If you’ve ever thought about becoming a web developer, you came to the right place! Pursuing a new career is a big decision, so it’s important to do your research.
After all, you’d invest countless hours of investigation to find a reliable new car with good gas mileage or to learn which car seat is safest for your child. Mapping out your path to a new career should be no different.
Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of becoming a web developer or maybe the time you’ve spent tinkering with the HTML & CSS code on your hobby blog’s platform has sparked your inner curiosity about life as a professional web developer. No matter how you made it here, you’ve got some questions and we’ve got some answers!
We gathered a combination of expert insight, government information and real-time job analysis data to provide you with the answers to all of your burning questions. Below you’ll find eight common questions about becoming a web developer.
Let’s start with the basics. You’re probably well aware that web developers build websites, but there’s much more to it than that. Web developers must also analyze user needs to ensure the proper content, graphics and underlying structure are used to meet both the goals of the user and the website’s owner.
Daily responsibilities include:
- Using authoring or scripting languages to build websites
- Writing, designing and editing web page content or directing others producing content
- Identifying and correcting problems uncovered by testing or user feedback
- Converting written, graphic, audio and video components to compatible web formats
What web development skills do you need to succeed in the field?
Knowing that you have the natural characteristics of a web developer is a great start, but you won’t find success with those qualities alone. In order to excel in such a technical profession, it’s imperative that you master the hard technical skills to compliment the soft ones.
We used real-time job analysis software to examine nearly 140,000 web developer job postings from the past year. 1 The data helped us identify the top five technical skills employers are seeking in candidates. This will give you an idea of which skills you should focus on sharpening to become a hot commodity in this field.
Top 5 in-demand technical skills for web developers:
Not familiar with some of these coding languages? Don’t worry! This is precisely the type of web development training and expertise you can expect to gain from earning a degree in Web Programming.
What education do you need to become a web developer?
Now that you’re aware of the skills needed to succeed as a web developer, let’s talk about the education that will help you land a job. The educational requirements vary depending on the work setting, according to the BLS, but the most common requirement is an Associate degree in Web Programming.
It’s true that you can teach yourself to code online but remember that there’s much more to web development than purely coding. A formal education will help you master your programming skills and prepare you to successfully work with clients and find creative solutions to business challenges.
What is the job outlook for web developers?
You’ll be happy to hear that web development is an in-demand and growing field. That’s right, total employment in this field is projected to grow 13 percent through 2026, much faster than the 7 percent average for all occupations according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
“Everyone wants a website,” says Brandon Swift, co-founder of Santa Barbara-based Volt Commerce . “As a web developer, you’ll never be short on work. I mean never!”
"Everyone wants a website. As a web developer, you'll never be short on work."
Websites have become a critical component for businesses to stay competitive. A company cannot simply utilize a generic online template if it wants to provide a custom, genuine experience for its consumers. This is why Swift says there will always be high demand for web developers who can design custom coded websites.
Knowing there’s strong demand is great, but what about the career path for web developers? Most will start out in a junior web development role and eventually work their way up to a senior developer position—but from there it can get interesting. You may eventually manage a team of developers, or you might opt to hone in on a specialized area of web development. Experienced developers could also try their hand at freelancing or starting their own business.
What is the salary potential for web developers?
It's promising to know that jobs are projected to increase, but you're probably also curious about the earning potential for professionals in this field. If you’re going to invest your time and money into pursuing a new career you want to know it’s going to be worth it in the long run.
You’ll be happy to hear that the BLS lists the 2016 median annual salary for web developers at $66,1302. This is notably higher than the average for all occupations in 2016, which was $37,040.
Now that you have an idea of what a web developer does, it’s important to know what a web developer does not do. We want to clear up any misconceptions about this career before you decide if it’s right for you.
1. Web development is NOT necessarily web design
One of the biggest misnomers out there is that web development is synonymous with web design, which is untrue according to Oleg Korneitchouk, director of web development at New Jersey-based SmartSites. He says that development is taking the designer's work and turning it into a functional website.
Designers are the creative individuals who are focused on the overall look and feel of a website; while developers are the analytical individuals who concentrate on the general performance aspects of the site. Some of this confusion may stem from the close relationship between front-end development and web design. Many web designers also learn the skills of front-end developers in order to become more well-rounded.
2. You are never ‘finished’ with a website
A website is like a plant that needs constant nurturing. Just when you think it’s perfect, you’ll find a glitch that needs to be fixed or an element that the client wants added. Technology is constantly evolving so there will always be improvements to be made. Think of it this way: Even if someone created the “perfect” website in 2005, that site will still look very dated and could have several security or structural deficiencies in the back end when compared to the latest and greatest sites of today.
3. Web developers do more than just write code
The truth is that web developers don’t just sit and stare at a computer screen all day. While writing code is a big part of the job, interacting with designers, illustrators, copywriters and other personnel involved in the planning process is an essential piece of the puzzle.
Web developers also analyze website performance and work with website stakeholders to prioritize strategic updates and improvements. On top of that, it’s crucial for them to spend a time researching new techniques and technologies.
There are a few inherent qualities shared by many successful web developers. After speaking with professionals in the industry we identified a few soft skills that play a pivotal role in the day-to-day operations of the job.
1. Good communication skills
Web developers must work with multiple members of an organization to ensure everyone’s goals are being met through the website. It’s important to maintain open lines of communication and be able to translate technical jargon into layman’s terms for other team members.
If you have children, you’ve probably become a skilled simplifier when trying to explain complex subjects to your curious kiddos. If you can do a decent job of explaining why the sky is blue to a 5-year-old, you should have a pretty good handle on simplifying the language used to describe a technical problem to a client.
2. Love of learning
To make it as a web developer, you need to have a natural curiosity. If you’re the type to scour YouTube and web developer blogs for tutorials and inspiration and just can’t wait to jump in and start learning new techniques, you’re on the right track.
Web developers are never done learning, according to Steven Collins, co-founder of New York City-based Webb Communications. New scripts, widgets and designs are released daily so web developers must stay up to date to remain relevant in the industry. Developers are never satisfied, Collins says, so they are constantly adjusting, honing and perfecting their craft.
As stated earlier, a website is never complete. Often, client work will go back and forth and the smallest details will require tedious nurturing, according to Sid Savara, senior web developer at Honolulu-based Red Aloha. When minute changes or updates are requested, it’s imperative to remain patient. This also reinforces the need for strong communication skills; the better you are able to communicate, the less likely you are to have a never-ending development process.
“Most web developers I’ve encountered [suffer from] borderline obsessive compulsive disorder when it comes to checking and double-checking their code,” says Sam McRoberts, CEO of Seattle-based Vudu Marketing.
It is critical for web developers to employ this extreme attention to detail, says McRoberts. One small mistake can break an entire website, so he says there’s no margin of error for web developers.
Where can I find helpful web developer tools or resources?
One of the best parts of the web development community is the fact that people are constantly trying new things, sharing their work and building tools to make the lives of developers easier. That also means there’s more resources and tools out there than we could reasonably include in this article. But to start, we’ll highlight a few choice options:
- Google Web Development Tools
- Web Field Manual
- Front End Developer Handbook
- Visual Studio Code
- Sublime Text
- Brackets by Adobe
Additionally web development communities like Reddit’s WebDev subreddit are a great place to browse for tips, inspiration, critiques and more. As with any online forum, be sure to read the rules before jumping in and posting.
Develop your career
You’ve just been exposed to a bevy of information about becoming a web developer. At the end of the day, you’re the only one who can determine whether you’ll flounder or fly high in this field. All we can do is provide you with every piece of information you need to determine if web development is the right career path for you.
If you still want to become a web developer, the next step is to explore the degree options that can help prime you for success in the field. Be sure to bookmark this article as a resource for you to revisit during other stages of your journey.
1Burning-Glass.com (Analysis of 138,487 web developer job postings, November 11, 2016 to November 10, 2017).
2Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in February 2014. It has since been updated to reflect information relevant to 2017.