If there’s one job that’s easy to pick up with no prior experience or education at all, it’s web development. You can get started right now, and in a few weeks or months of study and practice, you’ll have a working understanding of how to develop a website.
The trouble is knowing where exactly to start. Anyone can figure out how to write a simple line of HTML, but creating a functional website that people will use is more complex. The many rules of web development are also a bit more challenging.
If you’re looking for resources or want to know more about the job you’re getting into, we’ve collected the best online learning platforms, tools for web development, and all the info you’ll need to get started right here.
What Is a Web Developer?
A website can have anywhere from a single person to an entire team behind it, but at minimum, it needs a web developer. These people write the code that gets a website working and visible on the world wide web.
The primary task of a web developer is to write code, which is a set of commands and instructions written in a particular programming language. Code makes up everything in the online world, from your computer’s operating system to the backend of a website you visit.
Take a look at Wikipedia’s homepage and imagine what it might take to create even such a simple website. A web developer set up the layout of this page, from the sidebar to the tables to the top bar. They had to set up scripts to take blurbs from the featured articles and request dynamic content from the site.
A database stores these articles and their revisions, also set up by a developer.
It takes a ton of work, but everything comes together piece by piece to create a functional website.
With the exponential rise of the internet, programmers are in high demand and have a great job outlook. Everyone wants to have their website, and web developers are here to help them make it.
What Does a Web Developer Do?
Wondering what exactly your daily tasks are? Here’s the general job description for a web developer:
Use code to create websites and prototypes
Design a visually appealing layout for a website (either from scratch or with the help of a web designer)
Maintain active websites by cleaning up code and debugging errors
Create a database using SQL
Work with clients to decide on project scope and figure out the fine details of website features and design
There are dozens of ways you can specialize, which will change your job description a fair bit. For instance, you could choose to work in frontend or backend technologies, or you could become a systems administrator responsible for keeping servers up and running.
But in general, these are the most basic tasks you’ll be responsible for.
Why Become a Web Developer?
While it may not be for everyone, web development has a shallow barrier to entry and is one of the most accessible jobs you can pick up. Despite this, it pays reasonably well, and web developers are always in demand.
That’s not to say that the work isn’t often challenging, but the fundamentals are very quickly self-taught (and many developers like the challenge!).
Breaking into the ever-growing tech industry is always a good choice long-term. If you’re willing and able to pursue popular coding languages — and in web development, there’s always a hot new language employers are scrambling to hire for — you’re almost guaranteed a steady job.
You’ll need to try out programming before you can say if it’s right for you, but if you put in the work to try beginner coding and find that it makes sense, then you may make a good web developer.
Web Developer Salary and Demand
If you’re considering becoming a web developer, it’s good to know what sort of salary you can expect and how easy it will be to get a job.
But the consensus is that the average developer makes $60k–75k/year.
Of course, the pay will depend on your experience level, the languages and technologies you pursue, and whether you freelance or work a steady job. But it’s a reasonable estimate to start with.
As for demand, the US Bureau of Labor predicts that demand for web designers and developers will grow 8% from 2019–29. For reference, that’s double what most occupations on average are projected to grow.
U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics on increases in employment opportunities for web developers
Some web developer jobs are more competitive than others — positions like frontend developer, which are far easier to pick up, may pay less well and be more laborious to find a job for — but the outlook is still outstanding.
How Hard Is It to Become a Web Developer?
Web development is one of the most straightforward jobs to get into — if you can figure out programming. Not all jobs are for everyone, and there will be those who may struggle to wrap their heads around code.
For some people, becoming a web developer will be a breeze. For others, it may never quite click with you. But for most people, a little dedication and a lot of practice will go a long way.
The process of becoming a web developer is much less convoluted than other jobs, and there are more paths available to get you on the right track. It’s also a much more flexible, varied job with lots of different specializations. So whatever your learning style or skills you’re suited for, there’s something for you.
Mastering web development will take ongoing work and dedication, and it’s a job that offers a challenge and requires problem-solving skills. It’s easy to learn the basics, but expect to encounter frustrating yet solvable problems along the way.
Web Development Requirements
Curious about what you’ll need to become a web developer? The exact requirements depend on where you’re specializing. For instance, a backend developer should generally create and edit a database, but you cannot expect the same of a frontend developer.
In addition, the programming languages and frameworks you know will distinguish you as a specific type of developer.
Still, here are some skills and knowledge you’ll need, regardless of specialization, before you can call yourself a web developer:
Proficiency in at least one web language. Depending on your position, you will likely need to learn more.
Knowledge in other related skills (web frameworks, libraries, Git, etc.).
Problem-solving skills are required to work with and debug code.
Attentive to details to stop bugs from happening in the first place.
Communication and team skills are essential to work with other developers, clients, designers, and testers.
A degree of independence and being able to problem-solve on your own.
Self-motivated learning is another necessary skill for success.
Familiarity with popular web development tools is valuable.
Do You Need a Degree to Become a Web Developer?
Many jobs request that applicants have an associate’s degree in computer science or a similar field. Other positions may ask for a bachelor’s degree or just certification from an online course.
However, you do not strictly need a college degree to get a job. Experience and a complete portfolio are often far more valuable. More and more job listings are skipping out on requiring a degree and opting to ask for proof of experience.
As this is a highly technical field with plenty of room for self-teaching, it’s more important that you know how to do the job than that you’re certified to do it. That said, a degree will make it simpler from the start.
Self-taught developers may find difficulty landing their first job with neither experience nor a degree. You’ll likely need to fill your portfolio with self-made projects first or turn to freelance to build up some job history.
If you don’t want a formal college degree, online certifications like those offered by coding bootcamps can be a suitable replacement.
Types of Web Developers
Web development is a highly specialized career. You’ll rarely find a person who describes themselves simply as a “web developer.” Depending on what you do, which part of the website you focus on, and what technologies you work with, you can choose from a wide array of job titles.
Looking for salary info? Check out the web developer’s average salary.
Backend developer: These developers work with technologies like the server and database. No backend developer is the same, as there are dozens of backend programming languages. Common choices are Java, Ruby, PHP, Python, and MySQL.
Full-stack developer: A combination of frontend and backend developers. They know enough languages to get by on the server and client sides.
These are the main three, but you can specialize further by becoming a web engineer, security expert, WordPress developer, mobile web developer, web application developer, and more.
Steps to Becoming a Web Developer
You can take various paths to become a web developer, and your own experience will present unique challenges. But generally, most web development careers follow a similar form.
First, you need to choose how you’ll learn development. Will you be going to college? What sort of degree are you pursuing? An associate’s or bachelor’s degree related in some way to computer science is best.
If you’re not going to college, will you try to get certified? Certification or not, will you take a paid or free online course? Or are you going all-in to teach yourself using only online resources?
After you’ve decided that, you’ll need to pick a specialization (frontend, backend, full-stack, etc.). You can put this off as you experiment with different aspects of web development, but you need to choose before pursuing a narrowed study.
Next, is what programming languages and technologies do you want to learn?
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All this may come in a different order. You may choose to specialize or go in already knowing what languages you want to learn and then select a course accordingly.
After you’ve picked up some web development skills, you’ll need to get some projects under your belt for your portfolio. Hands-on experience will also give you a better idea of what to expect in a real job. Set up your first server and design a website for yourself. A few small projects will set you on the right track.
With the knowledge you need and a great starting portfolio, you’ll be ready for your first job.
The Best Web Development Learning Resources
Ready to try web development for yourself? We’ve collected over a dozen great resources to get you started. If you’re choosing to teach yourself or learn online, this is the place to start. And for those going to college, they’re great supplements to your courses.
The first rule of being a developer is to use StackOverflow. Every developer knows that this is the place to turn to when you’re stuck on a project. Your question has likely been asked and answered. If not, the community of experienced professionals is eager to help.
While this isn’t strictly a beginner’s learning resource, it will be there for you every step of the way.
W3Schools is an excellent beginner’s resource that will walk you through the fundamentals of various web languages and standards. It’s super easy to understand, even if you’re not used to coding.
If you need a beginner-friendly course that offers over a dozen languages and technologies, Codecademy is the place to turn. Better yet, the bulk of the content is free. While there are premium features, the courses themselves are fully available for free.
Need some more advanced courses, or ones in more specific skills? Udemy might be the right site for you. There are thousands of courses made by professional instructors, and some even allow you to become accredited.
5. GitHub Learning Lab
Git can be very difficult to understand if you have no prior technical skills. It’s easy once you get the hang of it, but crossing that first hurdle can be tricky. GitHub Learning Lab walks you through it with a simple, fun, and interactive tutorial.
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Want to learn to code and get certified while doing it? Unlike Codecademy, FreeCodeCamp is 100% free due to it being a nonprofit. Each certification path is estimated to take around 300 hours, and you can choose from a variety of different skills to learn.
Any developer knows that finding documentation for dozens of different tools can be annoying. DevDocs is a free and open source tool that combines all this documentation into a single, easy-to-navigate app.
9. Team Treehouse
Treehouse is a helpful beginner’s resource that aims to teach you web development and other fundamentals from scratch. The video-based learning platform also includes interactive challenges. Though a premium service, it’s an excellent starting point for developers.
Coursera has one unique advantage unlike other learning platforms: You can use it to earn both certification and full college degrees from technical universities. It can be cheaper than enrolling in college, but you’ll learn nearly the same content and work with the same professors as university students.
As Coursera offers accredited and nonaccredited courses, make sure you know what you’re getting into if you’re aiming for a legitimate college degree.
Egghead contains helpful, bite-sized lessons on a variety of development subjects. There are several dozen topics to choose from, each with even more articles covering every development aspect you can imagine. You can also find courses offered by professional instructors.
14. Coding Bootcamp Programs
If you learn best through intense programs full of crunching, you may want to turn to coding bootcamps. You can find them at all levels — there are even coding bootcamps for beginners that will teach you the ropes, as well as programs for professionals that’ll keep you on your toes.
While colleges or other classes often offer them, you can also do online bootcamps. Some of them are paid courses, and some are free. It all depends on which you choose.
This way of learning is a lot more stressful, but it can certainly be motivating if you’re struggling with code.
Finding a Web Developer Job
Once you’ve taken a course and built a winning portfolio, it’s time to step out and get a job as a web developer.
If you’ve chosen to work for a company in a salaried position, the next step is simple: Start applying! You can find job listings in your local newspaper or through online sites like Google Careers and Indeed.
What if you’ve chosen to freelance? Your first step should be to build a website that will serve as your online portfolio. But the clients won’t come to you; you’ll need to reach out.
Sites like Upwork can be a good starting point when you need to pull in a little money, but the pay is rarely high.
Networking is the best way to land clients. Get involved in open source projects that may introduce you to people who can help you get a paid job. Advertise your business wherever you can. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for a job.
Whether you’ll be freelancing or looking for a traditional job, you can also check out web development job boards.
Web development is an excellent choice for people who love to try new skills and are prepared to take their learning into their own hands. These web development resources are all you need to get started, and many of them will continue to help as you become a more proficient developer.
And if you’re looking for an innovative growing tech company, you’re in luck!
Got any other tips for becoming a web developer? Please share them with us in the comments section!
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