How Have UX Job Titles Changed in the Last 15 Years?

Jeff Sauro, PhD • Emily Short • Jim Lewis, PhD

Featured imageWhat we do on the job can change.

Jobs change and job titles change. Sometimes the titles change more than the jobs.

For example, what do you call someone who professionally creates software? One analysis shows that the most popular job title associated with this function has evolved from Computer Programmer in the 1980s, to Software Engineer in the 90s, to Software Developer in the last few years.

Dropping “computer” from the title makes sense because so much software development now is device independent (similar software can be used with phones, computers, TVs, and cars).

Over the last two decades, we’ve also seen titles change in the UX field. In fact, our calling the field “User Experience” is a somewhat recent modification: in 2012, the Usability Professionals Association (UPA) changed its name to the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA).

There are a few ways to look at how titles have changed, such as by searching job website databases. But many of those have been around for only a few years. Alternatively, we could look at changes in job search terms, but that’s not quite the same as a job title.

For this article, we looked at the UXPA salary survey, with which the UXPA has collected data for almost twenty years (with our help for about the last ten). This is a good source to assess the industry; however, as with any real-world dataset, there are some caveats:

  1. Job labels presented to respondents have changed over the years. Each year, the UXPA board members decide what job functions to include in the survey. While it likely reflects the roles of interest at the time, the changes aren’t systematic.
  2. The number of options changed. The number of job functions fluctuates each year. The lowest number offered was 11 in 2016, and the largest was 20 in 2009. Changing the number of roles year to year could affect the assessment of trends.
  3. The selection method changed from Select One to Select All That Apply. In 2009 and 2011, respondents were allowed to select only one job function. Since then, respondents have been allowed to select multiple jobs (all that apply). We suspect that change was made because many people perform multiple roles (e.g., designer and researcher), especially at smaller companies.
  4. The sample composition changes each year. While somewhat stable (e.g., the percentage of PhDs has consistently been around 10%), the sampling strategy is a non-probability sample (more like convenience and snowball). That means we should be cautious about small shifts (in addition to the sampling error).

We analyzed jobs that focus on two important UX functions: research and design.

Research Titles

Table 1 shows the research-related job functions used from 2009 through 2022.

Research-Related Roles20222018201620142011*2009*
Usability Practitioner20%28%24%
Usability Professional11%11%
User Experience Evangelist 8% 1%
User Experience Practitioner14%16%
User Researcher/Researcher61%56%58%23%11% 9%

Table 1: Research job functions selected by respondents in the UPA/UXPA salary survey. *Years 2009 and 2011 allowed only one selection, whereas years 2014 through 2022 allowed multiple selections.

A few research title trends are apparent in Table 1:

  • Usability Professional fell out of favor and was not even offered after 2011.
  • The percent selecting Usability Practitioner has been reasonably steady since 2014.
  • User Experience Evangelist isn’t currently used, but it was a big deal for a while. When I (Jeff) worked at Oracle, we used to joke that the Evangelist was the person who told others what we did while we did the work (PR for UX budgets).
  • User Researcher has grown from 23% in 2014 to 61% in 2022.

Design Titles

Table 2 shows the design-related job functions used from 2009 through 2022.

Design-Related Roles20222018201620142011*2009*
Instructional Designer 1% 2%
Interaction Designer21%39%38%25% 8%
Interface Designer19%32%14% 2% 7%
User Experience Designer/Experience Designer 45%27% 9%
Graphic/Visual Designer 8%19%18% 1%
User-Centered Design Practitioner13% 4% 8%

Table 2: Design job functions selected by respondents in the UPA/UXPA salary survey. *Years 2009 and 2011 allowed only one selection, whereas years 2014 through 2022 allowed multiple selections.

Trends from Table 2 include:

  • Interaction Designer peaked at 39% in 2018.
  • Mixing up Graphic Design with Interface Design tends to irritate some. When asked, relatively few respondents selected Graphic Design (peaking at 19% in 2018).
  • User-Centered Design Practitioner peaked in 2014 at 13%, but it was not included in the job list from 2016 forward.

Discussion and Summary

Historical analysis of job roles from the UXPA salary surveys is limited by changes over iterations in job labels, the number of options offered for selection, selection protocols, and sample composition. Despite those limitations, the data suggest some interesting trends in research and design roles.

Research Roles

  • An increasing selection of User Researcher
  • A steady selection of Usability Practitioner
  • From 2016 to 2022, no selection of Usability Professional, User Experience Evangelist, or User Experience Practitioner (not offered for selection)

Design Roles

  • An increasing selection of (User) Experience Designer
  • A declining selection of Interaction Designer, Interface Designer, and Graphic/Visual Designer
  • From 2016 to 2022, no selection of User-Centered Design Practitioner (not offered for selection)
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop
    Scroll to Top