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February 6, 2022

Becoming a UX Researcher | The complete guide

In recent years, the emergence of the web and new consumer trends have created new jobs. One of them is that of UX researcher. UX research aims to understand users’ expectations and obstacles. It is a varied and exciting job, where you learn to ask questions in a broad sense, while cultivating an active listening capacity and a keen sense of analysis. So you’re wondering what the differences are with UX and UI design? What training, what positions to take up next and for what salary? Read this UX researcher job description to know everything!

Contents: 

UX researcher job description | Listening and empathy are required
The missions of a UX researcher
UX researcher, UX designer, UI designer, what are the differences?
What careers are there for a UX researcher?
How to become a UX researcher | Which training to choose?
The UX Researcher job | Salaries, job trends

The UX researcher job description | Listening and empathy are required

The missions of a UX researcher

One of the roles of the UX researcher is to understand the expectations and bottlenecks of users, whoever they may be: prospects, clients, employees, etc. It is a job that requires asking the right questions, and for that two qualities are essential: empathy and listening.
Then, they apply their analytical skills. It is therefore important to take into account the biases inherent in the chosen research techniques and to know how to interpret them correctly. In concrete terms, a UX researcher can use qualitative approaches:

  • individual interviews
  • focus groups

Or quantitative approaches:

  • remote user tests
  • quantitative surveys

Of course, it comes with technical skills, but the catalog of methodologies and tools available is constantly growing, so mastering absolutely everything is out of the question. Instead, part of the expertise will be to be able to call on other UX specialists to focus on how to approach research projects and their framing.

Three specialists from different UX sectors working together

UX researcher, UX designer, UI designer, what are the differences?

Do you like to ask questions and listen? Do you like to find out what is wrong and what is not working? Turn to UX research and help companies to better understand their users. If you like to create, UX or UI design are better options.

The UX designer’s ambition is to design and provide the visitor with the best possible user experience. They think about how the human will interact with the machine via its interface.

On the other hand, the UI Designer is in charge of representing and creating this graphical interface in order to make it pleasant to navigate.

It is possible to combine these three professions. But for the sake of your projects, it quickly becomes counterproductive because of the same cognitive biases that you study as a researcher. We are all susceptible to confirmation biases that unconsciously lead us to validate what we believe in, rather than objectively understand. It is therefore more than essential to separate creation from understanding. For a UI designer, the frustration of abandoning creation can be added. In UX research, you are more of an observer than a creator and these skills alone offer great opportunities for evolution.

What careers are there for a UX researcher?

  • Become a freelance UX consultant: the job lends itself well to those who like autonomy and diversifying their missions.
  • Climb the corporate ladder to international positions or more technical positions, such as product owner.
  • Open up to other disciplines in innovation or design thinking, for example.

Other careers will emerge, but are still difficult to detect since the discipline is very recent.

How to become a UX researcher | Which training to choose?

Let us get this out of the way: there is no specific degree dedicated to UX Research today and we can find people with very different backgrounds on the market. This is good, because UX studies benefit from multidisciplinarity!
Young man holding a pencil and imagining all the pluralities of the ux researcher’s job

These profiles can come from both initial training and professional retraining. There are three main archetypes:

  • The UX designer, with a background in design or ergonomics and who wishes to be more involved in the upstream creative work.
  • People with a business school education. For those who appreciate interacting with people, it is natural to reconvert in marketing or in communication after an experience in a research institute.
  • Academic profiles in human and social sciences, such as psychology. More than in the Anglo-Saxon world, academic profiles are more removed from private companies and can sometimes have difficulty adapting. The digital world and its agility can offend those who have built themselves around a more “pure” approach, from an academic point of view.

In any case, do not forget that, like all digital-related subjects, this field is developing extremely fast. Being pro-actively curious and loving change are prerequisites to your career.

In France, you will find courses called “UX research” or “user research” in the UX Design courses of the Gobelins school of visual communication or the École Multimedia for example. Other more general training programs may also offer courses. Then, an internship or a professionalization contract will allow you to concretely implement:

  • user tests
  • focus groups
  • card sorting
  • Google analytics
  • guerilla approaches – guerilla testing, guerilla UX, UX analytics 

The UX Researcher job | Salaries, job trends

UX research was born in the United States in the wake of UX design. And, just as we have caught up with UX design in Europe, the UX research part of the job is expanding rapidly while remaining largely underdeveloped. Opportunities will multiply in the coming years, but the same job title can cover very different realities.

In terms of remuneration, they are close to those of UX designers with comfortable starting salaries. On the other hand, since the position is recent, confirmed profiles with more than 5-6 years of experience are rare and there is a lack of data for the most senior. Here is a 2021 benchmark of salaries for the profession based on similar functions:

salary scale for an UX researcher according to their experience in the profession and their geographical area


The UX researcher job is therefore in full expansion and has a bright future! If you have an inquisitive mind, if you like to listen and ask questions in order to understand and improve user experience, then go for it!

Want to know more about UX research? Then discover our complete guide and the different research methodologies.

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Thibault Geenen

Thibault Geenen

Thibault is fascinated by the power of UX, especially user research. As an entrepreneur, he's a huge fan of liberated company principles, where teammates give the best through creativity without constraints. A science-fiction lover, he remains the only human being believing that Andy Weir's 'The Martian' is a how-to guide for entrepreneurs..

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