Why You Should Start Your UX Career at an Agency

Laura Sweltz, Director of UX Research and Strategic Initiatives

Article Category: #Strategy

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When I started looking for my first job as a user experience designer, I was brand new to the field, but eager to learn and grow as fast as I could.  I was seeking a company that would provide a positive learning environment, but where I could also make real contributions from day one.

There are plenty of avenues for UX designers.  Agencies, in-house design teams, and product companies all provide their own unique environments, benefits, and challenges.  Ultimately, I chose to start my career at an agency.

Looking back, I feel confident that I made the right choice.  I jumped right in and learned on the job, yet I always had support from my more seasoned team members.  I have worked with talented individuals from across all disciplines of the web design and development process, and I’ve gained experience with big brands, non-profits, educational institutions, and start-ups.  All of these components have made me stronger, not only as a UX designer, but also as a professional.

I think starting a career as a UX designer at an agency is an advantageous choice for others as well.  Here’s why:

You gain experience quickly.

At an agency, you’re thrown into the deep end, which forces you to learn your craft quickly.  I can’t imagine a better way to build your skill set than by working on real projects.  The great part about an agency, though, is that you’re surrounded by skilled practitioners with extensive experience who can support and guide you.  The chance to rise to a challenge while still having a safety net is critical for new designers. 

You learn a broad range of skills.

I won’t speak for all agencies, but at Viget UX designers are generalists.  Being a generalist is a great opportunity, particularly when you’re just starting out.  On a single project, you may work on a competitive analysis, a content audit, user research, information architecture, interaction design, and testing.  Exposure to the wide range of activities that live under the umbrella of UX allows you to broaden your skill set and expertise while learning how to create and present a variety of deliverables.  More importantly, you learn your strengths and weaknesses, as well as the areas that interest you the most. 

You work with a variety of clients.

One of the main benefits of working at an agency is variety.  Rather than focusing on a single company or product, you work directly with a range of clients and you are exposed to even more through your co-workers’ projects.  No two projects are alike so there is a continual opportunity to solve new problems and apply your skills in different ways. 

You receive solid mentorship.

Agencies attract some of the most talented designers in the industry.  Learning alongside designers whose work you respect and who provide solid mentorship is essential to becoming a successful UX designer.  Exposure to their work will inspire and influence your own work, and they will consistently push your work to new levels.


The opportunity to gain such a wide range of experience while working with talented designers makes agencies a great place to start a UX career.  You can learn which aspects of UX interest you the most and what types of companies and projects you like working on.  After working at an agency for a couple of years, you will have a strong set of generalist UX skills and a comprehensive portfolio.  If the agency life doesn’t turn out to be for you, you’re in a great position to take those skills to an in-house design team or product company.

For those just starting out and looking for the right place to launch their career, I wish you the best of luck.  Need inspiration?  From personal experience, I can recommend taking a look at the UX Designer position at Viget.

Laura Sweltz

Laura is Viget's Director of UX Research and Strategic Initiatives. She works from our Durham, NC office, where she helps clients like Rotary International, AARP, and Time Life understand the needs and behaviors of their users.

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