What salary can I expect for my first UX job? UX Question #84

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R.J. from New York City asks: What salary can I expect for my first UX job?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, R.J. This is UX Question number 84 and I am Ben Judy.

What salary can I expect for my first UX job? Well, you can search the Web for salary survey data, and I’ll put some links in the description. You’ll find that right now in late 2023 the average junior UX designer salary is in the ballpark of $75,000 to $80,000 U.S. dollars.

Of course, that’s for a full-time, salaried position. Hourly, contract rates can vary wildly and might be equivalent to this range, or slightly higher—if the contract role doesn’t come with benefits such as health insurance.

And your mileage may vary. Lots of factors can influence what any given employer might offer for a starting UX role. Location, industry, benefits package, so much to take into account rather than just focus on the salary.

One great thing about this career field is how much more you can make as you gain experience and build your portfolio and your reputation. Take me, for example. I got my first, full-time job as a web designer in 1999 and then progressed into UX design and leadership roles. Today, I’m making 6.7 times my starting salary from 24 years ago.

Now, the U.S. Federal Reserve calculates a consumer price increase of 83% in that time span. So, you could argue that the cost of living has gone up 83%, but my salary has increased 670%. Your mileage may vary, but I don’t think I’m an extreme outlier. I think you can do what I did.

Granted, I got married, I have kids, two cars and mortgage, so—my expenses went up probably 670% as well. But that’s life.

But let’s set the numbers aside and talk about what you should look for in your starting salary as a UX professional. Here’s my best advice: know your needs, and ask for 10 to 25% more than that figure.

Do the math on your cost of living. Let’s say you need $70,000 to pay your bills, save for the future, and not be stressed about money. Ask for $80k not $70k.


One, you need to leave room for negotiation.

Two, don’t lowball yourself. If an employer will give you $80k, why ask for $70k?

Three, industry averages and statistics don’t really matter. Your needs are what matters to you. If you’re married with kids, or if you’re supporting a disabled family member, you legitimately need a higher salary than someone else.

Yeah, it’s helpful to look at salary data to see what the normal range is. It’s far more important to know your own needs and go up from there.

Keep asking your questions about UX. Next time, I’ll answer the question: How can I grow as a design manager?

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