November 1, 2022

Navigating the UX Design Career Ladder: 5 Career Paths You Can Take As a UX Designer 

Navigating the UX Design Career Ladder: 5 Career Paths You Can Take As a UX Designer 

Working in UX design is both innovative and lucrative, given the average US income of $103,704 for UX designers across the US. But how to navigate the UX design career ladder if one wants to progress to a higher level? There are many ways UX designers can shape their careers as they upskill and gain experience. From management & senior positions to consulting & freelancing, there are endless possibilities in this thriving field.

Keep reading for an overview of what your UX career progression could look like.

UX Management

As you progress in your UX career, try taking on tasks that will give you more experience, better opportunities, and of course new responsibilities. You’ll also need to develop powerful interpersonal and leadership skills to retain a managerial position. This can eventually land you roles like UX manager, UX director, creative director, and, further down the road, executive positions like chief experience officer, or vice president of UX.

Here are the average US salaries of related managerial roles

- UX manager: $178,063

- UX director: $132,379

- Chief experience officer: $138,877

- Creative director: $125,921

Advanced UX Positions

Once you've a variety of UX skills like user research, graphic design, and experience collaborating across various teams, you can further advance your career toward senior positions like a lead UX designer, or principal UX designer. Senior designers are designers with expanded responsibilities; lead and principal designers further lead projects and oversee larger decisions, generally while still participating in the hands-on design process.

Here are the average US salaries for design roles:

- Senior UX designer: $127,360

- Lead UX designer: $147,131

- Principal UX designer: $173,820


You should get your portfolio ready if you wish to work as a freelance UX designer. In an ideal world, you would also be able to hunt for jobs and get project recommendations from a network of designers. It can be beneficial to increase your social media presence. To interact with other designers and identify businesses hiring freelancers, you could also find groups on networking and social media sites like Facebook or LinkedIn.

Check job boards and reach out to your network to see what rates your target market typically pays.

A freelance UX designer makes an average salary of $106,629. 

UX Consulting

A UX consultant is someone who enables an organization to build better design and business strategy based on user experience principles. This may involve training clients in best UX practices, researching a client’s customers, or prototyping websites and other products. You can also work as freelance consultants, or as in-house consultants in a company. 

To work as a UX consultant, one needs to have managerial experience as well as an understanding of forming and executing underlying business strategies & workflows.

UX consultants make an average salary of $101,735.

UX Specialist

If you find you’re drawn to certain aspects of UX design, making a lateral switch to a related position can be an option worth considering.  You can switch by polishing the skills in the field you want to move into. 

Here are average US salaries for various roles in UX:

- UX researcher: $132,922

- UX writer: $118,725

- UX engineer: $124,511

If you’re new to UX, then getting help & career advice from UX leaders through mentorship sessions on ADPList is a great option to begin with . You can even learn the skills needed to transition to a UX design job. Just type 'Design' & book your 1:1 on mentor session with your favorite UX leader.