Web developers design and create websites and web-based applications for their clients. You can pursue web development careers across many different industries, including healthcare, business, and education.
Read on to learn more about careers in web development. This guide provides information about job prospects, salary potential, and web development career paths.
Why Pursue a Career in Web Development?
Web developers typically work indoors in an office environment. Web development careers allow for independent work, as well as collaborative work as part of a team. Professionals can also decide if they want to work for a small company or a large tech firm.
Web developers need a thorough understanding of computers and coding languages. These professionals also need to be detail oriented and have excellent communication skills to work effectively with their clients. Many web developers also exhibit a keen eye for design.
Web Development Career Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) web developers and digital interface designers earn an average annual salary of $82,370. The BLS projects 8% growth in this industry between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than average.
Keep in mind that salaries for careers in web development vary depending on a worker's location, experience, and education. The table below shows the average annual salaries for a few web development careers based on a professional's level of experience.
|Job Title||Entry-Level (0-12 months)||Early Career (1-4 Years)||Midcareer (5-9 Years)||Experienced (10-19 Years)|
Skills Gained With a Web Development Degree
Learners enroll in web development programs to gain core skills related to object-oriented programming, database design, and digital analytics. Students also learn to think critically, communicate effectively, and work collaboratively in diverse teams.
These transferable soft skills help graduates qualify for roles in a variety of settings. In addition to college degrees, web developers routinely earn general and vendor-specific certifications to demonstrate expertise and experience.
- Technical Communication
Web developers excel in explaining difficult concepts and complex methods to nonexpert audiences. Students cultivate technical communication skills in oral and written forms. They learn to create reader-centered documents by applying audience analysis and usability testing. Learners also examine the visual aspects of communication with respect to formatting and visually appealing design.
- Computer Programming
Because web developer careers center on coding, scripting, and network configuration, learners must develop strong computer programming skills. Through classroom discussion and laboratory training, students learn about basic data types, program style and formatting, and self-documenting code. They apply their skills to design and implement programming solutions.
- Website Design and Development
Web development students learn the primary ideology, software tools, and techniques used in modern web creation. Learners develop skills in basic website design using HTML and CSS. They plan websites by using a wireframe and factoring in accessibility principles and user experience. Students also learn to enhance websites by incorporating text formatting, colors, images, graphics, and multimedia.
Cybersecurity involves the protection of personal computers, websites, and networks using firewalls and account controls. Students learn to identify potential security risks and develop strategies to combat those risks. They also implement backup techniques and write detailed incident response reports. Advanced topics include wireless network security, cloud security, and ethical hacking.
- Project Management
Web development students work through the entire project cycle. They learn to identify requirements by speaking with clients to determine the use/purpose of a website and the computing environment. Learners delve into project planning, using wireframe architecture to establish a website's design and layout. They also engage in development and testing.
Web Development Career Paths and Concentrations
Concentrations can lead to specific career paths within web development. Options include graphic design, database administration, and cybersecurity. The following section describes some of the most common web development career paths and their related concentrations.
- Graphic Design
A popular choice for future web designers and front-end developers, a graphic design concentration trains students to produce clear, evocative visuals. Students learn to use fundamental software like Adobe Creative Cloud in web design and multimedia production.
- Database Administration
This concentration provides the skills students need to design, implement, and maintain databases, including those accessed by web applications. Coursework includes data modeling and administrative methods using Oracle. Students also learn to conduct data and network security analyses. In addition to web developer careers, a database administration concentration prepares graduates for roles as computer support specialists and business intelligence analysts.
- Mobile Application Development
Students learn to design and create browser-based and packaged applications using specialized frameworks and programming languages. They examine cross-platform application development and third-party native extensions. This concentration also prepares students to market and distribute their products through app stores.
- User Experience (UX) Design
UX design trains students to create and assess technology-based user experiences. Classes include human-computer interaction, designing technology for social impact, and rapid prototyping. Learners also delve into software engineering and analytics-driven game design. This concentration benefits students who want to work in marketing, advertising, and e-commerce.
Growing concerns about global terrorism and online attacks fuel the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals. This concentration prepares students to work as information security analysts and senior web developers. Learners take classes like cryptographic systems, computer forensics, and information assurance and security. Students also learn ethical hacking practices, which may prepare them for certification from organizations like the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants.
How to Start Your Career in Web Development
The web developer careers available to professionals depend on their level of education. Due to the competitive nature of the web development industry, job seekers should earn an accredited technical degree.
Associate and bachelor's programs in web development provide career-relevant training, with options for campus-based and online learning. Learners who already hold a bachelor's degree in another field can enroll in web development certificate programs to gain relevant skills needed for career entry. Additionally, schools often offer professional development services, including internship programs with industry partners.
Web development career paths vary based on the industry. For example, professionals can specialize in front-end design or back-end development. They can also pursue careers in game development, mobile applications, and search engine optimization. They may also be able to pursue opportunities in technical writing, IT sales, information systems management, and business analytics.
Associate Degree in Web Development
Associate programs in web development require at least 60 credits, which full-time students usually complete in about two years. Students can graduate more quickly by enrolling in accelerated online tracks. Community and technical colleges usually have less stringent admissions standards and may not require an application fee.
Associate students take classes in visual media, interaction design, and object-oriented programming. They build foundational skills in front-end and back-end development. Depending on the program, learners may also delve into topics like advanced CSS and .NET software design and development.
Many students begin their college career in an associate program, taking advantage of low tuition rates before transferring into a bachelor's completion program.
What Can You Do With an Associate in Web Development?
- Technical Support Engineers
These professionals work in a variety of industries, including web development, healthcare, and telecommunications. Technical support engineers answer phone calls and emails concerning their company's products and services. They also help customers troubleshoot problems and perform updates on computer systems. As part of their administrative work, support engineers file claims and maintain reports.
- Web Designers
Web designers conceptualize and build websites that engage users and consumers. Working with clients, designers produce multimedia web promotions that strengthen a company's brand. Some web designers also maintain the daily operations of websites.
Bachelor's Degree in Web Development
Unlike associate-level students, bachelor's learners can individualize their degree plans through guided and open electives. Concentration and minor options offer additional opportunities for personalization. These programs typically culminate in a development project in which learners use the entire web stack.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's in Web Development?
- UX Designers
These professionals improve the accessibility and effectiveness of software and hardware from a user's perspective. They collaborate with developers, programmers, engineers, and project managers to determine product goals. UX designers build wireframes, test prototypes, and conduct focus groups. They make modifications to products as necessary. Like other web developers, UX designers are typically proficient in Adobe Suite, HTML, CAD, and CSS.
- Front-End Developers
Front-end developers deal with the client-side design and functions of a website or application. They work with graphic designers and UX specialists to ensure that the product is visually appealing and easy to use. Front-end developers also make sure that websites present information in a relevant manner. Furthermore, these professionals translate websites and applications across browsers, platforms, and devices.
- Web Developers
Master's Degree in Web Development
Master's programs in web development require students to complete roughly 30-50 credits, which generally takes two years. Some schools offer accelerated online tracks that allow distance learners to graduate within one year. Similarly, certain institutions deliver dual-degree programs, allowing dedicated students to simultaneously earn their bachelor's and master's degrees in five years.
Students take core classes in website construction and optimization, technical communication, and interface design. They also develop the teamwork, project management, and informatics research skills needed to work as senior developers, software engineers, and IT managers. Furthermore, a master's curriculum better prepares students for Adobe and Microsoft certification programs.
What Can You Do With a Master's in Web Development?
- Senior Web Developers
In addition to performing full-stack development, senior web developers oversee design teams and train junior staff members. These organizational leaders work for single manufacturers and cross-industry consulting firms. Senior developers identify system and user requirements for new websites and applications. They prioritize projects, maintain deadlines, and coordinate team members.
- Software Programmers
These professionals create software using programming languages like Python, Java, Assembly, and C++. They work with computer analysts to create UML blueprints of computer programs. Programmers often work in teams to tackle complex and large projects. They can fill generalist positions or pursue specialized occupations in fields like video gaming and financial technology. A master's degree can help these workers stand out on the job market.
How to Advance Your Career in Web Development
Web developers can advance their careers in several ways, such as by pursuing certification, continuing education, and networking opportunities. Career advancement can lead to advanced titles and better salaries. Professionals can also find more opportunities for management positions as they improve their resumes.
Read on to learn more about advancement methods for careers with a web development degree.
Certifications and/or Licensure
Federal, state, and local governments issue licenses. Licensure requirements often include earning a degree, passing a test, and taking some continuing education courses. Most web developers do not need a license to work.
Alternatively, professional organizations typically provide certifications. Like licensure, certification may also require passing a test and fulfilling regular continuing education hours. Professionals in web development careers can pursue certifications from professional organizations like the International Web Association and the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals.
Web developers should also consider earning a certificate. Many colleges offer online or in-person certificate programs in web development and related fields. These programs typically last up to one year and help professionals learn new skills and stay current with new technologies in the field. Readers can learn more about choosing a certificate program here.
Web developers can pursue several forms of continuing education, including earning a new degree and completing continuing education units (CEUs).
Earning a second degree can give professionals an edge when seeking advancement, particularly in careers that only require an associate or bachelor's degree. Earning a master's or doctorate prepares professionals for more responsibility, including managerial positions. Professionals with higher degrees also tend to earn more than their counterparts.
Web developers can also take CEUs from universities to gain insight into emerging trends and technologies in their field and learn new skills. Most colleges offer online and in-person CEUs. Professionals should also look for postsecondary institutions offering free online courses.
Web developers should always seek out opportunities to advance their careers, including by joining a professional organization and taking part in networking events.
Professional organizations provide many useful resources, including scholarly publications, online workshops and seminars, job boards, and conferences. Students and professionals alike can join professional organizations. Readers should note that most organizations require a membership fee.
Attending networking events can lead to collaboration and help professionals find like-minded peers. Networking also allows professionals to make connections and find new job opportunities.
How to Switch Your Career to Web Development
Professionals looking to transition into web development may need to meet new education requirements or receive additional training, depending on their current field.
Many professionals who transition into web development come from other tech fields, such as computer programming and software development. Workers with knowledge and expertise related to coding languages, graphic design, and web-based technologies generally do not need another degree, although some of these professionals may need to complete additional training before taking a new job.
Professionals transitioning from nontechnology fields must often earn a degree in computer programming or a related field. However, web developers only need an associate degree for many entry-level positions.
Where Can You Work as a Web Development Professional?
Web developers can find work across the country and in industries like information services, technical consulting, and advertising. Read on to learn more about the most common industries for web development professionals and the locations with the highest employment levels and the most lucrative jobs.
In the digital age, most industries need web developers to create well-designed websites that appeal to users. While some web developers may work for big tech companies, others can find jobs in industries like advertising or consulting.
Read on for more information about industries that employ web developers.
- Computer Systems Design and Related Services
This industry involves the integration of software and hardware design and manufacturing. Professionals in this field can work solely in web-based technologies or with physical hardware.
Average Salary: $79,520
- Software Publishers
Software publishers act as the go-between for software developers and software distributors. This industry helps developers find their audience and reach bigger markets.
Average Salary: $132,260
- Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services
Management, scientific, and technical consultants offer advice and design services to companies. Consultants also help businesses develop and fix web-based products.
Average Salary: $73,540
- Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services
Workers in this industry study market demographics and develop the best strategies to reach consumers. Web developers create websites and manage databases with customer information.
Average Salary: $74,140
- Data Processing, Hosting, and Related Services
These professionals manage and store large amounts of data for businesses. Additionally, hosting may involve placing content on a server for users to access over the internet.
Average Salary: $83,510
Web developers can pursue tech careers across the country, although the availability of work and the salary outlook differ depending on the state. California employs the most web developers by far, outpacing the next two biggest employers — Washington and New York.
However, the states with the highest employment do not always offer the most lucrative wages. Washington offers the highest average salary for web developers, followed by California, Georgia, Virginia, and Massachusetts.
Interview With a Professional in Web Development
Cody Swann founded Gunner Technology in 2010. His company is now one of the nation's top software development firms based on revenue per employee. As CEO, Cody prefers to operate "from the trenches," often serving as project manager or developer.
Cody is an expert in business optimization and automation, agile methodologies, and isomorphic development.
- What kind of work do most web development graduates do?
It greatly depends on where they are hired and what their skill level is. I've hired new grads who are senior level in terms of expertise because they've been working on web development projects since they were 11 years old.
That's really what you're looking for; however, new graduates with only the skills they learned in school can expect to do a lot of bug fixes at a larger company and pair programming at a smaller company or startup.
- What is so valuable about earning a degree in this field right now?
Right now, it's a golden ticket. I have a BS in journalism, an MA in mass communication, and an MBA. But my career has been writing web development software.
That said, I got in it 20 years ago. I'm not sure anyone would even give me a look without a technical degree these days, which is unfortunate because most of what is good to know in web development comes from hands-on experience, not a classroom.
- Can graduates of web development programs find careers all over the country?
Easily. Any company worth its salt will allow developers to work remotely.
- What did your career trajectory look like after you graduated? How did you end up in your current position?
After I got my MA in mass communication, I was hired by ESPN as a web developer, where I climbed the ladder for eight years into management. I left ESPN to start Gunner Technology (a web development company) in 2010. I've been the CEO ever since.
- Why did you decide to start your own company? Is this a common career path of web development graduates?
I started my own company because I hated the politics and bureaucracy of large companies and I wanted to be in complete control of my own successes and failures. Gunner is obviously a service-oriented company, but a lot of web developers do end up founding startups in the industry, albeit more oriented to product than service.
- What are the pros and cons of working in the industry?
The biggest pro is that you're always learning and new advancements are always being made. If you're bored as a web developer, you're doing something wrong. The biggest con is that we're a very entitled industry. Everyone thinks they're the best at what they do and deserve what they haven't earned.
- What advice would you give to web development graduates just starting their job search?
Have code samples in a Github repository, be prepared to handwrite code on a whiteboard during interviews, and look for a place with a strong mentoring program. You probably won't end your career where you start, so you want to learn as much as possible.
Resources for Web Development Majors
Web development students and professionals should take advantage of professional resources. Read on to learn more about professional organizations, free online courseware, and scholarly publications relevant to the field of web development.
- Professional Organizations
AIGA: AIGA is a prominent professional design organization that serves more than 18,000 members in 70+ national chapters. The institute offers professional development opportunities like leadership workshops and certificate courses. Members receive discounts on conferences, design competitions, health insurance, and web development products. AIGA also delivers job listings, diversity initiatives, and student resources.
Association for Computing Machinery: Boasting over 100,000 members, ACM is the world's largest computing organization. The association connects professionals through regional chapters and international conferences. Members can also collaborate by joining any of 30+ special-interest groups. The ACM Learning Center provides professional development and continuing education resources. Professionals can seek guidance and apply for jobs through the association's career center.
International Web Association: Established in 1996, IWA serves approximately 300,000 members in more than 100 countries. The association establishes educational standards and operates certification programs. Professionals can pursue credentials in areas like site design, server administration, e-commerce, and web development. IWA also offers online courses and job listings.
User Experience Professionals Association: An international organization, UXPA maintains about 50 chapters worldwide. Professionals collaborate through special-interest groups, online communities, and mentorship programs. In addition to a job bank, the association provides guidance for job seekers and resources for hiring managers. UXPA also offers webinars, volunteer opportunities, and financial awards for students and practitioners.
World Organization of Webmasters: Founded in 1996, WOW supports students, educators, and practicing web professionals. Through an academy program, WOW offers webinars, on-site skill development training, and continuing education opportunities. Professionals can gain certification in areas like e-commerce management, web animation, and mobile app development.
- Open Courseware
Software Testing and Automation - University of Minnesota: This four-month course helps students create functional tests for front-end and back-end code in their software projects. Students learn how to create a functionality test and how to measure the effectiveness of their testing methods. The class covers black-box and white-box testing, fully automated testing, and testing for web and mobile applications.
UI/UX Design - California Institute of the Arts: This class takes a design-centered approach to user experience for websites and apps. The four-month course walks students through project development from user research to creating program architecture and developing sitemaps.
ACM Journal on Emerging Technologies in Computing Systems: This publication provides original technical papers in new research and technologies in areas like design analysis, verification, testing, and evaluation of computers and computing systems. The journal also discusses the efficacy of turning new technologies into information systems.
Journal of Usability Studies: This peer-reviewed international publication educates readers on user experience design. The fully online publication uses empirical findings and usability case studies to promote good practices in user-driven content and design. The journal asks for original submissions with quantitative and qualitative usability studies and does not charge fees for publishing or reviewing submissions.
User Experience Magazine: Published four times a year, this magazine helps professionals explore issues in web development and hone their skills in delivering products designed with the user's experience in mind. Past issues covered topics like user experience careers, voice interfaces, multi-language content strategy, and cloudworking and big data.
Smashing Magazine: This online publication provides articles specifically for web developers and designers. Past topics include developing for the semantic web, how to use face motion to interact with typography, using Google Analytics to improve user experience, and ways to design digital product pages.
Net Magazine: This publication offers essential tips and articles on graphic design for websites and web-based applications. Readers can access useful articles about how to create balanced layouts and guides to the best code editors. This online magazine also provides a job board.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is a degree in web development worth it?
Most careers in web development require a degree. Even an associate degree can help an aspiring web development professional find an entry-level job in the workforce. Earning a bachelor's degree or a graduate degree can set professionals apart from other candidates and qualify them for jobs with higher wages.
- Is web development in demand?
The BLS projects 8% job growth for web developers between 2019 and 2029, which is twice as fast as the projected average for all occupations.
- What kind of jobs can you get with a web development degree?
Careers for a web development major include web designer, front-end designer, and UX designer.
- How much do web development majors make?
According to the BLS, web developers earned a median annual salary of $73,760 in 2019. However, a worker's salary outlook differs depending on their location, education, and experience.