User researchers work with companies to make suitable product designs based on their studies of the potential pain points and needs of their target users. These experts benefit from high starting salaries and strong job growth projections.
If you are hoping to enter this field, this guide covers everything you need to know about how to become a user researcher. You will learn more about the job requirements, salary expectations, job growth statistics, and other important information.
What Is a User Researcher?
User researchers are important assets businesses use to develop a product design that satisfies the needs of their real users. Working on both physical and digital products, these researchers are responsible for identifying who the users are and what they need. They do this by systematically studying the target users, collecting and analyzing data to help inform the design process.
User Researcher Job Description
One of the most important tasks in a user researcher position is to define and drive the future of products. They work with different teams to reveal the needs of users by conducting research and performing usability studies.
Their responsibilities may also include delivering presentations, coming up with bold new ideas, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative data. They also help the UX team to understand what will make the user experience seamless and more intuitive.
User Researcher vs UX Researcher: What’s the Difference?
The roles of a user researcher and a user experience (UX) researcher don’t just sound similar; they are also very closely related. So much so in fact that they can be very difficult to distinguish. Some even venture to claim they are the same role. However, most experts on the matter would agree that there are some differences.
These roles will vary depending on the organization, which makes the distinction even less clear-cut. Generally speaking, however, we can say that UX research is a sub-field of user research. Another difference people commonly agree upon is that while user research is more about talking to people about their behavior using a product, UX deals more with learning about users’ experiences with a particular product.
The work of a user researcher informs the work of a UX researcher and vice versa. Both roles are critical which means that these professionals need to cooperate to come up with insights that result in the best possible product for the consumer. If you want to learn how to become a UX researcher, check out this article.
User Researcher Salary and Job Outlook
User researchers earn well over the national average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, user researchers earn a median salary of $65,810 per year in 2020. This figure generally increases as the professionals gain experience.
The job outlook is also quite impressive as employment is projected to grow by 18 percent from 2019 to 2029. This growth is driven by the increasing reliance on market research and data across several industries.
Top Reasons to Become a User Researcher in 2021
There are a lot of reasons to become a user experience researcher aside from the relatively high salary. The field also allows you to build highly transferable skills that can lead to opportunities in a wide range of career paths. Since these professionals deal with data, they have an easy time transitioning into other data-related fields. Read below for more reasons to become a user researcher.
- Create relevant designs. As a user researcher, you have the ability to make use of your creativity to create designs that better meet user needs.
- Shape the future. In this job, you’ll play a small part in shaping the future as your research informs the designs of new products.
- Help companies maximize profit. These experienced researchers play an important role in helping companies retain their existing customers while attracting new ones.
- Job growth. The job growth for this field is 18 percent, which shows that you will have plenty of job opportunities now and in the years to come.
User Researcher Job Requirements
Due to the vast array of tech companies and their differing needs, the job requirements for user experience researchers will often vary widely. However, most user researcher positions share some basic requirements regardless of the specific job title.
- Relevant experience. In most cases, employers prefer candidates that have considerable experience in this or a similar field.
- Bachelor’s degree. Employers may also require a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Behavior or another relevant field.
- Research skills. The candidate is also expected to know how to perform research-related tasks and use findings to create the best possible products.
- Knowledge of computer science. Potential employers may also require some knowledge of computer science since candidates will work with data and databases.
Types of User Researcher Careers
The field of user research is very broad and can lead to many different careers. User research covers different specialist roles with unique requirements. When you’ve gained the necessary training and skills, you can work in any of the following user research roles.
These experts are also called UX analysts and they focus on one specific aspect of the user experience, usability. People in this career path deal with how user-friendly the product is and how memorable, efficient, and easy it is to navigate.
The UX writer role combines aspects of copywriting, user experience design, and branding. Users often rely on written copy to guide them while navigating digital services and products. UX writers craft these documents to ensure that users get the best experience.
Information architects are digital librarians. They structure content on apps and websites to make the information more accessible and organized. This significantly improves the user experience.
User Researcher Meaning: What Does a User Researcher Do?
The roles that UX researchers fill may vary depending on the organization they work for. However, no matter what field you are in, some tasks are commonplace for anyone who holds a user research job. These tasks include the following.
User researchers conduct user testing to collect data. They analyze this information to inform the design of future products. These professionals moderate usability sessions, conduct client and stakeholder interviews, and develop quantitative surveys.
Research Planning and Recruitment
User researchers develop well-crafted plans that serve their research objectives. These experts also recruit endusers and target them for specific studies. Likewise, they write usability research and discussion guides. Common UX research methods include user interviews and usability testing.
Presentation of Findings
These experts present insights to the development and design teams. To come up with these insights, they need a deep understanding of the business’ needs and the ability to design effective research studies.
Essential User Researcher Skills
Throughout their careers, user researchers develop a long list of soft skills that help them perform their jobs. Below are some of the main core skills required to become a successful user researcher.
The job involves working with other members of the design team so strong communication skills are necessary to ensure everyone is on the same page. These experts also frequently have to touch base with research participants.
These experts also need to think critically to create new designs that solve problems for their users. User researchers should be able to exercise their intuition to recognize patterns during their research.
This is a critical skill because user researchers work with designers, developers, stakeholders, and product managers. They need strong teamwork skills to bring the needs and ideas of all these people together to design the best possible products.
How Long Does It Take to Become a User Researcher?
It may take four years plus to become a user researcher if you want to start your career by earning a bachelor’s degree. You may also be required to have some experience in the field before qualifying for some higher-level roles.
However, there are alternative educational pathways that allow you to enter the job market in less time. People who attend coding bootcamps can be ready for the workforce within a few weeks or months. These programs are intensive and cover the essential skills needed to thrive in the field.
Can a Coding Bootcamp Help Me Become a User Researcher?
Coding bootcamps can help you to become a user researcher. The short programs provide an immersive educational experience and equip you with the skills needed to enter tech fields. The best bootcamp programs consist of practical training to give you experience and help you build a portfolio.
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Since bootcamps have online, part-time, and full-time programs, they are more flexible than universities. Some bootcamps have programs, such as UX design, that teach the fundamentals needed to thrive in the field. Coding bootcamps are ideal for students who are already working professionals and don’t have time to attend a degree program.
Can I Become a User Researcher from Home?
There are a lot of learning opportunities to help you become a user researcher from home. You can either join a coding bootcamp that offers remote training or enroll in online courses that offer time-constrained learners an opportunity to pursue a new career. In no time, you will be qualified for entry-level positions.
How to Become a User Researcher: A Step-by-Step Guide
There is no singular path to become a user researcher, as the steps will vary for each person depending on their user research experience and career goals. For example, you can choose to get a degree in a university or community college, attend a coding bootcamp, or learn online. This guide will cover how to become a user researcher with a degree.
Step 1: Degree in Technology
Most user researcher positions require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree. However, this degree doesn’t have to be in UX. Any degree in technology, social sciences, or behavioral sciences would do.
Step 2: Gain UX Research Experience
After getting a degree, the next step will be to acquire invaluable experience in the field of UX research. You can do this by searching job postings for entry-level user researcher jobs, or you can consider an internship to get hands-on experience.
Step 3: Build Your portfolio
Once you have experience, you need to continue to build your portfolio. If possible, volunteer or take classes. You can even consider freelancing. There are a lot of websites that give prospective employers easy access to your portfolio, such as GitHub and LinkedIn.
Best Schools and Education for a User Researcher Career
There are many educational pathways you can take to acquire the training you need to become a user researcher. Your options include coding bootcamps, universities, and community colleges.
User Research Bootcamps
These short, immersive programs can teach you the required skills to enter the workforce in this field. In tech bootcamps, students learn in-demand skills such as Agile practices and user-centered approaches. They are ideal because they take less time, are more affordable, and offer flexible schedules for working professionals.
Vocational schools prepare people to work as technicians, artisans, or tradespersons. They are also called trade schools. These programs are different from university education as they focus more on practical learning. You cannot become a user researcher by attending a vocational school. This type of institution does not typically offer the training needed to break into the field.
Community colleges offer training for students who want to pursue a career in user research. The programs take around two years to complete, and students can study computer science, human-computer interaction, statistics, psychology, design, information systems, or anthropology. Some colleges offer online degrees as well.
These courses give students the necessary background to take on user researcher and similar roles. Sometimes, they offer internship opportunities to help you get on-the-job experience. The credits you earn at community colleges are also transferable if you want to go on to earn a more advanced degree.
User Research Degrees
Universities offer degrees in user research-related fields. However, a degree in social science, cognitive science, behavioral sciences, or technology can be enough to prepare you for the field. The programs often last four years with an option to pursue graduate studies.
Some universities even offer remote training, and working professionals can also benefit from part-time schedules. In most cases, these programs end with students completing a capstone project.
The Most Important User Researcher Certificates
To open up higher-level user researcher job opportunities, or to become a senior researcher, you may want to consider gaining a certification. While certification is not essential, it is recommended because it enhances your resume and shows that you have the skills hiring managers are looking for. Here are some of the most important user researcher certificates to consider.
Certified Usability Analyst
The Certified Usability Analyst (CUA) certification from HFI, a leading user-centered firm, is an excellent program for candidates who are new in the user research field. Those who want to move to UX, or demonstrate their mastery of the principles of UX to an organization, can also get the certification.
Certified User Experience Analyst
The Certified User Experience Analyst (CXA) certification is for people with a UX design foundation who want to enroll in advanced-level courses. To qualify for the exam, candidates must have the CUA certification.
UX Master Certification
The UX Master Certification is for practitioners who want to showcase their achievements in user research and differentiate themselves from the competition. Before taking the exam, you will have to complete 15 of the training courses offered by the certification provider, Nielsen Norman Group.
How to Prepare for Your User Researcher Job Interview
The user research interview process can be technical in nature, so you will want to ensure you are well prepared and have a solid foundation in the necessary technical skills. However, you can expect behavioral questions as well. Here are some sample questions you can practice to ace your user research interview.
User Researcher Job Interview Practice Questions
- How can you determine a user’s attitude about a feature or design?
- What is your impression of this product? (the interviewer may show you a product during the interview and ask for your opinion)
- What is your impression of this particular feature?
- Where do you think a person will use such a feature or product?
- If you could change anything about this design, what would you do?
Should I Become a User Researcher in 2021?
A career in user research is people-focused and analytical and offers a good average salary. This means that it is an excellent career if you love to study people and find out what they prefer and why. If you are a creative individual who has a flair for handling data and creating strategic insights, then a career as a user researcher might be right for you.
User Researcher FAQ
What’s the Difference Between a User Researcher and a UX Researcher?
Both the user researcher and UX researcher roles are very closely related. Most experts on the subject agree that user research is the parent field of UX research because it is wider in scope. User researchers ask questions to find out about consumer behavior with a certain product. UX researchers, on the other hand, are more concerned with the user experience.
Can You Become a User Researcher Without a Degree?
You can become a user researcher without a degree. There are several online sources that can give you the necessary knowledge foundation in user research. An excellent example is coding bootcamps. These programs take a few weeks to train job-ready students and, in some cases, you can attend remotely.
Is It Hard to Become a User Researcher?
It is not hard to become a user researcher. There are many educational pathways to develop a solid foundation in user research. For some people, coding bootcamps make it easier since they focus on the technical skills you need.
What Skills Does a User Researcher Need?
To thrive as a user experience researcher, you need to have an analytical mindset as well as soft skills like communication and adaptability. The experts work with product teams and users so they must be able to collaborate with others.
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