Navigating Your User Research Career

A career in which you can make a real difference to the everyday lives of customers and clients alike is one worth having. Becoming a UX researcher means you can have a hands-on approach to collecting and analysing data that will positively affect product design processes. 

In our unmissable guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to become a UX researcher and kick-start a career in this exciting field.

Start, grow, lead: a guide to navigating your user research career

The role of a UX researcher is a rewarding, and multi-faceted one. It relies on many different processes to discover how people approach products – and how they use them. It’s pretty much thinking outside and inside the box at the same time! Here’s how to get started in this field if you’re thinking about it.

How to become a UX researcher: getting started

So, you’ve made the decision – you want to start a new career in the industry. The big consideration now is how you become a UX researcher: what are the key skills and qualities you need?

The most important skill to possess as a UX researcher is empathy. You must put yourself into the shoes of the users, customers, and people being researched. Understanding how they feel, what kind of experiences they have, and what they’re struggling with. Then you can research them in as much detail and depth as possible. 

Another skill UX researchers need to have is knowledge of psychology, behavioural and cognitive techniques in order to understand how the human brain operates. Ultimately, user research is all about the user – but they aren’t just users, they’re real people

Always maintain curiosity! You should be hungry for problems, and love trying to solve them. As a researcher, you need to seek answers, and your favourite question to ask should always be ‘Why?’

Excellent listening skills are essential – being very attentive towards the people you’re studying. Never just pretend that you listen, but actually listen and understand what people are saying to you. 

Good conversational skills are paramount. Be very observant as you’re not only talking to people but watching them too! You need to spot little details about them, as well as be able to read between the lines, because sometimes what people say and what they mean are two different things.

Analytical skills are key because you’ll be working with data – both qualitative and quantitative. There’s always a lot of analysis happening within the research. 

Last but not least, you must be self-aware of your own biases and remember to stay impartial and solution agnostic. This will help you to stay focused on the research question and not simply jump into the solution itself.


Employment skills to become a UX researcher

As it’s still a relatively new role in a growing industry, there isn’t one well-trodden path to getting into this world. 

In fact, many folks in existing user experience researcher roles either got there through working in other tech-based jobs, while some are pretty much self-taught and have learnt on the go. 

A UX researcher’s resume might highlight a lot of different jobs in various areas before landing the role they’re currently in. 

For instance, if you’re already in user research, there are different grades. You might start out as an intern, go on to become a junior UX researcher or associate, mid-weight UX researcher – then a senior researcher, leader – you might even manage a team of researchers. Not to mention a director of research at an organisation. There are also opportunities within the industry to alternate between UX research and UX design roles. 

What educational background or training is beneficial for aspiring UX researchers?

It’s a great idea to look at the various educational pathways that can help you get into UX research. They often involve the following subjects:

  • human-computer interaction
  • human-centred design
  • psychology
  • behavioural and cognitive psychology

Anything that’s people-centred will give you a good grounding, like customer support and human resources. What about other educational pathways? You could consider studying mathematics-based courses like statistics, which can give you a wealth of information to use in a UX research career. Why? Well, while behavioural sciences and psychology allow you to understand human behaviour and how users might interact with a product, studying statistics means you get to look at raw data and numbers – learning how to analyse and extrapolate them. 

Growing as a UX professional

What strategies can user researchers use to continuously improve their skills and stay up-to-date with the latest research methodologies? Well, as you gain qualifications and work experience – whether that’s voluntary or through paid UX researcher jobs, you should start to craft a portfolio. This is essential to demonstrate the skills you’ve learnt and earnt. 

A clear, well-laid-out UX researcher resume is essential too, so keep a solid track of all your work and note it down. This will show future employers just how far you’ve come and what you can offer.

Always keep on top of your skill set and, of course, any trends within the UX researcher job sphere. For instance, updating your wireframing knowledge from time to time is always a big help.

Tech moves at such a fast pace anyway, and there are often opportunities to learn and complete training courses while you’re on the job. Looking for new UX researcher jobs on employment sites and boards can help you keep abreast of what’s new out there and any exciting opportunities. 

Continue studying psychology and human behaviour – be up for sharing skills and the lessons you’ve learned with peers, fresh grads, and seniors to capture brand new or out-of-the-box ideas, or workarounds for current challenges.

Lastly, build up a solid network of people within the same arena as you, whether that’s on social media, through listening to blogs and podcasts on UX, or valuable tools like LinkedIn. Follow leaders in the market on this platform. Other interactive methods of growth include participating in user research forums, joining communities of like-minded professionals where people share learnings and experiences, and checking publications on UX Magazine, UX Planet, or NNGroup.

Leadership in UX research

As your career progresses, your UX researcher resume swells and you gain expertise, knowledge and confidence, so leadership in UX research is something you can aim for. 

Moving into roles such as designing and developing UX strategy for your organisation or company as a whole is a possibility. 

Other considerations are starting to manage and mentor your own team of budding UX designers and researchers. A role like this is hugely important as you can help shape the future of the industry as a whole, while developing your own skills and knowledge too. 

What can you expect as a UX researcher salary?

As of 2023, the earning expectations for a UX researcher are in the region of AED 13,000 per month. That’s based on someone with roughly two to five years of experience in the role. The more experience you have, the more you’re likely to earn a higher UX researcher salary.

UX researchers are now believed to be some of the most in-demand creative professionals in the current job market. In fact, CNN predicts that by 2027 there will have been a 19% job growth across the industry. Good going for such a newbie to the tech world!

What are the emerging trends and technologies that UX researchers should be aware of?

The most famous emerging trend right now in information technology are AI tools, such as ChatGPT, that UX researchers should be aware of, but very careful in how they’re used.

These tools can most definitely assist us, when more information is needed on something such as doing desk research. However, it shouldn’t replace humans for the purposes of research or analysing data as you can end up with faulty data – and results which can lead to bad decision making.

Ethical dilemmas: what considerations do UX researchers need to keep in mind?

Ethics are a very important part of the UX journey and something researchers must always keep at the forefront when they’re going about their work.

Before any projects are undertaken, it’s important to ensure confidentiality is always maintained and that proper consent has been given (and understood). The anonymity of the participant’s identity should be maintained, and the confidentiality of any research findings when the work isn’t public.

Empathy and honesty are key when you’re engaging with people…always see questions from their perspective. 

Following on from this, respecting and accepting all answers about the participants without any personal bias or judgement is really essential.

What are the challenges and obstacles UX researchers face and how can they be overcome?

One of the most challenging aspects of this career is the ‘buy-in’ from stakeholders. Simply put, some of them still don’t believe in research and they think it’s a waste of time and money (even though it’s quite the opposite). If they do the research first and then the actual design, it will save them a lot of time.

Next…companies allocate little budget for research. That means it’s not always possible to do the recruitment, incentivise people and use the tools. However, we can find workarounds. You can use free tools and then try to decrease the incentive, or maybe find a way not to pay people differently for that time, by offering gift cards or vouchers instead. 

Another issue is that a lot of data requires manual analysis and there’s just not enough time. UX researchers don’t have the luxury of spending up to a month solely on research. They’d rather build, then launch something and then iterate on feedback. However, this is the incorrect way to do it! If they’d done the research first, they’d realise what the problem was and then it would be solved at the first attempt. 

There’s also a problem in that there might be no access to a target audience. If you work for a company, build the design, and then realise that there isn’t really much research data to help you reach a design decision, you might not be able to go in and speak to the target audience or they just simply don’t have a user base. How do you sort this? You might have to rely on recruiting agencies or finding people through friends and families, but it’s always better if they’re complying with your criteria for the target audience. 

Lastly, you might bring your own biases to the job. You have to overcome that by being very self-aware of your own tendencies.

How do UX researchers collaborate with designers, product managers, and developers?

It stands to reason that working together as a team is a given. There should be easy access to everyone involved in a project. 

If your team is aligned on research objectives and recruitment criteria, research questions, and expectations then sharing findings and discussing insights is more fluid.

However, each project should be approached differently as it depends on the nature of each organisation and its stakeholders’ politics. You do need to differentiate between the decision-makers who can influence the product roadmap and/or revamp projects. 

By communicating and being the representative of the users, researchers often ideate and help validate the products with other team members to produce an output that satisfies the users’ needs.

What personal experiences can you share with those looking to pursue a career in UX research?

We put this question to our team…

“Be open to learning and adapting. Have a knack for deep diving into the pain points of the users.”

“Get started working in the product field, or try your own startup – and definitely study psychology.”

“Be very open and curious about all sorts of stories you may hear. Put your own beliefs and judgments aside and come prepared to be a white canvas. Use your active listening skills to draw the stories, translate the emotions and bring to life all the unsaid words.”

“Even if your first job wasn’t officially as a UX researcher, go the extra mile in your job description and explain how it fits in with your new career choice.”

I think it’s really important to realise that user research is a two-way street in which the researcher has to keep the company’s goals and needs in mind, but also the users’ preferences, wants, needs and interests.”


A career as a UX researcher is seriously worth considering if you’re interested in not only design and how things work, but are curious about human nature and how people interact with the things they use on a daily basis. Being a problem solver and taking a holistic approach to how potential pain points are discovered and resolved are key facets of the role. 

Go on, take the plunge!

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