Sharing is caring!

UX designers are in high demand. There is a growing number of open positions that companies are struggling to fill. Salaries have risen to rival the levels of developer compensation. The average UX designer salary in the U.S. is between $74,000 to $90,000*. This number shifts depending on experience, job title, location, and company. Whether your are just getting started in UX or looking to move your career forward, below is an outline of the information you will need for your next step.

Are you new to UX? I’d love to learn more about your experience getting into the industry. Take few minutes to fill out this survey.

What is a UX design?

UX (User Experience) Design is the discipline of enhancing a product for its users by helping them solve problems and meet their needs through refining usability, accessibility, and desirability. UX design draws on a number of perspectives that make up an experience. These include but are not limited to brand, business, environment, devices, packaging, retail, customer service, and back-end systems.

To learn more about the basics, checkout this article on Wikipedia. If you want to dig into the design principles that UX designers should follow, I’ve found this resource, Laws of UX helpful to align a team around design decisions.

How do you become a UX designer?

A quick search on, “how to become a UX designer,” will yield a number of articles. You will find that UX designers currently in the field got started through one of the following three paths.

The traditional path

This involves going to school for a 4-year degree in Design, Human-Computer Interaction, or other related fields. I work with recent graduates from schools such as Carnegie Mellon University, Savannah School for Art and Design, and University of Michigan. These all have a strong reputation for teaching principles and techniques in visual aesthetics and/or Human-Computer Interaction.

If you are looking for a list of undergraduate programs to research, try this post from prepscholar. For graduate programs, try this post from

The UX bootcamp path

If going to a traditional 4-year institution or getting a Master’s degree is not feasible with your available time and/or financial resources, there are a growing number of UX bootcamps. While they still require some investment of around $10,000 to $15,000, you can exit with an understanding of the core UX principles in a fraction of the time and money required for university.

Can you go from zero to UX design hero in less than a year? A colleague of mine who runs a bootcamp put it this way, “imagine that at the end of the program you will have the fluency of a Russian language interpreter for the United Nation.” A student’s success depends on her previous experience, how much work she puts into the program, and how much she continues her studies after the program.

Here is a list of UX bootcamps from Course Report.

The self-study path

From my experience, the people who have taken this path often come from a developer background. They have some exposure to the product world and understand the process from an Agile development perspective. These career switchers also have the network to help them transition into UX design.

Along the way, they pick up the principles and practices of UX design. You do not have to be a developer to shift into a UX designer. You do have to have some background and network in tech, product management, design, and/or development to make that shift relatively smoothly.

If you are UX curious, here are some tools and resources to help you with your research.

The UX designer portfolio

Regardless of your path, you will need to demonstrate your abilities. Show what you have done and put it into a narrative that people will care about. I created a guide to prepping the content for your UX designer portfolio.

The average UX designer salary by experience

On average, what does a UX designer make? The average salary for a UX design has risen steadily over the past few years. The tech field is booming and the demand for these skills has continued to grow. Companies are competing for a limited talent pool, and they are struggling to fill positions with qualified individuals who can work effectively with developers and product managers.

Table by Visualizer

*Average salary from Payscale

Average UX designer salary by city and cost of living

Jobs and companies are still very local. The city you choose will offer different companies, communities, and cultures. These elements influence a UX designer’s pay and cost of living.

Chart by Visualizer

Median income by city.

Seattle: $145,000

Along with its rich history in tech from the growth of Microsoft and Amazon, Seattle has become one of the hottest tech hubs for jobs. According to a report from the real estate analysis company CBRE, Seattle added over 33,000 tech jobs since 2016. The city has capitalized off of this growth to cultivate an attractive community for talent. It’s also a beautiful place for outdoor activity.

Average cost of living:

Rent for a one bedroom apartment: $1,965
Median home price: $723,300
Lunch: $15

San Francisco: $108,000

Since the 1970’s, Silicon Valley and San Francisco have grown together into a formidable center of innovation. Companies such as Apple, Facebook, and Airbnb are shifting markets and changing behavior. The history and talent pool have kept San Francisco and the surrounding communities as the reigning champion of technology hubs. It’s not without a housing crisis and cultural disruption though.

Average cost of living:

Rent for a one bedroom apartment: $3,609
Median home price: $1,357,500
Lunch: $17

New York City: $95,000

The city has been investing to establish itself as an alternative to the Bay Area for tech enterprises and startups. The Flatiron district, once dubbed, “Silicon Alley” hosted approximately 300,000 tech workers. Also in Brooklyn, there is the Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass or DUMBO for short. Within the last few years, the congregation of startups have helped give DUMBO nickname, “the center of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle.”

Average cost of living:

Rent for a one bedroom apartment: $4,188
Median home price: $677,000
Lunch: $20

Boston: $94,000

Boston is the third-fastest growing tech hub according to this report from Indeed. With 6% of the share of national tech jobs, the city is the hub of New England and a short plane ride to New York City and Washington. It offers connection to many of the top universities and tech talent.

Average cost of living:

Rent for a one bedroom apartment: $1,396
Median home price: $599,000
Lunch: $15

Chart by Visualizer

Average monthly rent according to Smart Asset.

Austin: $91,000

Starting in the 1990’s with the rise of Dell computers, Austin has attracted a number of industries such as enterprise software, semiconductors, biotechnology, and gaming. As one of the top areas for venture capital, Austin has earned the name “Silicon Hills.” There are approximately 15 startup incubators including: Capital Factory and Austin Technology Incubator. This has helped the city become the third-most-popular place to start a new business in the past ten years.

Average cost of living:

Rent for a one bedroom apartment: $1,364
Median home price: $368,600
Lunch: $14

Atlanta: $88,000

Atlanta has been moving up the rankings with tech jobs. Currently, it hosts 31,440 tech positions with an annual growth of 7.5%. With the influx of talent coming from Georgia Tech, University of Georgia, and Emory University, companies like SAP, Infor, Navicure, Home Depot, and Microsoft have opportunities to grow innovation hubs in a tax friendly and relatively inexpensive city.

Average cost of living:

Rent for a one bedroom apartment: $1,382
Median home price: $259,100
Lunch: $15

Chart by Visualizer

Median home prices according to Kiplinger.

Washington D.C: $83,000

Government contracts are the primary source of business in an area called, “Dulles corridor.” The metro area’s proximity to the Defense Department and the Central Intelligence Agency have helped contracting giants lie CACI and Mitre grow and attract tech talent.

Average cost of living:

Rent for a one bedroom apartment: $2,131
Median home price: $566,500
Lunch: $12

Chicago: $81,000

Chicago has had some successes with startups such as Grubhub and Fieldglass. Plus, there was also a billion-dollar acquisition of Cleversafe. The city is also actively working to increase its $2 billion venture capital investments to be more on par with New York ($12 billion) and LA ($6 billion). Businesses like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have also expanded their presence in the city.

Average cost of living:

Rent for a one bedroom apartment: $1,893
Median home price: $229,400
Lunch: $15

Denver: $79,017

Denver has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S.. Amazon and Google are expanding their footprint. Slack is looking for a 50,000 square foot space. Like Austin, the Denver-Boulder area is quickly becoming a viable alternative to San Francisco.

Average cost of living:

Rent for a one bedroom apartment: $1,602
Median home price: $424,700
Lunch: $14

Pittsburgh: $76,670

Pittsburgh is home to Carnegie Mellon University, a renowned center for computer science and human-centered interaction. It also has a concentration of research focusing on robotics, artificial intelligence, and next generation vehicle technology. Uber has a lab for robotics research, and Facebook opened an Oculus research center.

Average cost of living:

Rent for a one bedroom apartment: $1,3017
Median home price: $144,500
Lunch: $11

St. Louis: $73,771

St Louis was second to Seattle for tech job growth at 23% since 2016. It does not boast any household names in the enterprise software or startup space. However, companies like Boeing, MasterCard, and Monsanto have a significant presence there and require tech talent. There is also a movement for tech workers to escape the high cost of living in areas like San Francisco and build their lives in cheaper cities like St. Louis.

Average cost of living:

Rent for a one bedroom apartment: $961
Median home price: $116,400
Lunch: $13

Average salary by UX job title

As you mature in your craft as a UX designer, there are other avenues to focus on. Each of the roles below assume a certain level of experience and seniority. By highlighting emerging specializations, they also offer a different approach to product design

Chart by Visualizer

Sourced from UX Beginner, “How to navigate the ocean of UX job titles.”

UX product manager: $115, 069

Planning, measuring, buildings, and validation all contribute to the experience of the product. However, it is out of the skill set of most UX designers. While the UX designer should understand the business objectives, it is the UX product manager to help align the experience with these objections.

Information Architect: $96,821

The Information architect organizes and designs the information structure of the product. The hierarchy and presentation depends on the needs of the users.

UX strategist: $93,000

A UX strategist leverages the research and analysis to align business systems and strategy to user needs. It should heavily influence objectives that define the vision for the product.

UX architect: $85,146

The UX architect is responsible for organizing the content and the hierarchy of the product in a way that is congruent with the user’s mental model. Research is a key skill for the UX architect to better understand the user.

Interaction designer: $79,342

Interaction designers focus on the interactions between the product and the users. The focus is to help the users achieve goals as efficiently as possible in the product.

UX analyst: $65,500

Companies look for the UX analyst to examine the entire scenario, touch points between the user and the company, UI workflows, and back-end systems. This helps the UX designer contextualize the issues and users to find the appropriate solutions.

Other UX job roles

Chart by Visualizer

*Average salary from Payscale

UX writer: $120,000

UX writers are responsible for connecting the voice of a brand with the users in a product. A great example of this is with Mailchimp’s Content Style Guide.

UX researcher: $93,152

UX researchers investigates the users, their needs, and behaviors within the context of their work and lives. The goal is to inform design and business to the perspective of the user.

UI designer: $80,450

User interface (UI) designers focus on the look of the product. Their expertises are centered around how they use color, type, layouts, grids, and sometimes motion to present an experience across devices.

Visual designer: $75,611

Visual designers and UI designers often do the same work when it comes to designing for a product. I have worked in companies where visual designers also took on more responsibility for developing a brand to a digital space.

Closing thoughts on UX designer salary by city and job role

Companies are struggling to find enough qualified UX designers to fill a growing need. This has opened up markets in education to help train new talent. It has also created opportunities in urban areas that are not traditionally seen as tech hubs. As you get started in the industry and begin to map out your career, there are a number of options to consider when choosing a role and location for your first or next move.

[vc_cta h2=”Get Updates and Insights in your Inbox ” add_button=”right” btn_title=”Sign up” btn_color=”purple” btn_size=”lg” css_animation=”fadeIn” btn_link=”|||”]Working hard to bring the latest on the UX Industry to you. Sign up for interviews, recommendations, insights and tips to your inbox.[/vc_cta]

Links to related posts

UX designer portfolio checklist

Books for every UX designer

Starting out as a UX generalist

The first 90 days at your new job

Are you new to UX? I’d love to learn more about your experience getting into the industry. Take few minutes to fill out this survey.

Sign Up Today

Get insights and resources in your inbox before I publish them!

Matt Eng

Matt Eng

DesignOps Manager. Based in Austin,TX. Worked with clients such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ogilvy, RBC, Deloitte, Whirlpool, Polycom, Symantec, and Pebble. Matt teaches, mentors, and speaks about design, creativity, and fostering stronger connections within teams.