A guide to UX designer salaries in 2022

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March 16, 2021
5 minute read

UX designer salaries, like those in similar fields including web design and web development, vary greatly. However, if you’re thinking about a career shift, and love the idea of getting into the mind of website visitors, this may be the right career path for you.

This versatile, dynamic, creative, and sought-after role offers room to grow in many industries and locations, and thanks to the ever-evolving nature of our digital landscape, opportunities for advancement are continuing to increase. A career in UX design also lends itself to remote or freelance work in the current job market, allowing you to be flexible with how and where you work.

Of course, before you do make a change, it’s helpful to know what you can expect to earn as a UX designer. As with most jobs, the salary range depends on many factors, including experience, qualifications, company, and location. Use this guide to get a sense of what you can expect to earn, along with where the best places are to work, what’s expected of you in this role, and more.

First: Is a UX and UI Designer the Same?

If you start to research jobs for UX designers, you may find many positions listing a UI designer with similar duties and qualifications. While these often fall under one job description, UX and UI design are not interchangeable. UX design focuses on “user experience,” and UI focuses on “user interface.” Both functions work together at various touchpoints in the product design journey.

The reason UX and UI are often linked so closely together is that many companies want to hire designers who are adaptable and skilled in more than one area. It can be helpful to have UX designers who know both disciplines.

Here are some key differences between them to be aware of before understanding salary for UX design.

Differences between UX and UI design

It’s not necessary to get too in the weeds about the specific distinctions of these two roles, but knowing which is which can help you decide whether you do in fact want to pursue a career in UX or not. Here are the three main responsibilities of UX design versus UI design to keep in mind:

  • A UX designer works in both physical and digital mediums, while a UI designer only focuses on digital products (I.E. smartphone touch screens, mobile app features, website displays, etc.).
  • A UX designer builds the structural framework of the customer journey, while a UI designer infuses that journey with visual and interactive components the user will react to emotionally.
  • A UX designer solves a problem for the user, while a UI designer creates an aesthetic experience for the user.

What is the current salary for a UX designer?

If you’re ready to pursue your career in UX design, know that your salary is based on a number of variables, including the amount of experience you have in this field, the size of the organization you work for, and the demand for this job in your region or city. The base salary range for a UX designer for most U.S. markets in 2021, according to Payscale:

  • National Average: $74,703 per year
  • Base Salary Range: $51,000 to $108,000 per year

Take it a step further and consider the salaries for a UX designer at some of the biggest tech companies. The data below is from 2021 estimates by Glassdoor:

  • Apple: $137,112 (base average), $74,000 to $185,000 (range)
  • Google: $136,112 (base average), $60,000 to $200,000 (range)
  • LinkedIn: $130,951 (base average), $112,000 to $141,000 (range)
  • Cisco: $124,288 (base average), $85,000 to $174,000 (range)
  • Microsoft: $115,511 (base average), $82,000 to $156,000 (range)
  • Amazon: $112,699 (base average), $67,000 to $150,000 (range)
  • Adobe: $112,097 (base average), $66,000 to $164,000 (range)
  • Salesforce: $103,045 (base average), $60,000 to $178,000 (range)
  • IBM: $100,164 (base average), $71,000 to $170,000 (range)
  • VMware: $96,859 (base average), $64,000 to $129,000 (range)

Where are the best markets for a UX designer located?

Location plays a significant role in salary calculations. If you’re able to be flexible on location, you can move to a more lucrative, in-demand market. With their close proximity to established corporations and innovative tech startups alike, these seven U.S. cities are some of the most profitable, agile markets for a career in UX design in the nation.

Consider the current salary range for each market and which companies are headquartered in or near these locations in the United States.

San Francisco, CA UX designer salaries

  • Annual salary: $104,843 (average base), $78,000 to $138,000 (range)
  • Design agencies to work for: IDEO, Thoughtbot, Clay, Blink, Designit, Frog
  • Corporations to work for: Salesforce, Twitter, Adobe, Google, Square, Tesla
  • Freelance outlook: San Francisco is an excellent market to pursue the freelance or independent contractor route as a UX designer. The average salary for a freelancer in San Francisco is $50 per hour or $104,203 per year.

Seattle, WA UX Designer Salaries

  • Annual Salary: $95,263 (average base), $71,000 to $126,000 (range)
  • Design agencies to work for: UpTop, Projekt202, Rainfall, RNO1, Palador, Bilberrry
  • Corporations to work for: Amazon, Microsoft, Cray, Tableau, Expedia, Zulily
  • Freelance outlook: While slightly below the national average, you can still enjoy a lucrative freelance career in this city. A Seattle-based freelance UX designer could earn $48 per hour or $101,175 per year, on average.

New York City, NY UX designer salaries

  • Annual salary: $89,038 (average base), $65,000 to $119,000 (range)
  • Design agencies to work for: LOOP, Crafted, Flightpath, Ruckus, LoungeLizard, Avex
  • Corporations to work for: Facebook, Genius, Wix, Slack, Asana, Peloton
  • Freelance outlook: You have the potential to do remarkably well as a freelancer or independent contractor if you live around the NYC area. The average salary for a UX designer in New York City is $51 per hour or $107,842 per year.

Boston, MA UX designer salaries

  • Annual salary: $83,920 (average base), $62,000 to $112,000 (range)
  • Design agencies to work for: Dockyard, Altr, Imarc, Vermonster, Wakefly, Motiv
  • Corporations to work for: HubSpot, Akamai, Toast, Formlabs, iRobot, Skillsoft
  • Freelance outlook: In metro Boston, a freelancer will earn slightly under the national average. If you work as a freelancer in this market, then expect to earn a salary of $47 per hour or $99,550 per year, on average.

San Diego, CA UX designer salaries

  • Annual salary: $81,218 (average base), $59,000 to $109,000 (range)
  • Design agencies to work for: LESS+MORE, Cozy, Seamgen, Border, Nodo, Telepathy
  • Corporations to work for: PulseLink, Qualcomm, Kneron, Psyonix, Buzztime, Oracle
  • Freelance outlook: Southern California might not be not as known for tech as Silicon Valley, but freelancers can thrive in San Diego. Here you could make $49 per hour or $102,088 per year as a freelancer, on average.

Chicago, IL UX designer salaries

  • Annual salary: $79,157 (average base), $58,000 to $107,000 (range)
  • Design agencies to work for: Gulo, KitelyTech, UX 4Sight, Codal, MSTQ, Greygoo
  • Corporations to work for: Avant, Snapsheet, Motorola, Grubhub, Braintree, Orbitz
  • Freelance outlook: This location is another market that dips below the national average for freelancers and independent contractors. The average freelance UX designer salary in Chicago is $43 per hour or $90,982 per year.

Austin, TX UX designer salaries

  • Annual salary: $78,236 (average base), $57,000 to $105,000 (range)
  • Design agencies to work for: Slide UX, Funsize, SeaLab, Praxent, Thiken, ChaiOne
  • Corporations to work for: Dell, BigCommerce, Flex, Planoly, FloSports, Whole Foods
  • Freelance outlook: Due to its robust startup culture and increasing reputation as a tech hub, this is a lucrative city for freelancers. In Austin, you could earn a salary of $49 per hour or $102,139 per year, on average.

How much can a new UX designer earn?

Most jobs in the tech field pay more based on experience, and UX design is no different. But if you’re new to this discipline, you can still earn a competitive income. Even as a complete novice in UX design, the earning opportunities for a UX design career are worth noting. In fact, UX designers rank in the top 25 of Glassdoor’s list of highest paid, most satisfied workers in 2021.

Base salary estimate for new UX designers

The starting annual salary for this position is $80,139 with a national median base salary of $90,881 and a four out of five employee satisfaction rate overall. Not to mention, with the continual expansion of UX design into sectors outside of tech (I.E. healthcare, travel, fashion, e-commerce, sales and marketing, human resources, education), the career advancement outlook is bright.

Growth potential for new UX designers

According to a recent Product Design Hiring Report from the digital collaboration platform InVision, 70 percent of surveyed managers plan to increase their design teams by 21 percent over this year, and UX designers are the most sought-after professionals in this field. In fact, 81 percent of surveyed UX designers are contacted by job recruiters on a monthly basis and another 34 percent are contacted weekly.

In addition, UX design is one of the top five in-demand technical skills that companies need most, according to a nationwide LinkedIn survey. A transition into UX design will make you an attractive job candidate across multiple industries.

With a starting annual salary of almost six figures and a positive growth rate forecast, UX design is an ideal career move, regardless of your prior qualifications or experience. It’s also a remote-friendly job, allowing you to be flexible in where and how you work.

What is the average U.S. salary for a remote UX designer?

As the events of 2020 showed, remote work is not only a viable solution for many companies to stay in business during the pandemic, but it’s also the option most employees in the U.S. would prefer long-term.

Almost 50 percent of workers in the tech industry are able to telecommute permanently now, and 95 percent of them plan to, based on a survey from Indeed. There are many advantages to remote work such as a flexible schedule, no commute to the office, and more time to balance job and family obligations. Plus, all the virtual communication and collaboration technologies make it easy to connect with other remote team members.

What the remote UX designer landscape looks like

A remote position could be the right career path for you, allowing all the benefits of working from home while still paying a great salary. Consider what you can expect as a remote UX designer in terms of salary and opportunity—if at all.

What a remote UX designer can expect to earn

There are two kinds of remote UX designers: 1099 freelancers who independently contract their services out to one or more clients and W-2 employees who are on staff at a company but do not work onsite.

In some cases, freelancers earn more than other remote UX designers since they have the freedom to set their own rates, but there is definite earning potential no matter which of these routes you choose. Here are the national starting base salary estimates for a remote UX designer in the United States who's new to the industry:

Where to look for remote UX design jobs

Online job boards are valuable resources for UX designers looking for remote work, but it’s helpful to know where exactly to narrow your search. Use these websites to find remote UX designer jobs for all experience levels and geographic locations:

Even on the low end of the pay scale, UX designers often still earn more than remote employees in other tech roles. If you want to work from home—either in a freelance or full-time capacity—a career in UX design makes that possible.

Why are UX designers paid more than web designers?

Whether you work as an in-house, remote, or freelance UX designer, it’s clear this job pays well. In fact, you can earn significantly more in this role than you could otherwise as a typical web designer. There are a few main variances to note between UX and web designers which factor into this salary difference.

Differences between web and UX designers

Both UX designers and web designers focus on the various digital elements that turn a design concept into a website. However, a web designer focuses on the overall creation and vision of the design while a UX designer specializes entirely on the user-centric facets of design.

  • A web designer creates the front-end visuals, and sometimes the back-end coding if they also have web development skills, while a UX designer takes the basic visuals a step further by translating them into a functional (UX) experience for the user. A web designer builds the framework and a UX designer fine-tunes the usability.
  • A web designer only focuses on the digital elements of a website or online browser, whereas a UX designer’s scope extends further than the internet. For instance, a UX designer works in mediums such as mobile apps, software programs, tech devices. and, in some cases, physical environments or products. In this way, UX design is a more versatile field than web design.

The intensive process of user and market research, schematic analyses, wireframe or prototype creation, and final product testing that UX designers undertake leads to an outcome that best serves the customer. This makes this role potentially more valuable, in terms of ROI, than that of a web designer.

In fact, each dollar an organization invests into solid UX design can yield $100 in return for an average ROI of $9,900. With how valuable this role is, it stands to reason that a future in UX design looks bright.

Are UX design salaries projected to decrease in the future?

While UX design might be a viable and profitable career option right now, it’s natural to wonder if the salary estimates for this role will decrease over time. With so many people transitioning into the field in 65 countries across the globe, based on a 2020 Nielsen Norman poll, will the demand for new UX designers level off? Could this affect how much businesses pay their current UX employees too?

The job forecast for UX design in the next decade

The job outlook for the web development and digital design industry, the umbrella which UX falls under, is at an 8 percent growth rate over the next 10 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is twice the growth rate of most occupations in other industries. In addition, the BLS projects 13,400 annual job openings in this sector through 2029.

Before diving into how the projected growth could impact salary outlook, it’s also worth mentioning the career satisfaction rate in UX design. On a scale of one to seven, most surveyed UX designers rank their overall satisfaction at 5.4, Nielsen reports, and on average, employees credit this to the four reasons below:

  • The process of the work
  • The impact of the work
  • The recognition for the work
  • The opportunities to grow and excel

UX design salary outlook

In such a dynamic, expansive, sought-after industry, the future earning potential for a UX designer will likely increase as demand continues. However, the long answer is not always that simple.

Salary is impacted by location, experience, the size of the business you work at, and whether you’re a freelance contractor or in-house employee. While there are no guarantees, you can guess that a UX designer with more than a decade of experience in San Francisco will still earn more than a UX designer with one to three years of experience in a smaller market five years from now based on the BLS’s projected outlook.

Long-term income growth is possible

According to the same Nielsen survey, professionals who transition from senior-level roles in fields such as information technology or finance report taking a pay cut to work in entry-level UX design. However, with the positive job outlook and opportunities to advance in this role, UX design can be a lucrative job for anyone to move into long-term.

If you’re in the process of moving your career into UX design, this final section will cover how to negotiate fair compensation as a new UX designer. Your skills and expertise are valuable assets, so don’t short-sell yourself.

How should you negotiate your first UX design salary?

When entering your first interview for a position in UX design, you’ll want to keep the salary expectations realistic without selling yourself too short. Knowledge is power in just about every scenario, and salary negotiations are no different. The following action steps can help you calculate the reasonable pay grade to ask for in an interview.

Determine the average base salary for someone at your level

Start with the preliminary online research to find out what other UX designers earn. You can refine these search results based on the company, region, and position level. A Google search will yield this information, or you can use the following websites:

  • Glassdoor
  • ZipRecruiter
  • Indeed
  • PayScale
  • UX Designer Salaries

Learn as many technical, industry-specific skills as you can

Once you have a baseline figure in mind, it’s time to develop your credentials and build your toolbelt of UX design skills, which will make your resume stand out among other beginners. The more skills you have, the more marketable you are as a candidate, and the higher compensation you can ask for. Knowledge and expertise are your best leverage in a salary negotiation.

  • Start by reading books and articles or listening to podcasts on UX design.
  • Watch video tutorials from UX professionals on YouTube.
  • Learn how to build a portfolio of your work to show a job recruiter or potential employer.
  • Take a course to learn the foundations of UX design or expand on the basics with a virtual certification program.

While some courses have an enrollment fee, here are some free training options to start you off:

Factor in transferable skills

No matter which field you worked in previously, some of the core competencies you acquired in that industry can be useful in UX design too. Both “hard” technical skills and “soft” interpersonal skills are fair game in a salary discussion.

  • Do you have a strong track record of team collaboration?
  • Can you interpret website and user analytics?
  • Is your background in customer service?
  • Do you know how to code or use software tools such as Adobe XD?
  • Are you a creative thinker, visual learner, and strategic problem solver?

Don’t discount these skills—they can increase your value as a candidate.

Talk to other professionals in the field

If you know someone who already works in UX design, use their experience to better understand how you can stand out in your interview. If possible, don’t forget to ask about salary. Salary conversations can feel awkward initially, and you don’t want to be too invasive, of course, but it never hurts to ask for a ballpark figure.

If you don’t have any personal connections in the UX design sector, join a Facebook or LinkedIn UX design group. Within these social media communities, you can ask questions and elicit feedback or advice from the more experienced members. Below are some reputable UX design communities on both these platforms:

Facebook Groups:

  • Give Good UX Community of Friends
  • User Experience Professionals Association
  • UX Beginner: Design Community
  • UX Designer Career Support

LinkedIn Groups:

  • Design Thinking Group
  • User Experience Professionals Network
  • UX Pros: Largest User Experience Group
  • UX Experience Group

Understand UX designer salaries in 2022

This career path will flex both the technical and creative sides of your brain in a fast-paced, collaborative setting. The industry forecast and earning potential are on the rise, and the job satisfaction rate speaks for itself. If you want to pursue a career in UX design, now is the time to start building your knowledge and experience and considering where you live and where you’re willing to move, if necessary. Ultimately, with the right skills and experience, you can enjoy a lucrative and exciting career in UX design for many years to come.