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How to Become a Web Developer Guide

By Zach Skillings

Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

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Posted: January 13th, 2022
How to Become a Web Developer Guide

Every time we go online, we benefit from the work of web developers. These professionals specialize in keeping websites and applications running smoothly. They perform the work upon which our digital society is built. If you’re interested in a career in this field, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to learn how to become a web developer. 

Also see: What are the fastest growing careers?

1. Learn about the field

The first step to becoming a web developer is learning about what they do. Web developers build and maintain websites and other online applications. They’re responsible for turning a web designer’s vision into a functioning website. Developers often specialize in one of three areas — front-end development, back-end development, or full-stack development. Knowing which area you’d like to focus on is helpful as you move forward. Let’s discuss each specialization: 

Front-end development 

These developers work on the “client side” of websites, meaning any portion that users interact with. This includes things like layout, graphics, contact forms, and retail checkout tools. Anything you can see, click on, or scroll through is the work of a front-end developer. 

Back-end development 

Back-end developers work on the “server side” of development, meaning the behind-the-scenes elements that users don’t see. They specialize in the nuts and bolts of websites, optimizing things like the database, server, and network. 

Full-stack development 

Full-stack developers are familiar with both front- and back-end development. They view the creation process from both angles and have the skills needed to complete tasks on either side. 

2. Obtain the necessary education 

Web development is a flexible career with multiple entry points. That means there’s various education pathways you can take to launch your career in the field. Popular options include getting an associate or bachelor’s degree in computer science, or earning a certificate from a coding bootcamp. Some web developers are even self-taught.

We’ve listed the most common educational options below: 

Coding bootcamp certificate 

In recent years, coding bootcamps have exploded in popularity. These are intensive, short-term training programs that typically last between 2 and 6 months. Students are trained in a specific area of computer science such as web development, design, or information security. Bootcamps are great for students who know they want a job in web development. Most bootcamp graduates find work shortly after completing their programs. Plus, bootcamps are much more affordable than traditional college programs. Check out our guide on coding bootcamps to learn more. 

Associate degree in computer science

An associate degree in computer science requires two years of full-time study to complete. Students gain foundational skills in programming, mathematics, computer organization, and database management. Unlike coding bootcamps, which train students in a specific area, associate programs provide a foundation for a larger range of computer science concepts. They’re better-suited for students who want some flexibility in their career choices. Associate degree programs can also be used as a stepping stone to earn a bachelor’s degree. 

Bachelor’s degree in computer science

Computer science bachelor’s degree programs require four years of full-time study. These programs instill a deeper understanding of computer science concepts, more so than coding bootcamps and associate degree programs. While it’s possible to land an entry-level job with an associate degree or coding certificate, a bachelor’s degree can give you more of an advantage in the job market. Four-year degrees also open up more possibilities for career advancement down the line. The downside is that bachelor’s degree programs require a big time commitment and financial investment. 

Don’t miss: Top 10 tips for finding your dream job

2. Pursue internships (optional)

Internships aren’t absolutely necessary, but they can help lead to full-time employment. Landing a solid internship provides vital work experience and looks great on a resume. Since web development is becoming an increasingly competitive field, you should do anything you can to boost your chances of employment. 

Some programs provide internship placements, or require students to complete an internship prior to graduation. If not, you should do your best to find an internship on your own terms. Your school’s career resource center is a great place to start. Check out our guide on getting an internship for more tips. 

3. Build a portfolio 

Next to your degree or certificate, your portfolio is your strongest asset when applying for web development jobs. A good portfolio should highlight your best work and include a diverse range of projects. Capstone course projects, completed work from internships, and current side projects are all great items to include. 

If you can, try to include testimonials from clients you’ve worked with as well. You can even tweak your portfolio according to specific jobs you’re applying for. Do some research on the company and the role you’re looking to fill, then refine your portfolio to remove unrelated samples and highlight your most relevant work.

4. Create a resume

Along with your portfolio, you’ll need a clear and concise resume to show to employers. An effective resume highlights the skills and qualifications that make you stand out from other candidates. Be sure to list programming skills, coding languages, industry certifications, and education and professional experience. 

5. Find a job 

At this point, you have everything you need to find a job and launch your career in web development. We know that the job search process can be long and time consuming. But with enough hard work and persistence, you’re bound to find a position that works for you. Good luck, future web developers!

Don’t miss: 

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

1. Can I be a web developer without a degree? 

Absolutely. The great thing about web development is that there’s no specific educational requirements needed to enter the field. While employers typically prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree, there’s many entry-level jobs that don’t require a college degree. Earning a certificate from a coding bootcamp is a great way to kickstart your career in web development. 

2. How long does it take to become a web developer?

That depends on the route you take. If you attend a coding bootcamp, you could earn your certificate and find a job in as little as 6 months. But if you decide to earn a bachelor’s degree, you’re looking at four years of education (plus however long it takes you to find a job). 

Generally speaking, your chances of finding a good job (and advancing your career) increase with the amount of education you have. However, that’s not necessarily always the case. Be sure to do your own research and see what type of education is best for you. 

3. Do web developers get paid well? 

In 2020, web developers made a median annual salary of $77,200 per year. That makes web development a very lucrative career option. Of course, salary depends greatly on experience, area of expertise, and geographic location. 

Related: Top 20 highest paying careers to consider

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