Another day, another think piece about millennials. The jury might still be out on whether we’re truly killing the napkin industry, or playing ourselves in the housing market by buying too much avocado toast—but one thing that does ring true for many millennials is that we’re not feeling fulfilled at work.

Putting the intergenerational grumblings to one side and focusing on the positives, one thing we’ve discovered since launching UX Academy nearly three years ago is that UX design (also known as product design) offers an increasingly attractive career path for millennials in search of a job that can offer creative expression and personal fulfillment—not to mention financial reward.

If you’re a millennial considering a change of path, here are 4 simple reasons design could be right for you!

1. Becoming a designer needn’t mean more debt.

Far from blowing all our money on brunch, many of us millennials are actually digging our way out from under a mountain of debt. Approximately 75% of millennials owe some kind of debt, whether it be credit cards, student loans, medical bills, or something else. The average amount of debt a millennial has? $42,000.

As a result, many millennials are putting off major life events like buying a home, getting married, and having children. As well as having consequences for wider society, many millennials report that debt negatively impacts their interpersonal relationships and mental health.

Given these worries, many of us are understandably sceptical about the financial cost of going back to school. However, compared to other industries, the barriers of entry to the design industry are relatively low. Many successful designers are essentially self-taught, and intensive design education programs like our UX Academy offer low-cost design education, payment plans and a six-month job guarantee. 

Becoming a product designer can also put you in a position to begin paying off existing debt more quickly. According to the independent job site Glassdoor, the average salary of a junior UX/product designer is over $90,000 in the U.S., and design managers (experienced designers who supervise design teams) rank 19th on their list of the 25 Highest Paying Jobs in America.

2. Design is built on empathy and connection.

Far from being self(ie)-obsessed, most millennials crave work that allows us to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Research has shown that we expect a higher level of self-fulfillment at work than previous generations. In short, we value purpose over paychecks.

UX/product design is built on understanding other people’s needs, and how users think and feel when they use your product. We talk a lot about empathy in product design, because it’s really that important to being a successful designer.

It doesn’t matter how sharp your typography and illustration skills are if you don’t understand what your users need from the project you’re working on. Design careers are ideal for anyone who wants to base their daily work on building tools rooted in empathy and human understanding.

And the interdisciplinary nature of product design means you’ll often be working with a team of like-minded folks to accomplish your design goals: fellow designers, engineers, product managers, and of course, users. There are few things more fulfilling than putting your skills to work to improve other people’s day-to-day lives through the digital products they rely on.

3. Millennials “get” tech.

Perhaps because we can’t afford a house, many millennials live on the Internet instead—and have done since the late 90s. Some of us lived through the dark days of dial-up internet, survived Myspace’s cut-throat Top 8, and deftly made the transition from Walkman to iPhone X.  It’s in our nature to embrace rapid technological change.

Tech-savvy millennials can make for versatile, adaptive designers. Far from sticking to the tools and techniques we already know, in design careers we’re perfectly placed to deal with the new design tools and trends that constantly compete for the attention of professional digital designers. 

4. You can work in non-traditional ways.

From the 1950s onwards, the cultural ideal of a “job” in many countries meant staying with the same employer for decades, if not for a whole career. Most office roles followed the familiar 9-to-5 format, and the emphasis was on gradual promotion.

Millennials think about work differently than previous generations, tending to seek flexibility, variety, and the chance to be their own boss. Although the design industry still offers many more conventional job opportunities, increasingly UX/product designers choose to build successful careers freelancing. Once you have a foundation of design skills, it’s possible to experiment with different work settings to see what’s best for you, and build a portfolio that represents your unique interests and specialties. Above all, design can put you in charge of your career.

There are also tons of opportunities for designers to work remotely: the rise of collaborative design tools like Figma mean design teams don’t need to be in the same physical space to work together. Millennials can get the benefits of a design career without having to relocate to San Francisco or New York: you don’t need to be based anywhere at all!

Further resources

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Maria Jennings


UX Writer

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