Career Insight

Complete Guide to Landing a UX Design Internship in 2021

Complete Guide to Landing a UX Design Internship in 2021

Gaining experience through an internship can be an outstanding way to stand out (see what we did there?) when you’re new to the job market. While internships sometimes get a bad rap for exploiting students to do grunt work, plenty of amazing, paid internship opportunities exist to help you gain hands-on experience. 

As a UX Design Intern, you’ll do more than run errands and take coffee orders. You’ll work with professionals in your industry, gain valuable on-the-job experience, and build your network and presence in the UX industry. Sounds pretty sweet, right? Use these tips to land a UX internship in 2021. 

In this article, we’ll answer the following questions so you can score the internship of your dreams: 

  • What does a UX Design Intern do? 
  • How much do UX Interns make?
  • How do I break into UX design?
  • How can I land a UX internship? 

What does a UX Design Intern do? 

UX Professionals leverage empathy, creativity, and problem-solving to create beautiful and easy-to-use products, apps, and websites. Interns work with product design teams to assist with current projects and activities. They’ll use problem-solving and communication skills to come alongside the design team as they work on projects from conception to completion. They’ll likely help conduct user research, design mockups, and support the team in user testing efforts. 

How much do UX Design Interns make?

TLDR: It depends. Some internships pay and others don’t. 

You may receive college credit for some and cash for others (and sometimes, both). Consider what’s most important to you in completing a UX internship before accepting or rejecting an offer. 

Can you afford to do unpaid work in favor of gaining experience? What are you hoping to get out of your internship? Your answers to these questions should give you some direction on the kind of internship compensation you’re willing and able to receive. If you’re not in a position to take an unpaid internship, don’t worry. More and more employers are recognizing the kind of privilege it takes to complete an internship with no pay and are beginning to offer more compensated roles.

According to Payscale, the average hourly wage for a paid UX Design Intern is $15.32 in the United States. To get a better understanding of how much you might earn in a UX internship in your city, research potential companies on Glassdoor and thoroughly read through job listings for any information on pay.  

How do I break into UX design?

Internships can be a great way to gain on-the-job experience in your industry. You’ll also become acquainted with UX professionals, which empowers you to expand your network. 

Your internship supervisors can mentor you, provide job recommendations down the line, and give you a better understanding of what it’s really like to work in user experience design. All of these things can help you launch a career in the field. 

At Kenzie, we know the importance of mentorship in the tech industry. That’s why we’re writing this piece in the first place: mentors can play such a vital role in your growth and development as a user experience design professional. 

How can I land a UX internship? 

Landing a UX internship is all about putting yourself out there and showcasing your skills (even if it feels uncomfortable at first). You’ll need to make a human connection and demonstrate your interest in the role and your passion for design. 

Prepare a stellar portfolio 

Matt Fang is a UX Designer who created a YouTube video detailing his experiences of landing internships during his college career. Matt hits the nail on the head when he describes the importance of a portfolio for User Experience Designers. 

“When you’re looking for creative jobs, especially in the tech world, your resume and GPA are not the most important things,” Matt said. “The most important thing is your portfolio.” 

As a UX Design Intern, a portfolio showcases your past projects and design skills. It also lets potential employers know which design software you’re most familiar with. The portfolio should feature mockups, links, and an explanation of what your design process looked like for each of your past projects. 

Real talk: as an intern, you may feel like you lack enough experience to put together an amazing portfolio. So, it’s more important to focus on your interest in the role, passion for design, and ability to make a human connection with the recruiter. The fully-stocked portfolio will come into being over time. 

UX internships also typically require an educational background in the subject, whether through a bootcamp or a traditional degree program. If you haven’t pursued a UX certification yet, consider signing up for Kenzie Academy’s 6-month, part-time UX Design Career program. Our Student and Placement services can prepare and connect you with open positions and employers to make it easier to begin your career.

In addition to your portfolio, it’s essential to have a digital presence so be sure to polish your personal website as well as your LinkedIn and Behance profiles. 

Learn to take initiative 

A UX internship isn’t just going to fall into your lap so you need to take some initiative in seeking one out. Practically, this looks like researching companies you’d be interested in working with, filling out applications, and sending cold emails. Some companies and design firms offer internship programs that you can apply to directly via the company website or LinkedIn page. For those not openly offering a program, you can contact the company directly to inquire about becoming a User Experience Design Intern for their team. You can likely find contact information on the company’s website. 

Sending cold emails requires some dexterity. Keep in mind that your potential intern supervisor is probably receiving a lot of emails each day, so you want to stand out in a flooded inbox. Instead of sending copy/paste emails off into the void, get creative and personalize your messages. Be mindful that there’s a human on the other end of your emails. 

Ask yourself: What’s my story? Why do I want to intern at this specific company under the supervision of this specific person? Try to refrain from writing a novel – be succinct, genuine, and honest about your intentions. This guide to cold emailing from the Harvard Business Review can help you get off to a good start. 

Network, network, network 

As a student, one of your best resources for landing an internship or a job is to leverage your network. Don’t have a network yet? Build one, baby! Attend career fairs, scope out tech meetups in your city, and connect with the career or Placement team at your college or bootcamp. 

Taking initiative in this way will help you stand out from the crowd and put a face to a name. While you can’t attend in-person meetups and career fairs currently due to the pandemic, you can still search online for events of this nature that will help you get connected to different companies and active tech professionals in your city. We offer free, online events to help you start building your network as well!

Accept rejection with grace 

Nobody likes rejection, and at the beginning of your tech career, it can feel downright devastating. But attempting to score your first internship will teach you a lot about how to handle it with grace. Keep in mind that rejection is usually not personal — it just means that the timing wasn’t right or the position wasn’t a good fit for you. That’s ok. Rejection allows us to embrace the opportunities that are better suited to our unique personalities, circumstances, and skill sets. And, it helps make room for us to seek out those opportunities. 

Follow up 

So you’ve put together an impressive portfolio and interviewed with a few companies? Now, it’s time to follow up. Follow up emails are a thoughtful way to show your potential supervisor that you’re very interested in the position. In your follow up email, be sure to thank your interviewer for taking the time to speak with you and review your application materials. You can tell them you thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the company and how much you’d like to work with them as a User Experience Design Intern. 

We’re cheering you on as you work towards landing your dream UX internship! Have more questions about scoring an internship as a UX Designer? Check out the resources below: 


Ready to jumpstart your career as a UX Designer or Coder? Learn more about our Software Engineering and UX Design programs, or check out our free beginner’s coding program Kenzie Free.

Alexa Goins

Alexa Goins

Alexa Goins is the Content Marketer at Kenzie Academy. Before she joined the field of higher education marketing, she worked as a journalist and taught English in the South of France. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading non-fiction works, doing embodiment yoga, or planning her next trip to Paris. You can find more of her work at www.alexagoins.com.

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  • Date
    January 27, 2021
  • Posted In
    Career Insight
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