Why is the UX career field so hard to get into? UX Question #99

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Alejandro from Long Beach, California, asks: Why is the UX career field so hard to get into?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Alejandro. This is UX Question number 99 and I am Ben Judy.

Why is the UX career field so hard to get into?

Well, the pay is good. The typical salary for an entry level, full-time UX job is about double the average subsistence income in the U.S. In other words, as a UX professional you will likely earn more then twice as much money as the minimum amount necessary to meet your basic needs. Now, your mileage will vary of course, but there’s going to be a lot of competition for any high salaried job.

It’s hard to break into UX though, because you have to know a lot of things. Multidisciplinary fields like UX require you to be—not quite a jack of all trades, but a master of multiple trades. Therefore, an employer must have a high degree of trust that you can deliver outcomes across a spectrum of skills.

In episode 40 I listed the most essential UX skills. It’s hard to earn that much trust, to cover that much landscape of responsibility for a business owner, especially if you’re just starting out and you haven’t demonstrated all of those skills.

Also, right now UX is vastly oversaturated with bootcamp grads, certificate program grads, people with UX and HCI university degrees, but little career experience. There are way more people seeking their first UX job than there are true, entry-level UX positions.

This is not because employers are evil. Although some certainly are. No, this is because entry-level UX can only happen in a big company.

Most employers simply can’t afford to train UX people on the job. Which is what you end up doing with someone who is starting out as a professional, no matter their education.

A better path into UX has always been career switchers. People who start in an adjacent career field, develop expertise, and then pivot to UX.

As I said in episode 12, it takes years to practice all the UX skills enough to be a qualified, capable, UX generalist.

My first full-time job as a web designer was in 1999. I started working with a UX team in 2005, six years later. I was not a good UX generalist until probably 2008, almost ten years into my career in digital design. Now maybe I’m a slow learner.

But—although it’s not obvious from the way we do UX education, which is messed up—the bar is high to be qualified for this career field. It just is.

Keep asking your questions about UX. Next time, I’ll answer the question: What’s next for UX Questions after 100 episodes?

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