UX Community Insight Needed: Career Transition

Hi All,

I’m hoping to get your thoughts on a career change into UX Design.

I am currently 39 and I’m a director at an investment management firm in Chicago making around 180k/year. I’ve always loved design. I took two years of industrial design courses in my undergrad before switching majors. I didn’t have the artistic talent needed for that field.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve heard more about UX design and I feel it would be a great fit for me being the INTJ type who loves to improve processes and solve problems.

My concern is that UX designers seem to be much younger on average and that I would come in and feel out of place. What positions are other 39-year-olds in this field typically holding?

I realize that I wouldn’t be able to move from a director in finance to a director in UX or product design. What’s your opinion on how long it would take to get into a management role in UX? That would be ideally where I would like to end up.

Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.


Welcome to the forum @Brad_C!

It doesn’t take too long to move up if you hustle and work hard. I am in San Francisco, CA. In Chicago, it might be a little easier because it is not as competitive. I say go for it! When you start in the UX industry, your salary will probably be cut in half. But you can move up and start making that much in less than 10 years.

Hope that helps!

Hey @Brad_C. and welcome to the UX community!

I’m 39 going on 40 and I’m a Sr. UX Designer at a SaaS product company. There are many people over 40+ that have successful careers in the User Experience field. There are so many areas to explore and the opportunities for growth are endless depending on the company, industry, your desire, etc.

Hustle and hard work are part of moving up but you also need to understand how UX fits into a companies strategy, technology, product design and development processes, and so much more. It’s hard to say how long it will take for you to get into a management role. I would keep that as a career goal but focus right now on the fundamentals. You’ll be a Junior UX’er after all.

Contemplating the costs of a career transition can be really overwhelming, so thanks for the feedback on this. I’ll have to continue to do some thinking on it. The cost of roughly $900,000 in income over that time may be too high. I’ll do some additional research on my end to see if there is a way to minimize that.

Thanks again

@gdnovey. Thanks for the insight. This definitely helps give me more comfort about the career.

Being where I am at with my salary and the pay cut I would take switching careers what’s your take on keeping my current role and doing freelance work as a UX designer or starting up an online side business where I can incorporate UX design?

It’s likely easier said than done but I’m wondering if it’s feasible to generate a decent side income using the options above to help transition into full time UX without sacrificing the immediate pay cut.

Doing side projects along with a full-time job is a path that many take when changing careers. It’s a great way to gain experience while still maintaining your current income. It can be difficult as you’ll be working more hours but it will pay off eventually. Take the time to build up your portfolio, gain knowledge in usability, research, IA, accessibility, UI design, psychology, human behavior, and anything else that interests you. I always stress the importance of networking. Get out and talk to others in the industry.

Best of luck!