There is more to a job than just the pay.
The type of work you do and the people you work with have a lot to do with a sense of satisfaction. Consequently, job satisfaction has been measured extensively for decades in many industries.
To gauge how satisfied UX practitioners are with their jobs, the UXPA has been asking respondents a job satisfaction question since 2014. Participants are asked on a scale of 1 to 100, with 1 being not satisfied at all and 100 being completely satisfied, where they rate their overall job satisfaction with their current position.
The mean satisfaction score from 1,326 respondents in 2018 is 72 and hasn’t changed much in the last four years as shown in Figure 1.
Comparing UX Satisfaction to Other Industries
To make any measure more meaningful it needs to be compared to something. While a database isn’t available to compare UX satisfaction scores with, other 100-point scales can be used to assess job satisfaction. Research also has shown single item measures of job satisfaction highly correlate with multi-item measures. I therefore looked for other single item measures of job satisfaction across industries.
From what I could find, Glassdoor has the most up-to-date job satisfaction scores across enough comparable jobs to provide context to the UXPA satisfaction scores. Glassdoor uses a “Job Score” based on a 5-point scale (5.0=best job, 1.0=bad job). Its research is proprietary so I’m not aware of any psychometric validation of its job scores or sampling methodology (so keep that in mind while reading). Glassdoor publishes a list of its top jobs with satisfaction scores for comparison. To make this list, a job already has to be relatively high in satisfaction.
To compare the UXPA satisfaction data to this data, I converted the Glassdoor average scores to a percentage out of possible maximum of 5. So, 4 on a 5-point scale becomes 80%, which corresponds to 80% on the UXPA satisfaction scale (80 out of 100 becomes 80%). These comparable scores are shown in Table 1 for a selection of jobs I pulled from Glassdoor’s top jobs.
|Job||Satisfaction Score %|
The average UXPA satisfaction scores place well within this top jobs list. In fact, the highest satisfaction scores reported for Glassdoor’s top jobs cap out at satisfaction scores of 4.3 (or a corresponding score of 86% on the 100 scale). Two jobs in Table 1 meet this high score. This suggests the mix of jobs within the UX profession (as measured by the UXPA survey) are not too far from the top.
When we looked to understand the key drivers of salary, we were able to explain a substantial 68% of the variance (similar to years past). When applying the same multi-variate regression technique to satisfaction, we could only explain a paltry 4% of the variance.
Part of the reason could be the restriction of range. Almost 75% of respondents rated their job satisfaction as 65 or greater.
Almost all of the sample is salaried, working full time, and not performing manual/physical labor, which seems to be an indicator of satisfaction in the U.S. according to some research from PEW.
The variables we did find that had a statistically significant impact on satisfaction were the following: some countries, some jobs, salary, and the number of hours worked per week. To find these relationships, we had to look at the extremes in some variables and not the full range. This again suggests a non-linear relationship between satisfaction and job characteristics.
Job Satisfaction by Country
In the analysis of salaries, the biggest predictor of salary was where you live, both the country and region for the U.S. The highest salaries are in places where it’s very expensive to live (e.g. Northern California). To see how satisfaction differs by geography, I compared satisfaction scores by the countries with the most respondents for the last three salary surveys.
Figure 2 shows that respondents from the U.S. and Canada reported generally higher satisfaction scores in 2018 and France and India generally lower scores. The lower scores from the 25 Indian respondents could be from genuinely lower job satisfaction or it could be from different regional/cultural interpretations and usage of rating scales. For example, we’ve seen instances where respondents in Japan generally respond lower than in western countries to the same stimuli and rating scale (a topic for a future article).
Satisfaction by Job Title
Respondents in the UXPA salary survey were asked “Which describes your current position? (Select all that apply.)” We found the most notable differences in job satisfaction came from respondents who selected “Trainer” (selected by 38) or “Tech Writer” (selected by 23). Figure 3 shows the mean satisfaction scores. A more substantial number of respondents selected User Researcher (743), Interaction Designer (517), and Interface Designer (430). Despite the smaller numbers, Trainer and Tech Writers were statistically higher and lower, respectively, than User Researchers and Usability Practitioners.
Income & Satisfaction
Money might not “buy happiness” but at a high enough level, it does seem to get you slightly higher satisfaction. Respondents who reported salaries above $150K (161 respondents) reported average satisfaction scores, which was about 13% higher than those who reported salaries of $50K or less (225 respondents). Figure 4 shows the relationship between salary and satisfaction. Glassdoor also found higher pay was associated with higher satisfaction in one of its studies.
To control for possible country effects, we examined differences for only the U.S. We found the same results, albeit to a lesser degree. For U.S. respondents, those making above $150K (146 respondents) reported 6% higher satisfaction scores than those making between $50-100K (274 respondents). Only 14 respondents reported a salary of less than 50K in the U.S. (The same 13% difference was not statistically significant in the U.S.; p=.19.) One of the benefits of using multiple regression is that we took into account the confounding effects of country and income and we still found the highest levels of income (>$150K) increase satisfaction statistically (albeit a small effect).
Working More Pays More …but Leads to Less Satisfaction
Respondents also reported how many hours they worked per week (Figure 5). Most (51%) reported working exactly 40 hours per week and most (70%) reported working exactly 40 or between 40 and 50 hours per week.
Interestingly, the average satisfaction rating for those who reported working 50-60 hours a week was nominally (though not statistically) higher than those who reported working fewer hours.
However, things changed for those who exceeded 60 hours. The 43 respondents (about 3% of the sample) who reported working more than 60 hours have an average satisfaction that is 10% lower than those working fewer hours. This group is also paid substantially more for their time though. The median salary for those working 60+ hours is $39K higher (40%) than those working fewer hours ($137K vs $98K).
Working less than 40 hours was also associated with slightly lower (not statistically) satisfaction ratings.
Variables that Didn’t Predict Satisfaction
We examined several other variables based on the research in the job satisfaction literature and while some cases had some small differences, they don’t add to the predictive ability of satisfaction (meaning other variables already accounted for what they’re adding). These variables are gender, job level, company size, experience, age, U.S. region, and supervising direct reports. A few notes on some of these:
- Job level has no effect on satisfaction. Those with entry level and senior level jobs have similar satisfaction scores.
- Company size also doesn’t matter much. While the 76 respondents at smaller companies reported the highest satisfaction levels (75), it isn’t statistically different than larger companies (~72).
- The oldest respondents (56+) reported 8% higher satisfaction scores than the youngest respondents (18-25) but it isn’t statistically different; p=.14.
- Those with the most experience (18+ years) tend to be slightly (4%) more satisfied than those with the least experience (less than three years); p=.061. This is the opposite of what was reported by Glassdoor.
Most in the UX profession report high job satisfaction, which hasn’t changed much since 2014. The average satisfaction in the profession is near the top of other jobs that have been identified as having high satisfaction. Using multiple regression analysis, we are only able to predict 4% of the variation in job satisfaction, even after accounting for some non-linear effects. The low explanatory power may be due to restriction of range (most people are satisfied). The drivers of satisfaction are country (India and France score lower), two job titles (Trainer scores higher and Tech Writer lower), working more than 60 hours a week (reduces satisfaction), and making more than 150K (increases satisfaction).