communication
- Ability to synthesize and present findings
- Ability to run iterative process
- Ability to produce wireframes, workflows, personas, case studies, prototypes, other deliverables
- Knowledge of industry standard tools: Photoshop, Sketch, prototyping and wireframe development programs
- Often desired: front-end web development, visual design, mobile-responsive design
- Teamwork and collaboration
- Advocating for the user, as well as for the prioritization of user experience within the organization
- Balancing competing priorities/goals/visions
- Diving into complex interactions/problems
But if I made the leap into UX to find that magical (and elusive) combination of interesting, impact-driven and hands-on work, I certainly can’t stop at the job function alone. How many of those 290 jobs are also attractive in terms of:
- The industry and type of organization?
Context matters! I’m admittedly not much of a sports fan, and I wouldn’t be as excited to design for users checking baseball scores than I would for users trying to access affordable healthcare.
- The organization’s size and culture?
I’ve always thrived in small, flexible environments, but I’ve also gained a reputation in those spaces for being an advocate of good structure and processes. I’ll be prioritizing finding an organizational sweet spot with ambitious, supportive, and fun teammates.
- The role within the team?
How much of the design process would I be involved in, and do I own any parts of it? Let’s put it this way: I’m not power-hungry, just curious and eager to do more.
After taking these factors into account, my potential job pool dropped to under 20 opportunities. Yikes! However, not to fear: as the need for great UX continues to be embraced across industries and functions, new opportunities will open up daily. For now, I’ll choose to focus on building my skills, and finding the job opportunities that best allow me to develop them.