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Career Guide

How to Become a Web Developer

BrainStation's Web Developer career guide is intended to help you take the first steps toward a lucrative career in web development. The guide provides an in-depth overview of the development skills you should learn, the best web development training options, career paths in web development, how to become a Web Developer, and more.

How to Become a Web Developer

How Do You Become a Web Developer?

To become a Web Developer, you should have an understanding of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It’s also recommended to learn about CSS and CSS frameworks. Developing these fundamental skills will give you the foundation and logic for communicating with programming languages.

How to become a Web Developer in five steps:

  1. Learn web development fundamentals
  2. Choose a development specialization
  3. Learn key programming languages for web development
  4. Work on projects to develop your web development skills
  5. Build a web development portfolio

1. Learn Web Development Fundamentals

The best first step to becoming a Developer is to start learning web development fundamentals, and many aspiring Developers are now using coding bootcamps to fasttrack the process. Coding bootcamps have thrived because they are short, immersive, and focused on outcomes and employment – their goal is to develop job-ready skills as efficiently as possible, making them an increasingly worthwhile investment for aspiring Developers. According to job site Indeed, four out of five companies in the US have hired a graduate from a coding bootcamp.

In fact, the practical advantages of coding bootcamps are only getting clearer over time. For one thing, the field of web development naturally attracts people from all other fields, many of them making mid-career transitions – people for whom a clear and efficient path to skills expansion is a top priority. Further, employers increasingly value skills and experience over education, placing anyone who can prove their abilities on more equal footing with Developers holding a college degree.

It’s important to note that professionals in this field – more than most other fields – must be committed to ongoing learning to stay on top of changes and updates to languages, tools, and trends. This makes mid-career retraining a must whether or not it’s the line of work you started out in.

2. Choose a Development Specialization

As you continue to grow your skills, you’ll need to choose an area of specialization. But what are the types of web development? All Web Developers are categorized into three main types:

  • Front-End Developers, who work on the “client-side” of web development, meaning any portion of the site or app that users interact with. This can include a site’s layout, design, and the way users interact with it.

  • Back-End Developers, who work on the “server-side” of web development. This is focused on the way a site functions, and can include databases, servers, networks and hosting, and more.

  • Full-Stack Developers, who are familiar with both front-and back-end development and works with both sides of a website.

3. Learn Key Programming Languages for Web Development

Whatever your area of concentration, you’ll need to know how to use a handful of different programming languages. So, what are the most common programming languages?

Three families of programming languages form the basic tools involved in virtually all aspects of web development:

  • HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)
  • CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)
  • JavaScript

Of course, the list goes on – these are just the beginning. In fact, web development is such a diverse and varied field that the list of all the tasks it can include (and all the languages you might use to accomplish them) is too long to fit in this space. Fortunately, as a specialist, you can find and concentrate on the ones that work best for you.

4. Build Projects to Develop Your Skills

With a grasp of the basics in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, you’re ready to begin building. As you go, you’ll gain experience using an ever-growing set of skills. Some of these are technical skills, or “hard” skills, like programming in SQL or Python, using the jQuery library of functions for more efficient programming, or using tools like Git for version control. The best way to improve these skills is simply to start messing around – the more you use them, the better you’ll be.

There are also a number design skills that are useful for Developers to have, with an understanding of responsive design being perhaps the most crucial. While Web Developers are not typically tasked with the overall site design, it’s an advantage for Developers to also have a solid understanding of common design principles. Front-End Developers, in particular, program the screens that users interact with – and they can be far more successful with a good grasp of user-centered design.

5. Build a Web Development Portfolio

A riveting portfolio that shows off your strongest skills is your best tool when applying for web development jobs. There are three things to keep in mind when building a portfolio that will stand out from the pack.

First, your portfolio should include a diverse selection of work. You don’t want to use every project you’ve ever worked on – your professional portfolio should be a highlight reel that not only demonstrates your best work, but shows your versatility. You want to be selective and highlight your best work, but your selection should be diverse enough that it demonstrates a solid understanding of the various elements of the position. When applying for jobs, do a bit of research into the company and the role you’re looking to fill – then refine your portfolio even further, editing out unrelated examples and spotlighting your most relevant work.

Second, think about what makes you and your work unique. Emphasize the skills that most make you stand out – not just in the work you include in your portfolio, but in how the portfolio itself is presented. If you’re applying for design-related roles, for instance, your portfolio website should have a solid user experience and a beautiful interface. And if you’re applying for a development role, ensure that your portfolio is displayed on a flawless site. That means no messy code.

Third, show your process. Employers aren’t looking only at the quality of work you produce, but at how you approach problems. Don’t be afraid to frame each example as a case study, providing a narrative of your thought process and the problem you were trying to solve with the project. Showing background on how your projects were created will help recruiters and hiring managers make sense of your work, and say more than just a standalone piece. This is also a great opportunity to demonstrate your communication skills – an important part of excelling in a position.

Is Web Development a Growing Field?

Yes, the web development field is booming. There are more than 1.3 million Developer jobs available in North America, and more than 47,000 new development jobs were created in the last two years, with the market expected to grow an additional 15% in the next 5 years. For these reasons, Mondo found “Web Developer” the most in-demand job title in tech and one of its top-paying jobs.

What is the Salary of a Web Developer?

According to job site Indeed, the average salary for Web Developers in the United States is $71,531, with Senior Developers averaging $95,325. That makes web development one of the most lucrative positions that do not require a degree.

How Can I Become a Web Developer Fast?

Coding bootcamps have become an increasingly popular option for aspiring Web Developers as they provide hands-on learning experience and the chance to develop job-ready skills – in as little as 12 weeks.

Traditionally, many Web Developers have started with higher education in software engineering, computer science, or related fields. However, it’s also possible to come from a completely different industry. In fact, a growing number of professionals are taking steps later in their careers to learn development from scratch either by becoming self-taught or pursuing a Diploma with a coding bootcamp. In fact, BrainStation’s Digital Skills Survey found that 55 percent of development respondents began their career in a different field and 58 percent have only been programming for five years or less.

What is Needed to Become a Web Developer?

Here are some of the things you’ll need to learn to become a Web Developer:

  • Foundations: To become a Web Developer, you should develop a comprehensive understanding of how the web works. This will deepen your HTML and CSS knowledge to build and style more advanced static web pages, using frameworks such as Flexbox. It will also help you establish problem-solving practices and logic to understand advanced programming concepts.
  • Programming Fundamentals: Foundational knowledge of JavaScript and object-oriented programming should be a starting point for aspiring Developers, as it will improve your ability to write and build components.
  • Front-End Frameworks: It’s important for aspiring Web Developers to learn how to use React, a JavaScript framework, to build complex and dynamic web pages and professional-level user interfaces.
  • Web Servers: To become a Web Developer, you’ll need to know how to build servers using a modern back-end framework and how to develop custom APIs and serve static websites and files.
  • Server-Side Programming: It’s important for Web Developers to have an understanding of Server Side Rendering and Templating Engines, which are used to create empty page templates populated with dynamic data, such as a series of product pages for an eCommerce store.
  • Databases: Aspiring Web Developers will also have to understand core concepts around data and learn how to manage databases and data on a web server.

As in other tech fields, it’s important for Web Developers to network and to keep learning, as programming languages and techniques change frequently. Apart from coding bootcamps, courses, panel discussions, and workshops, you can also stay current by contributing to an open-source commons, such as GitHub or Bootstrap.

And of course, to become a Web Developer, you will need a portfolio of completed projects for your job search. Regardless of your specific interests, it’s important to showcase your versatility to ensure clients from various industries get a sense of your abilities.

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