You’ve decided to take the plunge and switch careers into UX Design, and now it’s time to apply for a job. But the variety and quantity of UX career paths can be overwhelming and confusing. For instance, what’s the difference between a UX Designer and a Product Designer? If a Content Strategist is expected to understand user flows and interfaces, should you apply to those roles, too? And is a UX Engineer a designer, a developer, or both? 

While there’s no definitive taxonomy of UX roles and responsibilities, there are broad categories that will help you figure out where you might fit. Keep reading for an overview of the UX career paths landscape. 

UX/UI Design Positions Are a Great Place to Start

As a UX/UI Designer, your job isn’t just about making something beautiful, but also making it easy to use. UX/UI Designers are generalists who are involved in all aspects of the design process with a particular focus on usability. In a large company, design roles tend to be more siloed, so you may have UX/UI Designers, Visual Designers, UX Researchers, and more. In a small company or startup, the UX/UI Designer may be the sole person responsible for all design decisions across those roles, and therefore be a true generalist. 

Associate to mid-level UX/UI Designers will generally be handling execution rather than strategy. Expect to be exposed to the entire design process, but not necessarily asked to shape strategy or present to clients or senior management on a regular basis. Again, responsibilities will vary, but a UX/UI Design role is a great place to start your design career.

Product Design Roles Are a Common Alternative

The title of Product Designer is often synonymous with UX/UI Designer, and many of the responsibilities are the same. You’ll conduct research, come up with user personas, wireframe, and prototype. But on top of that, many Product Designers have an added layer of responsibility for the business goals of the product they work on. 

Product Designers often contribute to the overall roadmap and vision of the product or feature, and help plan the path to success. They may have a better understanding of the necessary steps and iteration between designers, developers, and marketing teams to ensure that the product launches on time and is successful. While UX/UI and Product Design are in many ways interchangeable, it’s worth a close reading of a job description to really understand if it’s a good fit for your skills. 

Become a Visual Designer if You Really Love UI Design

If you spent your time in UX Academy obsessing over fonts and color palettes, nudging elements pixel by pixel to the left or right, and enjoyed creating your own personal logo and branding, a Visual Designer role might be the right fit for you. Visual Designers are a specialist category that don’t necessarily need to deeply understand UX to be successful, but can come from UX or graphic design backgrounds.

A Visual Designer is often part of a larger team, and primary responsibilities revolve around prototypes and screens. You won’t be directly responsible for user research, personas, or information architecture—most of your time will be spent on hi-fidelity prototypes, UI kits and style guides, and design specs for the development team. You may also be the connection to the marketing department, collaborating on the look and feel of advertising and promotional elements. In a smaller company or startup, all design assignments might come to you, including presentations, social media, and product-related UI.

UX Research Could Be for You if You Love Understanding People

UX Research is often considered more of an advanced branch of UX, because of the sheer number of methodologies, techniques, approaches, and deliverables required of a UX Researcher. Many UX Researchers have degrees in Human-Computer Interaction, Library Science, or come from traditional scientific or academic research backgrounds. This can make it more challenging for a bootcamp graduate with a generalist degree to compete against the competition. But again, it depends on the size and type of company, and your prior background. 

If you’d really like to move into UX Research as a career path, start where you can in UX (likely as a UX/UI Designer), continue to advocate for research in all of your projects, talk to the researchers on your team, and continue to learn about the practice as much as possible. One thing to note is that UX Researchers usually need to write a lot, and may never wireframe or design, so consider your strengths and weaknesses if you’re hoping to follow this path.

Content Strategist or UX Writer Roles Could Be Good if You Love Writing

Even more so than UX Researchers, Content Strategists and UX Writers are responsible for making sense of designs to both internal team members and users. Larger companies will often have Content Strategists and UX Writers on board since their products and offerings are complex in a variety of ways. A Content Strategist might map out information architecture, work on taxonomy, and decide on content hierarchy, and the UX Writer would narrate those concepts to internal employees, and work with designers to come up with a brand voice and guidelines.

Depending on the company, there may be some crossover with the UX Design team, UX Research, and other areas of experience design, but these roles generally do little actual designing. Content Strategists can typically create wireframes, and the best UX Writers have an understanding and respect for the designs that their copy will appear in, but design is not their main focus.

Become a UX Engineer if You Can Also Code

If you fall into this category, you’re in a highly marketable position. UX Designers who also have front-end coding skills are called UX Engineers, and can handle the entire UX process, then translate that into a workable site or product by handling the front end development. There aren’t as many UX Engineer roles about, however, simply based on the technical skill you’d need to master to be good at both. 

Many UX Designers find it helpful to learn the basics of CSS and HTML to make their designs stronger, but aren’t interested in taking the time to really learn how to be a developer. Startups are often looking for this type of person to launch an idea or product, and will hire more specialist roles down the line. A true UX Engineer often has a Computer Science or Engineering background, and an interest in working more closely with designers to ensure that the user experience translates as a product is built. This can certainly be a lucrative career, but requires extra study and specialization to get there.

Conclusion

There are many facets to UX Design, and a UX career path for everyone interested. While UX Academy prepares you to start your journey as a generalist UX/UI Designer or Product Designer, where you go in the future is up to you. There are ever-changing technologies and practices that will influence the UX field, and ensure that you’ll never be bored with your chosen UX career path. 


To learn more about landing your first job in the UX/UI design industry from design career pros like Nicole, explore our UX Academy program—which includes up to 6 months of Career Services. You’ll be paired with a Career Coach to identify the right job opportunities, add extra polish to your portfolio, work on your interview skills together, and launch your new career!

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Nicole Locklair

Talent Partnerships and Career Services

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