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!