How to become a UX designer
If you're interested in problem-solving, want a career that's in demand and typically pays well, you might consider becoming a UX designer. According to the 2013 Survey of Design Salaries conducted by Aquent and AIGA, 25 percent of user experience designers earn a national median salary of $70,000 or less, 50 percent earn a national median salary of $85,000 or less, and 75 percent earn a national median salary of $100,000 or less. The job growth for user experience designers through 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics as reported by CNN, is 22.1 percent. That's well above the national average for all other jobs. The numbers lure many in. But the job itself is just as fascinating.
What is a UX designer?
Many aren't even familiar with what UX designers do. In short, UX designers take a product or a system — such as a website, for example — and design it in a way that's appealing and functional for users. This requires developing a prototype (to bring the idea from a concept to an actuality) and then combining the visuals with the information in a way that makes the experience for consumers enjoyable and not overly-complex and frustrating.
Think of it like a happiness assurance agent. Your job, if you become a UX designer, is to make users happy, with a clean, visually stimulating product.
What do you need to know to become one?
Because this career is relatively new, not many college degrees specifically in user experience design exist. But there are many degrees that are sought out by employers looking for UX designers, such as:
- Design (such as graphic, interaction, industrial and visual)
- Information architecture
- Cognitive psychology
- Computer science
- Human computer interaction
- Human factors
Aside from your educational background, it's helpful for UX designers to understand one — or many — of the following topics and programs:
- Microsoft Visio
- Application development
- Adobe Illustrator
- Adobe Photoshop
However, one of the most important things to know about how to become a UX designer is that you should care about, understand and empathize with people. This career is all about making people's lives easier and better.
What schools offer UX design courses, degrees and certificates?
Although it's not a widely offered degree, there are some options if aspiring UX designers truly want to get an education in the subject. Here are some schools that offer courses, degrees and certificates in UX design or related areas:
- Rutgers University
- Kent State University
- Pratt Institute
- California State University, Fullerton
- Carnegie Mellon University
The job of a UX designer is quite technical, so if that's not your background, you've got some learning to do. But it's potentially well worth the effort. For more information on how to become a UX designer and an extended list of sources, please check out the infographic below.
Comparing Total Compensation for User Experience Designer, AIGA | Aquent Survey of Design Studies, 2013,
User Experience Designer, "Best Jobs in America," CNN Money, Oct. 29, 2012,