[If you landed on this post but aren’t sure what UX design is—or whether it’s for you—check out our piece about UX design roles!]

Becoming a UX designer is a great option for anyone looking to build a creative career that combines problem-solving and human empathy. If you’ve decided it’s the path you want to take, you’ll probably be asking: how can I make it happen?

If you’re still at the “weighing things up” stage, being sat in a trendy office with your shiny new design job might feel like a very distant dream. But, believe it or not, if you commit to following the right steps, you could get on track in the space of just a few months.

“But how?” you ask! “Doesn’t UX design need heaps of complicated technical skills?” Well, yes, you’ll need a core set of skills—but skills can be learned, and the nature of creativity and UX design problem-solving means that you probably already have more of a head start than you realise.

Read on to discover how you could get up to speed and be applying for that first UX design job within 3-6 months.

1. Get visual design fundamentals covered

Final project by Cella, one of our Design 101 students

When the discipline of UX design first emerged around 25 years ago, it was quite techy and involved a lot less visual design than it now does. You can read our post on how the UX design process has evolved here.

The reason for this is that many jobs now also include at least some UI (user interface) design work, meaning that we need to have a baseline of visual design skills that enable us to create screen designs, and logos and icons. 

For this reason, before diving into a UX-design-focused course, we would always recommend spending some time getting up to speed on visual design. At Designlab, we require almost all UX Academy students to excel in our 4-week Design 101 primer on visual design before starting the course.

If you’re learning independently, or still researching your career options, you could begin by getting a couple of inspiring books on design. Check out our reading list for inspiration!

2. Commit

Rapidly gaining new skills and switching career is difficult, and can mean long hours and periods when you’re frustrated with your progress and feel like quitting. All of these obstacles can be overcome so long as you’re inwardly committed to success.

Before taking the next steps, reflect on whether you’re truly ready to commit. If you are, you could even affirm this to yourself by writing out an affirmation something like this and sticking it on your office wall:

I, Firstname Lastname, commit to gaining new skills in UX design, building my portfolio, and landing my first design job. It won’t be easy, but I will do it.

You could expand on this affirmation by writing out the reasons why you’re making this change. When you’re feeling stressed, it can be easy to lose sight of your original motivations, and having these recorded somewhere means they can become a helpful “reset” button for your mind.

For example, lots of people train in design because they want to do more creative work each day, or because they enjoy helping people and solving problems. Whatever your motivation is, make a note and keep it somewhere visible as you study.

3. Get trained up in UX design skills

There are a number of options for getting trained up in UX design skills. Here’s a summary—you can find more information in our detailed article.

  • Self-study
  • Online courses
  • Online bootcamp
  • Offline bootcamp
  • University

There are advantages and disadvantages to each option. We created our online UX bootcamp as a middle way between the high cost of university courses, and the lack of accountability in self-study and passive online video courses. You can find out more here.

Whichever option you choose, it is possible for you to gain the necessary skills. Make sure that you are also taking on realistic project briefs that will allow you to create projects for inclusion in your portfolio. Abstract skills won’t get you a job—project work that demonstrates those skills will.

4. Put your portfolio online

Robbin Arcega completed UX Academy, before moving on up to UX design jobs at Udemy and Yelp!

Once you’ve completed your chosen path of study, it’s time to showcase some of your projects. It’s fine to apply to junior UX design positions with a portfolio formed of student projects—but those projects need to be realistic.

They need to show not only your ability to create great end results, but also to analyse and define a problem, engage in research and idea generation, and develop a viable solution. For more portfolio tips, check out our 10-point UX designer portfolio checklist!

5. Land your first job as a UX designer

If you follow these steps, you stand a great chance of landing your first job as a UX designer. This stage might not be easy—it can sometimes take several months to find that position, even if your portfolio is stellar. But with perseverance, it will happen for you—as our graduates’ many success stories show.

Want to find out more about becoming a UX designer? Grab your free UX syllabus today.

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