So you want to be a web developer? Are you looking to hire one? Maybe you’re just exploring different career options and curious to see if a web developer career is right for you. This guide is all about becoming a web developer and looks at the skills and experience necessary to be successful.
A web developer is responsible for most aspects of building a website. They might design the user interface, aka what the user sees (front-end developer) or how the website functions and stores/retrieves data (back-end developer). In some cases, they do both (full-stack developer).
As a result, the field of web development is vast and could encompass many different types of professions or job titles. In addition to those specializations, other ones loosely fall into this category, such as DevOps, cybersecurity analysts, test engineers, and data engineers. The possibilities are endless, and with the rapid growth of technology, these careers aren’t going away any time soon.
Web Developer Degree
Most people think you need a computer science degree, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The road to becoming a techie is not a straight one, and there are many paths you can follow to get to the same point.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of how you can become a web developer:
- The web developer college career path:
- Get a computer science or software engineering-related degree from a four-year college. From there, it’s pretty easy to find employment in the field. College and university computer science and software engineering degrees often provide a deep background in computer science theory. While that background can be useful in web development, it isn’t always required—especially for entry-level web developers.
- The alternative route to becoming a web developer:
- Attend a coding bootcamp. Coding bootcamps are condensed software development trade schools that teach you all the tools of the trade without the extensive theory. Their duration is usually between 10 to 24 weeks depending on the concentration. The tuition for web development bootcamps is between $8,000 and $28,000, with the average cost being $13,000. The biggest advantage for people looking to join the workforce as a web developer is that bootcamps only take a fraction of the time and cost of a traditional university or college.
- Additionally, online, in-person, full-time, and part-time web development bootcamps are available to accommodate all needs.
- Examples of coding bootcamps:
- Coding Dojo
- General Assembly
- Hack Reactor
- The self-taught web developer:
- If you’re the self-motivated type who has a thirst for knowledge and the ability to focus hours on end without any help, then this option might be for you. Though the hardest path for one to take, it is also economical.
- Luckily several educational resources exist online that are both free and low cost—mainly on platforms such as Codecademy and YouTube. In this scenario, the biggest hurdle is filtering and organizing the information and, of course, having the discipline to learn without a set curriculum or a teacher.
What Does a Web Developer Do?
Many companies, especially startups, work using agile development, which means you might start your day with a standup meeting where you and your colleagues discuss your tasks for the day.
Then it’s time to get down and dirty, so you spend a few hours tackling tickets related to fixing bugs or building new features. Oftentimes you will have a team of other devs you work with and that you chat via Slack or another similar platform even if you’re in the same office. However, the nature of the tasks depends on the type of developer you are, as various specializations also work together to create a cohesive unit. In your team, you might have a frontend dev, backend dev, a dev-ops engineer, a data engineer, a UX/UI designer, and a tech project manager (PM) to manage the whole project.
Another thing to note here is that because new technology is constantly being released and devs have to keep up, some of the time at the office or afterward involves you learning these new technologies. This is so that you’re prepared when your company starts implementing them. Developers who do this become invaluable assets at companies and startups.
Web Developer Career Path
Web developers occupy many different positions on a company or organization’s workflow chart.
For example, you can start as a junior web developer and become mid-level a few years down the line. Then you can eventually get promoted to senior, leading a team of other developers under you. However, a developer need not be stuck in the same type of career. Sometimes they can transition into becoming a tech project manager where they mainly deal with project planning and ensuring a project is carried out within the established timelines and budget.
Other times they might become the CTO (chief technology officer) of a company or even start their own business. With a tech career, one never has to worry about evolving. It is one of the fastest-growing industries globally and, therefore, the playground of very ambitious and motivated people. However, if the so-called “grind” isn’t for you, there are always other options as well. Digital nomads are a whole subsection of techies who care more about the flexibility a career in development provides them than a title.
Web Developer Salary
Below are some examples of average web developer salaries and their range in the US, according to the jobs website Glassdoor:
- Frontend developer: $75,000 ($50,000-$110,000)
- Backend developer: $77,000 ($47,000-$146,000)
- Full-stack developer: $85,000 ($56,000-$130,000)
- Dev-ops engineer: $102,000 ($75,000-$138,000)
- Cybersecurity engineer: $81,000 ($52,000-$127,000)
- Data engineer: $111,000 ($75,000-$162,000)
- Test engineer: $84,000 ($59,000-$120,000)
- Tech project manager: $88,000 ($57,000-$134,000)
- Chief technology officer: $161,000 ($91,000-$284,000)
Web Developer Requirements
The requirements for web developers vary greatly depending on the specialization, department, and company.
A list of requirements for working as a data engineer at Google looks very different from the requirements for working as a front-end developer at a startup for sustainable clothing.
There are too many different languages, frameworks, and areas of expertise to cover everything. And this is a good thing because when it comes to development, there is always room to find that exciting thing. So even if PHP is not your thing because it is a syntax heavy language, maybe Ruby will be.
You might find working on callback functions excruciatingly dull but instead, find your passion in responsive web design. However, let’s take a look at what some potential requirements might include:
1. Education: The educational requirements for most companies involve either having a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field. However, a BA is not always required, and related experience is useful when finding a web development job.
2. Previous experience: Most companies want you to show some sort of previous experience working in software development or to at least showcase a portfolio (especially if you’re freelance or fresh out of a bootcamp) with projects you may have completed. This is to get an idea of your skillset and level of expertise. Many startups will still hire you if you’re a recent graduate without any experience and offer mentorship and training. They’re just harder to find sometimes and require a bit more research.
3. Hard skills: Here is where the intricacies in your knowledge come in. Depending on the language, framework, and database the application is built-in, you will be asked to possess that knowledge. So if you’re a data or AI engineer, you might be asked to know Python. If you are a frontend developer, a background in HTML, CSS & JS is a must. You will probably also be asked to know a frontend framework like Angular, React, or Rails. If you’re a test engineer, you will be asked to know how to use programs that conduct automated testing like Selenium. In addition, knowledge in agile development cycles is always a plus since most companies nowadays work in this environment, especially in the tech department.
4. Soft skills: This part is often one of the most overlooked, but I would argue the most significant. Most devs work in teams, so being a team player and knowing how to work well with others is a must. Moreover, there are times you will be stuck on a bug for days on end or will have to tackle a task above your skill level. Therefore, patience, analytical thinking, and out-of-the-box problem solving are the main qualities that make good devs stand out from the rest. Soft skills are greatly appreciated at companies, which nowadays are big on work culture. Hard-working, organized, and self-motivated employees who believe in a company’s mission, take the initiative, and go above and beyond are very well-sought after, so don’t forget to develop these skills. Way too often, developers become so focused on becoming good at coding they fail to grow in other areas that are as important.
5. Other factors: Often, things like location/distance, whether you’re willing to come into an office, being bilingual, or having knowledge in another industry, can also contribute to getting hired. For instance, if someone is applying to work for a startup that conducts virtual clinical trials, if their major in college happened to be biology or pre-med, this could be a big plus to getting hired. If a company focuses on building e-learning platforms, having experience as a teacher is also a bonus. Living in the same area as the company’s office could also sway an employer in your favor. Whether you’re looking to hire a web developer or become one, I hope this article sheds some light on your decision-making process. The tech industry is an exciting one with many opportunities for growth and discoveries that can change the trajectory of humankind as we know it.