Web Developer

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What Do Web Developers Do?

Web development is a specialized type of computer programming focused on websites and web applications. Though often used interchangeably, web development and web design differ in key areas. Web design deals with the front-end of a site and concerns itself with appearance and user experience, while web development deals with building technical front-end and/or back-end code that informs site function. Web developers may work exclusively on front-end code, back-end code, or both, and many modern jobs also require overlap into web design. Employment can involve independent freelance work or working in an organization's marketing or IT department.

Entry-level jobs often require only a small amount of formal education and training. As the internet continues to expand, so too will the demand for talented web developers, making this career an attractive option for many. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that web development jobs will grow 15% between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than average.

Key Skills

Whether self-taught or trained with the help of a web developer degree or certificate, aspiring professionals in the web development field must possess a variety of specialized programming skills. You can review some of the top competencies for working web developers in the list below. Mastery of a large skill set allows for high-quality work on the front-end and back-end of sites. Skill level can also affect your salary and income.

  • HTML5: A markup language used to provide structure to content on the web, HTML5 serves as the most current version of the HTML standard. Web developers use HTML5 to form the fundamental rules of web pages, which include whether content should be recognized as paragraphs, headings, lists, links, or another element type.
  • PHP: PHP, a server-side scripting language, is used within web content management systems or embedded in HTML code, web template systems, or web frameworks. Fundamental to back-end development, web developers typically use PHP for server scripting to determine a site's response to a user's actions.
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS): Web developers use CSS to control the layout and appearance of elements across multiple pages of a site. CSS language can influence the presentation of font faces, colors, spacing between elements, and the element's size on a page.
  • JavaScript: JavaScript can be found on a majority of modern websites and functions as the cornerstone programming language for the development of interactive web pages. Web developers use JavaScript to give “life” to pages by controlling behaviors like dynamic loading. They also determine an element's response to user clicks, resulting in an infinite number of interactive possibilities.
  • ASP.NET: An open-source, server-side web application framework developed by Microsoft, ASP.NET provides tools and resources to help web developers build dynamic websites, applications, and services. Though many web application frameworks exist, web developers often rely on ASP.NET as an industry-standard option.
  • Angular.js: Angular.js, another open-source, industry-standard application framework, functions much the same as ASP.NET. Google and its community of users primarily maintain this software. Web developers often use Angular.js to adjust the front-end of a website, due to its foundation in JavaScript.

How Much Do Web Developers Make?

How much a web developer makes involves several factors, including job function and seniority level, the location and industry of a specific occupation, prior job experience, and the education or other credentials on an employee's resume. Salary differences can also apply for freelance web developers compared to developers who work full time at an organization. While many factors impact an individual's earning potential, a web developer can generally expect a financial return on education and training costs. The table below provides a look at average web developer salaries over time.

Average Salary of Web Developers by Job Level

Entry-Level (0-5 Years) $51,000
Mid-Career (5-10 Years) $64,000
Experienced (10-20 Years) $71,000
Late-Career (20+ Years) $80,000
Source: PayScale

How Do I Become a Web Developer?

Earn Your Degree

While many web development skills can be self-taught, entry-level jobs may require some formal college training. Earning your associate or bachelor's degree typically fulfills this requirement. Due to the specialized nature of the job, aspiring web developers should pursue a degree specifically in web development/design rather than a general computer science program. Many top schools offer online web development degrees for busy professionals who cannot attend college in a traditional classroom. Web development jobs rarely require advanced degrees, but a master's degree may increase your earning potential and competitiveness in the job market.

Gain Experience

The amount of experience required of web development job applicants varies depending on an employer's personal preferences and the demands of the job itself. In some cases, the hands-on experience gained during a web developer degree may be sufficient. Other jobs may require some professional employment experience, gained through another employer, independent freelance work, or an independently pursued internship. Undergraduate online web development degrees may not include an internship within standard program requirements, placing the responsibility on students to decide how and when to pursue an internship, if desired.

However you choose to gain professional experience, make sure you maintain an online portfolio detailing every site and web application you work on, including links to the sites, screenshots of your work, information about the project and its goals, and a list of professional tasks you completed to achieve said goals.

Earn Credentials

Earning professional credentials stands out as another proven way to make your resume more competitive in the web development job market. While certifications may not be a hard requirement for employment, they display your commitment to, and mastery of, job-related skills before you meet with an employer. In some cases, certifications can also lead to increased salary opportunities.

Microsoft offers the most popular and recognized web development certifications, including the Microsoft certified solutions developer (app builder) certification and the Microsoft certified solutions associate: web applications certification. Web developers can also consider earning certifications for specific job skills, such as JavaScript programming certifications for novices, associate-level professionals, and experienced professionals. To learn more about your best certification options, conduct independent internet research and reach out to other web development professionals concerning their opinions and personal experiences.

Types of Web Development Careers

What does a web developer do? The short answer: a lot of things. While piecing together the elements and coding of websites and web applications holds the most obvious appeal to an individual with a web developer degree, the knowledge and skills of a web development professional often translate well to other occupations in computer and IT fields. You can find professionals trained in web development working happily as computer programmers, software engineers, and even web-focused graphic designers.

The ability to pursue these occupations depends largely on your experience and education. The careers listed below generally require only an undergraduate degree for entry-level jobs, but you may need to gain additional, specialized training or experience before you decide to embark on an employment search in a related career field.

Web Developer

Web developers use programming and technology skills to construct the appearance and user experience of a site. They also coordinate the site's technical aspects, including site performance and capacity. Developers may work on the customer-facing side or on the “back-end” server-side unseen by site users.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Associate

Median Annual Salary

$67,990

Computer Programmer

Computer programmers work on developing and adjusting the proper function of computer programs and software by writing and testing code, which acts as a set of instructions for a computer to follow. These professionals work closely with software developers and engineers to turn their designs into reality.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's

Median Annual Salary

$82,250

Web Designer

Similar to web development, web design involves the conceptualization and creation of a site or web application through the writing and adjustment of code. Web designers commonly work on the front-end of a site, primarily concerned with outward appearance and user experience.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Associate

Median Annual Salary

$49,094

Software Engineer

A software engineer typically collaborates with a team of software developers and computer programmers, working to determine the best techniques to use when turning a software idea into a functioning program. The software engineer works in both the design and development phases to help streamline the entire process.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's

Median Annual Salary

$103,560

Graphic Designer, Web

A graphic designer who specializes in website graphics primarily works to enhance the site's user experience or application by creating graphics and other visual media. To create eye-catching elements that adhere to a company's goals, designers must possess a thorough understanding of layout, color, multimedia, and their client's mission.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's

Median Annual Salary

$46,740

Where Can I Work as a Web Developer?

While web development jobs commonly cluster in large metropolitan areas, many smaller cities and towns boast a variety of opportunities for web development professionals. These opportunities include working in an organization's IT or marketing departments, at a digital media marketing company serving area clients, or as an independent freelancer. How and where you choose to work can affect your earning potential. In the sections below, we provide insight on the top web development career locations and settings.

Locations

Large urban areas typically offer the the highest salaries and concentrations of technology jobs, including in the web development field. Before you decide to pack your bags for San Francisco in pursuit of a six-figure salary, however, take time to consider additional factors like cost of living, population density, and your personal preferences for rural or urban life. While extensive employment opportunities may be harder to come by in slower-moving cities and towns, demand for skilled web developers will continue to increase as long as the internet exists, regardless of where developers live.

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

What is a web developer's workplace like? Regardless of other job specifications, web developers can expect to work in an office environment. Office environments may be open-plan, cubicle-based, or made up of several individual offices, depending on the size, scope, and nature of the company. Other setting characteristics depend on the individual job. Web developers working in a marketing/advertising department or publishing company, for example, may need to attend frequent strategy meetings, whereas self-employed web developers may only directly speak to clients over the phone or via email. Web developers can work in teams at larger companies or independently in smaller companies.

The Five Largest Employers of Web Developers

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

With the internet's ability to facilitate networking across city boundaries, state lines, and even country borders, many web developers find freelance work a viable and lucrative employment option. Freelance web developers can find work by responding to online job ads or advertising their services online, in print, or directly to potential clients. Working as an independent contractor comes with many benefits, including the ability to choose when you want to take work (or not). However, freelancers also face drawbacks like needing to pay additional, federal self-employment taxes on their income, being susceptible to job insecurity, and needing to cover insurance and retirement planning out of pocket.

Continuing Education for Web Developers

August 1991 saw the launch of the world's first website. Fast-forward less than three decades to today's bustling, interactive World Wide Web, and you get a glimpse at just how quickly the internet can change. Unfortunately, this means the information you learn in college web development courses may not be relevant 20 years from now. Fortunately, you can keep up with changes and developments through continuing education. This may look different from one professional to the next. Subscribing to a professional publication, attending company trainings, and completing online courses or certification exams every few years can fulfill a web developer's need to stay ahead of the curve.

How Do I Find a Job as a Web Developer?

Your first job search after graduation can be equal parts exhilarating and frustrating. Plan ahead and start early to better your chances of landing a good job straight out of school. You can work with the career services department of your institution to build a perfect resume, pursue a student internship that may lead to future job opportunities, and/or attend job fairs and recruitment events to network with employers. Sites like Meetup.com may guide you to other, casual in-person networking opportunities, while Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms provide opportunities to network within an online community. All the while, be sure to maintain (and share) an updated portfolio of your skills and accomplishments.

Professional Resources for Web Developers

Portfolio Resources

  • codeburst.io Codeburst.io is home to hundreds of articles on web development, coding, industry news, and tutorials. A quick search for “portfolio” leads to several articles listing top industry examples and examining portfolio hosting options.
  • Skillcrush Skillcrush.com primarily devotes itself to providing affordable coding lessons to aspiring web developers, but their blog also features more than a dozen articles full of advice about building the perfect portfolio.
  • Wix.com One of the leading website builders in the world offers several design portfolio templates for photographers, artists, or web professionals. Here, you can customize your own site without worrying about code.
  • Behance.net Owned by Adobe, Behance.net is part portfolio, part social network. Creating a free account allows you to post portfolio projects and comment on others' projects in the Behance community.

Professional Organizations

  • WebProfessionals.org Membership with this association of web professionals, active since 1997, provides benefits including third-party discounts, networking opportunities, continuing education trainings, and exclusive access to job postings.
  • International Web Association Representing more than 300,000 members around the world, the International Web Association offers member benefits including a profile in the IWA database, professional development programs, and networking opportunities.
  • Girl Develop It Despite being a relatively new organization founded in 2010, Girl Develop It boasts chapters in more than 60 cities. This organization strives to provide women with access to affordable, judgement-free coding classes.
  • AIGA Founded as the American Institute of Graphic Arts and now known by the shorthand “AIGA,” this professional association welcomes membership from all design fans, students, and professionals, including web designers and developers.

Professional Development

  • The HTML Writers Guild To date, more than 100,000 students have taken an online course from The HTML Writers Guild. These classes taught by working professionals cover topics like beginner HTML, CSS, and Photoshop.
  • W3Schools Well-known as the world's largest web developer website, W3Schools boasts a massive amount of free information, tutorials, and exercises on HTML, CSS, JavaScript, XML, and PHP suitable for beginners and professionals alike.
  • Udemy Access thousands of affordable, online courses on web development (and just about everything else) at Udemy. Taught by vetted professionals, these courses cost a flat fee and include a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  • Amazon Web Services Learn how to use your coding skills to build cloud applications through training and education opportunities with Amazon Web Services. This professional development pathway leads to AWS certification.

Finding a Job

  • Indeed.com The world's largest job site, Indeed.com, serves as a great go-to resource for anyone job searching. Companies large and small use this site to find qualified candidates in their communities.
  • LinkedIn.com In addition to being the top professional networking site in the world, LinkedIn hosts an expansive job board with a variety of filters to help narrow down search results according to your needs and preferences.
  • Upwork Formerly known as Elance, Upwork.com provides a hub for employers and freelance workers to join together. Freelance web developers can search and apply to hundreds of independently-posted job opportunities.
  • Stack Overflow Stack Overflow, one of the largest sites dedicated to programming, hosts a job board specifically for web development professionals. You can filter results by location (including remote work), experience, or your tech preferences.