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How to Land a UX Research Internship

Everything you need to know to land a user experience research internship—including a shortlist of open roles.

User experience researchers are notorious for taking unique and sometimes winding paths into the industry. Although some take a direct route from academia, others transition from adjacent functions like product management or pick up the role to fill research gaps on their team.

Whether your introduction to the field was by accident, by necessity, or on purpose, a UX research internship is a great stepping stone into your first full-time UXR position. Christianne Elliott, UX Researcher at Mailchimp says:

“I'm a huge proponent of internships. What I’ve seen in recent years in the UX Research field are internship opportunities, like we have here at MailChimp. We've had some interns come through here who are now associate UX researchers. So there is a path, and I think there's an opportunity to try it out.”

Here, you’ll find everything you need to know to get started as a user research intern, including:

  • Key responsibilities and qualities of a UX research intern
  • The value of UX research internships 
  • Tips for preparing, applying, interviewing, and landing the internship
  • Resources where you can find UXR internship opportunities
  • A short-list of current openings 

(Psst—send your internship opps to, and I’ll add it to the list below!)

What does a user research intern do?

Before you start sending out applications, it’s important to understand the skills, responsibilities, and experience you’ll be expected to have. 

Every UXR internship will have slightly different expectations, so carefully browse through the listing before you apply to align your resume and cover letter. Generally speaking, your responsibilities as a UXR intern will include:

Your interviewer may also look for other qualities and soft skills like:

  • Clear communication skills, both written and verbal.
  • Inquisitiveness—the ability to ask and explore meaningful questions.
  • Being a ‘people-person,’ or having the ability to collaborate well with stakeholders. 
  • Detail-orientation and the ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously. 

Additionally, most internship programs prioritize students or very-recent graduates. If this is not the case for you and you’re transitioning from a different industry, there are still plenty of opportunities for beginning your UX research career. Non-traditional internships or apprenticeship programs, mentorships and contract roles (more on these below), or independent projects can all help you land your dream job in UXR. 

Why are user research internships valuable?

Albert Einstein said

“In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.”

When you’re first getting started in UXR, it’s easy to let yourself be engulfed by theory without ever taking the leap into research practice—but in an increasingly agile and evolving industry, it’s impossible to know everything before you start. 

The experience you gain during a user research internship will help you develop your professional intuition and reveal the subtle nuances that can’t be conveyed in a textbook. 

Plus, internships help you:

  • Build your network. UX research is an incredibly welcoming community full of experienced folks eager to help newbies and share ideas. When you intern with a team of UX professionals, you meet people who have the potential to become life-long peers and mentors. These relationships may also lead to new opportunities down the road.
  • Add new projects to your portfolio. The portfolio is one of the most important assets you’ll need to break into user research (more on building a portfolio below). Independent research projects, when presented effectively, may allow you to flex your skills in a way that differentiates you from other entry-level candidates—but including professional projects with real-life implications in your portfolio will go a long way toward landing that first role. 
  • Ease your way into a full-time position. Many internship programs act as an intern-to-employee pipeline, teaching you the skills you need to succeed in an entry-level role while allowing you to test the waters and decide whether or not UX research is the right career path for you. So if you make a good impression, then you may be offered a job at the end of your internship. 

(As a side note, there's much to learn outside an internship as well—through books. Check out this big list of 50+ book recommendations from leaders in UX research and design.)

How do you land a UX research internship? 

1. Build your portfolio.

As I mentioned before, your portfolio is one of the most important assets to have on-hand while applying for UX research internships or roles. 

You might be thinking: Isn’t this a catch-22? How am I supposed to create a UX research portfolio without actual experience? 

No worries—your hiring manager will almost certainly understand that an entry-level applicant or  intern is unlikely to have worked on real-life projects in a business setting. You can get around this by doing UX research projects independently or incorporating them into your current role. 

Start paying close attention to the user experience of the products you already use and try to develop a critical eye for UX: 

  • Can you notice buttons that might be better placed elsewhere? 
  • How do competitor products compare? 
  • What themes pop up repeatedly in customer reviews? 
  • As you’re using a new product, does anything surprise you?

Your portfolio doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to demonstrate some understanding of research methods and processes, as well as a natural curiosity and an eagerness to work. 

If you’d like feedback on your portfolio before you apply, there are some communities on Slack, Linkedin, and Facebook (such as Hexagon UX’s #growth-portfolio-feedback Slack channel) that are designated specifically for this purpose.

Learn the 6 key components of a strong UX research portfolio here. 

2. Network! 

This isn’t new advice by any means, nor is it unique to UX research.

Networking allows you to discover and access opportunities you wouldn’t be able to find on your own, stay on top of trending topics in your industry, learn from your peers, and receive expert advice about how you can develop professionally. 

Luckily, there are plenty of digital and non-digital spaces available for networking with UX professionals:

  • Browse Meetup for UX-related groups and webinars in your area. 
  • Check out this database of UX research conferences and events in 2023. 
  • This list covers 100+ of the best communities on Slack, Facebook, and Linkedin. 

Remember: Don’t be shy. 

Most of the people in these communities are there to network as well, and you’ll likely be welcomed with open arms if you put yourself out there. The people you choose to surround yourself with have a major impact on what you learn, how you think, and where you go in life, so the sooner you immerse yourself in UX research communities, the sooner you’ll be on your way to an established UXR career. 

3. Start applying early.

Most UX research internship programs are seasonal and have a set recruitment period—and in some cases, early applications are prioritized or considered for special perks.

The application deadline will vary for different opportunities, but as a general rule, you should start applying at least three months prior to your ideal start date. 

Starting early will ease some of your anxiety around meeting deadlines, increase your chances of being considered before all the slots are filled, and maximize your options for different companies and programs. Plus, it'll give you time to prepare your answers for the UX research job interview questions.

4. Apply even if you’re not a perfect fit.

Internship listings may list some ‘required’ skills or qualifications you don’t have. Apply anyway! 

Many companies are flexible about your experience and qualifications, as long as you demonstrate the aptitude and willingness to learn. The point of an internship is to learn, so being a little ambitious during the application process can lead to richer, more valuable skills and experience than you might get otherwise. 

P.S.—If you’re really struggling to find a traditional internship program or you have a dream team you’d love to work with, you can also apply to companies with research teams that don’t have an open internship role. If your portfolio, resume, and cover letter catch their attention, then they may be open to creating an internship for you or placing you on a waitlist for the future. 

P.P.S—If you’re feeling extra scrappy, you might consider applying to contract entry-level UXR roles as well. Widen your search to companies in other countries that are open to remote applicants. The pay for these roles will often be lower than US rates for an entry-level UXR position, but on par with many internship salaries. 

5. Find a mentor.

Not only can mentors help you find and get an internship in UX research, but they can also become a lifelong friend, coach, and teacher as you progress in your career. 

For example, Danielle Hope Diamond, former content contributor for User Interviews, spoke to UX mentors and experts to help her master the new field, fast

“I ended up video chatting with three different UX researchers, and my conversations were invaluable. Talking to them reinforced what I learned online, opened my mind to new insights and ideas, cleared up things I misunderstood, and answered some questions that had been on my mind.”

Here are some (free) resources for finding UX research mentors:

  • ADPList is a platform for people to find, book and meet mentors around the world. You can join group sessions or book 1-1 meetings with industry professionals to gain leadership skills, receive career advice, develop your skills, and help with your search for an internship or entry-level role. (Our own VP of User Research, Roberta Dombrowski, is a mentor on ADPList! Book a chat with her here.)
  • UX Coffee Hours is a platform where aspiring UX-ers can schedule virtual coffee conversations with experienced UX professionals, including researchers, designers, and program managers. They also have an additional space, Solidarity, dedicated to encouraging and nurturing Black UX professionals. 
  • Ladies that UX Amsterdam matches mentors with mentees based on their preferences and learning goals for bi-weekly 30-minute sessions. All genders can join, but this program prioritizes matches for female mentees to discourage gender imbalances in the tech industry. 
  • HCI/UX Mentoring Circle is a Linkedin group where mentors and mentees can discuss career-related topics such as skill development, educational programs, collaborating with stakeholders, finding jobs and internships, and any other questions you might have.  

If, for whatever reason, you’re unable to find a mentor using any of the above resources, just make sure to apply to internship opportunities with an existing UX research team. You’ll learn much more quickly and effectively by having an experienced UX brain to pick than by diving into your first hands-on experience as a UX research team of one

6. Prepare for common interview questions.

The main difference between an entry-level interview and an internship interview is that you won’t have professional experience to speak about, so the questions will likely be centered around your goals, personality, work ethic, and potential to grow. 

You’ll probably be asked some basic background and career-related questions like:

  • Why are you interested in user research?
  • How much do you know about our company?
  • What has been your greatest accomplishment to date?
  • What type of environment do you thrive in?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

As well as some experience and skill-related questions like:

  • How would you describe your research process?
  • What are your preferred research methods and why? 
  • What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses coming into this role? 
  • Pick a favorite app or product. What do you like about it? What would you change?

Try writing out your answers to potential interview questions ahead of time. Find ways to directly translate your skills and experience to the qualifications and responsibility for a UX researcher. Speak with confidence, use examples where possible, and demonstrate a willingness to grow and adapt. 

7. Follow up. 

As a UX research intern, you’ll be working with real-world professionals who are busy and managing multiple projects. 

There may be times where they forget to respond to your inquiries, emails get lost in their inboxes, or last-minute projects come up unexpectedly—so you can’t always expect them to chase you down to schedule an interview. 

Make it as easy as possible for your hiring manager to move you forward in the process by following up with them a few days after you send in your application, then again a few days after your interview. They’ll appreciate your proactivity and eagerness to move forward.

8. Don’t get discouraged.  

Last, but not least: Don’t get discouraged. 

Researching, applying, and interviewing for internships is a long process with a lot of competition. 

If your search takes longer than expected or you miss out on opportunities you were excited about, reset, refocus, and return to your goal. Have patience, dedication, and a growth mindset, and the right opportunity will come along. 

You don’t have to start perfectly—you just need to start. 

Where can you find UX research internship opportunities?

The good news is that there are tons of places you can look for user research internship opportunities. The bad news is you might have to do some digging to find the right one for you—but as an aspiring researcher, I believe you’re equipped for the job. 😉

Here’s where to start:

  • Linkedin is the standard site for job seekers, and will likely be the first place everyone looks. Use search terms like ux research, user research, user experience research, and filter by “internship” under the “experience level” filter. 
  • AngelList is the #1 website for remote and startup job opportunities. You’ll likely have a harder time finding a traditional internship program on AngelList, since many startups will be looking for someone with enough experience to work independently as they build, but it’s worth digging into—you might find some gems. 
  • Indeed, like Linkedin, is one of the most popular websites for job listings. The “internship” filter can be a little wonky, so if you’re not turning up many results, be sure to use “intern” or “internship” in your title search. 
  • SimplyHired is a lesser-known job board website, so you might find opportunities here that have less competition than those on Linkedin, AngelList, or Indeed. 
  • BuiltIn Job Boards lists opportunities specifically for tech and startup companies. Choose the “design + UX” job category and select “<1 year of experience.” You’ll get a mix of both internships and entry-level positions. 
  • Remote Design Jobs is a great resource for finding remote opportunities in product design, UX/UI, and user research. Filter by “internship” under the “experience” tab.
  • Chegg Internships is specifically for internship-type opportunities, so you won’t have to sort through entry-level positions here. You can also sort by required education level, so if you’re someone transitioning into UX instead of entering through academia, you might find this filter handy. 
  • If you haven’t already joined these digital UX communities, you should—many of them, especially the Slack communities, have job boards and calls for applications that you can search through. 

I’ve also put together a shortlist of promising-looking internships open at the time of writing: 

If you know of any other opportunities that would be a good fit for this list, send me the details at and I’ll be happy to add it for you!

Good luck on your search—and in the meantime, start learning on your own. 

They say luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity—so when you stumble upon the perfect UX research internship for you, you’ll want to be prepared. 

Break into the industry on a strong note by exploring our comprehensive UX Research Field Guide, with everything you need to know to impress your interviewer and land the UXR internship. 

Lizzy Burnam
Product Education Manager

Marketer, writer, poet. Lizzy likes hiking, people-watching, thrift shopping, learning and sharing ideas. Her happiest memory is sitting on the shore of Lake Champlain in the summer of 2020, eating a clementine.

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