Are you considering pursuing a career path in the field of web development? Have you spent an unreasonable amount of time thumbing through your college catalog in search of that perfect degree program that will allow you to achieve all of your professional and educational goals? At this point in your research are you trying to openly consider all possibilities that will allow you to be a successful individual in the technology industry? While that may seem like a viable path for you to follow, it may actually serve you better if you narrow your focus some, so that you can choose a career path that will actually allow you to apply yourself in your areas of strength. Keep in mind, within the field of web development your possibilities are almost endless and what you can do with your training and education will largely depend upon what level of formal degree program that you decide to complete. In addition, it is important to understand that you will be qualified for many entry level positions just by completing a certificate based program or an associate’s degree. It is common for employers to hire new employees who have a minimal amount of education and to then guide them to continue their educational training in a specific focus area that will directly benefit them in their job duties.
With that being said, it is quite common for individuals who want to pursue an occupation as a web developer to choose to complete a bachelor of web development degree program. This degree program is typically offered at most any college or university, which is likely to be one of the reasons this degree is a common choice among students. A bachelor’s degree in web development will teach students how to create effective online content that will ultimately work to increase a company’s interactivity, internet visibility, and information accessibility. Your specific coursework will also teach you how to use a variety of programming languages that will help you create applications and web pages that will be effectively engaging to many different types of audiences. Upon completion of a bachelor level degree program you can expect to have a solid understanding of the different methods and tools that you may need to employ in order to have a successful website, with regards to content and overall appearance and use. Although each college or university’s course work is likely to vary somewhat, students who are considering this degree program can likely expect to learn just as much about the elements of graphic design as they do about the technical components of web development. After all, the ultimate goal of a web developer is to create website content that is both attractive and engaging to the viewer’s eye, as well as user friendly and easy to navigate. As you complete courses in web page design, web animation, network architecture, programming, and graphic design you can expect to be learning how to logically place information on a website and how to create digitally appropriate environments that include animations. While it is not required by every college or university that is available to students, it is very possible that you may be expected to complete a capstone project or a field experience. Both of these options will give students the chance to showcase their abilities in a manner that is directly relative to the work they will be conducting in the real world. Once you have completed your undergraduate level degree program, and possibly gained some relevant real world work experience, you may want to consider completing a graduate level degree program. A graduate degree program in this field of study will help you increase your knowledge as it relates to web development, while also helping you fine tune those important business skills.
Although you may think that business skills are not important in this type of industry, it will actually help you to have a better understanding of what your client actually needs in order to experience a positive boost in their business. In some cases, students will find it more beneficial to complete specific certificate based programs that are directly pertinent to their daily work responsibilities. As with numerous other positions in the technology industry, in order to be successful it will be important for you to be willing to continue your learning as new methods and software are introduced. In addition, it is very likely that in this profession you will be required to spend the large majority of your work time sitting at a desk, working at the computer. In some cases, you may have the option to complete at least a portion of your work from a home based environment. However, this may be something you will have to work up to once you have proven your work abilities to your employer.
Thinking about becoming a web developer? You would be joining an industry that's projected to grow about 27% between 2014 and 2024 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, thanks in large part to unprecedented growth in the ecommerce sector and the transition of retail purchases from brick and mortar stores to online. There will also be growth in the design of sites that are compatible with mobile devices as more people shop online with their smartphones and tablets. One out of seven web developers are self-employed, and they perform a variety of duties and many specialize in a specific niche, such as back-end web development, front-end web development, and website administrators. These are the specific roles we will be discussing in this article. Being a web developer requires at ton of creativity, as you will be expected to make a website or online shopping experience stand out in an increasingly crowded market. A web developer also must sit for long periods of time and work on a computer, and they may work from home with little to no supervision, so concentration is a necessary skill. Equally important is customer service and networking skills, maintaining a collaborative working relationship with one client or many clients. Individuals that enjoy studying elements of design would be best suited to front-end web development, while those that enjoy coding with computer science languages, like HTML, are best suited to back-end web development. In this article, we will delve into the evolving field of web development, how the occupation originated and the various roles within the field. Then, we'll discuss the education and career paths required to become a web developer in each of those three areas of specialization, front-end web development, back-end web development, and website administrators, with in depth descriptions of the skills required to be successful in each of these roles.
While the first network of computers was connected in 1969, the Internet in those days would be unrecognizable to you now. It wasn't until around 1991, with the release of the first web browser named WorldWideWeb (with no spaces), that the Internet became widely accessible and businesses began to see the commercial appeal of having a presence on the first ever world wide web. But once the craze hit, it hit big and it hit fast, leading to the dot-com boom of the late 90's that extended into the early 00's and saw the proliferation of websites for businesses, blogs, and other services. As the number of websites grew into the millions, then the tens of millions, there became a very clear need to train and employ people to design and manage these websites. Enter the web developer. An occupation born of a great need in a rapidly growing industry, web developers were tasked with anything from developing static pages that consisted entirely of text to designing and coding complex internet applications. The role was very coding heavy in the beginning, but it increasingly has become more about content management systems (CMS) and integration with mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. There are many different aspects of web development, and individuals in the field may be good in one area and weak in another, or they may be adept at all aspects of web development. They may work in very large teams or they may freelance as an individual. There is a lot of variance in the field, but in general people who work in web development possess skills in website design, programming, web engineering, and software development.
Front End Web Developers
Front end development is commonly referred to as web design and it describes the process of developing and debugging code for the visual layout and functionality of a website. Everything from the header to the footer of the page must be laid out with purpose and an eye towards visual appeal. Designing graphics or the interface of a website, testing and improving user experience, and page layout are just some of the focuses of a web designer. They work heavily with programming languages like HTML and CSS to produce high quality, desirable design prototypes and imagery. They may use raster and vector graphics editors as well as tools meant to test end user experience. Front end developers have to marry the requests of their clients, usually an individual, business, or government agency, and the preferences of end users. In short, they have to deliver a product or service in a way that can be consumed as easily as possible, but also services the needs of the client. Often, they also must produce and edit the content that will be hosted on the site, so strong writing skills are highly encouraged. While certificates are available, most companies and individuals hiring for website design are looking for an associate's degree at the very least, and some prefer bachelor's degrees in multimedia or web design. We'll discuss all three below.
• Associate's Degree in Web Design – Associate's degrees are available and cover much of the same topics as certificate programs, but in greater detail. These programs often also include subjects such as animation, motion graphics, and computer engineering. In addition to the basics, many programs offer interesting art-centric courses such as observational drawing, graphic illustration, and packaging design. Associate's degree programs take two years to earn a degree. Prices for associate's degrees can vary by state and a number of other factors, but the national average for an associate's degree in web design is anywhere between $3,000-$3,500 per year.
• Bachelor's Degree in Web Design – By far, employers these days prefer individuals who graduate with a four year bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. In bachelor's degree programs, students get the opportunity to learn much more advanced skills that will give them a leg up in a competitive job market. Bachelor's degrees in multimedia or web design are available at most major educational institutions and include all the above courses as well as courses such as webpage scripting, database design and management, and digital publishing. The national average cost of a bachelor's degree in web design is between $7,000 - $29,000 per year.
As mentioned, job seekers are best served pursuing a four-year bachelor's degree at an accredited college in order to land the most competitive jobs. However, entry-level positions are available that accept individuals that have earned an associate's degree or even a certificate. Pursuing a professional certificate best serves individuals already in the field or a related field that want to broaden their skill set for a potential promotion or to increase their pay. The median salary of front end web developers in 2016 was roughly $75,000, with entry-level positions typically averaging around $40,000 and senior level web design positions averaging around $85,000. Earning a degree in web design offers a broad base of computer science skills that can be applied to a large variety of other positions as well, so not everyone who graduates with this degree goes on to work strictly in web design.
Back end developers develop the core computational logic of informational systems, software, and websites. Back end development is more concerned with how a site works in conjunction with its applications, databases, and servers. Basically, any element you as a user cannot see on a website, the back end developer has created. Sometimes, their work is referred to as the “brain” of a website. In addition to HTML and CSS, back end developers also work with coding languages such as Ruby on Rails, PHP, and Python. Back end developers are responsible for the responsiveness of a website and are most often employed on dynamic sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, that change often and offer many different functions for their users. They construct the framework on which the website or database runs. Back end development requires a vast technical skill set and oftentimes a back end developer will work solo, as few people at a company fully comprehend the more complex functions they can perform. Because demand in the field is high, many “bootcamps” have sprouted up across the globe to help individuals that want to learn how to code. These programs are usually extremely intensive, but they are compressed, allowing people to learn this essential skill in minimal time through long hours and hard work. In addition to these programs, degrees in computer science and software development can land you a job as a back end web developer with a more traditional educational path. We will cover all three below.
• Degree in Computer Science – Associate's degrees are available in computer science, but bachelor's degrees are highly preferred in back end web development. Computer science degrees are offered at most educational institutions, including accredited colleges and universities. Online courses are also available and can be completed day or night with a part-time commitment. The curriculum in computer science includes subjects such as: algorithms, logic and computation, statistics, information theory, and software testing. Associate's degrees typically take two years to complete and bachelor's degrees take four years to complete. The cost of a degree in computer science will vary depending on factors such as in-state or out-of-state tuition, but a four year degree costs roughly $30,000-$50,000 per year, including books and living expenses. This high demand industry does offer educational programs and financial aid to talented individuals that are pursuing their degree.
• Degree in Software Development - Associate's degrees are available in software development, but bachelor's degrees are highly preferred in back end web development. Software development degrees are offered at most educational institutions, including accredited colleges and universities. Online courses are also available and can be completed day or night with a part-time commitment. The curriculum in software development includes subjects such as: logic and design, principles of cybersecurity, system analysis and design, mobile app development, and Structured Query Language (SQL). Associate's degrees typically take two years to complete and bachelor's degrees take four years to complete. The cost of a degree in software development will vary depending on factors such as in-state or out-of-state tuition, but a four year degree typically averages about $36,000 per year, fairly similar to a degree in computer science. This price includes books and living expenses.
Back end developers typically make a bit more than front end developers because they require knowledge of additional coding languages. Job seekers are best served pursuing four-year bachelor's degrees in computer science, software development, or a similar field. However, this isn't necessary for some entry-level positions. In fact, some coding bootcamps boast up to 75% employment upon student graduation. The program is not easy to complete, but it does teach many applicable skills to enter the industry, just don't expect to that you will necessarily be paid as much as someone with a four-year degree. The median salary of back end web developers in 2016 was roughly $101,000, though there can be a lot of variance between entry level and senior level positions and the job market in the specific state. Earning a degree in computer science or software development offers a broad base of skills that can be applied to a large variety of other positions as well, and there is plenty of room for advancement to project management roles if you pursue a traditional educational path that will grant you a much broader base of skills.
Website Administrator Training
Website administrators are sometimes called website authors, website coordinators, website publishers, or sometimes they're even given the title of web developer. In the early years of the Internet, they were also called webmasters. Though titles for this position vary widely, the basic duties stay largely the same. A website administrator is oftentimes the lead on everything that pertains to a website, from design to back end support. They combine the two roles above and perform an all-in-one function.There has been a general shift in education and training towards specialization, so rather than employing one website administrator, larger companies usually opt to employ teams of front end developers, back end developers, designers, software developers, etc. Website administrators are usually a little older, having the prerequisite experience to perform a wide number of functions on a project as well as the ability to lead teams. Website administrators must know the complete suite of programming languages as well as elements of design and user interface. While a certificate and experience can eventually net you a position as a website administrator, bachelor's degrees are generally preferred, and sometimes even master's degrees. Technology advances and changes so often, the biggest requirement is typically that you have experience with the newest software, hardware, and applications. Below is information about certification programs, bachelor's degrees, and master's degrees that would be good to pursue as a hopeful website administrator.
• Certification for Website Administration – Certifications are available through organizations like the World Organization of Webmasters (WOW). There are multiple levels of the certification and they are: certified apprentice, certified apprentice webmaster, certified associate webmaster, and certified professional webmaster. Each level of certification requires passing a written test, and the test may be taken even if you have not attended any classes since much of the material covered can be learned by working as a web professional. The test measures knowledge in site admin and maintenance, networking basics, hardware and infrastructure, security, and web business management. It takes 70 minutes to complete. There are also WOW-sponsored classes available to teach this information. These exams only cost $90-$125 and are administered by test proctors in libraries and public schools. Though this is easily the cheapest option to receive a certification in the field of web development, almost all employers will require a formal education at least at the associate's degree level, or they will require substantial evidence of a long work history in conjunction with this certification.
• Degree in Computer Science – Associate's degrees are available in computer science, but bachelor's degrees are highly preferred in website administration. Computer science degrees are offered at most educational institutions, including accredited colleges and universities. Online courses are also available and can be completed day or night with a part-time commitment. The curriculum in computer science includes subjects such as: algorithms, logic and computation, statistics, information theory, and software testing. Associate's degrees typically take two years to complete and bachelor's degrees take four years to complete. The cost of a degree in computer science will vary depending on factors such as in-state or out-of-state tuition, but a four year degree costs roughly $30,000-$50,000 per year, including books and living expenses. This high demand industry does offer educational programs and financial aid to talented individuals that are pursuing their degree.
• Degree in Information Technology - Associate's degrees are available in information technology, but bachelor's degrees are highly preferred in website administration. Information technology degrees are offered at most educational institutions, including accredited colleges and universities. Online courses are also available and can be completed day or night with a part-time commitment. The curriculum in information technology includes subjects such as: system and network administration, information security management, operating systems, software engineering and management, and project management. Associate's degrees typically take two years to complete and bachelor's degrees take four years to complete. The cost of a degree in information technology will vary depending on factors such as in-state or out-of-state tuition, but a four year degree costs roughly $30,000-$60,000 per year, including books and living expenses. It is important to stress, yet again, that the role of website administrator is typically reserved for the most senior or experienced professionals. Website administrators work across a wide variety of fields and, thus, their pay can scale greatly, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median salary of website administrators in 2015 was roughly $65,000 a year. Some can make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, though, depending on the size of the company and the scope of the project. Though educations in computer science and information technology were highlighted in this section, it is important to note that you can earn a degree in one of many related fields and still land a job as a website administrator. A few examples are computer engineering or information systems.