Futureheads

Demystifying UX job titles and levels

Nicole Pieri

Nicole Pieri

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We regularly get asked questions by our clients and candidates around levels in industry and what job titles suit different practitioners and companies. With 2019 around the corner, we thought it’d be a good idea to put together a general guide on what we’re seeing in the market.

These are the job titles I'll cover off in this post.

  • Director of UX
  • Head of UX
  • Principle UX
  • Lead UX
  • Senior UX
  • Mid-weight UX
  • Junior UX

Director of UX

A director role is usually seen in larger businesses. The primary differences between a Director and Head of UX are:

  • Full P&L responsibility
  • New proposition development
  • Greater involvement and voice in central business activity/direction
  • Oversee a much larger team, usually with a ‘Head of’ or a few Leads supporting the line management – so lots of line management is delegated, giving the Director space for strategy
  • 12+ years of experience

Head of UX

  • Line management of a team
  • Still involved in providing UX direction at a project/product level
  • May still be hands-on and will pitch for a secure budget but won’t usually hold the purse strings 
  • 10+ years of experience

In Banks or Management Consultancies, there are sometimes band levels such as Director, Manager and VP. These may mean the same or can be different to the above.

Many complex organisations such as banks, telco’s or even large retailers will most likely have multiple Heads of UX, managing their own teams. They will oversee different products, business units or markets. Occasionally there will be someone more senior driving consistency and board-level agenda and that could be a Director. 

Usually ‘Lead UX’ is the most senior practitioner before people move into running departments, though the titles Principal and UX Director are also used in different businesses.  

However, if a candidate is the sole UX practitioner in a company or on a project/product, that doesn't automatically mean they are a Senior or Lead UX in terms of overall experience in the wider market.

Principal UX  

  • 10 years + experience
  • A Principal title may be used for someone who is experienced enough to be a Head of UX but is used as a floating resource across a number of teams, i.e. maybe someone who doesn’t want or isn’t suited to line management and the more formal leadership responsibilities but is a capable practitioner
  • They're also likely to have deep knowledge around a particular industry
  • They are more commonly seen client-side

Lead UX 

  • 8-12 years’ UX experience 
  • They are autonomous on large projects (3-12 months) and comfortable dropping into working on a wide range of platforms and subject matter / industries. Alternatively, they could be a specialist in one
  • Management time needed would be minimal and usually focused on helping to refine leadership skills
  • Differences to a senior are: more advanced leadership skills, comfortable leading on a wider range of large engagements, will be comfortable delivering in a complex stakeholder environment

Senior UX 

  • 6-8 years’ UX experience 
  • Seniors are generally comfortable executing the full UX lifecycle
  • They may have a few skills that they are refining though and should be able to provide mentorship on a task by task basis to more junior members of the team
  • Seniors may be developing good breadth or a specialism in terms of specific platforms (e.g. responsive web or native Apps) or industry
  • Low management time required
  • Any professional training needed is likely to be more focused on developing team leadership skills for next level up

Mid-weight 

  • 3-6 years’ UX experience 
  • Mid-weights are comfortable executing production work, documentation and standard usability testing
  • They are in more of a supporting role through formative research, more complex UX analysis problem solving, client/stakeholder facing workshops and presentations
  • Mid-weights still benefit from regular guidance though management time and training is less intensive, they are relatively autonomous

Junior 

  • 0-3 years’ UX experience  
  • Juniors support UX activities and learn how to transition any previously taught theory into commercial environments
  • They will need regular guidance, training and mentorship throughout UX lifecycle

I hope the above is a useful window into how we differentiate between a Head of UX and Director of UX and other job titles. There are other job titles that we occasionally see, but usually they can be mapped to one of the above. Comments, feedback and questions are always welcome: nicole@wearefutureheads.co.uk.