Web developers play a crucial role in modern businesses and other organizations. They design websites and online interfaces that integrate a variety of technologies, from software development to graphic design to digital security. If you're interested in pursuing this challenging, lucrative field, you have plenty of options; information technology ranks among the fastest-growing career paths, and many organizations offer financial support and scholarships for computer science majors.
Education serves as the first step on your journey toward a career in web development. Read on for an overview of the best online web development degree programs, including application strategies, typical curriculum requirements, and common career outcomes.
What Is Web Development?
Web development is a complex, constantly evolving field that changes along with technological developments and consumer and organizational needs. Given the highly versatile nature of websites and user needs, web development encompasses an array of interrelated processes, including design, coding, application engineering, web security, and e-commerce development. A typical online web development degree offers a broad introduction to these topics and other key concepts in the field.
Businesses and organizations of all sizes depend on websites to reach consumers and handle internal functions, such as employee communications or network security. Major organizations may employ hundreds of web developers to coordinate both front-end (user experience) and back-end (servers and other processes behind the scenes) development. At the opposite end of the spectrum, a small business might employ just one web developer or an independent contractor who takes responsibility for every aspect of a website.
Check out some of the best online web development degrees to explore the many education options available for web development majors.
What You Can Do With a Bachelor's in Web Development
Although website design is a growing, lucrative career, a web development degree can lead to work in areas beyond crafting and optimizing the look and usability of web pages. The technological skills students gain in a web development program can easily transfer to a variety of jobs -- such as those listed below -- that require working with computers, multimedia, networks, coding, or software.
- Software Developer
Software developers possess the creative and technological skills required to design and program the latest computer software. A job in software development can involve working with the development of applications users see on screen or the processes that determine device function and take place behind the scenes.
Median Annual Salary: $105,590*
- Graphic Designer
Many individuals who pursue a web developer degree already possess a certain skill level in graphic design, as the degree tends to attract creative types. Those who pursue a career in graphic design use software to turn ideas into tangible work that informs or inspires consumer action.
Median Annual Salary: $50,370*
- Computer Programmer
Although outsourcing has affected this industry, professionals in computer programming can still find lucrative opportunities, particularly if they pursue additional certifications. Computer programmers create and test the code that instructs the operations of a computer, typically with the goal of making a functioning version of software designs and ideas.
Median Annual Salary: $84,280*
- Computer Systems Analyst
Computer systems analysts plan and develop solutions to improve the efficiency of an organization's computer systems operations. In addition to technological expertise, these professionals typically have some educational background in business, as the occupation requires work with both technology development and business plans in order to achieve goals in each area.
Median Annual Salary: $88,740*
- Information Systems Manager
In one of the most lucrative careers in information technology (IT), information systems managers plan, coordinate, and oversee the actions of all IT professionals within an organization. They bear responsibility for developing and meeting the organization's overarching computer systems goals. Due to the role's managerial requirements, many employers prefer candidates who hold a graduate degree.
Median Annual Salary: $142,530*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Explore some of the top careers in computer science to get more information on your job prospects after graduation, including salary potential and education requirements.
What to Expect From a Bachelor's in Web Development Program
Most online web development degrees stress generalized knowledge, preparing graduates for a variety of entry- and mid-level careers in the field. While a bachelor's may not lead to upper-level management positions or other highly specialized roles, the broad body of knowledge provided in these programs should serve you well in various professional pathways, from web design to application development to mobile security.
Exact credit requirements and completion times vary between programs, but most bachelor's degrees comprise about 120 credits and take around four years of full-time study to complete. Specific curriculum and admission requirements also vary; for example, many programs include a culminating capstone project that requires you to demonstrate mastery of key web development concepts.
Below, you'll find five common courses featured in typical online web development degree programs. While precise titles may differ between schools, general course content and learning objectives should remain the same.
- Web Content Design: This course offers an introduction to basic web design principles such as user experience, scripting, interactivity, coding, and graphic design.
- Internet Systems Architecture: This course takes a macro approach to web development, exploring how data transmits online. Students explore topics such as operating systems, network architecture, and cloud computing.
- Computer Systems Security: Network security is a major concern for all websites, and this course explores general principles of digital security, such as data assurance and threat assessment.
- Multimedia Authoring: Offering advanced approaches to web design, multimedia authoring includes topics such as media integration, user interface design, and application development.
Jeremiah Lutz is a web developer with over six years of experience, currently working at Integritive. He believes coding is poetry and takes an experimental view of coding practices. In his free time, he enjoys playing video games and reading.
- Why did you decide to pursue a career in web development? Did you earn a related degree?
I used to work for a company that decided to start selling products online. No one knew how websites worked, much less what was required for a functioning e-commerce store, so the responsibility fell to me to figure out. The company eventually shut down, but I enjoyed web development so much I decided to pursue it as a career afterwards.
- What did your career trajectory look like after you graduated?
I was fortunate to have a job lined up before graduation. My last day of class was a Wednesday, and my first day of work was that same Friday. I’ve been with the company for six years now.
- How did you end up in your current position?
After educating myself on current web design trends and graduating from a local college, I was offered my current position.
- What do you enjoy most about working in web development?
The job is rarely boring. Each day I have new challenges to overcome, new solutions to implement, and new techniques to discover.
- What are some of the most challenging aspects of your position?
Letting go of a project and calling it “complete” is a challenge for me. You learn so much over the course of a project that when you get to the end, you look back on what you’ve accomplished and can’t help but feel “I wish I could start over with the knowledge I have now.”
- How much time do you spend on continuing education, either as a requirement for your profession or for your own personal growth in the field?
There isn’t an official “continuing education” policy within my company, but it’s always a part of the job. If you’re not keeping up to date on the current trends, you better believe your competitors are. Each new project provides a reason to develop a new skill.
- What advice would you give to individuals considering pursuing a degree and a career in web development?
First, realize that getting your degree does not mean that you’re done learning. As with many other fields, a degree just means that you have a baseline of knowledge. The real learning starts (and continues) on the job.
- What are some of the skills someone considering pursuing a career in web development must have to be successful?
The single most important skill is to be an independent thinker. Being able to educate yourself and stay on top of the latest trends and developments in web design is vital.
- Any final thoughts?
Don’t be afraid to break things. If you’re not breaking things, you’re not learning.
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Web Development Program
When researching web design development online degrees, always check whether a school possesses proper regional and/or programmatic accreditation before applying. Accreditation indicates that a school or program meets national academic and professional standards, ensuring your degree will adequately prepare you for employment, graduate study, or transfer to another college. Some web development degrees hold programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
If a degree lacks programmatic accreditation, be sure to verify the school's regional accreditation from one of six accreditation agencies. Regional accreditation speaks to general school quality and indicates that a college's academic programs are reputable.
Here are some other important factors to consider:
Tuition typically ranks among the top concerns for students. Be sure you understand exactly how much you'll have to pay before committing to a program.
Determine whether a program delivers its courses synchronously (requiring set login times) or asynchronously (requiring no set login times), particularly if you work a full-time job.
Check if an online program features any on-campus requirements. Some degrees require weekly or monthly campus meetings, while others hold intensive immersions that last anywhere from a weekend to a week or two.
Bachelor's in Web Development Program Admissions
Admissions standards differ widely between schools and programs, but most colleges consider the same factors when assessing your application. The list below includes three common requirements you can expect when completing applications for online web development degree programs.
- Minimum GPA
- Standardized test scores
- Prerequisite coursework
- Applications vary by school, but they generally gather necessary personal information in a convenient form for an admissions office. The Common App allows students to submit applications to multiple schools at once.
- Undergraduate admission requires official transcripts from previously attended high schools and colleges (any dual-credit courses or associate degrees). It may cost a small fee to retrieve transcripts from your former schools' records.
- Letters of Recommendation
- Many schools require two letters of recommendation for admission. Seek out teachers or mentors who know you well and request the letters well in advance.
- Test Scores
- First-time college students typically need to submit scores from either the SAT or the ACT. Check with your prospective institution to see which test they prefer and what scores they expect to see.
- Application Fee
- Most colleges charge a moderate fee to discourage applications from less-committed individuals. Average costs range from $25 to $90. Various third-party organizations can provide assistance or waivers to low-income families.
Resources for Bachelor's in Web Development Students
A List Apart began in 1997 as a mailing list and now exists as a site with a constant flow of curated content focused on best practices in the field, written by web professionals for web professionals.
Founded in 2006, this independent web publication provides web designers and developers with practical articles on industry topics, an online job board, and conferences.
First and foremost an online community, DevShed promotes ongoing learning and discussion about web development and coding, boasting more than a million regular users and three million individual threads in various forums.
As the name suggests, UX Magazine is a publication that focuses on the discussion and development of user experience. The content aims to inspire designers and developers of all industries to work toward experience-focused design.