Table Of Contents

Curious about breaking into UX design without a degree?

Whether you’re starting fresh or transitioning careers, this beginner’s guide will walk you through the essentials step by step. Discover the path to creating intuitive user experiences and building a solid foundation in the field.


1. UX Design Definition

What is UX Design?

User Experience (UX) design is a multidisciplinary field that focuses on enhancing the interaction between users and digital or physical products. It encompasses various aspects, such as usability, accessibility, and overall pleasure provided in the interaction with a product.

The goal of UX design is to create products that are not only functional but also provide a seamless, efficient, and enjoyable experience for the user. This involves understanding the needs and behaviors of users through research, creating user personas, and mapping out user journeys to identify pain points and opportunities for improvement.

What Do UX Designers Do?

UX designers focus on creating products, like websites and apps, that deliver exceptional user experiences. 

UX designers advocate for the user, working with cross-functional teams to ensure a product meets both user needs and business objectives. Their role combines research, creativity, and iterative design to create products that are not only functional but also enjoyable and effective for users.

2. UX Designers Responsibilities

UX Design Job Responsibilities

  1. Conduct interviews, surveys, and usability tests to understand user needs, behaviors, and pain points.
  2. Develop detailed personas and user stories to represent different types of users and their goals.
  3. Organize and structure the content and functionality of a product to ensure it’s intuitive and easy to navigate.
  4. Create low-fidelity wireframes and high-fidelity prototypes to visualize and test design ideas and interactions.
  5. Work closely with UI designers to ensure visual elements and interactions align with the overall user experience goals.
  6. Conduct tests with real users to gather feedback and identify usability issues or areas for improvement.
  7. Iterate on designs based on user feedback and usability testing results to continuously improve the user experience.
  8. Collaborate with developers, product managers, marketers, and other stakeholders to ensure designs meet user needs and business goals.
  9. Ensure designs are accessible to users with disabilities by following accessibility standards and conducting accessibility testing.
  10. Develop UX strategies, creating design guidelines, and documenting design decisions and rationale.
3. Where do UX Designers Work

Where Do UX Designers Work?

UX designers can work in a variety of settings—including from home!—, depending on the organization and industry. Here are some common places where UX designers might work:

  1. Tech Companies: Many UX designers are employed by tech companies ranging from large corporations to startups. These companies often have dedicated design teams working on software, apps, websites, and other digital products.
  2. Design Agencies: Design agencies specialize in providing design services to clients across different industries. UX designers in agencies work on a wide range of projects for various clients, which can offer diverse experiences and challenges.
  3. In-House Design Teams: Many businesses have their own in-house design teams, including UX designers. These teams focus on improving the user experience of the company’s products or services, ensuring consistency and alignment with the company’s brand and goals.
  4. Consulting: Some UX designers work as consultants, offering their expertise to businesses on a project-by-project basis. They may provide strategic advice, conduct usability assessments, or help optimize existing designs.
  5. Freelance: Freelance UX designers work independently, often taking on projects from multiple clients. This offers flexibility in choosing projects and working hours, but requires self-discipline and the ability to manage client relationships.
  6. Education and Nonprofit Organizations: Universities, research institutions, and non-profit organizations may also employ UX designers to improve the usability and effectiveness of their websites, educational tools, or services.

Overall, UX designers can find opportunities in almost any industry where there is a need to improve the interaction between users and digital or physical products. The specific job responsibilities and work environment can vary widely depending on the type of organization and the nature of the projects they are involved in.

4. UX Designer Salary

How Much Do UX Designers Make?

The median salary for web developers and digital designers was $92,750 in May 2023, according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now, compare the salary of UX designers to the median annual wage for all workers—$48,060. All things considered, UX designers can make a handsome, family-sustaining salary.

Keep in mind the salary of UX designers vary depending on factors like experience, location, company size, and industry. Additionally, entry-level UX designers may start at a lower salary, while more experienced designers or those in managerial roles can earn significantly more.

5. UX Designer Demand

Are UX Designers in Demand?

Is UX design dying?

Are there any UX jobs available?

Are UX designers even in demand?

Yes, UX designers are in demand in today’s job market!

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in web development and digital design is expected to grow by 16% from 2022 to 2032. This job outlook is significantly higher than the average growth rate for all occupations, which is just 3%.

As technology evolves and digital experiences become more integral to everyday life, the demand for UX designers is expected to remain strong. This presents ample opportunities for individuals interested in pursuing a career in UX design, whether through traditional employment, freelance work, or consultancy roles.

6. How to Become a UX Designer

How to Become a UX Designer Without a Degree or Experience

So, you’ve searched “how to become a UX designer” in the past and were met with four-year degrees and full-time bootcamps. Yes, these are opportune ways to enter the UX profession. But they aren’t the only ways. College alternatives, like professional certificates and job training programs, ensure you don’t have to wait four years or take a leave of absence to complete a bootcamp.

Here are the basic steps you should take to become a UX designer without a degree or experience.

1. Learn Basic Skills

If you’ve made it to this point in the career change journey, congratulations! You’ve made the exciting decision to invest in your future today for a better tomorrow. Now, onto the challenging part—learning new skills.

Don’t get it twisted. You can become a UX designer without a degree, but you still need a UX designer skill set to qualify for entry-level positions. Here’s how.

Online platforms, such as Coursera, offer specialized courses like the Google UX Design Professional Certificate. This program is designed to teach learners the essential skills and principles of UX design, guided by industry experts from Google.

Participants learn through a series of interactive courses covering topics like UX research, prototyping, and usability testing. The curriculum typically includes real-world projects and hands-on exercises to apply theoretical knowledge into practical scenarios.

And, no, you don’t need to know how to code to become a UX designer.

Online courses provide flexibility, allowing learners to study at their own pace and often offer opportunities to earn industry-recognized certifications upon completion. However, if you’re like many of us balancing work, caretaking responsibilities, and general stress, you may need a bit more support that you won’t find in a self-learning course.

Let’s face it. Only 14% of learners who start a professional certificate complete the program requirements on their own. A job training program, like Merit America, can provide you the learning and career support you need to successfully become a UX designer.

📌 Related reading: Is Merit America Worth It?

UX Designer Skills

UX designers need a diverse set of skills to excel in their roles. Here are some key UX design skills you should learn to become a UX designer:

  • User Research: Ability to conduct various research methods such as interviews, surveys, and usability testing to understand user behaviors, needs, and motivations.
  • User Persona and Scenario Development: Creating detailed user personas and scenarios to represent different types of users and their goals.
  • Information Architecture: Organizing and structuring the content and functionality of a product to ensure it’s intuitive and easy to navigate.
  • Wireframing and Prototyping: Using tools to create low-fidelity wireframes and high-fidelity prototypes to visualize and test design ideas and interactions.
  • UI (User Interface) Design Principles: Understanding visual design principles and collaboration with UI designers to ensure designs are aesthetically pleasing and aligned with user experience goals.
  • Interaction Design: Designing interactive elements and transitions that enhance usability and user engagement.
  • Usability Testing and Feedback Incorporation: Conducting usability tests with real users and using feedback to iterate and improve designs.
  • Analytical Skills: Ability to analyze data and user feedback to make informed design decisions and optimizations.
  • Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking: Solving complex design challenges and anticipating user needs through creative problem-solving.
  • Communication and Collaboration: Effectively communicating design ideas and rationale to stakeholders and collaborating with cross-functional teams including developers, product managers, and marketers.
  • Prototyping Tools: Proficiency in using design tools such as Sketch, Figma, Adobe XD, or prototyping tools like InVision to create and iterate on designs.
  • Knowledge of Accessibility Standards: Understanding accessibility principles and ensuring designs are accessible to users with disabilities.

These skills are crucial for UX designers to create products that not only meet user needs but also provide enjoyable and effective user experiences. Continuously developing and honing these skills is essential in staying competitive and delivering impactful designs in the ever-evolving field of UX design.

2. Build a Portfolio

A UX design portfolio is crucial because it showcases your skills and thought process, allowing potential employers or clients to see the quality of your work firsthand. It’s your chance to make a strong impression and demonstrate your ability to solve real-world design problems effectively.

In your portfolio, you should include a variety of projects to demonstrate your versatility. This can include mobile apps, websites, and other digital interfaces. Additionally, your UX design portfolio should highlight case studies that explain your design process, challenges faced, and how you addressed user needs.

And before you stop by your local library or printer shop, consider that a portfolio website is the most common and accessible way to share your portfolio.

3. Gain Experience

One common concern among career changers is gaining enough experience, which is crucial for becoming a UX designer. 

To build your experience, consider freelancing as a UX designer on platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, or Freelancer. This allows you to work on real projects, grow your skills, and develop a portfolio that can lead to higher-level positions with better pay.

Volunteering your design skills for nonprofit organizations or community projects is another excellent way to gain valuable experience and expand your professional network. These opportunities not only allow you to contribute to meaningful causes but also provide chances to collaborate with others in the field and showcase your abilities.

4. Network and Get Involved in the UX Community

Your network plays a crucial role in landing your first UX designer job. However, beyond job opportunities, your network and the wider UX community can help you grow your skills, stay updated on industry trends, connect with peers, and receive valuable support.

To expand your network, consider joining online UX communities on platforms like Reddit, LinkedIn, and Slack. These forums are great for learning, sharing insights, and building connections with professionals in the field.

Additionally, attending local UX meetups, workshops, and conferences offers opportunities to meet like-minded individuals, gain practical knowledge, and draw inspiration from others’ experiences.

These interactions not only enhance your professional development but also enrich your understanding of UX design practices and possibilities.

7. Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Does UX Design Require Coding?

UX design typically does not require extensive coding skills, but having a basic understanding of coding languages can be beneficial.

Having some familiarity with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript can facilitate better collaboration with developers. This knowledge allows UX designers to communicate design requirements effectively and understand technical constraints and possibilities. Additionally, prototyping tools like Adobe XD, Figma, or Sketch often require basic knowledge of these languages to create interactive prototypes.

Can I Become a UX Designer Without a Degree?

Yes, you can become a UX designer without a degree!

CompTIA estimates that 47% of all active web designer and UI/UX job postings do not require a four-year degree.

The truth is many successful UX designers entered the field through alternative pathways, such as online courses, self-study, job training programs, practical experience, and building a strong portfolio. What matters most is your ability to demonstrate your skills, creativity, and understanding of user experience principles.

Is UX Design Stressful?

Being a UX designer can be challenging and occasionally stressful, but it also offers a lot of rewards and opportunities for creativity. The job involves balancing multiple tasks, such as conducting user research, designing interfaces, and iterating on feedback, all while meeting deadlines and client or stakeholder expectations. This can sometimes be demanding and require good time management and problem-solving skills.

However, many UX designers find the work fulfilling because it combines creativity with analytical thinking and allows them to make a tangible impact on users’ experiences. The field also offers a lot of variety, as no two projects are exactly the same. If you enjoy solving problems, working with a team, and continuously learning, you might find the challenges of UX design to be stimulating rather than stressful.

Will UX Design Be Replaced by AI?

We love this question because it shows you are already thinking like a designer, determining what skills you need to acquire to stay competitive and ahead of the curve. That said, we understand it’s daunting as a career changer considering the future of UX.

Here’s what you need to know about UX and AI.

While AI is becoming more integrated into UX design, it is unlikely to completely replace UX designers. AI can assist with tasks like data analysis, generating design suggestions, and automating repetitive processes, but the creative and empathetic aspects of UX design still require a human touch. 

UX designers bring a deep understanding of human behavior, context, and emotions, which AI currently cannot fully replicate. Instead of replacing UX designers, AI is more likely to become a valuable tool that enhances their work, allowing them to focus more on strategic and innovative aspects of design.

Key Takeaways
UX design is the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with a product.
A UX designer creates and optimizes user interfaces and experiences to ensure products are user-friendly, efficient, and enjoyable to use. Designers are in high demand due to the increasing emphasis on creating user-friendly and engaging digital products and experiences.
You can become a UX designer without a degree by gaining skills through online courses, job training programs, self-study, and building a strong portfolio.

Become a UX Designer (Without a Degree!) With Merit America

Breaking into UX design without a degree is entirely achievable with the right resources and dedication. By leveraging online courses, building a strong portfolio, and seeking out mentorship and networking opportunities, you can successfully launch a rewarding career in UX design.

Ready to break into tech without a degree and boost your earning potential? Explore how Merit America can help you gain essential skills and launch a lasting career in UX design.

Merit America is a national job training nonprofit. We offer comprehensive training, peer group collaboration, 1:1 career coaching, and dedicated placement support to help you transition into a high-demand tech role. Join our program today to start your journey toward a successful career in UX design.