UX Research, or Design Research, is an essential part of the design process of any product. It ensures that a product is tailored to its intended audience, as it informs every aspect of the design process on what the target audience thinks, needs, and wants.
It’s the perfect career path for those who can appreciate the complexities of the design process and value the target audience’s needs above all else. If you’re interested in this career path, you’re in luck. UX Research is a sub-set of the UX field that not only pays well but is also in high demand.
If you’re interested in learning more about this career path, look no further. We got you covered.
In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about the UX Research career path. You’ll learn the valuable skills that UX Researchers need to have, as well as the educational requirements they need to meet. You'll also learn the steps you can take to kickstart your way down the UX Research career path, with valuable tips for gaining experience and preparing for your UX Research job interview.
Ready? Let’s get started.
Skills Required to Become a UX Researcher
The UX Researcher role requires you to have a varied set of hard and soft skills. Here are some of the skills you need to have if you want to pursue a path in UX Research.
Hard skills are the job-specific skills that you need to have in order to fulfill your responsibilities. Some hard skills that UX Researchers need to have are:
- User testing
- UX research methods
- Data analysis
- InVision (design tool)
Soft skills are those personality traits that help to determine how you work, by yourself and with others. Some soft skills that UX Researchers need to have are:
Education Options and Qualifications Needed for UX Research
The good news is that many employers don’t require a specific degree for aspiring UX Researchers. Usually, they require degrees or certifications in similar fields. Some require an educational background in human behavior, while others focus their requirement on the field of UX.
But you should also consider that these employers also tend to place higher value on real-world experience in UX Research, which many newbies may not have when coming into the field. Still, there are a great variety of education paths you can take to ensure you have all the knowledge you need to start gaining valuable experience.
Here are some of the paths you can take to get an education in UX and UX Research.
Bootcamps are training programs that give you the specific set of skills and knowledge you’re looking to apply into your desired career path. They make good education options for many who are interested in learning quickly and without paying excessive amounts of money.
- Way more affordable than college
- Takes less time to complete
- Teaches you career-specific skills
- Some jobs may require college degrees
- May not be as in-depth as you'd like
- The fast pace can be challenging
College offers aspiring professionals a more traditional route for getting the skills they need. While many employers still require a college degree from candidates, it’s important to keep in mind that having a college degree doesn’t guarantee you a job. Still, this might be the best education option for many aspiring UX Researchers.
- Get an in-depth education on your chosen field
- Increased job opportunities
- Learning is at a slower pace
- Highly expensive and may require student loans
- Does not prepare you for any specific career
- Does not guarantee you a job
The power of the internet is so great that anyone can learn almost anything from a single Google search. This gives aspiring professionals an opportunity to learn the skills they need without paying a cent. This is a good thing, as not everyone has the same financial opportunities. However, there are many things to consider if you’re going to self-learn your way into a UX career path.
- Requires virtually no financial investment
- Allows you to learn at your own pace
- Allows you to learn exactly what you want to learn
- Most employers don't value the self-learning path
- Not all internet sources offer reliable information
- Offers you no form of guidance or assistance as you learn
Many businesses and universities offer UX and UX Research certificate programs. These programs take less time to complete than traditional university degrees and are far less expensive. As with everything, however, there are some pros and cons you should consider before you make a decision.
- Are drastically less expensive than college degrees
- Take less time to complete than other educational routes
- May offer specific job-related skills
- May not offer in-depth industry knowledge
- Some certificate programs may still be out of budget for some
- Some employers still require a college degree
The main difference between an industry certification and a regular certification is that industry certifications make sure meet industry standards. Every aspect about how you learn with an industry certification program adheres to strict guidelines, which allows the student to feel assured that the education they’re getting is relevant to their industry.
At the moment there are no formal industry certifications available for aspiring UX Researchers. Still, when such resources become available, you’d already know their pros and cons:
- Meets strict guidelines and adheres to industry standards
- Is less expensive than getting a college degree
- Takes less time to complete than other educational routes
- Could be more expensive than regular certifications
- May not offer in-depth industry knowledge
- Can still be out of budget for some
Gaining Experience to Become a UX Researcher
Once you have the educational foundation in UX and UX Research, you might consider gaining some real-world experience. Fortunately, there are many ways you can get hands-on experience in UX Research. Here are some of the routes you can take.
There are many paid and unpaid internship opportunities for aspiring UX professionals. The focus of each role varies. Some internships will focus on general UX, while others focus on UX Research and User Research.
You can start looking for internship opportunities by doing a simple Google search, or looking up “UX internships” on sites such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn. Make sure to read each internship posting carefully, and each one will have different requirements and application processes.
Another way you can gain so real-world experience is through freelancing. Freelancing allows you to work on your own time and make money from your effort. It’s also a great way to start building your portfolio, as each project offers you a sample of work you can show to a potential employer.
Sites like Fiverr and Upwork help you find freelance work, though you can still find freelancing job roles on sites like Indeed and LinkedIn. Just be careful with freelancing sites. Some job postings are actually created with the intention of scamming applicants.
If all else fails, you can always volunteer. Many organizations are in dire need for the work that UX Researchers do but are unable to pay them for their work. Volunteering is a win-win situation that allows you to gain valuable experience while helping an organization or business with their UX Research needs.
You can also add this experience to your portfolio of work, and possibly get a letter of recommendation from the organization you volunteered for. Either way, it’s a great way to learn more about the field of UX Research and get the hands-on experience employers are looking for in a potential candidate.
Finding a Job in UX Research
Like with any other kind of job, finding a job in UX Research can be both simple and challenging. The trick of the job search process lies in:
- Knowing what you want
- Connecting with the right people
- Knowing where to look
Make sure to know exactly what type of role and job level you want before you begin your search. This will help your networking efforts, as well as help you narrow your search in job boards.
Start with your inner circle. Do you know anyone who works in the UX field or can give you the contact information of someone who has more information? You’d be surprised how many of your friends and acquaintances are able to connect you with professionals who can help you. Don’t be afraid to each out!
At the same time, make sure to start reaching out to professionals outside of your inner circle. You can find them by doing research on the field. Notice the names that stand out most in the community. When you reach out, remember to keep it professional. Don’t ask for a job, but rather ask for their time and get to know them. Networking is about building genuine relationships.
You can also consider joining online communities where you can find people like you, who are seeking advice and guidance in their job search for a UX role. Join a community such as the one Design Buddies provides and connect with mentors and mentees who may help you advance in your job hunt.
The same logic applies when it comes to joining communities. If UX is your field of choice, look to build relationships instead of landing a job as soon as possible. Get to know the people you meet and make professional connections that will help everyone grow together.
Job Boards to Use
Finally, start your job search by build profiles on major job board sites such as LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, and ZipRecruiter. Each job board site is different, so take some time to learn how each one works.
Once you’re familiar with a site, start searching for the roles that best suit what you’re looking for. Most sites even allow you to create job alerts that notify you when new job opportunities are posted. This will help accelerate your search and make it easier to find new opening the moment they are posted.
Prepping for a Job in UX Research
Preparing for a job in UX Research is very much like preparing for any other job. For aspiring UX Researchers, however, there are a few things you can do to help you stand out in front of a potential employer.
Employers seeking UX Researchers have certain expectations and requirements you need to meet to get your foot in the door. When you’re creating your resume, make sure to follow these tips.
Emphasize your real-world experience. It’s always good to have an educational background in your field or industry, but to get the job, aspiring UX Researchers need to have experience. Make your experience the focus of your resume. Show potential employers that not only do you understand the topic, but that you’ve applied your skills in real-world experiences.
List your skills. If experience is the most important part of a UX Researcher’s resume, skills is definitely in second place. Employers want to know what specific skills you bring to the table. If you know how to use specific tools or have valuable skills under your belt, make sure to add them to your resume.
Cover Letter Tips
Cover letters are an important part of a job application, simply because they offer you another opportunity to stand out from the crowd of applicants. A solid resume is good to have but adding a well-written cover letter makes your application that much better.
If it’s not required, send one anyway. Not all employers require applicants to send cover letters with their resume. While this might seem like a good thing (as it means you don’t need to make as much effort to apply to a job), you should still try to send a cover letter with your application. A cover letter shows diligence and interest. It helps you stand out.
Show some personality. You should always remain professional when sending your application to an employer. This, however, does not mean you can’t show personality. Don’t copy a basic cover letter template or rewrite what your resume already shows. Take the time to make your cover letter uniquely you by expressing your genuine interest, what captured your attention about the position, and why you think you would be a good fit for the role.
Job interviews can be extremely nerve-wracking for aspiring professionals. No matter the field, sitting down with a stranger and talking about yourself is at best awkward. Fortunately, this discomfort can be soothed with a little preparedness. Follow these tips to ace your interview.
Be prepared to tell your story. It’s difficult to answer questions about yourself if you haven’t taken the time to do a self-inventory. Before an interview, make sure to write out a brief summary about your professional life, your aspirations, skills, experience, and character traits. These will help you answer even that awkward, “So tell me about yourself.”
Be prepared to answer technical questions. Aspiring UX Researchers should be ready to answer a variety of questions related to the UX field. To prepare, take a short crash course on your field and freshen up your knowledge. Be ready to answer questions like, “what is your UX research process like?” and “what tools do you use to conduct UX research?”
Ready to Become a UX Researcher?
Becoming a UX Researcher may not happen overnight, but you now have the information to take yourself one step further in your career journey. This is a great career path where you will never stop learning and growing, and the field is in need of great aspiring UX Researchers just like you.
If you’re interested in pursuing this path further, consider applying to our UX/UI Design Bootcamp. You’ll learn user research, user empathy, and interactive design, all important skills to have if you want to become a UX Researcher.
Are you ready to take the leap into a new career? We’re here to make sure you land safely.
What are the education requirements to get a job in UX Research?
Many UX Research positions require you to have some form of educational background in the field. Some require college degrees, while others accept certifications. The important thing to note, however, is that employers put a higher level of importance on experience than on education.
What will I do on a daily basis?
UX Researchers play an important role in the UX design process. On a daily basis they can conduct research-related tasks such as planning, collecting important data, analyzing said data and presenting their findings to their team. They can also use this data to determine what the next step should be in the design process.
What skills do I need to become an UX Researcher?
There are a number of hard and soft skills you need to become a UX Researcher. Among them, you need to know UX Design, user testing, data analysis, and UX research methods. For soft skills, you need to be empathetic, communicative, and a good problem-solver.