Web development is one of those industries that will never die out – that is until the next big thing happens and we start to navigate the stars with our consciousness (yes, someone has watched too many Star Trek episodes).
Across the globe, millions of graduates are entering this field to take advantage of the competitive pay, fast-paced environment and flexible work schedules – freelance web developers are enjoying the benefits of an in-demand career, too.
While it does provide an advantage to have a knack and interest in web development at a young age, there’s no reason why you can’t enrol in classes and hone your skills. You don’t need to be a software specialist at the tender age of 13 to start a successful career in this industry.
It’s true that web development is a highly competitive field that demands the crème de la crème. But, if Silicon Valley is any indication, companies are happy that the talent pool is immense.
Let’s see what this career path looks like and if it’s something you’re interested in doing – here’s how to become a web developer.
1. Research the Profession
Everything is done online these days, from ordering a pizza to performing eye exams in order to skip the long wait at your local ophthalmologist. And considering how technology is only advancing and the internet is only expanding, you can expect more where that came from. But what is essential in all these trends? The need for web developers.
Your typical web developer is not only required to code, design and edit websites; they’re also tasked with prototyping applications, fiddling around with web design programs through several computer languages and merging data from a wide array of back-end databases and services to enhance the front-end development experience.
Here is a list of their typical day-to-day tasks and responsibilities:
- collaborating with project managers to determine if a product meets its budget, design and scope
- troubleshooting everyday problems that affect website capabilities and functions
- maintaining exceptional time management skills to complete a myriad of daily duties
- communicating regularly – verbally and orally – with management, clients, designers and colleagues
- applying security protocols to web development and mobile applications
- working with several computer programming languages, ranging from PHP to HTML to C#
- designing graphics using Photoshop, PaintShop Pro and Dreamweaver
- accessing cloud software to work remotely or to check on your colleagues’ additions or revisions
- attending workshops to boost your skills and learn about the newest technologies
- updating current crop of websites to ensure they meet modern web standards.
Essential Skills and Qualities
Unlike other industries, degrees do not matter in technology – at least not to the likes of Tesla CEO Elon Musk. For many of the rich and famous of Silicon Valley, skills are much more useful than a piece of paper. And if you have a strong acumen in this arena, then you will land a job, even if you hold a GED or a couple of GCSEs.
So, what do you need to bring to the table?
- A strong attention to detail. Since you’re working with code day in and day out, it can be difficult to comb through the details, but this is essential if you wish to survive in web development.
- A willingness to learn. Technology is constantly evolving, and if you miss out, then you risk falling behind in your career. Becoming a web developer requires you to always be learning.
- A self-starter attitude. A lot of the time, you’ll be working alone, either from home or in a cubicle, which means you need to ensure you can work without supervision. Management and clients don’t want you to be browsing Facebook or watching old YouTube videos of Angry Grandpa.
- The ability to thrive under pressure. Web development is often about meeting deadlines, pleasing project managers and fighting bugs and hacks. In other words, there’s a lot of pressure that you’ll need to handle if you wish to advance. You’ll understand this when you’re sifting through data in back-end development.
- An understanding of user experience. It is critical for all web developers to put themselves in the shoes of the person viewing the website. If you can practise empathy and design a website with the visitor in mind, then you will have a bright future.
- The ability to work well in a team environment. Though you’ll be working solo on a lot of projects, you still need to cooperate and communicate with your fellow team members – this might be the most difficult part of the job, especially when you’re on your own for several hours at a time.
- The ability to organise your work. Yesterday, it was all about the filing cabinets. Today, it’s all about digital files, and it’s of the utmost importance that you know where they’re located.
Working Hours and Conditions
Generally, web developers – particularly those employed at a firm – will clock in their eight-hour shifts from Monday to Friday. There might even be a couple of evenings and weekends. However, if you’re a freelancer, then your hours will be what you want: from early morning to early afternoon or from late evenings to early mornings.
The conditions are simple enough: you will sit at a desk in front of a computer and design websites – if you’re an introvert, then this is the job for you!
It isn’t back-breaking labour, but it is labour that can leave you with eye strain, leg cramps and, as you get older, carpal tunnel syndrome.
Entry-level web developers in the UK will earn anywhere between £20,000 and £24,000 per year, according to the National Careers Service. With experience, this can increase to between £25,000 and £35,000, and you can fetch up to £50,000 or more as a lead web developer. In the US, meanwhile, salaries range between $37,000 and $122,000 annually, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS).
What about freelancers? The official statistics suggest your annual earnings can top $150,000 (£115,000).
Whether you’re situated in the UK or the US, there’s an abundance of work in web development. Perhaps it’s merely a case of knowing where to look.
Don’t believe it?
According to the BLS, job growth in the US is estimated to grow 15% per year until 2026. In the UK, web developer jobs – junior and senior – are projected to increase by roughly 8% annually for the next several years.
2. Get the Qualifications
As previously stated, in web development your skills and qualifications are far more important than any piece of paper you might hold from a college or university. That said, it doesn’t hurt to have the credentials to pad your CV or portfolio and increase the odds of landing a lucrative position.
In addition to a bachelor’s degree, it would be a prudent step for your career to obtain formal training and certification from accredited providers, such as:
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD)
- AWS Certified Developer
- Oracle Application Express (APEX)
- Oracle Certified Expert (OCE)
You do need to be prepared to endure a lot of on-the-job training, as well as many courses related to programs outside of work that complement your current crop of expertise.
Simply put: you need a series of qualifications when you enter the web development talent pool, and you’ll also be required to boost and update your qualifications on a regular basis. That said, there are many online platforms that offer free courses to help you get started.
Remember: this isn’t something that you should do. It’s something you must do to keep up.
3. Land Your First Job
Right now, when you’re about to complete your final class this semester, you’re entering a labour market that is the land of opportunity for young web developers. From that fresh startup to that medium-sized enterprise that wants to beef up its IT department, there are plenty of employment opportunities out there waiting to be snatched up.
While there are many prospects out there, you should never take it for granted. This means that you still need to go through the proper protocols: cover letters, CVs, portfolios and interview etiquette.
Moreover, because of the immense competition for jobs and the growing number of professional web developers – at home and abroad – you need to stand out from the crowd. Whether you achieve this by building your portfolio or by travelling the world and working with global companies, you need to think of ways to be different from your peers.
4. Develop Your Career
To become a web developer, you will already need to be equipped with the elementary knowledge of computer language, coding and technology. As you become ensconced in this career path, you will ultimately need to study more and ensure your skills are up to date and ready to be employed in the modern-day economy.
In the end, after putting in years of service, you will eventually branch off onto your own by starting your own business, becoming a freelancer or selling your soul to the Silicon Valley apotheosis and join the consultancy barrage!
You might specialise in eCommerce. You might take your talents to the public sector. You might partner with non-profit organisations. Whatever the case may be, your career is constantly advancing.
One great thing about being a web developer is that your career never stagnates. As a web developer, you’re always advancing, improving and changing. You’re never stuck in the same position for years on end.
This is why so many people are drawn to this industry: because they’re not afraid of stepping outside of their comfort zone, challenging everything they know.
And, in all honesty, how many other professions can enjoy the same benefits as software engineers, web developers and IT specialists?