Online Web Development Degrees

Written by Liz Simmons


What Is a Web Development Degree?

Web development programs provide a foundation in information technology while developing specialized skills in creating and designing websites. Students learn to write code using programming languages, work with graphics, and create and test applications for websites.

Online web development degrees qualify graduates for a variety of well-paid jobs in computer and information technology. The positions available to those with web development degrees vary by experience and education level, but potential careers include web developer, web designer, and computer programmer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 13% job growth rate, much faster than average, for web developers from 2018-2028.

Web development programs go by several names, including web design and development and web and mobile programming. Some colleges offer web development specializations within broader degrees in information technology or computer information systems.

This guide covers important information for prospective students considering an online web development degree, including what to expect from web development programs and career and salary potential for graduates.

Why Get a Degree in Web Development?

Web development programs teach in-demand skills that prepare students for a variety of computer and IT careers, many of which offer high salaries and potential for growth. The following list outlines several benefits of earning an online web development degree.

  • Increased Job Opportunities: Web development graduates can expect many potential job opportunities. The BLS projects a 13% job growth rate, much faster than average, for computer and IT occupations between 2018-2028.
  • Promising Salary Potential: The BLS reports that web developers make a median salary of $73,760 per year, significantly more than the median annual salary for all occupations.
  • Gain Technical Skills: Web development students gain in-demand technical skills applicable to a variety of lucrative computer and IT occupations.
  • Opportunity for Advancement: Earning an online web development degree can lead to career advancement in the short and long term.
  • Personal Accomplishment: Earning a degree at any level takes significant work and time. Graduating from a web development program usually brings a strong sense of pride and personal accomplishment.

When Is a Web Development Focus Better Than a General Computer Science Degree?

Students who know they want to pursue careers related to website development and design often benefit from choosing web development degrees over those in general computer science. Learners in web development programs develop specialized skills and knowledge, which helps them qualify for jobs after graduation.

The web development field may hold more appeal than computer science for students with a knack for design. Web development also offers an alternative for those who want to work with computers but don't want to take the high-level mathematics courses typical of general computer science programs.

When Might a General Computer Science Degree Be Better Than Web Development?

Computer science is a broad field, featuring many sub-disciplines. Instead of focusing on one specific subfield, a general computer science degree gives learners a wide foundation of knowledge and skills applicable in many positions related to computer hardware and software systems.

A general computer science degree may particularly benefit students who want to keep their options open for future education or career opportunities.

What About Other Computer Science Specializations?

Computer science students can choose from many specializations beyond web development, such as computer engineering, computer forensics, computer programming, and data science. Students can also specialize in areas like database management, information technology, network administration, or software engineering. Learn more about concentration options through the links below.

Types of Web Development Degrees

There are four many types of web development degrees: associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral. Generally, higher-level degrees lead to high salaries and more job prospects. Below, we explain what to expect from each type of degree, plus typical admission requirements and potential career paths after graduation.

Associate Degree in Web Development

Associate degrees in web development usually take two years to finish and require 60 credits. This level of education may appeal to recent high school graduates, IT professionals who want to specialize in web development to gain better career opportunities, and working professionals considering changing careers. Graduates can pursue entry-level IT, web development, and web design positions. They can also transfer to four-year programs in web development or related fields.

Universities offering this type of degree call it by different names. Below, we compare web development-related associate degrees and explain their similarities and differences.

Comparing Different Web Development Associate Degrees

Degree Type Description Potential Career Path
AS in Web Development An AS in web development provides an introduction to building websites. Students learn about basic web development, software development for websites, and evaluation of website design. They develop technical skills in areas like JavaScript, MySQL, XML, and Oracle. This type of degree also explores systems analysis and design, database design and management, and project management. Web developer, web designer, computer programmer
AAS in Web Development An AAS in web development emphasizes practical, applied skills over web development theory. The curriculum helps learners practice JavaScript, MySQL, and XML. This degree type prepares students for employment immediately upon graduation. Web developer, web designer, web programmer
AAS in Web Design and Development An AAS in web design and development focuses on practical applied skills for web design and web development careers. Students learn to build and design websites and complete projects based on real-world practices. They gain experience with JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. This program may include a website development capstone project. Web designer, web developer, computer programmer

Admission Requirements

Most web development associate programs require applicants to hold high school diplomas or GED certificates. They may also need to submit SAT or ACT scores. Some community colleges offer open admission to anyone with a high school diploma or equivalent.

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Bachelor's Degree in Web Development

A bachelor's degree in web development usually requires 120 credits and takes four years of full-time study to complete. This degree benefits learners coming straight from high school, IT workers who want to improve their salary potential, and professionals from other fields who want to change careers.

Graduates qualify for careers as web developers, web designers, and other tech professionals. A web development bachelor's program also paves the way for graduate education. Different schools call this type of degree different names. Below, we explain the differences between various types of web development bachelor's degrees.

Comparing Different Web Development Bachelor's Degrees

Degree Type Description Potential Career Path
BS in Web Development A web development BS teaches students to build websites. Students learn about the entire web development process, including web application development, database development, graphic design, and user experience design. This degree develops skills using Adobe Creative Suite, programming languages, and databases. Web developer, web designer, software developer
BAS in Web Development A BAS in web development focuses on practical, applied skills that students can use in web development careers. Learners study topics like user experience design, development of websites, multimedia design, and new web technologies. This type of degree may focus more on applied skills than on web development theory. Web designer, web developer, computer programmer
BS in Web Design and Development A BS in web design and development covers the same types of topics as a web development BS, but it focuses more on designing websites. Students learn to create websites and web applications using server-side and client-side languages and relational and non-relational database structures. Some programs may emphasize graphic design skills. Web designer, web developer
BS in Information Technology - Web and Mobile Programming A BS in information technology - web and mobile programming focuses more on general IT concepts and skills. Students pursuing this type of degree may take fewer web development-related classes. This degree may give students a more varied skill set without delving deeply into any particular skill. Web developer, computer programmer, software developer

Pairing Internships With Your Bachelor's

Many bachelor's in web development programs offer paid or unpaid internship opportunities, giving students valuable professional experience. In addition to fulfilling credit requirements, web development majors can use internships to make professional connections, which may lead to job offers after graduation.

Admission Requirements

Typical admission requirements for bachelor's in web development programs include a high school diploma, a minimum GPA, and minimum ACT or SAT scores. Usually, applicants must submit official transcripts, letters of recommendation, answers to essay questions, and application fees, as well. Prospective students can apply to many bachelor's in web development programs at once by filling out one general application through the Common App.

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Master's Degree in Web Development

A typical master's degree in web development requires 30-60 credits and takes two years of full-time study to complete. Ideal students for this level of education include experienced web development or IT professionals who want to build on their expertise and increase their career and salary potential. Students may also come straight from undergraduate programs related to web development. Most master's degrees in web development require capstone or thesis projects.

Schools call this type of degree by many names. We explain the similarities and differences of various web development master's degrees in the table below.

Comparing Different Web Development Master's Degrees

Degree Type Description Potential Career Path
MS in Computer Information Systems - Web Development An MS in computer information systems - web development helps students develop advanced cloud-based and online skills used to build websites and applications. Students take foundational computer information systems classes and specialize in web development. This type of degree covers database design, project management, programming, and management of information systems. Web developer, systems manager, computer programmer
MS in Information Technology - Web Design and Development An MS in information technology - web design and development combines advanced IT knowledge and skills with a web development and design emphasis. Students learn to design mobile and web applications using UX principles and knowledge of information architecture. This degree usually develops client-side and server-side skills. Web developer, web designer, systems manager
MPS in Web Development An MPS in web development helps students develop professional web and application development skills. The curriculum explores human-computer interaction, front-end and back-end web development, database design and programming, and research methods in informatics. MPS in web development programs usually include capstone requirements and coursework but no thesis. Web developer, web designer

The Master's Practicum and Thesis

Many students who pursue a master's degree in web development complete a practicum and/or thesis. Both of these experiences give learners career-relevant skills and may serve as a capstone to the program. A master's practicum usually lasts one semester. During a practicum, students complete observational learning experiences under the supervision of web development professionals.

A web development master's thesis usually requires significant work and time, often taking one year or longer from start to finish. Students research, write, and defend a thesis under faculty supervision, which typically considers issues and problems in the field of web development.

Admission Requirements

Master's in web development programs typically require a bachelor's degree in web development or a related field. Other typical admission requirements include a minimum 3.0 GPA, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and resumes. Most programs also require statements of purpose. Some schools admit students holding bachelor's degrees in subjects unrelated to web development, but they may require prerequisite or foundation courses or previous relevant professional experience.

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Ph.D. in Web Development

A typical Ph.D. in web development takes 3-7 years to complete and requires 70-120 credits. Doctoral candidates devote significant time and energy to their programs and become experts in their field. They must complete 1-2 years of coursework; pass a comprehensive exam; and research, write, and defend a dissertation. They gain high-level understanding of the field as a whole and develop expertise in a narrow area of web development. Many students work as research or teaching assistants in exchange for tuition waivers.

Typical Ph.D. in web development students hold considerable academic and professional experience in web development or computer science in general. Most web development Ph.D. graduates pursue high-level careers in research and development in the tech sector or teach at the university level.

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Popular Web Development Classes

Web development degree programs typically offer a variety of classes, including core, elective, general education, and capstone/practicum courses. Many colleges offer at least some web development classes online. Courses vary by program and degree level, but popular web development courses include fundamentals of website development, web architecture, web security fundamentals, and introduction to programming. We describe typical web development classes in more detail below.

  • Fundamentals of Website Development

    This class provides a foundation in website development, including planning, designing, and creating a website using best practices and current standards. Students explore topics like HTML and CSS, tools for image creation and manipulation, and user experience principles. Students take this class at the beginning of their education.

  • Introduction to Information Systems

    Students receive an introduction to the major principles and theories of information systems. They explore topics like hardware and software applications, networks, system design through problem-solving, and digital and information literacy. Learners also consider the ethics of using computers in business and society. Students take this class at the associate or bachelor's level.

  • Web Architecture

    This class emphasizes using the internet for managing personal and shared information. Learners receive an introduction to the web as a whole, learning to navigate it and use its information effectively. The course explores topics like HTML, internet protocol, web application frameworks, and internet browsers.

  • Web Application Development

    Students in this class learn the fundamental principles of web application development. They gain skills using Git with Ruby on Rails, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Other topics include user interfaces, middleware, data management, and web application frameworks.

  • Web Security Fundamentals

    Students gain foundational knowledge in the principles of modern web security and current best practices in security. Students learn how to secure communication channels, prevent unauthorized access, and securely handle untrusted data. Bachelor's and master's programs may offer this class.

  • Introduction to Programming

    Learners gain basic programming skills using CSS, HTML, JavaScript, and Python. They learn to solve problems using programming. The introductory class also investigates issues like object-oriented programming, file input and output, functions and modules, and variables and data types.

  • Designing for Web Standards

    This intermediary course teaches learners to create standards-based content for the internet. Students explore CSS and other web standards, which allow people to effectively get information from websites. The course focuses on standards-based web design and emphasizes a responsible approach to web design.

  • Programming for Web Applications

    This advanced class provides instruction in creating client-side content for websites. Students learn to use a variety of advanced scripting languages, like JavaScript. Other course topics include behavioral technologies to improve web design, internet application development architecture, and object-oriented programming.

Career and Salary Outlook for Web Development Graduates

Potential careers and salary outlook vary by education level, previous professional experience, and geographic location. Web development curricula can vary significantly, so the types of classes taken and the skills gained through independent study can also strongly impact eligibility for different positions. Earning certifications can help web development professionals qualify for more computing and IT jobs.

Graduates of web development degree programs often pursue careers in web development and design. The BLS reports web developers make a median salary of $73,760 a year -- substantially more than the median annual wage for all occupations.

No degree guarantees a job, but web development graduates qualify for several computer and tech-related roles, including systems manager, computer programmer, and software developer. These careers typically garner high salaries, with systems managers earning an annual median wage of $146,360. Below, we describe some potential careers and salaries for graduates with a web development degree.

Web Developer

Web developers create websites for individuals and organizations. They may focus on front-end or back-end development, writing the code that makes websites work. They may also act as webmasters for websites, offering troubleshooting, updates, and maintenance. Web developers benefit from skills in SQL, JavaScript, jQuery, and CSS.

Annual Median Salary: $73,760

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Computer Programmer

Computer programmers write code that lets computers programs and applications run. They take designs created by software developers and engineers and turn them into instructions that a computer understands. They also test new programs and applications. Computer programmers benefit from strong skills in UNIX, Java, C# programming, and JavaScript.

Annual Median Salary: $86,550

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Systems Manager

Systems managers coordinate computer-related activity at their organizations. They analyze computer needs, plan hardware maintenance, keep networks secure, and manage other IT professionals. Helpful skills include network management, SQL, IT support, and IT management. Systems managers also need project management, communication, leadership, and analytical skills.

Annual Median Salary: $146,360

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Software Developer

Software developers create the systems or applications that run on computers and other devices. Typical job duties include analyzing computer users' needs, recommending upgrades, creating diagrams and models, and documenting systems and applications. Software developers need analytical, communication, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills.

Annual Median Salary: $105,590

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Web Designer

Web designers use creativity and design skills to make websites visually engaging and appealing. They need graphic design, web development, and user interface design skills. Web designers also need skills in areas like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Dreamweaver, JavaScript, and HTML. Many web designers also work as web developers.

Annual Median Salary: $50,333

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Web Development Careers: Average Annual Salaries by Experience, 2020
Entry Level (0-12 Months) Early Career (1-4 Years) Midcareer (5-9 Years) Experienced (10-19 Years)
Web Developer $50,363 $57,535 $66,356 $70,822
Computer Programmer $53,493 $57,774 $69,872 $77,891
Systems Manager $58,553 $67,267 $78,725 $92,337
Software Developer Not available $62,262 $81,696 $90,991
Web Designer $42,955 $48,143 $55,249 $58,010
Source: PayScale

Selecting Your Web Development Program

The right school for one person is not necessarily the right school for someone else. Choosing the right web development program requires students to consider a variety of key factors. The following list outlines several key considerations for prospective students.

  • Is it a high-quality web development program? Indicators that a prospective school excels in this field may include departmental awards, well-known faculty, and prestige or reputation.
  • Is the school regionally accredited? Regional accreditation increases students' chances of qualifying for financial aid, transferring credits to other schools, and pursuing future education or post-graduate certification programs.
  • How much do online classes matter? Some schools offer web development programs completely online, with no in-person requirements. Other programs offer few distance learning opportunities.
  • What are the program's admission requirements? Are there minimum GPA or standardized test score requirements? What type of application materials must applicants submit?
  • How long is the web development program? Program length varies by degree type and school. Some colleges offer accelerated options, which let learners expedite graduation and potentially save money on tuition.

Should You Get Your Web Development Degree Online?

Many institutions offer web development degree programs either fully or partially online, and some run standalone web development classes online. Both on-campus and online delivery formats come with benefits and drawbacks, so prospective students must consider their individual circumstances and preferences.

Some students prefer the structure and campus amenities of traditional on-campus experiences, while others value the convenience and flexibility of online programs. Distance learners can often log on to class at their convenience, which helps them balance their studies with personal and professional obligations.

Accreditation for Web Development Schools and Programs

When deciding where to earn an online web development degree, make sure to verify a school's accreditation status. Accreditation requires universities to undergo an evaluation of their educational quality by a third-party accrediting agency. Colleges can hold regional or national accreditation.

Used mostly by for-profit institutions, national accreditation is less common and generally less reputable than regional accreditation. Attending a regionally accredited college increases your chances of qualifying for financial aid, successfully transferring credits to other schools, and qualifying for graduate programs or certifications.

Learners should also check whether their web development programs hold accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, a specialized accrediting agency that accredits programs in computing, engineering, science, and engineering technology. Students can use the searchable database from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to verify a school or program's accreditation status.

Ranking Web Development Programs

Choosing the right online web development degree program requires students to weigh a variety of factors against their individual needs and desires, but our online rankings offer a great place to start.

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will it take to complete a web development degree?
The time it takes to complete a web development degree varies by school and degree type. An associate degree in web development usually takes two years, a bachelor's four years, a master's two years, and a doctoral 3-7 years.
How much will I make with a degree in web development?
Salaries vary by factors like experience, education, and location. However, the BLS reports that web developers make a median salary of $73,760 per year.
What kind of jobs can you get with a web development degree?
Web development graduates may qualify for a variety of computer-related jobs, including web developer, web designer, and systems manager. Other options include computer programmer and software developer.
What degree should I get to be a web developer?
Prospective web developers benefit from degrees in web development, web design, or computer science. Most entry-level positions require an associate degree at minimum. To expand career and salary potential, consider earning a bachelor's or master's degree in web development.

Professional Organizations for Web Development

Web development students and professionals benefit from joining professional organizations. Many professional organizations offer networking, professional development, and continuing education opportunities. They may also offer access to job boards and professional discounts. We cover several professional organizations for web developers below.

  • IEEE Computer Society The IEEE Computer Society offers information and collaboration opportunities for computer science and engineering professionals. Members gain access to the group's publications and digital library, professional networking opportunities, career resources, and discounts.
  • Association for Computing Machinery The largest computing organization in the world, ACM promotes professional standards and technical excellence. Members gain access to networking opportunities, a career and job center, and a one-year print magazine subscription.
  • Web Professionals A nonprofit professional organization, Web Professionals supports and brings together those who manage, create, and market websites. Members gain access to professional education, online training, a certification program, and professional tools.
  • International Web Association A 300,000-member organization, the IWA provides certification and educational standards for web professionals. Members gain access to a member database, job resources, professional development and certification programs, and discounts on online courses.

Paying for Your Web Development Degree

Paying for your online web development degree usually requires a sizable investment as the costs of higher education grow each year. However, you can help offset the cost of your degree through financial aid opportunities, such as loans, scholarships, and grants.

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