Web Development Career Track

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By Bethanny Parker

Published on January 25, 2021

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Do you like tinkering with websites? Maybe you've built a site or two in WordPress and wonder if you could do it for a living. With training through a web development bootcamp, you could be on your way to a web development career in as little as three or four months.

In this guide, you will learn about web development careers, including front-end, back-end, and full-stack web development jobs. We cover the training required for a web development career, what web developers do, and how much they can earn, so that you can decide whether a web development job is right for you.

What Is Web Development?

Web development is the process of creating and maintaining websites. This includes the website's front end (the part of the website you see) as well as the back end (the processes that run behind the scenes). Both front-end and back-end web development are important, but not all web development jobs require you to know how to do both.

You may decide to specialize in either front-end or back-end development, or you may want to do both. A web developer who does both front- and back-end development is called a full-stack developer.

What Do Web Developers Do?

Web developers write the code that makes a website run. This includes HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and other coding languages. HTML is the standard markup code for building webpages. This is a special code that web browsers can read. Every webpage uses HTML, but many also use other programming languages. Using other languages in addition to HTML allows web developers to do more advanced styling and run more advanced processes than HTML can handle on its own.

Each language has its strengths and weaknesses

Other languages web designers use include CSS, Java, JavaScript, Python, SQL, and PHP. CSS allows web developers to control the visual style of a website, while Java and JavaScript add interactive elements such as games to a website. SQL helps a website handle large amounts of data.

Each language has its strengths and weaknesses, and web developers need to know which language to use for different tasks. These professionals often need to know a variety of languages and be able to switch between them while building a website. Attending a software engineering or web development bootcamp may give prospective web developers the skills they need to start their careers.

Types of Web Development

There are three types of web development: front-end development, back-end development, and full-stack development.

Front-End Development

Front-end developers focus on the part of the website you can see. These developers code the visual style of the site, including page layouts and elements such as colors, buttons, fonts, images, links, text, and videos.

Front-end developers often work closely with a designer or team of designers who make style decisions for the website, which the developer then brings to life through code. Designers may have training in graphic design, user interface design, and user experience design. They may work together with front-end developers to determine what design decisions are technically feasible and affordable, as well as what can provide an optimal experience for the user.

Back-End Development

Back-end developers focus on the elements of a website that you don't see, such as database queries and applications that run in the background.

For example, if a website includes a search function, website visitors only see the search bar and the list of search results; visitors do not see the technical processes needed to actually find the relevant search results. A back-end developer writes code to run processes such as a search function, uploading and downloading files, storing user preferences, and logging in to a website.

Full-Stack Development

A full-stack web developer works on both the front end and the back end of a website. Full-stack developers may be paid more since they must have more skills than either a front-end developer or a back-end developer, though this is not always the case. Web development bootcamps often train participants in full-stack development.

Web Development Career Outlook

Web developers are in demand in the workforce, in part due to the growth in e-commerce and mobile devices. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for web developers and digital interface designers will grow 8% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average projected growth rate across all industries.

The BLS reports that web developers earned a median annual income of $73,760 in 2019. However, their pay can vary based on where the job is located. The BLS lists the top-paying states for web developers as Washington, California, Georgia, Virginia, and Massachusetts. The states with the most employed web developers include California, Washington, New York, Texas, and Florida.

Although a computer science degree has traditionally been the way to go if you want a career in web development, coding bootcamps are becoming an increasingly popular career training option. Instead of taking four years to complete a traditional degree, immersive bootcamps can take just a few months to complete.

Coding bootcamps often report that their graduates find employment at companies such as Google, Cisco, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Uber, Amazon, HP, and IBM. According to Indeed, 84% of employers who have hired bootcamp graduates found them to be at least as well prepared as their peers with computer science degrees.


 

Web Development Careers

Web developers may work as a full-time employee of a single company, or they may work as freelance web developers, running their own business and enjoying the freedom to choose the projects they work on. Both career paths can be lucrative, but the perks are different. A full-time job provides more security, whereas a freelance career provides greater autonomy.

If you choose to work for a company, you may start as a junior web developer. In time, you will likely have the opportunity to advance into a developer or senior developer role.

Whether you plan to work for yourself or for a company, you need to decide what type of web development you want to focus on: front-end, back-end, or full-stack development.

Front-End Web Developer

Front-end developers focus on coding the visual elements of a website. They may need to debug code to find mistakes that need to be corrected, which requires patience and a tolerance for stress. Front-end developers typically work as part of a team and need to be able to work well with others.

Front-end developers should be proficient at coding in many languages, especially HTML, CSS, PHP, and JavaScript. According to PayScale, front-end developers and engineers earn $73,670 on average. The typical entry-level salary is about $60,000 per year.

Back-End Web Developer

Back-end developers code and maintain the back end of a website, overseeing databases, functions, and forms. They must be familiar with languages such as Python, Ruby, SQL, and PHP. They may need to use JavaScript as a bridge between the back end and the user interface.

To stay up to date in their field, back-end developers may need to frequently learn new programming languages. They need to be able to work well under pressure and in teams, but should also be comfortable working alone. According to PayScale, the average salary for a back-end developer or engineer is $75,090.

Full-Stack Web Developer

A full-stack web developer needs to be able to work on both the front end and back end of a website. Full-stack developers must be proficient in many languages and technologies, often including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, PHP, Ruby, and SQL. According to PayScale, a full-stack web developer earns an average income of $67,170 per year.

How to Become a Web Developer

The first step to becoming a web developer is to decide what kind of web development you want to focus on. Would you like to be a front-end developer, a back-end developer, or a full-stack developer? Once you determine that, you should have a good idea which skills you need to learn.

The second step is to learn to code. You may want to apply to a computer science program at a college or university, take an online class, or attend a coding bootcamp. Before you pick a program, make a list of the skills, tools, and languages you need to learn in order to enter your web development area of choice. Make sure the program you apply to covers the skills you need to learn.

The third step is to practice your coding skills and develop a coding portfolio you can show to prospective employers when applying for jobs. Web development bootcamps often include one or multiple coding projects that you can include in a professional portfolio.

Coding Bootcamp vs. Computer Science Degree

Students interested in web development typically earn a degree in computer science, possibly with an emphasis in web development. This is the traditional path to a web development career, but there is an alternative: web development bootcamps.

Web development bootcamps can be both faster and less expensive than earning a college degree. Bootcamp students can often complete their training in four months instead of four years, which means they can start earning a full-time web developer salary several years earlier.

In 2020, the average cost of a web development bootcamp was $12,658, with the most expensive bootcamps costing $34,500 and the least expensive costing $1,300. The majority of web development bootcamps were between $10,000 and $15,000. Comparatively, the average cost of undergraduate tuition at a four-year institution was around $16,300 for the 2018-19 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. When multiple years' tuition is factored in, it is easy to see how a bootcamp can be more cost effective.

Participating in a bootcamp can prepare you for an entry-level web development job more quickly and at a lower cost than getting a computer science degree. However, if you want to have more flexibility and growth potential in your career, you might want to consider getting a traditional computer science degree or going back to school to get a degree later. Earning a bachelor's or master's degree is still important for many more senior positions, and degree-holders may earn higher salaries.

Frequently Asked Questions for Web Development Careers

Is web development a good career?

Web development is in demand, and the BLS projects that web development jobs will grow faster than average. It is often a lucrative career, as well, with the median pay falling at $73,760 in 2019, according to the BLS. If you like solving problems and using technical knowledge, a web development career could be a good fit.

What kind of skills do web developers need?

Web developers need both technical skills and soft skills. Front-end developers often need to be familiar with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Back-end developers typically need to be familiar with PHP, SQL, Python, and/or Ruby. In addition to these hard skills, web developers need good interpersonal and communication skills. They need to be able to work well with other coders and collaborators across teams.

Where do web developers work?

Web developers work across many different industries, including in tech. They often work in office environments, although some work from home. Web developers work in every state and in many countries. The states with the most employed web developers include California, Washington, New York, Texas, and Florida.

Why pursue a career in web development?

Web development can give you a chance to enjoy a lucrative career without needing to complete years of formal training. After finishing a web development bootcamp, which typically takes 3-6 months, graduates can often find work as a web developer within a year.

What's the difference between web development and software engineering?

Many people use the terms interchangeably, and the two fields do overlap somewhat. However, web developers only develop websites, while software engineers can program various kinds of software. Software engineers may develop web-based software just like web developers do, but they may also create software that runs solely on computer operating systems.