We regularly get asked to clarify what different job titles in the UX industry mean, and how these job titles translate for specific companies. So, we thought it’d be a good idea to put together a general guide on what we’re seeing in the market. It is worth noting that different companies can use different titles to the norm, but we hope this is a useful starting point, and we’re always happy to talk through specific roles in more detail.

Director

A Director of UX is usually seen in larger businesses and would have a significant strategic voice in the wider organisation.

  • They will have full P&L responsibility.
  • They’ll almost always be responsible for new proposition development.
  • They will usually 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.
  • A Director would typically have 12+ years of experience.

Head of 

A Head of UX would usually be the most senior figure in smaller organisations. In larger organisations, they may report into a Director of UX or similar. Complex organisations like banks, telco’s or even large retailers often have multiple Heads of UX who manage teams overseeing 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. In Banks or Management Consultancies, there are sometimes band levels such as Director, Manager and VP.

  • Typically a Head of UX would have at least 10 years of experience.
  • The role would cover line management of a team.
  • They will be involved in providing UX direction at a project/product level.
  • They may still be hands-on and will pitch for a secure budget but won’t usually hold the purse strings.

Principal

A Principal practitioner will usually have deep knowledge of a particular industry, or element of user experience practice.

  • Usually, a Principal would have at least 10 years of professional 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 are more commonly seen in client-side businesses.

Lead

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. Lead level practitioners will be comfortable delivering in a complex stakeholder environment and leading on a wider range of large engagements.

  • They’ll have around 8-12 years’ 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 or two areas.
  • Management time needed would be minimal and is usually focused on helping to refine leadership skills.

Senior

We’d define a Senior UX Designer as someone who is comfortable executing the full UX lifecycle.

  • We’d expect to see 6-8 years’ UX experience.
  • They 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.
  • There will be a low level of management time required.
  • Any professional training needed is likely to focus on developing team leadership skills for career progression.

Mid-weight 

A Mid-weight UX practitioner should be comfortable executing production work, documentation and standard usability testing.

  • They’ll have around 3-6 years’ UX experience.
  • 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 requirements are generally less intensive as they are relatively autonomous.

Junior 

Juniors support UX activities and will be learning how to transition any previously taught theory into commercial environments.

  • 0-3 years’ UX experience.
  • They will need regular guidance, training and mentorship throughout UX lifecycle.

I hope the above gives some useful insight into how we differentiate between the different roles in a UX function. There are other job titles that we occasionally see, but usually, they can be mapped to one of the above.

If you’ve got further questions on user experience job titles, we’d be happy to chat, get in touch at michaela@wearefutureheads.co.uk.

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