Perhaps you’re just entering college and thinking about pursuing a major in computer science—or maybe you already have a career, but are seeking a new challenge. Regardless of where you are on your journey, you may be wondering what it takes to become a web developer and what you can expect once you’re able to secure your first job in the field.
To help you begin your job search or navigate a job transition, we’ve created a guide on how to become a web developer, including education requirements, potential salaries and general tips to keep in mind along the way. Everyone’s path is different and you can follow a number of routes into web development, but the information below can help you better understand the types of challenges that lie ahead.
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Southern Methodist University
University of California, Berkeley
What Does a Web Developer Do?
Although web development has highly technical aspects, like other jobs in the tech sector, it may also call for soft skills, which we discuss below. To build an effective website, developers rely on their understanding of an organization’s mission and determine how users would best engage with the website they’re building. For this reason, web developers may gain exposure to an organization’s business strategy and big-picture thinking.
Common Steps to Becoming a Web Developer
There are different ways to become a web developer. Some aspiring web developers enter the field with a bachelor’s degree, while others start by enrolling in a coding bootcamp or self-guided course. Overall, the field of web development offers flexibility as far as education goes. Hard skills and a strong portfolio that demonstrates a candidate’s abilities may be enough to impress potential employers.
That said, people along this path tend to follow a few common steps, and understanding them can help you decide the best approach for you.
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or a Related Field
If you’re about to enter college, earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field may help prepare you for a job as a web developer. While not always required, a bachelor’s degree can help you gain fundamental knowledge about the field and provide exposure to programming languages. And if you have a job or family obligations that prevent you from taking classes full time, you can enroll in a part-time program or online computer science program to make balancing school and life easier.
Not ready to go back to school? Some employers accept first-hand experience as sufficient qualification for web development roles and may not require or emphasize formal education if you have projects that demonstrate your skills.
For those looking for another route into the world of web development, an online or in-person coding bootcamp can teach you some of the fundamental skills for building websites.
Gain Relevant Skills
Soft skills, from communication to collaboration, may also prove valuable in this technical career. Despite what many assume, web development can involve a bit of teamwork. Before publishing a new website or code, developers may have to explain their reasoning to their teammates, who verify that their code is sound. When there are errors, developers typically exercise problem-solving skills and resilience to resolve them—in addition to keen attention to detail and creativity.
Get Your First Job as a Web Developer
While honing your skills is important, eventually it’ll come time to enter the professional world. The majority of web developers work in the computer systems design industry, but the publishing industry and self employment are also popular choices, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). You can also get a job at an advertising or consultant agency, where you’ll work with a wide range of businesses in need of new websites. You can also find a job in-house at one business and work solely for them.
Hopefully you’ll find a first job that aligns with your passions and goals, but if not, your new role is still an opportunity to develop your skills and portfolio. Gaining exposure to as many projects and tools as possible may help you find your niche and discover your interests in web development.
Consider a Master’s Degree
After completing a bachelor’s degree, you may be eager for more schooling. Some web developers pursue a master’s degree to open more job opportunities and enhance their understanding of their field. Becoming a computer and information systems manager is a common next step for web developers looking to advance their career. Organizations typically require these professionals to have a graduate degree, like a Master of Business Administration.
Web developers looking to stay in a technical role or specialize in a specific area might pursue a master’s degree in computer science. Some schools offer graduate certificates in web development, but these tend to cover fundamentals in the field and might be better suited to those without experience.
Web Development Career Outlook
Web developers can expect an 13% increase in job opportunities from 2020 to 2030, the BLS projects. Web developers earned a median annual salary of $77,200 in May 2020, according to the BLS. Depending on your experience, there are a number of web development careers available to you. We explore a few potential options below.
Entry-Level Web Developer
Web developers just embarking on their careers can expect to learn a lot on their first job. At first, entry-level developers might work on small assignments, like repairing broken code, before being assigned specific features to develop on their own. The projects they work on will likely grow in complexity over time as they gain their team’s trust.
Similar to their more experienced counterparts, entry-level web developers might find work at an agency, in the computer systems design industry or in-house at a specific company.
Full Stack Web Developer
Full stack web developers create both the client-facing side of a website and the technical architecture that helps everything run smoothly—also known as the front and back end. These individuals have a holistic understanding of the website they’re building and can oversee the entire project from start to finish.
Front-End Web Developer
In addition to knowing the coding languages, front-end developers are usually familiar with the libraries and frameworks that support them, like Bootstrap, AngularJS and jQuery. Just like other types of developers, front-end developers can acquire their coding, design and user experience skills from a variety of sources. Books, bootcamps and degree programs are just a few options.
Should I Pursue a Career in Web Development?
Deciding whether or not to pursue a career in web development is a personal decision that depends on your unique interests and circumstances. Keep in mind that building up a foundation of strong coding and problem-solving skills will likely take sustained time and effort. Like many other careers in the tech sector, web development can involve continual learning.
If you’re up for the challenge of exploring new concepts and finding creative ways to apply them, web development could be a good fit for you. With dedication, consistent effort and a commitment to the field, you can work toward a role that allows you to build immersive, well-functioning websites and applications you can take pride in.
Last updated: April 2022