According to CNNMoney and PayScale.com, a user experience (UX) designer is among the top 50 careers with a 10-year growth rate of 22.1% and pay ranging from $95,000 to $150,000.
To become a UX designer, you need experience with UX design, graphic design, market research, and psychology, among other skills. While many UX designers start out in web design or development, anyone in a related field can acquire the skills needed to become a UX designer.
In this guide, we’ll walk through how to become a UX designer with no experience, how long it takes, and what qualifications you need to get hired. Feel free to click on any of those links to jump to that specific section, or keep reading.
How to Become a UX Designer with No Experience
- Take a UX design course.
- Create some designs independently.
- Get some hands-on experience.
- Create a portfolio.
- Apply to UX designer jobs.
- Keep learning.
You can check out this video for a quick overview of some core steps anyone can take to become a UX designer with no experience, or keep reading:
1. Take a UX design course.
There are over 140 UX-related bachelor’s and master’s degrees available at universities around the world. These degrees are in fields related to UX like Interaction Design, Information Architecture, and Digital Design, among others. Most take between two and four years to complete.
If you’re looking for a faster, more flexible alternative, then you might consider a UX design course. Many offer certifications that can help your resume stand out.
For example, Google offers an online course for a UX Design Professional Certificate. It takes approximately six months to complete, but once you do, you can apply for UX designer jobs with over 150 U.S. employers, including Google, Walmart, and Best Buy.
2. Create some designs independently.
During a UX design course or bootcamp, you’ll typically complete at least one project. You should continue to make designs outside of the course or bootcamp in order to get as much experience with different tools and types of designs as possible.
When you’re happy with the designs, consider sharing them on sites like Behance and Dribble to get some visibility and feedback. This can be a great way to start building your portfolio and your network in the UX design community.
Here’s some examples of UX designer Emi Lantz’s work on Behance:
3. Get some hands-on experience.
To really put your skills to the test, consider a design internship or freelancer work. This will be excellent experience to put on your resume and another great way to build out your network.
More importantly, it will help you to build a solid foundation in project management, collaboration, and communication skills. These soft skills are just as important as the technical skills required of a UX designer.
You can find internship or freelance opportunities on sites like LinkedIn and Upwork. Currently on Upwork, there are over 850 UX designer freelance jobs:
4. Create a portfolio.
Once you’ve completed the steps above, you can create a portfolio of your best work.
In an article for UsabilityGeek, Gassia Maljian, the Executive Search Director at Creative Niche, emphasized how important portfolios are: “They show all the work a designer has completed and they support all of the experience listed on a resume. It’s important to ensure you are including a variety of samples in your portfolio with as much of the process traced out as possible.”
Your portfolio should include demo work as well as work you produced for clients or a company during a freelancing gig or internship. This is essential for demonstrating your skills and process for improving the user experience, as well as your impact. Make sure to include the results of the work you completed in addition to testimonials, if you have them.
Emi Lantz, for example, features a slider of testimonials on her portfolio website that attest to her talent, work ethic, and impact:
Networking is important for two major reasons: it can help you find mentors and job opportunities.
When trying to become a UX designer, reaching out to seasoned designers who have more years of experience working in the field can provide valuable insights into how to be successful. You can learn what tools are best to learn, what trends are emerging, and more. If you develop a meaningful relationship with them, then they may even let you know what job opportunities are available at their companies and refer you.
To find designers with skills and experiences that you’re interested in, try joining a design community like Design Buddies on Discord or User Experience Design on LinkedIn.
6. Apply to UX designer jobs.
With your education, experience, and portfolio, you’re ready to start applying to jobs. LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor all have hundreds or thousands of UX designer job listings. For example, Indeed has almost 14,000 UX designer jobs listed currently.
There’s a lot of titles in the UX design field that emphasize different skill sets, like coding, content strategy, or usability. In your job search, look out for any of the following titles but make sure to read the descriptions and qualifications to see if it aligns with your skills and interests:
- UX Designer
- Experience Designer
- Visual Designer
- UX Writer
- UX Architect
- Information Architect
- UX Researcher
- UX Engineer
- Interaction Designer
7. Keep learning.
Once you land a job as a UX designer, it’s imperative to keep learning to improve your skills, create new types of design solutions, and stay on top of new trends and tools. You can do this independently by reading and creating designs for your portfolio site, or you can continue to take design courses. Look for courses that specialize in a topic or area of your field that you don’t have much experience in, like journey mapping, for example.
Here are some courses that might benefit UX designers of many experience levels:
Now that we’ve walked through the different steps to becoming a UX designer, let’s consider how long the process will take.
How long does it take to become a UX designer?
On average, it takes between two to six years to become a UX designer, but it can take as little as three months.
Since there are no formal requirements mandating a certain degree, certification, or license to become a UX designer, the timeline can range dramatically. However, as discussed above, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of landing a job as a UX designer.
Here is an estimated range of how long each step in the process of becoming a UX designer can take to complete:
Degree in UX-related field: 2 - 6 years
Depending on whether you decide to pursue an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field, then that’ll take between two and four years. A master’s degree will add another two years.
UX-related degrees include:
- Computer science
- Graphic design
- Game design
- Information technology
- Web design
According to data from Zippia, 71% of UX designers have a bachelor's degree, making it the most common. 17% have a master’s, while 7% have an associate’s degree.
However, a bachelor’s degree is not a requirement. Most job postings will list a bachelor's degree in design, human-computer interaction (HCI), psychology, computer science, or a related field or “equivalent professional experience” as a basic qualification. This underscores that while there’s some undergraduate degrees that can help you prepare for a career in UX design, there’s no single path. Some UX designers will have commensurate experience or a combination of education and experience.
UX Course: 6 hours - 10 months
UX courses are another way to learn UX design fundamentals and tools. Often, these are offered online and self-paced so you can fit them into your schedule more easily than a formal degree. UX courses also range drastically in duration. Some only take a few hours to complete while others take months.
Here’s a handful of courses with an estimation of how long they take to complete:
- Introduction to User Experience Design by Georgia Tech: 6 hours
- User Experience: The Beginner’s Guide by Interaction Design Foundation: 7 weeks
- Beginner UX Design Course by UX Academy: 2 months
- UX Design Immersive Online by General Assembly: 3 months
- Google UX Design Professional Certificate: 6 months
- UX Design Program by Career Foundry: 10 months
UX Internship or Freelance Job: 1 - 6 months
UX internships typically last 10 weeks. Many take place in the summer. Freelance jobs range more widely, between 1 to 6 months, depending on the company and project.
Here’s an example of a UX design intern posting:
Looking at these time ranges may be disheartening if you’re looking to switch career paths, but again there are no formal requirements for becoming a UX designer so every path is unique. In the video below, for example, Senior Product Designer Rachel walks through how she became a UX Designer in three months with no degree or experience:
UX Designer Qualifications
UX designer qualifications include experience with UX design, UX software, prototyping, user research and testing, collaboration and communication skills, and a demonstrated understanding of front-end technologies, user-centered design, and mobile-first and responsive design. An online portfolio or samples of your interaction and visual design work is expected.
The qualifications above are commonly found on UX designer job postings, but every job posting will be unique to the company and role’s seniority level and pay range. Here’s an example of a job posting by the freelancing platform Toptal:
Starting Your Career in UX Design
Since UX designers must understand not only how programs work but how people think, their qualifications range broadly, from coding to understanding responsive design to user research and testing, and much more. It can take time to acquire the right skillset but there’s no formal requirements or single path to becoming a UX designer. That means anyone can have a lucrative career in UX design. So why not you?