How to Become a Web Developer

It’s hard to imagine daily life without the internet. And behind every great website, is an expert web developer! Responsible for the coding and programming that powers a site’s functionality, the role of a web developer is multi-faceted and evolving quickly, alongside the internet itself. Each day on the job could include a new task for the developer, like updating site features, integrating security measures, resolving bugs and more. Many certified web developers work with a large team in a corporate environment, optimizing sites trafficked by millions of visitors a day. Others might prefer to provide freelance consultation to smaller businesses or individuals and take charge of projects independently.

With all these choices you might be wondering the best way to break into this thriving industry. It’s possible to become qualified for a variety of web dev roles within a year or less through coding bootcamps and other internet resources. If you’re curious to learn more, we’ve broken down below the different types of web developers, the types of career paths available and average salaries, and five steps you could take today to set off on an exciting new career journey!

What is a Web Developer?

Before you dive into the types of development specializations, be sure to understand the principal responsibilities of the role. In short, web developers act as a liaison between a site’s users and its owner, developing the structure, and implementing features and content that satisfy both parties. Regardless of employer or specialty, the role requires expertise in programming languages, as well as a variety of libraries and frameworks, used to create the exterior looks and features of a site. To get a little more comprehensive, a developer’s day-to-day might include:

  • Utilizing HTML, CSS or JavaScript to build out new features
  • Maintaining or updating existing code, using programming frameworks
  • Resolving bugs or errors uncovered by testing or user feedback
  • Writing, designing and editing webpage content, or coordinating with a content strategy team
  • Converting written, graphic, audio and video components to compatible web formats
  • Architect API endpoints and data models

Due to the level of specialized knowledge required, many developers choose to embark on a career path in either client-side development or server-side back-end development. Front-end web developers work on the user-facing part of an app or website and back-end developers maintain the “behind-the-scenes” functionality of the site. A smaller operations team might employ a full-stack developer who takes on aspects of both parts of the job! With the ubiquitous nature of smartphones, other developers specialize in mobile and app integration exclusively. While all web developers are ultimately coders, the type of coding languages they work with and their responsibilities differ based on their specialization.

  • Front-end Web Developer

    A front-end developer is responsible for coding the user interface of a website or an app. They will typically work with a product manager and a designer who will have ideas on what they want the website to look like and what kinds of things they want users to be able to do - enter information to a drop-down menu, view photos from a gallery, access a website on their mobile phone, etc. It will be the developer’s responsibility to turn these ideas into reality using coding languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. A large part of the front-end developer’s job is ensuring continued functionality across all platforms. This includes optimizing code for easy navigation of pages across mobile and tablets, and performing regular usability testing and resolving bugs that arise. Great Front-end web developers must go beyond basic proficiency in programming languages, and also possess a sense of creativity and flair for visual design. Understanding the basic principles of UX/UI and graphic design can serve as a good precursor for this type of role.
    Skills:
    • CSS
    • Caching Layers
    • Databases
    • Git
    • HTML
    • JavaScript
    • R
    • Regular Expressions
    • SQL
    • Test-Driven Development
    • Unit Testing
    • Value Testing
    Salary Range: $18,000-343,000. Average: $76,929.
    Source: Glassdoor
  • Back-End Web Developer

    The back-end developer is responsible for the 'behind-the-scenes' coding of a website or an app - the server, APIs, and database. Back-end developers maintain the website's user data and manage the exchange of requests and inputs between a user and the website. They often work with a product manager and front-end developer to understand and implement desired software features. Languages commonly used for back-end development include Python, Java, Ruby, JavaScript, PHP, C#, and SQL. The back-end developer’s ultimate responsibility is to keep the server, application and database working in an integrated manner to serve the end-user. Tools like MySQL, Oracle and SQL Server can be used to find, save or edit data and deliver it back to the user in front-end code. A day in the life of a backend developer might include creating, integrating and managing the database, building server-side software using backend frameworks, developing and deploying content management systems and working to optimize web server technologies, API integration and operating systems. Similar to front-end roles, the developer will also continually test and debug their side of the site.
    Skills:
    • APIs
    • Databases
    • Git
    • JavaScript
    • Python
    • Ruby
    • SQL
    Salary Range: $24,000-344,000. Average: $101,619.
    Source: Glassdoor
  • Full-Stack Web Developer

    A full-stack developer does the jobs of both the front-end developer and the back-end developer. This entails more responsibility over the website or app and requires the flexibility to be able to switch between different kinds of tasks. However, full-stack developers can find fulfillment in understanding every part of their product unlike anyone else. Depending on the make-up of a team the full stack developer might end up doing more front-end or more back-end work. As part of the day-to-day, this role could work alongside a product manager, quality assurance testers, and any number of other developers. While the full stack track might take longer on your part, the role also positions you as an especially versatile employee at your current company or desirable candidate for your next employer.
    Skills:
    • APIs
    • CSS
    • Caching Layers
    • Databases
    • Git
    • HTML
    • JavaScript
    • Python
    • R
    • Regular Expressions
    • Ruby
    • SQL
    • Test-Driven Development
    • Unit Testing
    • Value Testing
    Salary Range: $16,000-342,000. Average: $105,813.
    Source: Glassdoor

Job Outlook for a Web Developer

As long as high-quality websites and apps remain central to our lives, there will always be a need for developers to build and maintain them. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of web developer jobs in the U.S. is projected to increase by 15 percent by 2026– that’s double the national average for all jobs! 

This growth is expected to continue in every sector from ecommerce to education as companies continue to conduct their business online. Indeed ranked full stack developer as the second-best job of 2020, out of all roles, not just tech! Providing a custom and highly optimized web experience to customers has simply become a necessity for almost all organizations. 

The metro areas with the highest concentration of web developers are Seattle, WA; Madison, WI; Provo, UT; Boulder, CO; and the San Francisco Bay Area. If you’re looking for work as a web developer but would rather stay away from the hustle and bustle of city life, Southwest Montana, Northwestern Idaho, and non-urban parts of Connecticut all have sizable concentrations of web developers too. However, depending on the company you end up working for, it might not matter where you live at all – many web developers can do their work remotely! Indeed lists 1,000s of openings for remote web developers – from entry-level jr. devs to senior positions.

Industries where there is a demand for Web Developers. 

One of the best parts of choosing a web development career is the versatility of job choices it offers. If you’re trying to break into the corporate world, major tech organizations like Google, Facebook and Microsoft are always looking to expand the front and back-end teams. However, developers can also find work with firms that specialize in offering web services to mid-range and small businesses or take the freelance route. According to data from the BLS, in 2019, the sector that most web developers found employment in was computer system design, accounting for 17 percent of 174,300 jobs. This is followed by publishing industries, self-employed workers, scientific and technical consulting services and advertising and public relations. 

 

Web Developer Salary

The median annual wage for web developers and digital designers in 2020 was $77,200 according to the BLS. Below, we’ve compiled average salaries for different job titles within the field and median annual wages for web developers in the top employing industries. Keep in mind the salary of a web developer will vary widely depending on which industry they find employment in, geographic location and years of experience. Different companies might also offer abilities to advance in the field quickly or provide additional perks or cash bonuses.

Career FieldAverage Salary (as of June 2021)
Web Developer$74,056
Front-end Developer$106,233
Back-end Developer$120,999
Full Stack Developer$107,557
User Experience (UX) Designer$96,529
User Interface (UI) Designer$81,484
Programmer$58,161
IndustryMedian Wage (2020)
Publishing Industries$123,870
Computer systems design and related services$75,450
Advertising, public relations, and related services$71,930
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services$70,790

 

5 Steps to Become a Web Developer

Are you ready to jumpstart your career as a web developer?  Here are five steps to begin your journey:

1. Research Educational Paths

You will be faced with a choice in attaining the skills required to be an expert web developer. The most traditional path is to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree in a related field like computer science. However, an increasingly popular choice is signing up for any number of online courses or bootcamps. These programs are typically cost-effective and efficient, offering a streamlined curriculum of critical skills in a few months or less. For those intrigued by this option, we’ve compiled a list of bootcamps offering instruction in web development and coding. 

2. Decide on a Specialization

Are you more interested in the “behind-the-scenes” coding work that powers online life, or do you want to combine your passions in programming with a creative streak in front-end visual design? We recommend researching further what encompasses the daily responsibilities of different types of development work as you consider which role best aligns with your interest. Regardless of specialty, all role types will require some type of knowledge or skill unique to them. 

3. Develop the Technical Skills

With your desired specialty in mind, now is the time to consider your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the programming toolkit you need to develop. You can take out a look at our top skills needed to be a front-end or back-end develop specifically, but to get you started, we recommend gaining a baseline understanding of the following:

  • HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • CSS and Javascript Frameworks and Libraries
  • Back-end Languages: Ruby and Java
  • Oracle/SQL Server
  • Content Management Systems

4. Create a Portfolio

Employers are definitely on the lookout for proof of successful application of the above skills. A great way to get into this type of practice is by contributing to open-source platforms like Github and collaborating with other users when possible. Keep an eye out for bootcamp and other programs that provide participants with a real-world portfolio upon graduation. Finally, consider freelancing for friends or people in your extended network at the beginning of your career to build up those critical skills. If you’re interested in learning more check out our comprehensive guide to creating your own Web Developer Portfolio or Front-end Web Developer portfolio. Both articles include step-by-step guides, free online resources and templates, examples to inspire and more!

5. Research Target Companies and Apply!

Which interests you more: onboarding with a tech titan, or becoming your own boss and hopping from freelance gig to freelance gig? Narrow down your career path, by considering the environment you work best in and your desired geographic location. Above, we provided information on the top sectors that employ web developers, and since the role is so widely needed across all types of companies, the possibilities in the field are essentially limitless. Defining the industries that interest you can guide you towards the necessary academic programs and certifications you need to succeed. Focusing your professional efforts around a concentrated target company list could also further increase your chance of employment!

 

Education Needed to Become a Web Developer

Embarking on a new career path, or transitioning from one industry to another is becoming more common than ever. An ambitious budding web developer could even self-teach themselves the necessary skills, but formal education options still offer the likeliest path to employment. Completing associate’s or bachelor’s degrees is no longer the base requirement for major organizations or small businesses that hire bootcamp graduates.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of bootcamp programs that offer instruction in web development across the country and virtually. In addition to a streamlined curriculum, many of these providers also offer career services like one-on-one mentorship with industry experts, resume reviews, networking opportunities and interview preparation. Bootcamps and certification programs remain a great option, both for beginners looking to dip their toes into a subject, or for experts who need to beef up on a specific topic or acquire a certification. Take a moment to browse our bootcamps and take the first steps toward your dream database administrator career!


Web Developer Bootcamps