CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a web developer.
Is becoming a web developer right for me?
The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:
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Know which skills are required
Prospective web developers need to develop expertise in the three core programming components:
They should also learn about CSS and CSS frameworks such as:
To build applications, developers should become proficient in back-end languages such as:
They should also become familiar with tools such as:
Choose an initial learning track
Web development is still a field in which proven skills can trump education when it comes to employment opportunities. In short, companies want talented employees who can produce. They generally don’t care how or where their talents were cultivated.
Still, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that an Associate’s Degree is the most common minimal educational requirement in the field. And according to Robert Half Technology, a Bachelor’s Degree in computer science or a related discipline is traditionally necessary for career advancement.
While some aspiring web developers are opting to attend coding bootcamps, such as Codecademy and App Academy, which offer short-term, intensive training, it should be noted there is more to web development than coding. A formal education curriculum goes beyond coding. It provides prospective developers with foundational knowledge of web development and project management experiences that challenge problem solving and critical thinking skills.
Below is a summary of common curricula for Certificate, Associate’s Degree, and Bachelor’s Degree programs in web development:
Introduction to Coding
A foundation in computer programming and the basic principles of how computers use software
• Programming basics, such as syntax, functions and code structure
• Understanding of Hexadecimal and binary numbers
• Fundamentals of computer networks
The basic language of the Internet, including the theoretical principles of HTML and fluency in the HTML programming language
• Syntax and principles of HTML coding
• How to embed other web programming languages
• How to create web pages with desired elements and requirements
• Designing a web application
• Implementing and testing client and server solutions
• User-interface principles
Intro to Web Design
Web page design: elements needed to successfully create a web page, including computer hardware requirements, principles of computer networking, and commonly used Internet coding languages
• How web page design elements translate to hardware requirements
• The interaction of several web programming languages and how they produce desired web pages
• Maintaining and updating web pages
Associate’s Degree Program
Graphics and how they are used in website design; both aesthetic and technical considerations
• Industry standard graphic formats
• Compatibility issues between web browsers when displaying graphics
• How to manipulate graphics for website use
Creating websites for business, taking into consideration the needs unique to businesses
• Principles of customer service websites
• Effective web page techniques for marketing
• Creating effective electronic storefronts for businesses
Web Page Multimedia
The use of graphics; using animation, video, and objects when creating websites
• Manipulation of multimedia for effective web page presentation
• Overview of different types of multimedia
• When and how certain types of multimedia can and should be used
Introduction to database concepts, principles, and design; computer science concepts
• Familiarity with SQL for database management
• Understanding the underlying computer science principles of databases and how they work
• Identification of and experience with different database platforms
Bachelor’s Degree Program
The basic principles of what makes a website easy to use
• How we obtain and interpret information
• Strategies for designing websites in an organized way for ease of use
• Web interface technologies and how they can be implemented
Social Media and Collaboration
Web-based interaction and collaboration technologies and how to apply them to achieve a given objective or purpose
• Differentiating between Web 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0
• How collaboration online services work
• Fundamentals of social media communications
Techniques used to improve web traffic, streamline efficiency, and monitor website performance
• How to optimize websites for a specific goal, such as marketing
• How to secure a website based on its purpose
• Methods used to monitor a website and quantify its performance
Advanced Web Design
Complex and advanced web creation techniques; the process of creating a website from start to finish
• How to utilize a storyboard to plan a website
• Website creation within a budget
• Techniques and tools for monitoring a website’s performance
As you gain experience, begin building an online portfolio to test new technologies and tools and demonstrate your coding talent and development skills. Here are some examples of innovative web developer portfolio sites:
Continuing Education / Certifications
The following associations and organizations provide web development professionals with educational and career improvement resources.
While no licenses are required to work in web development, many industry organizations offer voluntary certifications in various programming languages, platforms, and environments. Click here for detailed information.
Master’s Degree (optional)
Though not particularly common in the field, a Master’s is the highest degree level available in web development. Master’s Degree programs typically encompass the following courses:
Content Management Systems
How content management systems work and how they can be used to streamline the creation of web content
• The theoretical principles for creating a content management system
• Basics of database management and creation
• Tailoring content management system features to a given application
How communication theories apply to the digital and Internet age
• How to apply communication principles to improve website effectiveness
• Understanding of mass media and how it is used
• Understanding of the theoretical principles of digital communications and how they work
Web Development for Servers
Creation of web applications for servers using specialized programming languages
• Utilizing programs such as PHP and SQL to create server web applications
• Web application security
• Implementation of server principles when developing server based web applications
Opportunity for students to demonstrate their understanding of web development by incorporating the major concepts covered in their Master’s program
• Ability to manage a web project from start to finish
• Application of real-world principles and considerations while working on a website project
• Management of all aspects of website creation, from design to monitoring and maintenance
How to become a Web Developer
Web developers come from a variety of educational backgrounds. Some acquire the required skills by participating in online communities where they can ask questions, collaborate with fellow aspiring developers, and learn by experimentation and doing. Others earn a degree in web development or computer science. Most learn the profession through a hybrid of formal and informal training.
There are no required licenses for web developers; however, voluntary certifications are available in specific programming languages and in various development platforms and environments. To earn these web development credentials, candidates must generally complete an independent course of study and pass a certification exam.
While some employers may demand one or more of the certifications available in the field, others may hire applicants who lack these official credentials, but bring years of experience and know-how to the job.