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There’s never been a better time to consider a career in UX design.

According to a report by Morgan McKinley, the number of UX jobs has increased by 320pc over the past five years. UX designers are now among the most sought-after professionals in the digital space with the increase in opportunities being reflected in the rising salaries.

The report describes an “incredible growth” in the UX industry as more Irish-based companies look to build out their experience design teams.

But what’s driving this growth and is it set to continue? We spoke to Dara Boland, Associate Director at Morgan McKinley, and our own CEO, Colman Walsh, about the findings.

jobs surge 320pc in 5 years

What is UX?

User experience design (UX) is a problem-solving discipline that identifies customer problems and helps create software to overcome those problems. To put it simply, UX is how it feels when you use a product. Good UX means a product is easy and enjoyable to use.

Why has UX design grown in prominence?

Technology is becoming more sophisticated. As such our expectations of products – websites and apps – have become more sophisticated too. We’re simply intolerant of bad design. If a product fails to meet our expectations, we’ll just stop using it. Smart companies are aware that good UX helps engage and retain customers and offer a real competitive advantage.

Dara says clients from multiple industries have started to show a greater understanding of how user experience affects a company’s bottom line.

“We’ve seen a number of growing tech companies in Dublin expand out their design teams but we’re also seeing more traditional businesses, such as banks and other financial institutions, place greater emphasis on user experience, as their businesses go digital,” he said.

What salary do UX designers earn?

According to the report, the average starting salary for UX designers now stands at €30,000 per year, up from €25,000 three years ago. This puts graduate earnings higher than that of accountants (€26,468) and close to engineers (€30,527) and banking graduates (€30,550).

With demand so high, it doesn’t take long for salaries to increase, as designers gain more experience in the role.

An analysis of salary data shows UX designers with 0 to 2 years experience typically earn between €30,000 and €35,000 in permanent roles. Salaries for those with 2 to 4 years experience will range from €35,000 to €60,000, while those with 5 years experience and more will jump to between €60,000 and €80,000.

Salary by years of experience:

0-2yrs: €30,000-€35,000

2-3yrs: €35,000-€45,000

3-4yrs: €45,000-€60,000

5+yrs: €60,000-€80,000

Gender balance

In terms of female participation, UX design outperforms most other areas of the tech industry. Dara notes that in the field of UX the gender balance is “significantly better” than STEM and ICT. Women make up 41pc of all UX designers in Ireland while in the wider IT industry this number stands at just 20pc.

This reflects the typical student profile at the UX Design Institute, where there is almost an exact 50/50 split between females and males. Colman says:

We see a far more balanced percentage of men and women pursuing careers in UX compared to other areas of technology. Feedback from our student base is that it focuses on the more human side of technology and offers an interesting blend of design and psychology which requires a lot of empathy for end-users. This tends to appeal to both sexes.

What are the progression opportunities?

As this is a relatively young field, the opportunities for progression are excellent. Companies like Google, Hubspot and Workday have invested heavily in their UX over the past number of years and we’re starting to see small and medium enterprises follow suit. According to Colman, demand for UX candidates will continue to outstrip supply, as in-house design teams become more common. He adds:

Every company that operates a website or mobile app needs UX design skills to remain successful, which is close to every company in the world. Traditional universities are not producing enough qualified graduates to fill the demand for UX designers. This is a major pain point for companies hiring, but it’s a great opportunity for smart professionals to enter the industry and progress quickly

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