UX as a skill set is hugely in demand, if you're anywhere near the field you can't have missed it, meaning that job offers are plentiful for those with the right experience.
When you go beyond UX design as a specialism, many employers are now looking at adding pure UX researchers into the team, ensuring that this vital component of the process is handled in-house.
This creates the niche within a niche; if you think it's hard trying to hire a UX designer (especially on perm), try going after a UX researcher.
With that in mind, here's an excellent guide to what UX research covers, why it's so important, and why you need to integrate it into your design process.
If you're not speaking to your users you're designing for you, and you're not your users.
It is research that prevents us from designing for one user: ourselves. It’s fairly well accepted that the purpose of UX or user-centered design is to design with the end-user in mind, and it’s research that tells us who that person is, in what context they’ll use this product or service, and what they need from us.