Because of the ambiguity surrounding UX careers, companies often end up advertising misleading positions or coming up with creative UX roles that may or may not be appealing to you based on your skills and interests. When I was looking for my first job as a UX researcher, I often ended up being rejected for not possessing strong enough design skills, or being offered an engineering position that would “also include research”. While it is sometimes worth it to apply to different positions and see what they have to offer, you should always be wary of job advertisements that do not clearly define what your goals and responsibilities will be, or that are essentially looking for a “UX unicorn” that can cover several roles. If you already know you want to transition to “pure” UX research and not do anything else, then clearly state that in your cover letter. That said, there are quite a few hybrid UX roles out there that are heavily geared towards research and you may want to look into. Let me go through some sample job titles that you may stumble upon:
UX Job Titles
1. UX researcher
Also: User researcher, Design researcher.
These usually describe the exact same position. Technically, user research aims at understanding human behaviour while design research aims at improving the design of a product, but both are required when we talk about user experience. A design researcher will probably have to perform usability testing on one or more UIs, while a user researcher may deal entirely with exploratory research and user interviews (but most likely, they will both end up doing a mix of everything).
2. Qualitative / Quantitative / Mixed Method researcher
Qualitative and quantitative researchers use different methodologies and tools: the former collect insights by talking to users, the latter collect data from/about the users. Mixed methods researchers use both qualitative and quantitative research methods – this is what you should expect from most UX research positions unless otherwise specified.
3. UX designer
Also: UX/UI, Product designer, Interaction designer.
These job titles all describe designer positions. These roles are responsible for the entire design process of an interactive product or service which includes requirements gathering, prototyping, testing, and iterating on that. Mature UX designers are well-versed in at least usability testing methods, and their experience with UX methodologies (including but not limited to research) is what distinguishes them from graphic designers (who “only” design graphical elements such as logos, posters, digital illustrations, etc.).
4. Service designer
Also: Experience designer.
A designer without a product. Service designers use a range of UX methodologies to bring a service to life and improve it over time. Like product designers, they are responsible for collecting requirements, prototyping, testing, and iterating on that – but unlike product designers, they don’t usually deal with UIs. They create service blueprints, journey maps, and concept designs, and they facilitate design thinking workshops
5. UX consultant
Also: UX specialist, UX analyst
These usually describe usability experts who can quickly identify weak spots and opportunities for improvement in a product or service. They generally have both UX research skills and design knowledge, but they are responsible for determining metrics and quantifiable criteria for evaluating a product. Their user research is mainly aimed at collecting data that can be used to define and track these metrics, and define action points for improving the product design. Sometimes they will act more as researchers, sometimes more as designers.
6. UX strategist
The UX strategist role is for those who have collected years of experience in the field of UX and can apply both research and design methodologies on a business strategy level. UX strategists don’t just deal with products, they analyse the entire business, its decisions and operations, and try to identify opportunities for growth based on customer experience. On top of fully-fledged research skills, these individuals have strong soft skills and are able negotiators who can engage with different business stakeholders and evangelise the value of UX beyond usability.
7. UX engineer
Companies will sometimes look for candidates who can not only design, but implement a product from scratch. A UX engineer is essentially a front-end developer with UX skills, ranging from research to iterative prototyping. They are usually not asked to design graphic UI elements but rather focus on the technical aspects of designing a digital product.
8. “UX writer”
Also: “UX copywriter”, “UX content strategist”
UX writers apply user-centric design principles to anything that comes in the form of text: from microcopy (i.e. buttons, error messages, anything that appears in a UI) to copy (i.e. web pages, email newsletters) to any user-facing content (think product descriptions, marketing campaigns, press releases etc.). UX (copy)writers are responsible for ensuring that a user can perform a task in the easiest and smoothest way possible, and that they have a good user experience while doing so. They make sure that the language used is friendly and simple, conduct usability testing specifically for copy, and optimise it accordingly. The scope of UX content strategy is not limited to what a user reads in a product but to anything that is business related, a content strategist defines metrics for content, keywords, and customer satisfaction. UX writers usually work with product teams, researchers, designers and developers, while UX content strategists generally work together with the communication team, marketing, and SEO.