4 UX Careers Beyond Design You’ll Want to Explore

Written by Coursera • Updated on

As the UX field evolves, specialized UX jobs have risen. These include UX researcher, UX engineer, UX writer, and information architect.

A UX researcher in the office

As UX (user experience) design took off in the last decade, several other jobs were created in its wake. It means that those with different skill sets—the writers, engineers, psychologists, and others among us—have a UX path they could channel their talents into. LinkedIn listed UX design as one of the top in-demand skills to learn in 2020 [1]. But experts say UX design will break down into more specialized disciplines—in fact it already has [2]. 

Here are four of those disciplines in the UX field.

UX careers and specialties

The following UX career paths might involve elements of design, but design won’t be central to day-to-day work. Salaries listed are from Glassdoor in June 2021.

1. UX researcher

Average US salary: $125,778

As a UX researcher, you’ll be expected to carry out qualitative and quantitative research on the users of a product. That can mean conducting interviews, distributing surveys, or using card sorting. If the idea of conducting research to see what elements of design people like or find challenging sounds appealing, then UX research may be rewarding for you. UX researchers might also be called user researchers, UX analysts, or usability analysts. Skills often requested of UX researchers include:

  • User testing methods: Knowing various ways to user test will be your prime weapon as a user researcher. Make sure you’re familiar with methods like card sorting, A/B testing, guerilla testing, and surveys—and in what situations they’re best deployed.

  • Human-computer interaction or psychology: Many job descriptions for UX researchers call for an academic background in human-computer interaction, psychology, or a related field.

  • Data analysis: Basic data analysis tools like SQL, or data visualization tools like Tableau or Power BI, can help you understand and organize the data you collect from your research.

2. UX engineer

Average US salary: $102,821

UX engineers, known also as UX developers, code the interfaces of websites and apps using UX principles. They might use front-end programming languages to create the buttons, layouts, menus, and small animations that make up a pleasant user experience. UX engineer skills include:

  • Front-end programming languages: As a front-end developer, knowing how to program in HTML, CSS, and Javascript will likely be key to doing your job well.

  • UX concepts: Job descriptions often ask for an understanding of UX principles, like user-centric thinking, wireframing, prototyping, and user research skills.

  • Design tools and sensibility: Knowing basic design concepts like color theory and typography, and being able to use design tools like Figma or Sketch can show employers your versatility as a UX engineer.

3. UX writer

Average US salary: $117,673

A UX writer creates the microcopy—the words on buttons and menus, in chatbot conversations and error messages—that help a user navigate through digital products. They try to balance the user’s needs, goals, and emotions with limitations like a company’s brand voice and business needs. Copy writers and technical writers might occupy similar roles in a UX team. A UX writer needs the following skills:

  • Writing: UX writing goes beyond good grammar and spelling. UX writers are expected to empathize with the user, write concisely, control tone, and stay true to a company’s brand voice.

  • Digital design tools: Familiarity with Figma, Sketch, Adobe Creative Cloud, or other design tools can help UX writers implement their work.

  • User research: A/B testing, data analysis, and running session recordings can be useful for UX writers to determine how copy affects users.

4. Information architect

Average US salary: $104,571

Information architects organize information on websites and applications to make them easily navigable to users. They might plan the layout of a website, decide where it makes most sense to have a purchase button, or develop sitemaps to strategize how best to group content together.

  • Front-end development: Some familiarity with various elements of front-end development, like static site generators and programming languages, is often requested.

  • User testing: Information architects can use user testing methods like A/B testing, card sorting, or session recordings to see what formats are most usable for users.

  • Project management: Because information architects’ jobs often see crossover with the UX design and engineering teams, they might be expected to be able to organize a team and see a project through to completion. Project management skills might come in handy here.

Starting your UX career

Maybe you’re a good writer, maybe you know how to code, or maybe you love trying to understand the clockwork of people’s brains. So how can you translate those skills and passions into a UX career?

Learning the basics of user research, the design process, and the vocabulary of the field is a good place to start. Consider a program like the Google UX Design Professional Certificate—you can learn UX essentials, create a professional portfolio, and equip yourself with the UX skills to be job-ready in less than six months.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

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Article sources

1. LinkedIn. "New LinkedIn Research: Upskill Your Employees with the Skills Companies Need Most in 2020, https://www.linkedin.com/business/learning/blog/learning-and-development/most-in-demand-skills-2020." Accessed November 19, 2021.

2. Fast Company. "5 Design Jobs That Won’t Exist In The Future, https://www.fastcompany.com/3063318/5-design-jobs-that-wont-exist-in-the-future." Accessed November 19, 2021.

3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Web Developers and Digital Designers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/web-developers.htm.” Accessed November 19, 2021.

4. Glassdoor. “UX Designer Overview. https://www.glassdoor.com/Career/ux-designer-career_KO0,11.htm.” Accessed November 19, 2021

5. Glassdoor. “User Experience Researcher Overview. https://www.glassdoor.com/Career/user-experience-researcher-career_KO0,26.htm.” Accessed November 19, 2021.

6. Nielsen Norman Group. “User Experience Careers. https://media.nngroup.com/media/reports/free/UserExperienceCareers_2nd_Edition.pdf.” Accessed November 19, 2021.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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