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August 31, 2021
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Just starting out in UXR? Here are some helpful resources to help you launch a successful user research career.
Check out the ✨The State of User Research 2021 Report✨ for insights on UXR salaries, job experience, industries doing research, and more. Keep reading to learn more about the types of jobs that commonly involve user research.
A UX researcher (or "user researcher" or "design researcher") is someone who conducts qualitative and quantitative research to uncover user needs, pain points, and behaviors. They often work with design and product teams on things like discovery and evaluative research. The insights they uncover help companies make smarter business and product decisions. UX researchers spend their time planning research studies, running sessions, organizing research studies, analyzing the results, and presenting them to stakeholders.
UX researchers need strong research skills (plot twist, we know), but that’s not all it takes to be a great researcher. UX researchers need to be relentlessly curious, analytical, well-organized, and deeply empathetic. For a more detailed description of the skills you’ll need at each point in your career as a UX researcher, check out this list by Nikki Anderson.
Companies are looking for UX researchers who have experience:
Recruiting & Scheduling - Finding participants for research and scheduling their sessions.
Generative Research - Research conducted to generate ideas for a new project.
Usability Testing - Research conducted to evaluate the usability of a product, service, or feature.
Quantitative Research - Research conducted to gain statistically significant, data-based findings. Things like A/B tests, heatmaps, and first click tests are part of this work.
Synthesis - The act of gathering your findings from research and synthesizing them into something your stakeholders can understand. This can include data analysis, coding interview notes, and creating research repositories.
Reporting - Sharing your research findings with stakeholders. This can include formal research reports, clips from sessions, or presentations.
According to Glassdoor, UX researchers (in the United States) earn an average salary of $124,361. That tallies with the numbers from our own State of User Research 2021 survey. We looked at the self-reported salary data of people whose title is UX/user researcher and who spend over 50% of their time on research (UX research managers, for example, may not spend all their time researching but still fall in this category). We excluded survey data from folks outside the US, to keep things consistent with the info from Glassdoor.
Here’s what we found 👇
The majority of people (53.4%) who spend more than 50% of their time on research reported base salaries between $100,000 and $149,999 annually.
A UX designer is someone who designs and creates user experiences. UX designers use research to ensure their designs are useful, usable, and accessible to users.
To be a UX designer, you’re going to need some design chops (another shocker). UX designers think about usability, flows, and user feedback. To be a great UX designer, you’ll need skills in ideation, lo-fi design, hi-fi design, implementation, usability testing, and quantitative research.
Brush up on some of the core research skills you need as a UX designer 👇
According to Glassdoor, UX designers in the United States earn a salary of $112,109 a year, on average. The Glassdoor average is based on 1,034 salary reports.
A product designer is someone designs and creates digital experiences. Depending on where they work, their day to day can look very similar to that of a UX designer. This article from Career Foundry does a good job of breaking down the difference between the two roles—the biggest one centers on priority. For UX designers, usability trumps all; product designers often balance user needs with those of the business, cost, and brand.
To be a product designer, you need to have both creative and analytical skills in abundance. Product designers think about the business impact of design choices as well as the user experience. To be a great product designer, you’ll need skills in ideation, lo-fi design, hi-fi design, usability testing, and quantitative research.
Brush up on the research skills you need to be a product designer 👇
According to 3,790 salary reports on Glassdoor, product designers in the US earn a salary of $103,875 a year, on average.
The product manager (PM) profile is a notoriously slippery fish—since product managers sit at the intersection of so many departments and stakeholders, the scope snd focus of a particular PM role varies greatly from company to company. But to oversimplify: Product managers are in charge of making sure the right things are built at the right time. They do this by organizing teams of engineers and designers to create impactful features and user friendly products that meet business expectations.
To be a product manager, you’ll need organizational skills, high emotional intelligence, and some technical know-how. To be a great product manager, you’ll need experience running design sprints, prioritizing features, defining and tracking success, conducting generative research, running usability tests, and gathering quantitative research.
Brush up on the research skills you need to be a product manager 👇
According to Glassdoor salary data from 28,313 reported salaries, the average salary of product managers in the US is $110,570.
There are other roles that may involve doing user research on a semi-regular basis—like product marketing or customer success. To some extent, almost any job can involve user research if it’s something you're interested in doing (and that your company values). For example, I'm a content writer; user research isn’t an inherent part of my job description but it’s something I do fairly often. Since I work for a company that values user research, I get to participate in company-wide studies and can advocate for additional user research to make our content even better.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in user research but don’t work directly in that space yet, think of how you could incorporate talking to users into your work. Could a project you’re working on be more efficient with some user feedback? Would you be able to learn more about your customers through research? What are you guessing about that you shouldn't be?
Most of us have at least a year of remote work under our belts at this point—nearly 90% of the people we surveyed for our State of User Research 2021 report said they worked exclusively remotely since the pandemic began. But if you're still learning about what remote work can look like in a post-COVID world, here are some of our favorite resources about remote work, what it looks like for people who do research, and how you can get started with remote UX research.
Content marketer by day, thankless servant to cats Frodo and Elaine Benes by night. Loves to travel, has a terrible sense of direction. Bakes a mean chocolate tart, makes a mediocre cup of coffee. "Eclectic."