Web Developer

What Is a Web Developer?

Web developers build websites. But, building websites is only the beginning and only half of what they accomplish on a daily basis. Whereas a website designer creates the overall look of the site, a developer’s deep understanding of scripting languages allows them to convert different components – audio, graphic, video and text – into compatible web formats that are accessible to the end user. Within the field of web development are several areas of specialization, including back-end development, front-end development, and full-stack development. Backend developers build and maintain the technology (database, server, and server-side applications) that “powers" a site. This technology is what makes the site run, and is part of what the end user experiences but doesn’t see. A front-end developer uses software like CSS, Javascript, and HTML to code the website and web app designs created by designers. Full-stack developers (or generalists) are trained to fill both functions. 

Because technology is always improving and adjusting to meet consumer demands, it is essential that web developers stay up-to-date and trained on current software programs, scripting languages, and technology trends. After all, what’s popuar today may be old news next week. This can sometimes put web developers in a tight spot. On the one hand, developers are in high demand, especially with the phenomenal growth in the online world and the number of individuals and businesses utilizing websites. On the other hand, developers may find themselves tapped out and frustrated because the web (and the relevant new technologies) are moving at light speed and it is nearly impossible to always keep up.

But, as website developers are professionals, there are a number of things they can do to stay current, including reading the dozens of newsletters available that list the latest developments in the field. Blogs and RSS feeds, like Six Revisions, Specky Boy, Onextrapixel, and Coding Horror, or Mozilla Hacks, and The Daily Nerd are also classic resources and tutorials for developers. Developers can pursue continuing education coursework at a local tech or community college. They can attend conferences, network with other developers, and join an association or two.

Individuals interested in pursuing a career as a website developer should have a strong background in computer science or programming. They must be skilled in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, GIT, CSS, HTML, WordPress, Javascript and Javascript plugins like Jquery. It’s also recommended to know firebug and chrome development tools. In addition, back-end developers must also know PHP, FTP (file transfer protocol) and Ruby. Because websites are viewed on many different devices, developers must also know how to design and develop responsive websites. Web developers must have design sense in order to see the ‘big picture’ and not just what is needed to build a website. Design skills might include layout and typeface knowledge, and color theory. They must be organized, creative, and flexible, and willing to work in a team environment, and help out colleagues. They must have legendary levels of patience, logical thinking, good language skills, and a willingness to work with clients to make their website personal, original, and functional.  It’s also important these individuals be well-rounded in graphic design, understand SEO, multimedia publishing tools, and marketing techniques, which together can make a developer’s resume more attractive to potential clients or employers.

Web Developer Work Environment & Job Description

Because website developers spend most of their time on computers, the typical work environment is an office or area (usually a cubicle) in an office building. However, an increasing number of web developers are self-employed and may work from their home office. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that approximately 141,400 website developers were employed in 2012, and about one-fourth of those developers were self-employed.

Although freelancing can be an exciting and flexible way to practice website development, there is a downside. Freelancers work job-to-job, which is not always conducive to a steady and reliable paycheck. Individuals who would rather not pursue freelancing, or work in a company setting to gain experience, will be happy to know that a significant number of industries employ full-time web developers. In fact, the BLS reported that the computer systems design and related services industries employed 16 percent of all web developers in 2012. Other industries that employ web developers include data processing, hosting, related services and other information services (8 percent); finance and insurance (5 percent); educational services (5 percent); religious, grant-making, civic, professional and similar organizations (5 percent).

Because the majority of website developers work for a company or large corporation, they must be able to work in a team environment, compromise, as well as communicate with clients. They must also be able to deal with daily stress and have good time management skills. Some employers even prefer web developers understand cultural nuances so that their website can communicate effectively with all users no matter their geographic location.

Web Developer Education & Degree Requirements

Although school requirements for web developers vary depending on industry and work setting, the BLS asserts that the most common type of degree obtained by website developers is an associate degree in web design or a closely-related field. However, those interested in more advanced and technical positions, or web architect positions may benefit from earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science or programming, which allows them to obtain more focused computer and technical knowledge. This is also true as many web design programs at the associate level only touch on the very basics of web development. 

And, while it’s true many individuals can also teach themselves to code via an online tutorial, there is much more to web development than coding, and a formal education can help you in ways an online class can’t.  A Bachelor's of Science in computer science, programming, or a related field will give you hands-on, in-depth experience in the application and theory of computing. Taking advantage of internship opportunities offered through college programs will give students practical experience as well. 

Many employers require candidates hold a degree, which gives them the confidence employees know and understand the ins and outs of web development and will not depend on others for assistance or need a great deal of training right out of the gate. They also prefer candidates understand SQL and multimedia tools like Flash. Some employers also prefer developers to have both a computer degree and completed classes in graphic design. This is especially true if the developer is expected to be involved in the company’s website’s appearance too.

Web Developer Salary & Job Outlook

The median annual pay (full-time) for web developers in 2017 was $67,990, with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $36,000 and the highest earning more than $119,000. A developer’s salary can be influenced by a number of things, such as industry, education, geographic location, and experience.Employment of web developers is projected to grow a whopping 27 percent from 2017 to 2024, an increase of about 40,000 jobs during this period, which is considerably faster than projections for all career fields. This is due in part because of expanding e-commerce and online purchasing. In addition, an increase in mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones to search the web will also lead to an increase in web development employment in the future. States with the highest employment are California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Illinois.


FAST FACTS: Web Developers
2016 Median Pay

$67,990 per year
$32.69 per hour

Recommended Level of Education

Associate's degree

Number of Jobs in 2014


Expected % Change in Employment (2014-2024)

15% (Much faster than average)

Expected 10 Year Employment Growth (2014-2024)


Source: BLS - Occupational Outlook Handbook

Web Developers Salaries by Industry


Other Personal Services


Audio and Video Equipment Manufacturing


Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing


Scheduled Air Transportation


Depository Credit Intermediation

Source: BLS OES - Industry Profile
Mean Hourly Wage Mean Annual Wage

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for Web Developers

  1. San Rafael, CA
  2. San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA
  3. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  4. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA
  5. Framingham, MA NECTA Division
  6. Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, MA NECTA Division
  7. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
  8. New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ
  9. California-Lexington Park, MD
  10. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics OES

Helpful Resources

Web Developer Jobs