Web Designer

What Do Web Designers Do?

Students who learn web design online develop creative and technological skills. Website designers must ensure their sites are engaging. Once they finish their creations, designers pass their ideas to web developers who bring the plans to life.

Learners who want to go into this field must first decide what type of website design they wish to pursue. For example, some designers double as developers. These students can find web design schools online to help them develop the appropriate skills.

With an online web design degree and impressive portfolio examples, a graduate can pursue work with advertising agencies or in-house marketing teams. As online marketing continues to grow, web design allows creative people to work in high-paying jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the demand for multimedia design to grow slightly faster than average at 8%, and web development to grow 15% by 2026.

Key Skills for Web Designers

  • User Interface Design: According to PayScale, web designers with this skill earn about 7% more than their peers without it, which makes it a valuable skill for web designers. User interface design allows professionals to see their creations through the eyes of an end user with no design experience. Learners acquire these skills through certifications or degree programs.
  • HTML: Coding in this primary language is a vital skill for most web designers. They must know HTML to succeed at many of the other items on this list. For example, Adobe Dreamweaver relies heavily on HTML knowledge. Candidates can learn HTML through undergraduate programs, including certificates and associate degrees.
  • JavaScript: This critical skill allows web designers to work on developing the websites they create. Learners who take courses in JavaScript appeal to more employers. Students can take JavaScript classes as electives in undergraduate programs or as part of web developer certificates. Some master's degrees include this skill as well.
  • Adobe Dreamweaver: Adobe creates software products for creative professionals of all kinds. Dreamweaver is one of the company's offerings and remains an industry-standard program for web designers. This all-in-one tool allows web designers to work with other professionals, like developers and project managers, to complete their websites.
  • Adobe Photoshop: This Adobe product is a must-have for graphic designers of all kinds, including web designers. Designers use it to edit and combine images. Like other Adobe products, learners often become familiar with this software through classes and simply using it regularly. Students can also find many online tutorials, including those on Adobe's website.

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the demand for multimedia design to grow slightly faster than average at 8%, and web development to grow 15% by 2026.

Additional Key Skills for Web Designers

While web designers usually possess creative skills and an eye for design, they must also hone technical skills. For example, successful designers know how to utilize specialized software to create their plans. Many web designers also learn to code. User experience skills can help these professionals build websites that not only look great but also help visitors find what they need. PayScale reports web designers most often display these essential skills:

  • Adobe Illustrator: Whereas Photoshop allows professionals to edit existing photographs, Illustrator works best for creating original vector images. Web designers often use this program in conjunction with others. Designers also use this software to make things like logos, typography, and icons for websites. Learners can take official college courses for credit or learn this skill online; however, university courses may look better on resumes.
  • Adobe InDesign: This Adobe program allows users to publish their creations from other Adobe applications. InDesign provides designers with the ability to publish in both print and digital media platforms. Professionals sometimes use InDesign to send final designs and create their portfolios. Some schools provide specialized courses for this program while others include it as parts of broader publishing classes.
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS): CSS plays an essential role in making website designs go live. Although developers use HTML to create the structure of their sites, CSS gives websites their look and feel. Writing CSS is a vital skill for web designers looking to advance in their careers.
  • Graphic Design: Although the technical skills above help shape careers, successful web designers must demonstrate excellent graphic design skills. This broad term includes understanding fundamental design principles and when to break the rules for great effect. While learners typically acquire software skills in one or two courses, students often need to complete full degrees to hone these talents.

How Much Do Web Designers Make?

Although the chart below shows the average salaries of web designers at different experience levels, the number of years in the field does not solely define a designer's earning potential. Professionals may earn more based on their industry, location, employer, and education level. For example, Payscale reports that self-employed web designers earn above-average salaries. Furthermore, those in cities like New York and San Francisco make higher wages, which offsets the above-average living costs. Although the BLS does not separate web designers into a unique category, it shows that developers earn more in the publishing and computer systems industries.

Average Salary of Web Designers by Job Level

Entry-Level (0-5 Years)

$44,000

Mid-Career (5-10 Years)

$52,000

Experienced (10-20 Years)

$56,000

Late-Career (20+ Years)

$61,000

Source: Payscale

How Do I Become a Web Designer?

Earn Your Degree

Most employers require web designers to have at least an associate degree, although some companies only hire candidates with bachelor's or higher. The most direct path to this career is through a degree in web design. Some schools offer graphic design, multimedia publishing, and mass communication programs with web design concentrations. These plans also give students direct routes to web design careers.

Many professionals earn diplomas in related areas and learn web design skills online. For example, candidates may have degrees in information technology or computer science. They then complete certification courses to round out their web design knowledge. They must also create impressive portfolios to make up for their lack of formal education on the subject. Professionals often benefit from earning master's degrees in the field. Such credentials allow them to tackle complex projects for large, well-paying clients.

Gain Experience

A well-rounded portfolio and several credible references can help web designers get top jobs. These credentials show employers the type of work they can expect to see from a candidate. Since design is subjective, visual representations of a designer's work are vital. Applicants can build these portfolios through internships and volunteer work. Many nonprofit organizations, like churches and charities, do not have the budget for web designers and gladly accept help from recent graduates.

Candidates can also design concept websites on their own to fill out their portfolios. These do not have to turn into functional sites for real organizations but serve to showcase an applicant's talents. Although many schools do not require internships as part of web design degrees, these opportunities can help launch careers. Candidates should save their designs in shareable formats and not rely on the live links alone. Furthermore, a well-curated list of references from internships and volunteer work can shoot a resume to the top of the pile.

Earn Credentials

In the competitive world of web design, certifications make significant investments. They not only set candidates apart, but also help in the pay negotiation phase. Organizations and schools offer certification programs in e-commerce design, web animation, mobile app design, and web development. Students can also earn certifications in specific programs, like InDesign, Photoshop, and Dreamweaver. Web designers who want to double as developers earn credentials in coding, such as in HTML or JavaScript.

Online colleges and universities offer certificate programs in which learners complete several courses. Professional organizations provide certifications to applicants who demonstrate specific levels of experience and pass skills tests. Both types of credentials make impressions on potential employers; however, the prestige of college certifications can be particularly impressive while credentials from professional organizations tend to cost less than those from higher learning institutions.

Types of Web Design Careers

Web designers possess both technical and creative talents and can fulfill many different roles. Cultivating additional skills, such as management or coding, helps designers qualify for different career options. Candidates can also earn master's degrees to move into high-level positions. These programs include MBAs with media specializations and master's degrees in computer systems management.

Some professionals become senior web designers, who make more money completing similar tasks. Others acquire additional skills and become developers and user experience professionals. As they advance, they may become marketing or computer systems information managers. While these professionals differ in the types of work they oversee, both play essential roles in website development. Some web designers reach director levels. Both art directors and creative directors manage aspects of branding, including websites, logos, and graphic design.

Senior Web Designer

Companies designate web designers as senior when they either oversee several projects or gain enough experience. Senior web designers may manage teams of designers within a marketing firm or work as part of the in-house team at a company that needs a website.

Median Annual Salary

$69,706

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree, at least two years of experience

Web Designer and Developer

These professionals design websites and then use technical skills to write the code and make the website live. These professionals often earn more than their design-only colleagues, since they can perform two vital jobs. As with web designers, some of these professionals work with associate degrees, but many employers require bachelor's degrees.

Median Annual Salary

$54,419

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree typically required; entry level positions available

User Experience Designer

These professionals ensure websites and products work for the end consumer. They use their knowledge of design and technology to provide flawless experiences. They often work with web designers, developers, and managers within firms and can function as freelancers or employees. Web designers earn certifications or gain relevant experience before they move into user experience positions.

Median Annual Salary

$73,005

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree required; some website design experience is often necessary

Creative Director

Large creative projects like advertising campaigns require teams of individuals with unique skills, such as copywriters and designers. Creative directors manage these teams and keep projects on track. They may oversee all creative projects within a company or manage several accounts at advertising firms. While bachelor's degrees are required, master's degrees can help graduates land these jobs.

Median Annual Salary

$87,022

Degree Level and Experience Required

At least bachelor's degree; 10 to 20 years of experience

Computer Information and Systems Manager

Web designers who excel at the technical aspects of their jobs may enjoy computer information and systems (CIS). At the management level, CIS professionals oversee teams of IT professionals. Depending on the employer, these teams may include software developers, engineers, security experts, or website developers.

Median Annual Salary

$139,220

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree and at least five years of experience

Art Director

These high-level managers oversee how a project will look. From the initial conceptualization to the finished project, each iteration of a design goes through the art director. These professionals must have strong design talents across several types of media. They must also cultivate management and interpersonal skills.

Median Annual Salary

$92,500

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree and at least five years of experience

Marketing Manager

Marketing managers oversee brand campaigns. They may work for one brand and manage all the marketing employees in the department. Other marketing managers work in agencies and work with several clients. In either case, they set budgets, schedules, and goals for their teams. These professionals need creative, analytical, communication, and interpersonal skills.

Median Annual Salary

$129,380

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree and at least five years of experience

Where Can I Work as a Web Designer?

Since organizations of all kinds need websites, web designers find work in many sectors. They can work for marketing agencies, corporations, nonprofit organizations, or governments. Within agencies, web designers may work with several types of clients. Similarly, designers who work for major corporations may work on websites for several of the company's unique brands. Other web designers become freelancers who work as contractors for private and public organizations.

Locations

The nature of web design lends itself to remote work. Some web designers, especially freelancers, live in one region and find clients in others. The following chart depicts the average salaries for web developers, according to the BLS. The BLS categorizes web designers with developers. Although many large cities, like New York and Los Angeles, pay higher wages than average, candidates should consider the costs of living in these regions. For example, Seattle employers pay web designers some of the highest salaries in the country; however, living in that area costs about 80% more than the national average.

Metropolitan Areas With the Highest Employment Level of Web Developers

Location Employment Median Salary

New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division

10,240

$86,200

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division

5,660

$76,570

Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division

4,690

$97,160

Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL Metropolitan Division

4,120

$81,310

San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan Division

3,870

$113,910

Source: BLS

Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Web Developers

Location Employment Median Salary

San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan Division

3,870

$113,910

San Rafael, CA Metropolitan Division

140

$101,740

Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division

4,690

$97,160

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

2,360

$94,540

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division

3,700

$93,170

Source: BLS

Settings

The settings in which web designers work affect their salaries and growth potentials as well. Those who work for publishers tend to earn more than their peers in other industries; however, only five percent of web designers work for such companies. Many more designers find work in CIS or for themselves. Since freelancer salaries work differently than their employee colleagues, the BLS does not report data on freelancers. However, self-employed web designers experience high earning potential, due to their ability to take on as many clients as they want.

The Five Largest Employers of Web Developers

Setting Setting Percent Employed Median Annual Salary
Computer systems design and related services 17 $68,500
Self-employed workers 16 N/A
Publishing industries (except Internet) 5 $71,060
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 4 $65,620
Advertising, public relations, and related services 4 $66,230

Source: BLS

Working as a Freelancer

Freelance web designers enjoy more freedom than their peers, but they also maintain more responsibility. These self-employed professionals can often work from home with the right equipment. They can take on as many clients as their schedules allow, set their rates, and work the hours they prefer; however, freelancers must take care of the things employers traditionally would. For example, self-employed web designers must withhold their own taxes, provide their own health insurance, and pay for their own technology. As work-from-home opportunities expand, freelancers can find work on dedicated job sites like FlexJobs and Virtual Vocations.

Continuing Education for Web Designers

Although designers do not need continuing education to keep their credentials, they should consider continuing education courses to help them keep up with changing technology. Professional organizations and colleges offer these classes. Certifications in new software can be particularly helpful. For example, professionals can earn certifications in new Adobe software as it comes out. Such credentials demonstrate an applicant's dedication to remaining ahead of the curve. Continuing education may also include adding new skills to one's repertoire, like coding and web development.

Continuing education may also include adding new skills to one's repertoire, like coding and web development.

How Do I Find a Job as a Web Designer?

One way for learners to find web design jobs after college is to pursue internships during school. These positions can help students make connections and build portfolios. Candidates can take their portfolios to job fairs as well. These recruitment events allow applicants to connect with several employers at once. Some job fairs hold interviews on site. New graduates can use their professional networks to find jobs as well. Even connections who do not work in web design may be able to help since most organizations need websites.

Professional Resources for Web Designers

Portfolio Resources

  • Volunteer Match This website matches organizations and volunteers based on the types of causes that matter to the volunteers. New graduates can design websites for charities, giving them material for their portfolios.
  • Domain One way to build a web design portfolio is to create websites for fake organizations. Designers can purchase website domains on this website to host their example websites. Candidates can also use this resource to purchase domains for their sites.
  • Catch a Fire This volunteer site pairs charities and volunteers based on the users' skills. Designers look for nonprofit organizations that need their talents and volunteer to help. They can then use these designs for their portfolio.
  • WordPress Another way for web designers to build portfolios before they gain paying clients is to design free WordPress themes. Doing so can demonstrate several of their skills, including design and technical talents.

Professional Organizations

  • International Web Association More than 300,000 professionals from 106 countries make up this organization. Members enjoy learning opportunities and career resources. Employers know that members must sustain high ethical and professional standards.
  • AIGA AIGA supports more than 25,000 members in 70 local chapters throughout the United States. Design professionals of all kinds join and enjoy career guides, professional development resources, and networking events.
  • American Marketing Association The AMA is open to marketing professionals of all kinds, including web designers. As the largest marketing professional organization, the AMA offers plenty of benefits, including newsletters, courses, conferences, and certifications.
  • Internet Marketing Association This organization offers both free and premium memberships for digital marketers. All members enjoy advocacy in legislative bodies, invitations to networking events, and certification opportunities. Premium members gain additional networking opportunities and chances to feature their work in the organization's newsletters.

Professional Development

  • Codecademy Even designers with no knowledge of coding learn through Codecademy. This free resource provides structured curricula, quizzes, and coaches to help learners develop coding skills quickly.
  • Lynda This resource is one of the best-known names in professional development. On Lynda, professionals take any of the site's thousands of courses for one monthly fee. Learners can take classes in coding, specific software, and general business.
  • Coursera Professionals take courses from some of the world's leading universities on Coursera, all at little to no cost. Students learn from professors at institutions like Johns Hopkins, Stanford, and Duke University. Courses cover many subjects and include flexible deadlines.
  • Skillcrush This online coding academy allows students to learn different types of coding. The website offers several three-month programs that turn designers into well-paid professionals like user experience experts and developers.

Finding a Job

  • Authentic Jobs This job board serves creative, design, and development professionals. Users find part-time, full-time, remote, in-office, and freelance jobs specific to their industries. Authentic Jobs also posts gigs from around the world.
  • Krop Employers, freelancers, and job seekers use Krop to find one another. This site caters to creative, technological, and design professionals. Users not only find job openings, but they can also post their portfolios on Krop.
  • Smashing Magazine Smashing is an online development and design magazine with a jobs board. Candidates filter results by full-time, part-time, and remote jobs. They can also choose between design and programming opportunities.
  • Working Nomads Designers who want to work remotely can use Working Nomads to find jobs. This board rounds up work-from-home jobs from more conventional career sites. Users can also set alerts for the types of jobs they want.