This article will focus on the job classification of UX designer —future articles will focus on other design fields, like visual and research.
Which designer are you?
Design is currently one of the hottest, in-demand fields — 2018 will be no different. However, the biggest trend for 2018 is the widening salary range for more experienced designers.
In the early 2000’s, design was just beginning to be defined as a broad speciality. No one really knew what it was. Was it visual design? Were you designing for interactions and experiences? What was user experience? Are these people web designers? Visual designers? Apps and mobile design didn’t even exist yet.
As we hit 2010, design started to codify itself on a spectrum. We saw the emergence of multiple specialities, though the lines were still blurred. We had graphic designers, visual designers, web designers, and UX/UI designers. But, companies still didn’t really know who they were hiring for and what type of design was needed. As designers, we didn’t really know what to call ourselves either.
As we march towards 2020, we have a much clearer picture of the design field: visual designer, UX researcher, UX designer, interaction designer, and product designer. Keep in mind, I said “clearer” not “clear”. Companies are still defining each role differently, but these capture about 85% of the design job openings on Indeed and LinkedIn.
UX Designer Salary Ranges (2018 Forecast)
Jr. Designer: 0–2 years of experience
- $45K — 88K projected starting salary in 2018
- $77K median salary for 2017
- $43K range (lowest to highest)
- The higher paying entry level positions typical require internships of at least 1–2 years and a comprehensive portfolio. Higher paying design jobs were also located and were more plentiful on the coasts: New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
Mid-Level Designer: 2–5 years of experience
- $71K — 108K projected starting salary in 2018
- $86K median salary for 2017
- $37K range (lowest to highest)
- These mid-level positions require some previous professional design experience. These were the most common positions and can typically be found in both tech and non-tech companies.
Sr. Designer: 6–10 years of experience
- $84K — 160K projected starting salary in 2018
- $103K median salary for 2017
- $76K range (lowest to highest)
- One of the biggest trends for 2018 is the proliferation of Sr. Designer positions, often with more positions available than Jr. positions. Companies are looking for designers to add immediate value to their products, so they want designers who can hit the ground running and do not need ramp up. Typically, senior designers have defined specialties: like mobile, web, IoT, etc — these make them extremely value for more focused tech teams.
Principal Designer: 10+ years of experience
- $109K — 190K projected starting salary in 2018
- $120K median salary for 2017
- $81K range (lowest to highest)
- A principal designer is basically an expert in a particular area of design. This is the highest level for an individual contributor and requires extensive and proven experience in a successful commercial application. Larger tech companies are more likely to hire multiple principal designers, whereas smaller and mid-sized organizations may have 1 or 0. Since design is still a relatively new field, it is very hard to find people with 10+ years of commercial design experience. And, as it is a fluid field, senior designers are still seen as adding similar value as a principal in many orgs.
2018’s UX Designer Median Salary
“In 2018, The Creative Group projects that the midpoint (50th percentile) salary for a UX designer to be $93,000.”
All Designer Jobs (UX, Industrial, Fashion, Visual) 2001–2025
Regional Distribution of UX Designers
UX Designer Annual Salary 1997–2017
UX Designer Salary by Region — CPI Adjusted 2015
UX Designer Education in 2017–2018
UX Designer Job Maturity 2017 — 2018
The Key Points
The UX design industry continues to boom, but roles are still not well defined. Hot tech hubs like Silicon Valley and New York are seeing salaries at 1.5x or 2x the rate of non-tech regions.
- 238,000 UX designers across over 129,000 companies
- Most popular way to work as a UX designer is self-employment, freelancing
- $93,000 is projected to be the national median salary for a mid-level UX designer in 2018.
- 65% of UX designers report being self-taught as their primary means of design education
- 10% or more expansion in the design industry is projected over the next 5 years
- Sr. UX Designers and Principal Designers have the widest pay range, mostly due to their regional demand and dependence on experience, specialization, and previous experience. Companies are willing to pay top dollar for designers with a proven track record, rather than just relying on market rates or years of experience.
- Jr. UX Designer jobs are in less demand. Companies are looking for experienced designers who can hit the ground running and typically do not have enough experienced talent to mentor junior designers. These junior designers tend to revert to freelancing, self-employment, or internship positions.
This article was originally published on Justin’s Medium page.