Are you too old to become a UX designer if you are in your 30s, 40s, or even over 50?


The short answer is no. You are never too old to make a career change. The real issue has nothing to do with age. It’s a self-esteem issue rooted in lack of belief that you could successfully transition from a role in which you have invested so much, to start on one that is completely new. In this article, we will explore how to overcome several limiting beliefs that are stopping you from embarking on an exciting career change. In addition, I will share inspiring testimonials and advice from designers who have started their journeys after 30.

But first, let’s begin with the most common limiting beliefs.

I am too old
You are not hired based on age but on your ability to solve problems and bring value to an organization. The design market (recruiters and employers included) responds primarily to your creative skills (hence the need for a strong portfolio of work) and your soft skills. While ageism can be a factor in some industries, many design companies actively work to address age bias legally and create more inclusive work environments. Other more critical factors like personality, values, and talent will prevent you from being hired.

I am inexperienced and not good enough
You might be at an advantage compared to new graduates applying to the same role as you are technically not starting from zero. You may have already acquired valuable skills in your previous roles like project management, teamwork, and client communication. Individuals with job maturity, diverse perspectives, and experiences are always sought after. As a design lead, I intentionally build diverse teams so that we can generate a larger pool of ideas from our different backgrounds.

Having related degrees and working in related fields also can work out in your favor. People with backgrounds in fields like architecture, graphic design, web development, psychology, or marketing may find it easier to transition. The research or design process in these fields usually overlap making easier to adjust to a new field like UX. I personally had worked as a software developer, graphic designer, teacher and website developer before specializing in UX design. All your experiences matter.Having related degrees and working in related fields also can work out in your favor. People with backgrounds in fields like architecture, graphic design, web development, psychology, or marketing may find it easier to transition. The research or design process in these fields usually overlap making it easier to adjust to a new field like UX. I personally have worked as a software developer, graphic designer, teacher, and website developer before specializing in UX design. All your experiences matter.

I am too scared to fail
In life, you do not succeed at everything you do. So why are we scared of failing if we constantly encounter failure in life? Even kids know that is normal to fail at something new and unperturbed they try again until they get it. As adults, we care way too much about what people think about us when we fail and also when we succeed. We need to redefine failure as a stepping stone to success. There is no need to fear failure as it helps you grow and get closer to your goals.

I don’t know how to design
You do not necessarily need to know how to design. The UX field encompasses various roles, each with specific responsibilities and areas of focus. UX Designers tend to focus on the overall experience users have when interacting with a product. They conduct user research, create personas, design wireframes and prototypes, and test designs to ensure they meet user needs. UX Researchers gather and analyze data about users and their needs. They use various methods such as interviews, surveys, usability testing, and field studies to inform the design process. UX Strategists develop long-term strategies to enhance user experience. They align UX goals with business objectives, ensuring that design decisions contribute to the overall success of the product. UX Engineers bridge the gap between design and development. They translate design concepts into interactive, front-end code, ensuring that the final product aligns with the design vision.

You need to look at your past experiences, passion, and skills to evaluate which role you would feel most comfortable transitioning to.

I am too late to join UX
The demand for skilled UX designers is still high, and this trend is likely to continue in the future as new technologies and interfaces emerge. There are always going to be badly designed experiences that need improving. Companies across various industries are recognizing the importance of good design in creating user-friendly products and services, which creates opportunities for individuals looking to enter this field.

I am not sure if UX is right for me
You can evaluate if UX is right for you before you fully invest time in expensive courses and job searching. Carefully evaluate why you want to change careers. Is it out of desperation or do you have a genuine interest in UX work? How can you find this out? Learn about what a UX designer does on a day-to-day basis. Reach out to two or three UX designer for a chat about what they do, what they love about their job, and what they do not like about their job. Is it what you see yourself doing day in and day out for the next couple of years? Try to do a practice project to get a feel for the on-the-job mechanics of tackling design problems. And if you are still unsure, I have a list of the most common traits that successful UX designers have that you can measure yourself against. What these exercises should expose is whether you have the right passion to not only do the job but to be really good at it.

What others have to say

Here are a couple of quotes from designers who have started late in their career and employers who have hired older designers coming from a different field.

“Just last week, one of my graduates turned 40 and landed a 6-figure job. That’s 4 weeks after graduating from a part-time course, in the middle of a global pandemic. And he isn’t the only one. I had many students over the age of 40, some over 50, and they are all happily employed ad UX or Product designers (or managers). Age won’t stop you from getting a great career in UX. If you love it, if you really “get it”, you’ll be fine :)” – Vera, UX & Product Design Lead

I was 35 when I got my first UX position. Granted, I went back to school when I was 32.

Must Read Related Posts

Going back to school in my 30’s was… punishing. I couldn’t pull all-nighters at the drop of a hat anymore. Not just because my body didn’t want to, but because I had other demands on my time that meant I couldn’t just sleep it off a couple days later. If I stayed up late studying, that meant lost sleep— because the kids were going to make enough noise to wake me up at 6am regardless of whether they meant to or not. Attending mid-day study groups was impossible— I had work to do, and it needed my prime thinking-time.

The stresses on my marriage were pretty intense— our budget was severely cut back when I went back for my engineering degrees, and my wife had to not only pick up the slack around the house, but work around the reduced income. All the while, she felt like she couldn’t bother me because I needed to focus on work and studying. It hurt her that even when we got away to the beach for a weekend, I sat on my laptop working on research and assignments.

Don’t misunderstand— it has turned out to be well worth it. We knew it would be hard going into those 3 years, but weighed the cost and committed to it. However, it was orders of magnitude more difficult than if we hadn’t had kids or even if I had been single.

Now, it’s sometimes hard to get positions because I’m older than people with similar levels of experience. I’ve been fortunate enough that I found places where I played my previous career and experiences into things they found valuable, but my offer rate is substantially lower than it would be if I were younger. I cost more because I’m older and have a family. (I’m worth more, too, but it takes more effort to convince employers of that).

If you want to do it, then go for it. You can do it. Just realize that it’s going to be harder for you to get momentum than someone ten years younger than you that is competing for the same position. Just remember:

YOU choose who you want to be.” – Don Church, UX Designer

“No, it’s definitely not too late.”No, it’s definitely not too late. In my agency, the design team consists of professionals of different ages, which is great. We regularly receive resumes from guys aged 30+ who are at the start of a career.” – Vladislav, Founder & CEO

“Hell yes. Your life experience and maturity is something that will set you apart from the “pack.” As long as you’re open minded, lead with inquiry, question everything, and are not an asshole, the world of UI design is your oyster. Don’t let those 20 somethings with their flashy portfolios get you down… they haven’t seen half the world you have ;)” – Joe Preston, Vice President of Design at Intuit

“I started a career in UX in my mid 30s, after working as a piano teacher for 15 years. I had very little experience and no training in anything design related, but I don’t feel my age has held me back (albeit it I did have to hustle for a good couple of years before finding any success).” – Luke Razzle, Designer

“I’m well over 40 and work as a UX designer – but then I don’t consider myself working in ‘tech’ or IT or anything technical. Sure I architect and design websites and apps but I view it as problem solving, about building the right thing. This allows the real techies to build things right. I tend to work client side and find it not an issue being my age – although I don’t quite look my years. The biggest thing I find is the expectation to manage, which I can do, but rather be doing as that’s what I’ve been focused on since 1995.

The thing that will hold you back is your lack of experience. UX design is a deep subject that goes in many different directions. Past experience is vital as boot camps and course like General Assembly tend to get things only half right most of the time. They also believe too much of the hype around lean and agile without providing why it’s only part of the story and often is only really suited for young fizzy startups. In summary – the age is not a problem, your previous experience may well be. If you’ve been a designer or a developers you’ll have many old habits to unlearn, for example.” – Stewart Dean, London based UXer


In conclusion

To round off this article there are a few thoughts I want to leave you with. Commit to taking action towards transitioning to UX and intentionally sharing it with others for them to hold you accountable. It’s very easy to procrastinate and get overwhelmed with all the articles leading to you feeling despondent and discouraged. Secondly, dedicate time to your current schedule to gain progress toward achieving your goal. Create a timetable on your calendar of when you will be studying, upskilling, and networking. If you are married communicate your dream with your partner and map out a plan that works for your family. Have a deadline for your milestones.

And lastly, pay the cost. This might mean investing a vast amount of time and resources into your journey and in some cases, you may need to take an expensive course or pay for design software. Have the end goal in mind.

It’s never too late to pursue a new career path that excites you and aligns with your interests and skills. If UX design is something you’re passionate about, don’t let your age hold you back. Embrace the opportunity to learn and grow in this field!

If you are already a UX designer let us know at what age you started.

Must Read Related Posts

Discover more from UX Design Mastery

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

Was this article helpful?
YesNo

Calvin Pedzai

Analytical problem solver who enjoys crafting experiences and currently is the Senior UX designer at an awarding winning agency.

Leave a Reply