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If you’ve been thinking about a career in UX, now is definitely the time to get started.

Demand for UX professionals has risen massively in many territories including Europe, the US and Australia. And as demand far outstrips supply, UX salaries have increased as companies compete to find those with the right skills and experience.

UX provides excellent opportunities to those working in it to progress relatively quickly with their career development, if they show talent and have the right mindset.

We take a look at the current demand for UX professionals and the salaries they can expect to earn.

Demand for UX professionals has never been greater

The number one in-demand role for 2018 is a UX designer, according to the Onward Search Digital, Creative and Marketing Professionals Salary Guide. UI designer comes in at number four and user researcher appears at number eleven in the list.

Interestingly, many of the top ten in-demand roles in the list typically involve some element of UX knowledge (for the record, they are product designer, digital designer, front end developer and graphic designer).

“The best websites and apps have a common theme – they’re easy to use and understand,” says Ken Clark, CEO of Onward Search. “And that’s why demand is consistently on the rise for UX designers and other professionals in this field.”

It’s a situation familiar to recruitment companies around the globe.

Dara Boland, who is Principal Consultant – UX at Morgan McKinley, says the growth in demand has been noticeable during the past five years but there has been a particularly sharp rise in demand for UX designers in the past 12-18 months.

”Business is backing design and is investing more and more in UX,” he says. “Companies of all shapes and sizes, across all industries are seeking out the digital opportunities afforded to them by UX. Resulting from this, we have witnessed a surge in jobs in the space and a talent war is well underway, as companies try and secure limited personnel.

“The demand has both come from companies looking to set up larger scale design teams (in some cases, 20 to 30 people) and from companies with no previous design culture beginning to appreciate the need for at least 1-2 talented UX designers on site.”

John Dennehy, Founder and Executive Chairman of Zartis, an IT recruitment company, agrees that demand for UX professionals has increased significantly in recent years and uses Ireland as a good example of this.  

“A lot of multinationals that started in Ireland with sales and support teams have realised there’s a very strong local pool of creative and technical experts,” he says. “As a result, more software projects are being owned and built out of Ireland. UX is obviously an essential part of this process.

“The indigenous software sector is also thriving, creating even more demand. Finally, more corporates are building out ‘digital transformation’ projects and one of the first needs that arise out of this are UX skills. It’s a good time to be in UX.”

How big is the demand for UX professionals?

In a fast changing recruitment environment, it can be hard to quantify exactly how big the demand for UX professionals is. However, a report in 2016 (Mind the Gap: A Report on the UK’s Technology Skills Landscape) recorded a 289 per cent increase in requests for UX interviews. The report commented that, “Market appetite for these skills is far outstripping supply today.”

In 2017, Adobe spoke to 500 managers and department heads working in UX design and asked them about their needs and hiring priorities.

Some 87 per cent of those surveyed said that hiring more UX designers was the top priority for the organisation, higher than graphic designers and product managers, and tying with software developers for the top hiring spot.

A huge 73 per cent of managers said they planned to double the number of UX designers in their organisation in the next five years. And many had already started hiring heavily in this field – 63 per cent of managers had hired five or more UX designers in the previous year and 40 per cent of managers were expecting to double their total number of UX designers in the coming year.

UX professionals

Employers are struggling to find UX professionals

“UX is one of the most difficult roles for companies to fill,” says John Dennehy. “There is a shortage of experienced professionals so demand is currently outstripping supply. Many internal and agency recruiters struggle to fill UX roles because there’s a knowledge gap in terms of what UXers do, how do you assess them, and how do you even find them. As a result, many UX roles remain unfilled.”

Dara Boland agrees that employers are struggling to find the right candidates.

“There is a lack of ‘ready for work’ UX talent available, a notable skills shortage. As such, competition is high amongst hiring parties who are trying to hire UX professionals at all levels. This is most notable at the mid to senior experience level.

“However, the struggle can be really dependent on the company and the employment brand. Businesses with no previous user experience culture in place tend to be more open to people coming from a variety of backgrounds, provided they can show solid experience and are a good cultural fit. Other companies, as a result of a more design focused culture of specific industry needs, may place more demanding requirements on candidates.”

Some UX roles are particularly in demand

The Prosperity Digital and Technology Salary Report and Survey in 2017 noted that there is “a shortage of User Experience Design candidates with experience of having managed design teams, and there are not nearly enough UI designers with strong portfolios and experience working on software and across a variety of devices.”

John Dennehy says, “Mid-level UX professionals with mobile experience and SaaS are particularly in demand. There seems to be a particular pain point in Ireland for candidates with good creative, technical and communications skills coupled with five to ten years’ SaaS experience.”

Dara Boland says, “UX is a growing industry, with increasing numbers of candidates looking to break into it. But the number of seasoned UX professionals is still quite small (relative to demand). UX researchers are incredibly scarce, partly owing to the fact that there have traditionally been few dedicated roles in the area.”

In terms of key UX skills, he says visual design remains sought after along with interaction design and usability skills. And there has been a notable increase in product oriented roles.

“Employers now understand the intricacies and different roles within UX. Still, it is commonplace that UX employees play multi-faceted roles,” says Dara.

UX salaries are being pushed up due to the skills gap

It’s a case of the law of supply and demand – when you have low supply and high demand, the price of something will increase.

So with their skills in demand and a lack of supply in the market, UX professionals can expect to command higher prices for their services.

“UX salaries are increasing year on year,” says Dara Boland. “We expect this trend will continue. Because of the talent war, we often witness larger companies inflating mid level salaries to levels that can make other roles uncompetitive.”

John Dennehy says, “UX was, for many years, the poor cousin of software development in terms of pay. Today, UX developers are generally paid at least as much as full-stack or back-end developers.”

It’s something that recruitment agency CPL reflected on in its most recent Salary Guide, in terms of the Dublin technology sector:

“There is a huge requirement in Dublin for UX/UI designers across both contract and permanent. Due to the shortage of these profiles, salaries are quite high.”

What can UX-ers expect salary wise?

Several career websites put together salary guides for the UX field. In terms of the US, Indeed lists the average yearly salary for a UX designer as $96,381. And the average yearly salary for a UI designer is $88,609 (these salary guides are updated regularly).

According to Glassdoor’s 50 Best Jobs in America 2018 report, a UX designer’s median base salary is $90,000 while a UI developer comes in at $95,000.

The Onward Search Salary Guide 2018 shows a UX designer salary ranging from $76,600 to $113,500 (average salary $95,050). Salaries for a user researcher range from $67,300 to $93,700 (average salary $80,500) and a UX/UI Manager can command between $98,400 and $151,200 (average salary $124,800).

It’s a similar story with the Creative Group Salary Guide 2018. A UX designer salary ranges from $75,500 to $145,500 (average salary $110,500), UX researchers can expect between $66,250 and $126,500 (average salary $96,375) and UX director salaries range from $106,000 to $202,500 ($154,250).

When it comes to Dublin, Ireland, UX/UI designers can command a very enticing salary. According to the CPL Salary Guide 2018, a UX/UI designer with three years or less experience will typically be on a salary ranging from €45-50K. Someone with three to five years experience will jump up to €55-65K and someone with five plus years of experience will be on €75-85K.

It’s clear that salaries for UX roles are highly attractive, particularly as you gain in experience and move up the UX ladder. Just one more reason why now is the right time to make the move into a UX career.

Looking to get into UX? Check out How to get a job in UX: Tips from Intercom’s Des Traynor