What Is a UX Researcher? How to Get the Job

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

UX researchers systematically study target users to collect and analyse data that will help inform the product design process.

[Featured image] A smiling woman in a white lace shirt sits in front of a laptop with user research data on the screen

In order to develop products that satisfy user needs (and delight them in the process), you first need to know who your user is and what that person’s needs are. That’s where user experience (UX) research comes in. 

UX researchers systematically study target users to collect and analyse data that will help inform the product design process. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at what UX researchers do, how they do it, and what steps you can take to start or advance a career in this in-demand field.

What is UX research?

One of the first steps in designing a new product or improving the user experience of an existing product is to start thinking about your users. Who are they? Where are they from? What do they want? Why do they want it? How can your product help them get what they want?

As a UX researcher, it’s your job to answer these questions. Instead of making a best guess based on your own subjective experience, you’ll design a research strategy that will empower you to answer these questions in a data-driven way. You become an advocate for your users, in a way, giving them a voice in the product development process.

Types of research

As a UX researcher, you generally work with two types of research, qualitative and quantitative. We’ll take a brief look at each type (and when it might be useful).

  • Quantitative research focuses on numbers and statistics. In terms of usability, this might mean measuring how long it takes an average user to complete a task, what per cent of users successfully completed the task, and how many errors or bugs they encountered along the way. These numbers tend to be most useful when you have something to compare them to — either a previous design or a competitor’s product.

  • Qualitative research examines non-numerical insights, such as why users had trouble completing a task or how they felt whilst using a product. If quantitative research gives us the “what”, qualitative research gives us the “why.” 

Another distinction made between types of research is that between behavioural and attitudinal research. 

  • Behavioural research methods examine what users do. Where do they click on a page? What navigational path do they take through an app?

  • Attitudinal research looks at a user’s feelings and attitudes toward an experience.

In addition to these types of research, you will likely use context-of-use analysis. This is a popular research method to identify the context in which a product or application will be used by the user. Based on this, several aspects of the product may take priority in the research process to ensure the customers have the best experience. This also helps researchers and designers allocate resources where they are most important.

UX research methods

One aspect of your role as a UX designer will be deciding which research method is appropriate for answering which questions. You'll rely on a variety of research methods to help you glean information from your users.

  • Card sorting: Study participants organise topics into groups that make the most sense to them and create labels for these groups. With this information, designers can create apps and websites that are more intuitive and easy to navigate.

  • Usability testing: Participants try to complete a task with a product whilst you observe. This lets you measure how successful users are at completing a task, how quickly they complete it, what problems they encounter, and how satisfied they felt with the process.

  • A/B testing: This tests two versions of a product against each other to see which the target audience prefers. This can be done with a live product by showing different versions of a webpage to different visitors or sending two different versions of a mailing to different recipient lists.

  • User interviews: Interviews conducted face to face (either online or in person) offer a quick and easy way to get insight into what a user wants from a potential product or collect qualitative data regarding an existing product. When these interviews are conducted with more than one person at a time, they’re often called focus groups. 

  • UX research surveys: You can design a survey or questionnaire to return both qualitative and quantitative data. By using the same questions and conducting multiple surveys, you can track the improvement of a product throughout its development and lifecycle.

  • Diary studies: Target users keep a log of their day-to-day activities over a defined (usually extended) period of time. This gives you insight into behaviours and experiences in the real world. You could learn when during the day a user typically engages with your product or how often they use it over the course of a day, a week, or a month.

  • Contextual observation: Instead of interviewing users in a lab, you’ll observe them in their natural context—at home or at work maybe—whilst asking questions to better understand how and why they do what they do.

  • First-click testing: This type of user testing examines what a target user clicks on first on a website or app interface when trying to complete a task. You can do a first-click test on a live site, prototype, or wireframe.

  • Ethnographic interviews: This type of interview helps UX researchers get a better understanding of the environment in which a product will be used. Interviews, field studies, and site visits are all important to contextualise the average consumer’s environment. 

What does a UX researcher do?

Now that we have a better understanding of what user experience research is, let’s take a closer look at what you might do in your day-to-day role as a UX researcher, as well as what skills and tools you might use to get the job done. 

Tasks and responsibilities

A day on the job as a UX researcher will likely vary based on the project you’re working on or the company you’re working for. These are a few of the tasks you may perform on the job:

  • Collaborating with designers and stakeholders to understand research needs

  • Defining research questions and selecting appropriate methods of data collection

  • Developing budgets and timelines for research projects

  • Recruiting participants for research studies

  • Conducting design research studies and analysing the data collected

  • Transforming your findings into easily understandable insights

  • Presenting your findings to designers, developers, and other stakeholders

Typically, there are five basic steps that UX researchers will follow when beginning their research on a specific project:

  1. Determine the objectives. What is the average user looking for? How can you meet their needs?

  2. Develop your hypothesis. What do you think the user is looking for? What niche is your product trying to fill?

  3. Create the methods. Determine the scale of your research, how you are going to collect your data, and what research methods are most appropriate.

  4. Collect the data. Follow the steps of your methods and make it a reality!

  5. Synthesise the data. Now that you have collected the data, what are the findings? Do they fall in line with your expectations? If not, how do you need to change the product?

Essential skills and tools

Successful UX researchers often develop a set of skills to help them effectively gain insight into current and prospective users. If you’re considering a career in UX research, you may start focusing on a few of these skills now. 

  • Communication skills: Much of the job involves working with a design team and communicating with research participants to answer research questions.

  • Empathy: Understanding a user’s expectations, frustrations, goals, and reasoning process can help you develop solutions to real user needs.

  • Design thinking: Each stage of the design thinking process—empathise, define, ideate, prototype, and test—offers opportunities to learn more about our target users.

  • Problem-solving: Thinking critically about what questions you’re trying to answer with your research can help you select the appropriate methodology.

  • Curiosity: A sense of curiosity can prompt you to ask insightful questions and discover meaningful insights.

  • Collaboration: As a UX researcher, you’ll often be working alongside developers, designers, product managers, and other stakeholders to bring the best possible product to market.

  • Written skills: Based on your findings, you may be asked to create basic copy and draft new ideas to send to stakeholders.

Other roles in UI/UX

Research is just one aspect of UI/UX design. If you’re interested in the field, there are other positions to consider.

  • UX designers are responsible for making products usable, useful, and enjoyable for users.

  • UI designers create the visual elements of computer and electronic interfaces.

  • Information architects organise and manage information to make it intuitive, accessible, and understandable.

  • UX engineers, more commonly known as developers, translate designs into usable code.

  • Interaction designers focus on the moment of interaction between the user and a product. This can be its own role or part of a UX/UI designer’s job.

Why pursue a career as a UX researcher?

If you’re a naturally curious person who enjoys working with a team, a career in UX research could be a good fit. It’s an in-demand job in a well-paying industry.

UX researcher salary

According to Glassdoor (June 2023), the average base pay for UX researchers in India is ₹9,00,000 per year [1]. However, individual salaries will likely range due to experience, location, company size, and responsibilities of the role. 

Job outlook

India currently has more than 600 million active internet users, and this number should reach 900 million by 2025 [2]. As the number of people using digital products and tools increases, so should the number of jobs available in the industry which is why India Today listed UX researcher as one of the growing career opportunities in the country [3].

How to become a UX researcher

UX research, like many areas of UI/UX design, is a relatively new role. As such, you may not find one established path leading to a career in UX research. Some UX researchers are self-taught, whilst others transition from other careers. As you pursue your own career path, consider these tips.

1. Get a degree in a relevant discipline.

Most UX researcher positions require candidates with an undergraduate degree, though it doesn’t necessarily have to be in a UX-related field. Earning your degree in a field related to computer science could be beneficial. Here are some programmes of study to consider if you're interested in a career in UX:

  • Computer science

  • Human-computer interaction

  • Psychology

  • Digital marketing

  • Product design 

  • Graphic design

  • Anthropology

This may seem like a big variety. In reality, user researchers come from a huge range of backgrounds. Many may not have even found out about UX until they were well out of college. If you already have a degree in an unrelated topic, don't worry. You can find other ways to develop UX skills.

2. Develop your user research skills.

Aside from a degree, you’ll find numerous ways to learn about the tools and techniques of user research whilst developing your skills in the industry. Depending on your learning style, here are a few ways you can start building your skill set today:

  • Get hands-on practice creating an A/B test for a web page, analysing UX survey data, or communicating research results through empathy maps. Each project takes less than two hours to complete.

  • Take advantage of free resources, like blogs and podcasts, to learn the vocabulary of the industry and stay on top of the latest trends.

  • Enrol in other courses or UX boot camps. Some universities also offer UX research certificates or specialisations for non-degree-seeking learners. 

3. Gain UX research experience.

Browse job postings for UX researcher positions, and you’ll sometimes see related work experience listed as a requirement. Luckily, you don’t have to wait until you get a job to start gaining hands-on experience.

  • Volunteer your UX research skills for a local small business or non-profit user research sessions to build your experience. Online user experience communities are often available to help match your skills with a mentor and begin to build your network within this industry.

  • Many large companies, including Google, Meta, Adobe, Apple, and Microsoft, offer UX internships, and some of these could have a research component. Applying for an internship is much like applying for a job. The process typically involves an application and an interview. Look for opportunities posted on LinkedIn or Twitter. If there's a particular company you'd like to intern for, keep an eye on their site for new openings.

  • Join a hackathon team. Put your UX research skills to work by joining one of these fast-paced, competitive software development events. It's a great way to network with other UX and design professionals whilst collaborating on a project for your portfolio. Browse sites like hackathon.com or Smart India Hackathon to build your network and learn about events online or in your area.

4. Build your UX researcher portfolio.

Speaking of portfolios, your portfolio demonstrates your skills and experience to potential employers, making it a key element of your application. As you take classes, complete projects, or volunteer your time, keep track of your work and include your best and most recent projects in your portfolio. 

You can host your portfolio on your own website (services like Wix and Squarespace are popular for this), or you can use LinkedIn or a GitHub repository as a free platform for showcasing your best work.

To brush up on your skills or add to your existing portfolio, consider the Using Google Forms to Analyse User Research Data Guided Project from the Coursera Project Network. In about an hour, you can work on creating surveys, gathering results, and presenting insights.

5. Grow your network.

Start building a network of people in the UX industry. This could include coworkers at your current job, UX research organisations, or online UX communities. Networking is often an effective way to find out about new opportunities and meet potential employers. Also, networking during your job search can be a great way to get interviews.

Get started with Coursera

Whether you’re new to UX research or looking to advance your career in this field, the Google UX Design Professional Certificate on Coursera is a great way to build your knowledge and set you up for success in the UX field. You will learn in-demand skills such as how to plan and execute user research, apply foundational UX concepts, and create a portfolio that will stand out to employers. Upon completion, gain a shareable Professional Certificate to include in your resume, CV, or LinkedIn profile. 

Article sources


Glassdoor. “UX Researcher Salary in India, https://www.glassdoor.co.in/Salaries/india-ux-researcher-salary-SRCH_IL.0,5_IN115_KO6,19.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed June 21, 2023.

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