TL;DR

Learn the most in-demand UX skills anywhere you can and build a portfolio of work (preferably done for real clients). Students in our UX courses at RED Academy get connected with real small businesses to work with.

So you’re thinking about starting a career in UX Design. Hopefully it’s because the type of work that UX Designers do is genuinely appealing to you, but it’s fine if you’re partially motivated by the potential earnings, too. UX Designer salaries, have risen over the past few years around the world, particularly in North America and the UK, and companies are continuing to invest in the skills these professionals bring to the table.

Whether you’re pivoting from a totally unrelated career or one in another design discipline, it can be a bit unclear what steps you should take to actually become a UX Designer.

In the interest of helping you find some clarity around that, we’ve compiled information from about a dozen resources including blog posts written by professionals currently working in the UX space, as well as research articles shared by design websites and organizations dedicated to career development. We’ve boiled all of that information down to this one easily digestible blog post, just for you!

Since RED Academy is a tech and design school, we’ve also sprinkled in notes from our own UX instructors. They dedicate much of their time to assisting other professionals like you in pursuing their own career goals and keep a pulse on how the UX job market is evolving over time.

What do UX Employers Want?

In a word, your portfolio.

For anyone unfamiliar, a portfolio is a neat gallery or showcase of one’s work. No, you don’t have to print things out on fancy paper and bind them in a fancy folder. Your portfolio can absolutely be digital and can live on your own website, or one of the many popular portfolio platforms like UXfol.io, Behance or Dribbble.

Your UX portfolio should demonstrate your ability in executing on various parts of design projects, and should document your process rather than just displaying visual outcomes of your work. Organizing your portfolio around individual case studies for each project you’ve done will allow you to clearly outline what problems you set out to solve and what the process looked like in producing solutions. This is something that our UX instructors place a lot of emphasis on in our UX courses.

Adding a personal touch to your portfolio can help ensure that you land a job on a team aligned with your own values and where you’ll be a great culture fit. However, many employers indicated that they focus significantly more on the actual skills being demonstrated when reviewing an applicant’s work, so prioritize that.

“But what if I haven’t done any projects yet?”

Good point.

One of the leading challenges for entry level professionals in a wide range of industries today is that they need experience to get a job, but need a job to get experience. Internships and co-op roles can be tough to find, so you may need to resort to doing some small personal projects early on in your career to begin populating that portfolio.

While building a hypothetical new website for Nike might be a cool idea, many employers favour real client work because the exchange of feedback between parties is such a significant part of the UX design process.

At RED Academy, it’s very important to us to connect students taking our UX Designer Professional Programs with real clients as part of their course work so that graduates can confidently show employers what they can do.

One way or another, building your portfolio is going to be a time investment, so it’s important to spend that time on practicing skills that UX employers are most interested in.

What UX Skills are the Most Important to Employers?

After compiling an initial list of in-demand UX skills based off of anecdotal research and the input of our UX instructors, we’ve further prioritized them based on the rate at which these skills were included in UX job postings on Indeed.

Most Desired UX Skills

These were included in 30-50% or more of all UX job postings in the United Kingdom, United States and Canada at the end of 2019.

Important, but less often required

Nice-to-haves

Where to Learn UX Skills

The majority of individual UX concepts can be learned through the thousands of articles and videos available for free online. This is absolutely a great place to start and can help you decide whether UX is something that you’d like to pursue as a career.

Long-term, it may be challenging to navigate the ways in which many design concepts relate to one another and you may look to take an online course which better streamlines all of the content for you.

Ultimately, having a mentor or guide will help you progress the most effectively as receiving feedback about errors that you may not notice yourself can accelerate your learning. However, if you do have or develop any contacts in the UX industry, it may be wise to bug them sparingly, as they’ll be most valuable to you when you’re ready to begin your job search.

Bootcamps are increasingly well recognized and can be very time efficient. At RED Academy, our UX Design Programs are taught by UX professionals who have worked in the industry and include opportunities to build your portfolio by doing work for real small businesses in a learning environment modelled after a design agency.

For more information and upcoming start dates, download one of the course packages for our full-time and part-time UX programs to see if one might be right for you.


We hope that was valuable for you! We’re committed to empowering people to design the future they desire and work hard to try and redefine education.

If you have any additional questions about UX design or want to know more about any of our programs, don’t hesitate to contact us.