Web Developer

What do web developers do?

Web developers design and code the websites we use everyday. They are responsible for a site’s visual presentation, interactive features, capacity and backend structure. In short, developers create websites and shape all of our online interactions.

While web developers are responsible for all aspects of a website, their primary responsibility is to convert creative inspiration into code. Using languages like Javascript, HTML and CSS, developers transform ideas into websites.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the web development industry to grow approximately 20% by 2022. It’s a dynamic field with high growth potential and plenty of opportunities for web developers to change the way we interact with the world.

Web development requires technical skill and a sense for intuitive design. Projects vary in size from small freelance assignments to maintaining and updating massive e-commerce websites. Whatever the scale of the project, web developers need certain skills to succeed:

Key Skills

  • Fluency in JavaScript, SQL, PHP, HTML, XML and CSS, depending on the project
  • Familiarity with multiple operating systems and mobile platforms like Android and iOS
  • An eye for design, and the ability to build visually-appealing websites
  • Excellent communication and visual presentation skills for working with clients
  • Ability to perform detail-oriented, creative work independently or with limited supervision

Many web developers work independently as self-employed consultants or freelancers; others work within a company, building and maintaining corporate websites. Either way, most of their work is unsupervised and very technical. Web developers must write and review thousands of lines of code without any errors or oversights to make their websites work. To build the best websites possible, developers must also have strong communication skills, as the job often requires them to collaborate with owners or investors who have limited technical expertise.


Areas of Web Development

With proper training, web developers can work in any industry. They typically determine the type of projects they’ll do based on the skills they develop as they learn to program. Speaking broadly, many web developers focus on one of the following four categories of work:

SQL/Database Development

A SQL developer creates and manages databases that interact with websites. Most web applications depend on databases; knowledge of SQL is crucial. Database developers commonly:

  • Create and manage the databases that make online banking possible
  • Work with inventory management systems for e-commerce, ensuring that listed products are actually available for purchase
  • Manage online patient databases in the healthcare industry, allowing patients real-time access to their personal health information

Web Design

Web designers are responsible for the layout and aesthetics of a website. They manage all of its visual elements, from fonts to color palettes, and must know several programming languages and image software programs (such as photoshop). Web designers:

  • Design websites for businesses, nonprofits or the government
  • Create innovative and user-friendly layout designs
  • Ensure that sites are browsable on screens of all sizes

PHP Development

PHP is a server-side scripting language commonly used to create dynamic web content. Though PHP developers do not build the front end of a website, their work behind the scenes fosters the interactivity we’ve come to expect from modern websites. PHP developers:

  • Create e-commerce applications
  • Code popular browser-based games
  • Build prominent interactive websites like Facebook, Wikipedia and eBay

Mobile Web Development

Mobile web developers are responsible for creating websites that cater specifically to mobile devices. They should have a detailed knowledge of mobile platforms like Android, iOS and Windows Mobile, and be prepared to design and code websites to display well on any smartphone. Mobile web developers:

  • Optimize websites for mobile devices
  • Create websites compatible with the geolocation capabilities on smartphones
  • Develop interactive apps for smartphones
  • Develop mobile technology alongside the NGO community, using smartphones to provide developing countries with access to tech resources and information

How much do web developers make?

Unlike some industries, there isn’t an established pay scale for web development. Annual salaries vary widely depending on where you work, how much experience you have and the depth of your knowledge and skills.

Still, web developers earn a high salary relative to most other positions, and experienced employees in competitive markets can earn well over $100,000 per year.

Average Web Developer Salaries, 2012-2014

  • $68,670 2014
  • $67,540 2013
  • $66,100 2012

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics - OES Archives

States with the Highest Concentrations of Web Developers

State Employment per 1,000 people Employment Avg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia 1.84 1,240 $78,710
Oregon 1.71 2,880 $69,250
Washington 1.66 4,810 $82,420
Vermont 1.58 470 $65,570
Utah 1.56 2,000 $58,490

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics - OES

Top-Paying Industries

Industry Avg. Annual Salary
Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing $87,440
Software Publishers $86,590
Depository Credit Intermediation $84,010
Monetary Authorities-Central Bank $83,510

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics - OES

Pay by Experience

Median Salary

Entry-Level 0-5 yrs $50,000
Mid-Career 5-10 yrs $61,000
Experienced 10-20 yrs $71,000
Late Career 20+ yrs $78,000

Source: Payscale

Top Paying Cities

Avg. Annual Salary

San Jose, CA $106,580
San Francisco, CA $95,600
Seattle, WA $87,520
Lowel, MA $85,620
Washington, DC $84,990

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics - OES

How do I become a web developer?

Web developers need a working knowledge of the languages and systems that create modern websites, and most professionals build these skills in school. Some web developers are self-taught, but many entry-level jobs require formal training and most professionals are college graduates.

If you want a four-year degree, colleges with robust IT departments are your best bet, as IT majors can often specialize or concentrate in web development. Check out our bachelor’s degree guides, and course catalogs, to compare colleges and find the best program for your career goals.

As you prepare for a career in web development, it helps to ask yourself a few question. Below, we’ve compiled a few sample considerations to help college students and graduates prepare for work in the field:

I Have Completed my Undergraduate Degree

Decide if you should earn a second degree in web development

  • Evaluate whether a future in web development is compatible with your company’s goals and your current job.
  • Consider taking non-credit classes or starting a certification program to enhance your abilities.
  • In some cases, particularly if you need to change industries, consider an associate or bachelor’s degree program.

Ask questions to people already working in the field

  • How did they get their start as a web developer?
  • How steep was the learning curve?
  • Do they enjoy it?
  • Ask them for any advice they have for newcomers.

Find the right education for your budget and goals

  • Consider starting with free online tutorials and instructional resources.
  • If you’ve already graduated, see if your school offers alumni benefits, like reduced tuition or course auditing programs.
  • Explore online learning options. Self-directed learning prepares web developers to work independently, which is crucial for their career.

I’m Currently an Undergraduate

Try a class or tutorial in web development

  • Take an introductory class from the IT department.
  • Browse your school’s extracurricular clubs and workshops for opportunities to enhance your web development skills

Don’t get overwhelmed

  • Start with the basics; the concepts that seem out of reach now become much easier over time.
  • Practice making your own websites. You won’t build flawless sites at first but you’ll improve as you make more of them.

Talk to your professor

  • Ask questions. The concepts in web development are interconnected and mastering introductory material will help you get ahead.
  • Learning web development can feel like drinking from a firehose. Go to office hours for extra help if you don’t understand course material.
  • Your professors are probably just as excited about building websites as you are. Run your ideas and side projects by them and they might offer unexpected help or insight.

Career Advancement

The best way to advance your career as a web developer is to build a stellar and versatile portfolio. Most successful developers build their own website to host their portfolio. On your official portfolio, include websites you’ve designed and built, freelance work and larger projects you’ve helped with.

As web developers gain experience, they often move into senior management roles where they oversee a team of designers and developers on large projects. Experienced developers can translate their skills to freelancing or consulting, too.

There are also several certification programs web developers can enroll in to supplement their work experience and portfolio. These include general certifications, language-specific programs and design workshops.

Web Development Resources

Below, we’ve compiled more resources for people interested in web development. Here, you can find training guides, community forums, job boards and much more: