Screenshot of the what makes an effective UX researcher video

Breaking into User Research

Most people in a user research role didn’t start their career there. If someone is thinking of switching from a marketing and/or communications background, then this post is for you

they likely have a good grasp of handling sensitive information (knowing what to include/share and what not to) and picking the right angle (what information is most important to tell the story) which I feel are also an important part of research synthesis.

If they’re in a position to do any unpaid work to help them build more skills, they might be interested in Reach Volunteering which sometimes has roles in digital areas.

Many have come from a different background:

I did a lot of work in community engagement – so basically it was UR but in a non digital capacity and without all the fancy jargon

I came from a business background, my previous jobs included… mobile phone sales, charity/third-sector, education, catering (front and back house). Then graduated in  the 08 financial crisis… initially took up a market research CATI role “out of desperation”. Really enjoyed that and stayed with the company 4 years. Then took on role in education marketing/comms team for a few years after. Now 6 years later in UR I’m still here!

I’m currently into managing UR teams, research ops and facilitating improvement to wider ux/ucd processes.

How do you know if the career is right for you?

So, what can you do?

Read things

Just enough research by Erika Hall.

The Mom Test (How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you) by Rob Fitzpatrick

Jobs to Be Done ebook by Intercom

Review the articles available for free from the Nielsen Norman Group, especially the research methods, psychology and UX and the user testing ones

Watch things

Watch this “How to think like a UX researcher” playlist of 6 videos from UX author David Travis starting with this one:

Translate things

Study the DDaT role description for user researcher which lists the various skills expected at each role. If you can demonstrate all or most of those, you’ll be well on their way.

Thank you

Thank you to various sources who weren’t interested in being named, but are typical of the caring, helpful and knowledgeful public sector employee.

But wait, there’s more – user research apprenticeships

Update on 7 Feb 2022: A week after i published this I saw a tweet from MadeTech advertising a new academy for user research and design roles. Their description seems to exactly match the intention of this post so I though it was worth updating!

We’re not looking for professional experience. Above all, we’re looking for an eagerness to learn. If you care about collaborating, communicating and working hands-on to solve problems, we’d love to hear from you.

Find out more about their academy at This post isn’t sponsored, but I do know some excellent people who work at MadeTech.

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