Interested in learning how to become a web developer? This guide will show you exactly how to do just that. Below you will find 3 different step-by-step guides detailing possible routes to becoming a professional website developer. Whether you’d like to learn how to become a full stack developer or just focus on the front or backend (or have no idea yet!) the information here will help start you off down the right path. The web development profession is a truly unique one which combines high demand for web developers, good salaries, an abundance of problem solving and creative opportunities and is a career that you can get into without going back to school. So if you’d like to learn how to get into web development, read on.
What Does a Web Developer Do?
Web developers are the creative geniuses behind the Internet websites that people visit and use every day. Developers rely on specialized programming languages and technical understanding of how computer systems work to design and construct fully functional and highly interactive websites, which are customized based on the requirements of clients. Web developers are involved in all aspects of website creation, taking original concepts and implementing them in user-friendly formats. They build unique and aesthetically pleasing websites that are highly accessible, free from defects, and secure from outside intrusion.
Web development is a specialty within the more inclusive category of software development. Within the profession, there are three types of web developers: front-end, back-end, and full-stack. Front-end developers are responsible for the look and functionality of the website (what the user sees), while back-end developers create the applications that link the content the user sees with servers and databases and processes data. Full-stack developers, on the other hand, possess the skills and knowledge to handle the complete range of responsibilities associated with website design and construction and perform both front-end and back-end tasks.
A web developer is one type of software engineer. We highly recommend reading our guide on how to become a software engineer for a broader view of this career and the potential options you have.
How Much Does a Web Developer Make?
In 2019, the mean annual salary for web developers was $73,760. In contrast, software developers as a whole had an annual mean wage of $107,510, which suggests that web developers don’t have as much leverage in the marketplace as some other types of specialists. Nevertheless, the annual mean wage for web developers is still about 40 percent higher than the equivalent wage for all U. S. occupations combined.
However, full-stack developers tend to earn more than back-end developers, with front-end developers earning even less. So if you become a full-stack developer, you can expect to exceed the average above.
The statistics on expected job openings for web developers are very encouraging. Between 2019 and 2029, the demand for the services of trained web developers is projected to rise by eight percent, which is double the projected rate of increase for all occupations. The demand for skilled web developers is quite large and is expected to grow significantly. In general, if you have a few years experience as a web developer there are numerous opportunities for employment.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Web Developer?
How long it takes to become a web developer can actually vary quite a bit based on the path you take. Basically, there are 3 distinct routes you can travel down to become a web developer. All three are detailed below.
We know of web developers (including one of the authors of this article) who have gone from having zero knowledge of the field to being employed full-time within six months. On the other hand, if you choose the traditional academic route, you can become a web developer after completing your four year degree.
Therefore, the answer to the question of how long does it take to become a web developer can be anywhere from half a year to 4 years, depending on the route.
The 3 paths below detail the exact steps for each.
How to Become a Web developer: A Step-by-Step Guide
PATH 1: Follow a Post-Secondary Education Career Track – The Traditional But Slowest Path
Step 1: Obtain a College Degree in Web Development, Computer Science or its Equivalent
There are three types of undergraduate degree programs available for individuals interested in becoming a web developer.
The quickest path to academic accreditation is to enroll in a certification program. Such a program will take between six months to a year to complete, and there is a good chance you’ll be able to find a community college or university that will offer a certificate program that specifically focuses on web development.
Your second option would be to pursue an associate’s degree in web development, web design, or computer science, which will take two years to complete if you’re attending school full-time. Completing an associate degree program will give you a deeper foundation of knowledge in computer technology and web design principles, while also offering you opportunities for internships and hands-on experience that will help your cause with potential employers.
You’ll maximize your chances of finding employment if you pursue a four-year bachelor’s degree in web development and/or design, or in computer science of software engineering. In a four-year program, you can gain valuable experience in a web development-focused internship, while also having time to build a more impressive portfolio from your work on school projects and independent ventures.
Over the course of your academic career, you’ll have to decide whether you want to work on front-end, back-end, or full-stack development, and then tailor your elective course and internship choices appropriately.
Step 2: Find a Job as an Entry-Level Web Developer
While the competition may be intense for some positions, the number of job openings for entry-level or junior web developers is growing. As a junior developer, you would work under the supervision of one or more experienced or senior developers, continuing to learn your craft as you assume more and more responsibility over time.
In general, the higher your level of academic achievement, the better your chances of obtaining entry-level employment. If you’ve entered the job market with a web development certificate or associate’s degree, you would have the option of returning to school to study for a bachelor’s degree later, should you struggle to find an initial employment opportunity.
Step 3: Improve Your Skills with Additional Coursework
Whether you’re successful in landing a job straight out of college or not, you’ll still need to continue sharpening your skills and improving your knowledge base by seeking out additional instruction in your chosen specialty. The web development industry constantly evolves and you be expected to do the same, if you expect to preserve a competitive advantage.
To continue your education, you can sign up for individual courses or certification programs, depending on the complexity of the subject matter you plan to study. In your continuing education courses you can learn new coding languages and frameworks, gain more insight into full-stack development principles if you’ve previously concentrated on front-end or back-end website production, and surround yourself with expert teachers and other bright students who can challenge you and help spur your creative instincts.
Private adult education companies like Udemy, Coursera, and Devslopes offer continuing education and certification options for aspiring or practicing web developers. You can also enroll in courses through the continuing education departments in most major universities, where web development is a popular topic.
Online programs that offer web development-related instruction are increasingly common. Since location is not an issue, this means you can broaden your search until you find the perfect program for you, based on your needs and interests in the field.
Step 4: Pursue a Master’s Degree in Computer Programming, Web Development or Software Development
This option will give you the qualifications and experience you require to land a position in management, or to run your own web development or software development company if you have entrepreneurial aspirations. Your master’s degree could also qualify you for a position as an instructor, if you are enthusiastic about your profession and would like to pass along what you’ve learned to others. You could certainly have a bright future as a senior-level developer as well, if you add advanced degrees to your existing resume.
PATH 2: Learn Your Craft Through a Coding Bootcamp – A Faster Path
The traditional approach detailed above is the typically the slowest and most costly path. There are, however, other choices. Paths 2 and 3 are ideal for someone who would like to pursue a change career or has yet to receive a bachelor’s degree or has one which in an unrelated field. Continue on to learn how to become a web developer without a degree.
Step 1: Find a Coding Bootcamp that Offers Relevant Instruction in Web Development
Coding bootcamps offer an intensive, weeks- or months-long immersive educational experience that will prepare you to assume the duties of a junior web developer. You’ll dedicate long hours each day studying languages, frameworks, design principles, application creation, and all the principles and practices that are essential to frontend, backend, and/or full-stack development.
You’ll want to perform an exhaustive search before you select a bootcamp, to make sure you’ve chosen one that emphasizes the type of web development work you hope to practice. Most bootcamp programs last three or four months, although some may have longer curriculum if they’re offering a broader range of instruction.
When you finish coding bootcamp and receive your certification of achievement, you’ll possess a valuable credential that will testify to your knowledge and experience once you start looking for employment.
Step 2: Build an Extensive and Diverse Online Portfolio
To impress potential employers, you’ll need to create a fresh, high-quality portfolio website that highlights your previous experience with web-building projects. This would include projects completed in your coding bootcamp, and also any side projects you’d completed on your own.
Your list of accomplishments and the website you create to introduce them (and yourself) will simultaneously demonstrate your qualifications for a junior-level developer position. Your personal website should represent the culmination of everything you’ve learned about web development, and you should make a concerted effort to produce a site that is inventive, aesthetically pleasing, highly-functional, and user-friendly.
Step 3: Seek Entry-Level Employment as a Web Developer
As you attempt to launch your career as a junior web developer, you may find that a few jobs are off-limits if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree. But the good news is that this is likely to be the exception rather than the rule. As coding bootcamps have become more popular, companies that hire web developers have become more receptive to candidates who follow that path.
Your successful completion of a coding bootcamp curriculum, plus the superior quality of your online personal portfolio and website, would give you the edge you need to find a job that interests you and dovetails with your skillset.
Step 4: Continue to Expand Your Knowledge in Your Chosen Web Development Specialty
If your previous educational experience is limited to a coding bootcamp, you should consider this the beginning of your educational endeavors and not the ending. It is vital that you continue to expand your skills and knowledge by taking continuing education courses offered by accredited academic institutions, or enrolling in certification courses available through private online companies like Udemy and Coursera.
You’ll be doing this not primarily as a way to pad your resume (although that is undoubtedly beneficial), but mainly as a way to make yourself a better web developer. What you learn in continuing education courses will be demonstrated by your ability to produce more diverse and impressive work, which will improve your chances of finding a job, keeping it once you have it, and qualifying for promotions relatively early in your career.
PATH 3: Self-Study and Self-Directed Learning – A Quick Path Which Is Also The Least Expensive
If you are determined and self-disciplined, you could teach yourself coding and compile a portfolio of web applications in less than 6 months. It is important to point out that this would be committing yourself to full-time self-study. This path is one of the most incredible career choices because, if you truly devote yourself, you have a solid chance of entering a very well-paid profession with high demand for your abilities in much less time than it takes for nearly all other white-collar careers. Continue on to discover how to become a website developer from scratch and without a degree.
Step 1: Create Your Own Educational Path
While a formal education offers certain advantages, it is no longer necessary to have one to break into the web development field.
But that doesn’t mean you can forego an education altogether. Even if you’ve been tinkering with web design and development since adolescence, you still may need hundreds of hours of formal instruction combined with guided hands-on experience before you’re ready to obtain employment as a web developer.
A self-styled web developer must construct their own independent curriculum. It would likely include a healthy and eclectic mixture of day courses, classes that last several days or a couple of weeks, and certification courses that might take a few months to complete.
You’ll be able to find plenty of options for learning through companies like Pluralsight, edX, Udemy, Coursera, and FreeCodeCamp, or through extension courses for adults offered by universities. With the number of self-styled web developers rapidly growing, it has become much easier to adopt this approach to career-oriented learning, since there are so many companies, schools, and even individuals offering instructional services specifically targeted to website design and development. Costs for these courses vary, but even on a relatively limited budget you should be able to accumulate an impressive list of appropriate educational experiences after a few months.
If you design your educational program from the ground floor up, it will likely take you between six months and two years to gain enough experience and knowledge to interest potential employers.
In order to become a web developer, you will need to become proficient in:
That, in general, will be the foundation for all web developers, whether front-end, back-end or full-stack. However, to really increase your chances of finding employment and being well-prepared for a career as a web developer you will also want to add to your knowledge.
- AWS or Azure Cloud Services
- Node JS
Step 2: Create an Online Portfolio of Your Independent Work
Regardless of the route you choose to take on your way to a career in web development, it will be crucially important to create an impressive personal website that introduces your talents and accomplishments to potential employers. You should include all the projects you’ve completed independently, whether as formal coursework of for friends, family members, or personal clients.
The work you do creating your online portfolio website from scratch will function as a test of your skills. In web development what you do will say more about you than the specifics of your resume, and if you can show potential employers something unique and brilliant they will be sincerely interested in you regardless of your educational background.
Step 3: Pursue an Entry-Level Position, or Begin Your Career as a Freelance Web Developer
If you’ve accumulated an impressive number of certifications from online coursework, and created a rich portfolio that links to a substantial number of websites you’ve created or worked on, you should be able to attract the attention of hiring managers at companies that need junior-level web developers.
Should employment prove difficult to secure, or if you’d simply prefer to pursue a more independent path, you could choose to strike out on your own as a freelancer. This could be an especially attractive option if you’re a career changer who plans to continue your current job until you’ve found a way to make a living doing web development work exclusively.
There are many successful and heavily trafficked online freelancing platforms for web developers that will allow you to post your resume, link to your portfolio, and actively search for clients from all across the world. If you have good skills and qualifications, and exciting samples to show, you should be able to get some work fairly quickly, and if you do a good job the positive reviews your clients leave will help you get even more.
Step 4: Continue Learning and Growing Your Skills
The field of web development is constantly changing and, as you gain experience, it will benefit you to continuously learn and improve upon your skills and knowledge. It is also a good idea to continue to add to your personal portfolio which will come in handy should you change employers.
Pros and Cons of a Career as a Web Developer
Pros of Becoming a Web Developer
In web development, the need for new ideas, fresh perspectives, and innovative approaches is constant. This makes web development an ideal career choice for those who love to indulge their creative instincts on a daily basis. By its very nature, web development is a decentralized process that doesn’t require anyone to stay stuck in an office from nine to five, or even work from any particular location. Few other professions give practitioners more freedom to determine their work conditions, which appeals to independent souls who prefer to seek their work-life balance on their own terms. Web development is also a great career for those who would like the freedom to work from home, or even work anywhere in the world, because, more than most occupations, it can all be done from your computer.
Web development pays well for those who master the art, and even among those who’ve chosen to work as freelancers the compensation is often quite gratifying. If you enjoy figuring out things work, get satisfaction from fixing something that is broken and fulfillment from seeing your creative ideas come to life and enjoyed by thousands or even millions of people, then web development could be a great choice for you.
If you are an introverted person or tend to enjoy being by yourself, you may particularly enjoy the web development profession.
In addition, once you are an established web developer it would not be too difficult for you to learn how to become a freelance web developer and have much more flexibility of time and location. Websites such as Upwork are great places to establish a reputation and make some solid income.
Cons of Becoming a Web Developer
Because career arcs can sometimes be determined more by the quality of the output than seniority, web development can be a high-pressure occupation at times. Web developers may be forced to work long days and well into the night to meet deadlines, which can keep them trapped in front of computers for extended periods of time. While most web developers enjoy the pace of innovation that defines their profession, even the most studious and dedicated developers can struggle to keep up with the changes at times.
Because web development has become such a popular career choice, the competition for positions, promotions, and clients could grow in the years ahead, making it progressively more difficult for newcomers to find jobs and clients. This is far from certain, however, as the demand for experienced web developers will likely continue to outpace supply.
If you are a highly social person who enjoys and feeds off of constant interaction with others, you may find the life of a web developer somewhat lonely. Sitting at a computer for most of the day can also be taxing on the back, shoulders and wrists, although this is the case for most white-collar jobs nowadays.
Important Characteristics of a Successful Web Developer
High-level web development requires a unique combination of creativity and technical know-how. The best web developers are endlessly inventive, yet also extremely knowledgeable about the technical aspects of their craft. This versatility is an essential element for anyone who hopes to make a go of it in the web development field.
In general, creative people tend to be a little lax about the details. Too often, they fail to develop practical plans to translate their creative visions into action. This is unacceptable for web developers, who must be diligent and focused and very detail-oriented, to make sure they can bring their imaginative projects to a successful conclusion.
In addition to being creative, you’ll need to have, or develop, a skill at locating the source of a problem, or bug, and then thinking through how best to fix it. While web development is a science, there is enormous potential and flexibility in the implementation of fixing bugs and creating new web applications.
Since web developers work in an industry where innovation takes place at lightning speed, the best web developers work hard to keep up-to-date on all the latest developments. Consequently, they must have a deep passion for their profession, to the point where they actually enjoy the challenges involved in constantly learning new concepts and figuring out ways to apply them to their work. Web developers who resist change and who stay stuck in their ways are unlikely to find long-term success in the field.
Web developers perform complex work, and that’s why they cannot become easily discouraged by initial failures. When things go wrong, as they often do in web development, the best developers will patiently and painstakingly search for solutions, accepting that this is a part of the job and not something that should provoke feelings of frustration or discouragement. Great web developers gain tremendous satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment when they find solutions to thorny problems.
Web development is not easy, hence the great demand for professionals in the field, and especially at the start can be quite challenging, but after having a year or two experience, things tend to settle down and get more exciting and fun.
The world of web development is full of potential, creativity and being on the cutting-edge of technology. This guide on how to become a website developer is intended to help you assess if the career may be one that could work for you. Whether you like the logic, data, designing user interfaces, fixing bugs or creating new applications and features, web development is an exciting career to get into. Stay tuned for our guide on how to get into web design for those interested in this related field. We hope this guide has inspired you and helped you advance on your journey. Please share this article on how to become a web developer with anyone you think may be interested or is in need of a (relatively) quick career change.
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