What Is a UX Engineer? And How to Become One

Written by Coursera • Updated on Jul 6, 2021

UX engineers combine front end engineering with UX principles, and frequently collaborate with designers, researchers, and back end engineers.

UX engineer hard at work

A user experience (UX) engineer builds and designs digital products like websites and apps while using UX principles. UX engineers generally deal with the front end of these products—the user-facing parts that people interact with, like the buttons, layouts, and flow of the interfaces. They may work on both engineering teams or design teams, or act as liaisons between the two.

What does a UX engineer do, exactly?

As a hybrid between a developer and UX designer, the work of a UX engineer includes both UX principles and engineering tasks. Here’s a breakdown of what a UX engineer can be expected to do:

  • Plan and design web pages and apps: A UX engineer uses UX principles to create digital products. This can mean using wireframes, prototypes, and design tools to create blueprints for what a website or app will look like.

  • Program the front-end: UX engineers are unique from UX designers because they can code. A UX engineer will use front-end programming languages like HTML, CSS, or Javascript to create layouts, interactive features, or execute other design ideas.

  • Collaborate with UX and engineering teams: As a professional with both design and programming abilities, UX engineers often act as the bridge between the two teams. UX engineers can work with designers, back end engineers, and writers to develop products. They may also conduct user testing, A/B testing, and other forms of research in collaboration with the UX team.

UX engineers may find their roles are similar to UX developers, front end developers, product design engineers, or UI engineers, though each can differ slightly.

Read more: What Does a UX Designer Do?

UX engineer salary and job outlook

UX engineers in the US make an average salary of $102,951 as of April 2021, according to Glassdoor [1]. It’s a field that’s likely to see healthy growth in the future, with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting web developer and digital designer jobs to grow by eight percent from 2019 to 2029 [2].

Compare this to graphic designers, an occupation projected to decline by four percent, and computer programmers, who are expected to see a nine percent decrease, due to those jobs moving overseas [3].

How to become a UX engineer

There are several routes to becoming a UX engineer. Whether you’re a seasoned web developer who wants to make the leap into UX, fresh out of college, or somewhere in between, here are some ways you can get started.

1. Align your skills. 

The skills you bring to the table will be important in convincing people to hire you as a UX engineer. Even if you don’t have all of the technical skills expected of the job, there are many courses you can take to learn the fundamentals. Here are some of the skills you’ll want to have, and how you can get them.

  • Programming languages: Because UX engineers tend to deal with the front-facing portions of websites and apps—the menus, layouts, and navigation pages—learning the coding languages that will allow you to build out the structure and style of your products will be crucial. These include:

    • HTML

    • CSS

    • Javascript

    You can start learning HTML, CSS, and Javascript through an introductory course, or pursue a full specialization in web development.

  • UX concepts: Knowing what UX is and how to implement those practices in your work is what sets UX engineers apart from front-end engineers. Knowing what user-centered design means, how to find pain points, how to prototype, and being able to carry out user research should be a priority if you aren’t familiar already. You can earn a professional certificate in UX design with Google that will introduce you to the essentials of the field, and give you a chance to create your own UX portfolio.

  • Sense of design and design tools: Having a sense of design isn’t necessarily something the artistically-oriented are born with—many concepts can be learned. Getting a good grasp of design practices won’t just make you a better UX engineer; it’ll help you communicate with designers on your team. Here are a few design tools and skills you can start with:

    • Typography

    • Color theory

    • Imagemaking

    • Adobe Creative Suite

    • Figma

    • Sketch

    Consider a specialization in graphic design or interaction design if you’re in unfamiliar territory.

2. Build a portfolio.

Having a portfolio where you can showcase what you’re capable of can be a quick way to demonstrate you have what it takes to do the job. If you have a few projects under your belt, you can load them onto your LinkedIn. You can also create a portfolio with a website hosting service like Wix or SquareSpace. Customizable websites can be a good way to put your UX engineering chops in action. Focus on clean, intuitive design, and make sure your code is functional and free of errors.

3. Learn the space.

Breaking into a new space can be overwhelming—there’s new jargon to learn, tools to master, and jobs to find. You can help yourself get used to the terminology, pain points, and way people think in the UX world by joining networking groups, browsing forums, or finding resources like books and podcasts (logins may be required). 

Once you grow more familiar with the field, you can consider reaching out to others to expand your professional network. Here’s a little more on networking to get interviews.

4. Consider a degree or certification.

If you’re still in college or considering going back to school, a degree can be a structured way to build out UX engineering skills. Think about studying one of the following fields:

  • Computer science

  • Human-computer interaction

  • Design

  • Psychology

Is a degree not what you’re looking for? There are several UX certifications and bootcamps that can act as a crash course to the UX world. Though they can cost several hundred—or even thousands—of dollars, they may still be cheaper than getting a full degree.

Taking the next step

UX engineering is a new and growing role that combines artistic sensibility with your ability to code. If you know you want to become a UX engineer, you can start by filling any gaps in your skills, building a portfolio, and getting familiar with the space.

Ready to take the leap into UX? Consider enrolling in the Google UX Design Professional Certificate. The first week is free.

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Article sources

1. Glassdoor. "User Experience Engineer Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/user-experience-engineer-salary-SRCH_KO0,24.htm." Accessed May 5, 2021.

2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Web Developers and Digital Designers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/web-developers.htm." Accessed May 5, 2021.

3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Computer Programmers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-programmers.htm." Accessed May 5, 2021.

Written by Coursera • Updated on Jul 6, 2021

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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