Usability, Customer Experience & Statistics

How much are you worth? 2011 Salary Data for UX Professionals

Jeff Sauro • August 23, 2011

In an economy like we've been having it's nice to have a job.

However, certain fields like User Experience are in high-demand.

The combination of technology and understanding users' needs are marketable skills.  This demand is reflected in the results of the 2011 salary survey from the Usability Professionals Association.

This is the 3rd biennial survey I've crunched the numbers for and this year was just as interesting and showed similar patters as years past.

2011 Salary Survey Results

Of the 1345 responses from 33 countries, most came from the US (70%) with a handful from the UK (7%) and Canada (4%).  All responses were converted into US Dollars prior to analysis.

The median salary this year is $90k, which is up around $5,500 (7%) over the 2009 results (in constant 2010 dollars). This $90k is of course an average based on many variables, so it alone is a crude estimate of how your salary stacks up.

What factors affects Salaries?

A more accurate way of determining how much your skills are worth is to take into account the factors that affect salaries the most. While there are many variables, it turns out only a few have the largest impact.  The four things that influence your salary in the UX field the most are:

  1. Years of Experience: The amount of related UX experience alone is the biggest predictor of your salary. Knowing years of experience alone predicts around 32% of the variation in salaries. On average, each year of experience adds about $3600 to your salary--up to about 25 years of experience (so no octogenarian estimates).

  2. PhD: Around 10% of UX professionals hold a PhD. If you have a PhD, give yourself a $14k raise. This bump is about the same as it was two years ago. Masters degrees are the new Bachelors. Half of respondents hold a Masters yet there is no statistical salary advantage to this advanced degree.

  3. Manager:  If you manage direct reports give yourself a $13k raise.  There's no data on whether being a manager makes you an easier target for layoffs but having to sit through all those planning and staffing meetings is worth something!

  4. US West & Northeast:  The cost of living in California and the Northeastern US is higher than the rest of the US and it's reflected in higher salaries for these regions. In the survey, the city and state weren't collected but regions were.

    Living in Northeastern states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington DC) nets you an additional $16k per year.  Living in the West (Alaska, Arizona, northern California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, northern Nevada, Oregon, northern Utah, Washington, Wyoming) nets you on average an additional $26k more per year. 

Salary Calculator

To estimate your salary based on the 2011 data, enter your information in the calculator below. Predictions will be most accurate for US based workers.

How many years of experience do you have?
Are you a manager with direct reports?
Do you have a PhD?
Do you live in the Western or Northeastern US?
Your Estimated Salary is

  • For example, a good estimate of a starting salary for an individual contributor with no experience and holding a Masters and living in the Midwest would be about $47k.

  • If you have a PhD in the San Francisco Bay area with 5 years of experience the predicted average salary is $106k.

  • If you have a team of researchers and designers, hold a PhD with 10 years of experience and live in Palo Alto your estimated salary would be $137K.

Using multiple-regression, I found these four variables do account for about 40% of the variation in salaries. While 40% may sound low, it has about the same predictive ability as high-school grades and standardized test-scores[pdf] have on college grades. 

Predicting salaries is an inexact science like many activities in the behavioral sciences. So other variables and individual differences will have a substantial effect on salaries. However, the predicted salaries are based on what UX professionals reported making.

If you find your salary well below the predicted amount, it may be time to find a new job, ask for a raise or start that new consultancy. If your salary is well above the predicted amount, congratulations--you're probably earning every penny!

About Jeff Sauro

Jeff Sauro is the founding principal of MeasuringU, a company providing statistics and usability consulting to Fortune 1000 companies.
He is the author of over 20 journal articles and 5 books on statistics and the user-experience.
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Posted Comments

There are 9 Comments

March 3, 2013 | Arun wrote:

Your Estimated Salary is $0
You'll definitely be dead at this point. 

May 22, 2012 | Nicole Dixon Whyte wrote:

I'd really love this kind of data for Canada as well. Thanks for putting this together. 

January 31, 2012 | Beant wrote:

Hi Jeff,rnrnI would like to do a similar study for Netherlands and I have a questionnaire already, but would you be willing to share yours? Of course, I would be happy to share any collected data(of course, anonymized :)) with you. 

September 9, 2011 | Artrell wrote:

I feel sasitifed after reading that one. 

August 31, 2011 | Ben wrote:

Ouch.. with my 18 years' experience, I'm barely earning half what the calculator suggests I ought to be! 

August 31, 2011 | Jeff Sauro wrote:

Great question and you're right, there is a limit years of experience has on income. The salary data asked respondents to put their experience into buckets with the highest being 21+. There were 78 respondents who fell into this category (6% of the total). So someone with 25, 30 or 35 years would all be lumped into this category. As with any regression analysis, when you go beyond the data boundaries it gets less accurate and that's the case here.

This is why I added the qualifier "up to about 25 years of experience (so no octogenarian estimates)" meaning if you wanted to estimate how much your salary would be with 50 years of experience (making you say 75 or 80 years old), it's just not going to be right. But I've updated the calculator to add that warning with any level of experience greater than 25.

August 31, 2011 | M Van der Gaag wrote:

Regarding the calculator: I notice that there is a premium placed on years of experience. With 35 years I the projected income is much greater than what I have seen in the market. Is there an leveling off of salary with age and years of experience not demonstrated by the tool? Afre there reaally UX professionals being paid that much, or is this just a projection? 

August 24, 2011 | Jeff Sauro wrote:


That's a good question and unfortunately all I have is regional data. I would agree with your take though. I live in Colorado and the cost of living isn't what it is in California.

So a safe bet would be to select West or Northeast if you live in areas like the Bay Area, NYC where employers generally pay higher wages to offset the higher cost of living (or demand for UX workers). 

August 24, 2011 | Rusty Smith wrote:

In regards to the Western region, would you say the high numbers are generally just due to California or are they somewhat consistant within the region? I live in Utah, generally I would say the cost of living here is more similar to the Midwest than California. 

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