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How to become a UX designer (5 step guide)
You'll probably hear quite a bit of conversation in the next few years on creative jobs that focus on the customer. Because of this renewed commitment to making technology easier, faster, and better, UX Designers will continue to be in high demand. "UX" literally stands for "user experience", which should tell you a lot about what the job entails and why it's a good fit for those who are detail-oriented, able to adapt, and forward-thinking. In fact, because the role of UX designer requires both a background in design and a technical aptitude that allows for continual skill development, it's an opportunity for the tech-savvy and the creative.
The future is bright
Because the average salary for even a beginner UX Designer can be $60,000 or more (and $90,000+ for more experienced professionals), it's a favorite job field for those who love a challenge. Solving problems and bringing ideas to life is at the heart of this career, and almost every company that has a mobile app, desktop application, or another user interface will need at least one trustworthy UX Designer on their team. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 10-year job growth will be at a staggering 22.1%, amounting to a total of over 3.4 million jobs available for those with the right skills.
For someone with an amazing work ethic and is open to flexible work goals, there is almost unlimited potential to find work both in the U.S. and globally. Remote jobs aren't as common with UX designers (compared to writers or marketing professionals), but they do exist. Working for a start-up also offers the chance to get in on the ground floor with a company that provides profit sharing.
How to start
UX designers make so much because they have to be good at all things. The position requires the perfect mix of programmer, designer, customer service champion, and business analyst. In short, it's a very skill-intensive job that will reward the agilest and experienced designers. So, what can a novice do to get in on this fantastic opportunity? Most agree that job skills enrichment, training, and very specialized educational programs are where it's at. With the right learning, a career in user experience could be yours!
1. Get design basics
Perhaps you have a graphic design or fine arts degree. That's certainly a start toward becoming a UX designer. But even if you don't have a formal background in design, there are plenty of opportunities to learn what makes good user design through informal learning programs. You can start by reading up on some of the best articles from those in the field who are doing it well. Frequently browse through Dribbble portfolios to see what the most celebrated designers are creating and selling.
Remember, that UX and UI design is a little more "real-world" than things learned in basic design school courses. While you may have a foundation of color and balance, there are some elements necessary for web design that you'll need to learn by doing. Typography is one part of design, for example, that you'll get better with over time and testing.
When is the last time you made a mock-up – just for fun? By doing practice projects, you’re giving yourself a chance to gain real-world UX skills and also learn what elements of the job you love (and which will require you to buckle down and just tolerate.) Work on your skills every day, even if you have no formal clients to serve. Just updating your design software and learning about a new brush kit or color palette counts in your overall development.
3. Get a mentor
In addition to trying new skills with sample projects, you should look into asking others for feedback. Get involved with a mastermind group that pairs more experienced designers with newer ones. Consider taking an intern role (even if you're out of college and won't get class credit for it.) Read what the industry leaders are saying and doing. Create your dream list of projects that inspire and educate.
4. Take courses
While helpful, a college degree in design or computer science isn’t mandatory. In fact, many designers continue to work on their development with voluntary coursework – much of which is available online. Price points for these courses will vary. The following sites offer a variety of learning opportunities, although it's up to you to research each diligently to ensure the information presented is timely, relevant, and accurate:
- Springboard – This prevalent learning platform often has a waitlist. For less than $500 a month, you can pick up many of the skill needed to start work as a UX Designer in 2-3 months. Mentoring and community support services are included!
- Career Foundry – For $8,000 or less (depending on the course you pick), you can learn the skills today's employers are looking for with 8-months of access to the program. One-on-one feedback from instructors is provided, and there is a variety of start dates for this go-at-your-own-pace course.
- Treehouse – For the budget-conscious learner, this site is a win-win! View 1000’s of video courses at your leisure with the affordable $25 a month plan, or go bigger with full community support for just $49 a month. Both programs allow you to access unlimited, high-quality resources when its convenient for you.
- Lynda – This leader in business and tech courses offers a subscription plan starting at $19.99 a month that gets you access to the certificate program, too!
- Coursera – Connecting top learning institutions and universities with learners worldwide, Coursera doesn’t charge for its interactive, educational content in a variety of tech areas – including UX!
Learning the skills needed to be a competent UX Designer is just the start of launching your new career. It's a bumpy road for many, and it requires iron-clad resolve to become the professional who can thrive in such an in-demand job. The good news is that there will be no shortage for those who can get up-to-speed on what companies require; those who can address problems in unique and creative ways will thrive in this high-paced career choice.
There's an old saying that goes "it's not what you know, but who you know." While skillset is undoubtedly essential to becoming a UX Designer, it's not everything. Knowing someone at a hiring company or getting connected with a team who can help direct your career is critical these days. It may be the difference of $20,000 a year or working at a company that has a respectful company culture, and that makes impressive contributions to causes that matter most to you. Consider setting up a profile on LinkedIn to let others know you're happy to engage. Getting allies in this industry is what many high-earning pros credit for their overall career success.
Do you have the creativity, business sense, and customer empathy needed to be a UX Designer? Whether you are making the leap from web designer or are starting from scratch, those who can excel in the core components of user experience have a bright future ahead! It’s a job that’s really “not about you” but has the potential to be rewarding to professionals who follow the path. Submit your proposals, manage your contracts and invoices, and track your time with a free Bonsai trial.