How to Become a Web Developer

At first glance, web development can seem like an exciting career. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to build a website or service that’s used by millions—maybe even billions—of people? But anyone who wants to become a web developer probably has lots of questions. For example: Do you need a four-year degree? What skills and disciplines are essential to know? And how much does it pay?

On a most basic level, web developers build and maintain websites, web pages, and web applications. In terms of skills, that means knowledge of the web’s fundamental technologies (HTML/CSS, JavaScript, and more) is a must. But as the web evolves, other technologies inevitably rise to the forefront: the next few years may see blockchain, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR), and other platforms finally hit the mainstream.

We spoke to several experts to help those who want to become a web developer figure out the ideal career path.  

What education is necessary to become a successful web developer?

Cortney Forrest Robinson, web developer at HerWebBlooms, says a formal education is not always required: “Learning HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are definitely necessary to become a successful web developer. Lately, there are a lot of websites that offer no-code or low-code, but successful development actually means building sites that are not cookie-cutter templates only.”

Web developers who know how to code are always highly sought-after, even in an age with more templatized web development. “Any successful business will eventually need to add features and functions that are not part of the kit,” Robinson adds.

“If we’re talking about formal education, then only core education for reading, writing and communicating are required,” says Peter Kryzek, CTO and co-founder at Chykalophia. “Everything else is skill-based, and skills can be learned at any time.”

Clint Sanchez, partner at BlakSheep Creative, says a degree in computer science may be helpful and just might impress potential employers: “Most web developers have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, although some have degrees in other areas, such as graphic design or information technology. And while a degree is not always required, most employers prefer to hire individuals who have one. So, if you’re thinking about a career in web development, I recommend getting a degree in computer science from an accredited college or university.”

What training should web developers go through?

Robinson suggests “ongoing training” for the three core disciplines for web developers: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

“Coding bootcamps can be useful, but only if students choose the bootcamp that is best suited to their professional aspirations,” warns co-founder of MadeByShape, Andrew Golpys.

Shawn DeWolfe, led developer at Web 321, reminds us that web development is essentially two unique disciplines: front end, which handles customer-facing websites, and back end, which deals with the underpinnings that website visitors never see. “Web developers need to play their role to make all of the competing priorities work together. I suggest that developers spend some time in the different disciplines to know how they work and get a grounding in what the other roles need to shine and where there can be compromises to make everything work.”

Hands-on experience is likewise vital for anyone who wants to become a web developer, adds Sanchez: “And the best way to do this is by completing an internship or a co-op program. These programs will give you the opportunity to work on real-world projects under the supervision of experienced developers. And they will also help you to network with other professionals in the field.”

Ivey Barr, WordPress developer at Online Optimism, tells Dice: “It’s also important to learn about web accessibility. WCAG and Knowbility have lots of helpful guidelines, and even just thinking about using your site as a user with low vision, without a mouse, etc., is a great place to start noticing accessibility issues. People navigate the internet with all kinds of disabilities and all kinds of assistive technology, and it’s important to make sure everyone can navigate what you create.”

What skills are necessary for a successful web developer?

Though all our experts agree coding skills are critical, most advocate for mastery of “soft skills” as well.

“Flexibility and the ability to learn and grow are key,” Krzyzek says. “There are developers that are extremely rigid in their thinking and coding, and we’re found folks like that to be difficult to work with and put out the lowest-quality solutions. The ability to adapt to new situations, adjust to changing circumstances and learn from mistakes has played a key role in getting our team members promoted.”

Barr adds that “patience, collaboration, work/life balance, and humility” all matter, too. When writing a web developer resume, or preparing for a web developer job interview, you’ll need to show that you’ve successfully collaborated with other stakeholders throughout an organization to finish projects and achieve critical goals; you’ll need to show that you can multi-task and work together well in teams.

Robonson says: “Teamwork and collaboration may involve working with other industries and departments, not just other developers who think in a technical way. This out-of-the-box thinking helps a successful developer to adapt and be flexible. Effectively communicating allows the team and developer’s network to enjoy working with the developer which is key to success.”

According to Lightcast (formerly Emsi Burning Glass), which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, the following skills pop up most frequently in web developer job postings. If you want to become a web developer, knowing many of these skills is absolutely critical:

Which skills should you learn first? A lot of that hinges on whether you choose to pursue front- or back-end development (for example, a front-end developer should prioritize learning HTML and JavaScript, while a back-end developer might want to also focus on mastering cloud-based storage and other infrastructure-related skills). More and more web developers are also gravitating toward full-stack development.

How much do web developers get paid?

According to Lightcast, the median annual salary for web developers is $91,991. On top of that, web development as a profession is projected to grow 8.4 percent over the next decade.

Of course, a web developer salary can rise with experience and skills, bringing it into alignment with the average U.S. technology professional salary, which now stands at $104,566—a 6.9 percent increase between 2020 and 2021, according to the latest Dice Tech Salary Report

One Response to “How to Become a Web Developer”

  1. Mr. Darcy Drobac

    I’m looking for an entry level technology job, preferably starting with Technical support desk or on the job training for repairs, installations, programming etc. I am currently getting myself ready for the CompTIA exam(s). It is advised to get actual experience prior to taking the test.
    I’m a loyal employee, hard worker, and a hungry learner. Hope to hear from you.
    We all been were I am before, when in a position to help someone else start out, I will pay it forward.