What Is a Web Developer?


Updated November 8, 2023

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Is web development the career for you? Learn about web developers, common job responsibilities, how much they earn, and what it takes to get started in the field.

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Web developers work independently as freelancers or with company teams to create websites. These professionals may focus on front-end or back-end development, depending on their specific roles.

The front end includes designing sites and coding what users see, while back-end development involves writing code to ensure proper functionality. Web developers may also become webmasters to provide maintenance, updates, and troubleshooting when needed.

Prospective web developers can use the following information to choose a career path and explore the required steps for that career. Discover the daily tasks and skills of a web developer, along with available career resources and salary information.

History of Web Developers

Though conceived in the 1980s, the public Internet only took off in 1993 after the introduction of the Mosaic web browser. Developers then began to write code with HTML. With this common language, websites could communicate over interconnected networks.

By the early 2000s, the Internet had become a major platform for commerce, education, and culture. Later, the creation of the mobile app put the Internet into more users' hands and changed the nature of web development again.

Perhaps the best-known web developer is Tim Berners-Lee, who created HTML and launched the World Wide Web. Other famous developers include Lea Verou, co-editor of several CSS specifications, and Håkon Wium Lie, who created CSS.

Modern web developers use HTML, CSS, and other tools to build websites and apps for a technology-driven world.

What Does a Web Developer Do?

Web development includes building technical front-end and/or back-end code that informs site functionality. Web developers may work exclusively on front-end code, back-end code, or both, and many modern jobs also require overlap in web design. These professionals may work independently on a freelance basis or with marketing or IT departments.

Entry-level jobs often require only a small amount of formal education and training. As the Internet continues to expand, so does the demand for talented web developers, making this career an attractive option. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that web development jobs will grow by 23% between 2021 and 2031 — much faster than the national average growth for all occupations.

Key Soft Skills for Web Developers

  • Multitasking: Handling multiple processes or objectives at the same time can increase efficiency for web developers working on several projects under tight deadlines.
  • Self-Motivation: Because of the time-consuming, project-based nature of web development, web developers cannot procrastinate if they want to meet project deadlines or find new projects.
  • Organizational Skills: Organizational skills allow web developers to track tasks, projects, deadlines, and budgets to ensure they meet targets and goals.
  • Attention to Detail: Given the intricacy of visual design elements and programming languages, web developers must pay close attention to detail to produce professional work.
  • Communication: Web developers often need to explain project requirements, milestones, and features to clients, team members, and executives. Communication skills are key for collaboration and effective progress.

Key Hard Skills for Web Developers

  • HTML/CSS: HTML is the most common markup language on the Internet. CSS is the primary language used to encode website designs. These two programming languages are foundational to web development projects.
  • Responsive Design: Responsive design is the process developers use to create functional, aesthetically appealing web pages across devices and platforms.
  • Database and Cache: A cache collects data, making it easier for a computer to access information the next time a user needs it. A database can update the cache automatically to improve application performance.
  • Testing and Debugging: Developers should be able to test a web page, discover any flaws or bugs, and eliminate errors. Testing helps ensure that the code will function properly.

Depending on your industry or specialization, you may find additional programming languages useful to your web development career. While most front-end web developers use JavaScript, back-end web development can involve languages such as Python, Java, or Ruby. Web developers often use popular software applications such as Photoshop and WordPress, as well.

A Day in the Life of a Web Developer

A web developer's day often starts with handling emergencies like fixing bugs in a new site. They may spend time writing code or reviewing a coworker's code. The second part of the day might include editing the previous day's work, meeting with UI designers, or responding to error reports.

Web Developer Career and Salary Outlook

The BLS combines web development careers with web design jobs. From 2021-2031, the BLS projects that these careers will grow by 23%. While this field continues to expand quickly, it often pays a lower wage than many other computer-related careers.

Web developers earn a median salary of $78,300, although the highest 10% of wage-earners in this career can bring in as much as $168,200 annually. Web developers or designers at the highest-paying levels often work for software publishers or computer systems designers.

May 2023 Payscale data indicates that the most experienced web developers can earn 35% more than the average. Developers with skills in dynamic HTML, Microsoft Azure, Spring, Continuous Integration, or UNIX may also earn higher wages.

Annual Median Salary

Source: BLS

How to Become a Web Developer

Web developers use a specific set of skills and languages to complete their work. Often, they learn these skills and languages through web development certificate programs or bachelor's degrees. However, some web developers may choose a short-term, career-focused bootcamp instead of an academic program. A degree can take 2-4 years to complete, while a bootcamp may only require 3-6 months.

Besides meeting their educational requirements, web developers also earn professional certifications. Common certifications include certified professional in Python programming, Adobe certified expert, and certified software development professional.

Once an aspiring developer completes their educational background, they may need to create a professional portfolio to demonstrate their skills and knowledge. Then, they can apply for their first web development job. Learn more about the steps to becoming a web developer with the links below.

How to Become a Web Developer

How to Become a Web Developer

Ready to launch your web developer career? Discover the steps you need to take to get started.

Web Development Degree Programs

Web Development Degree Programs

Is a web development degree right for you? If so, how do you choose the right program?

Top Web Development Bootcamps

Top Web Development Bootcamps

Is a bootcamp right for you? Explore these short-term alternatives to traditional computer science education.

Programming Languages for Web Developers

Programming Languages for Web Developers

With thousands of computer languages, it can seem difficult to find the right type. Find out more about programming languages here.

Similar Specializations and Career Paths

Web developers can explore many career paths and professional growth opportunities. Along with roles like UX designer/developer and mobile developer, consider the following career options:

  • Software Engineer: These engineers build the systems that run computer devices and networks. Depending on their role, a software engineer might write code for an app, test a new product, or clear the bugs from another engineer's design. Senior software engineers may also lead teams of developers, testers, or quality assurance professionals.
  • Database Administrator: Database administrators manage the systems that organize and secure data and make it available to authorized users. This data may include sensitive financial records, customer information, or proprietary secrets. Administrators back up and restore systems or implement upgrades for data management systems.
  • Security Analyst: These analysts help safeguard company data and networks from cyberattacks. They typically work within information technology teams with network administrators and computer systems analysts. These professionals may test current systems, write reports, and make recommendations about IT security to top executives.
  • Web Designer: Web designers handle the look and functionality of websites and applications. Their work involves designing graphics and user interfaces. Designers may choose colors, fonts, photos, graphics, and site layouts. They may also help improve intuitiveness and compatibility with other software.
  • Video Game Designer: These designers create the story, visuals, and graphics that drive a game. Depending on their specific role, video game designers may build storyboards, write content, code new games, or debug existing games. These professionals typically need skills in programming, web development, and technical project management.
Similar Career Paths
Career Required Education Required Experience Median Annual Salary Project Growth Rate (2021-2031)
Software Engineer Bachelor's Degree None $109,020 +25%
Database Administrator Bachelor's Degree None $101,000 +9%
Security Analyst Bachelor's Degree Less than 5 years $102,600 +35%
Web Designer Bachelor's Degree None $78,300 +23%
Video Game Designer Bachelor's Degree None $78,790 +5%

Source: BLS

Resources for Web Developers

After earning your degree and landing a job, you'll have to work hard to stay on the cutting edge of the evolving tech industry. Joining a professional organization or taking continuing professional education courses can help sharpen your skills and knowledge.

Professional Organizations for Web Developers

Web developers who want to stay up to date on tools, trends, products, and opportunities often turn to professional organizations. These groups actively shape the web industry by setting professional standards and advocating on behalf of web professionals' needs and interests.

Most professional organizations offer educational opportunities through training, certification, and continuing education programs. Several organizations described below provide employment opportunities and other career development opportunities. Members sometimes benefit from industry discounts on the design tools and resources they need for work.

American Institute of Graphic Arts

AIGA is the oldest and largest organization of its kind. By providing advocacy, design tool accessibility, professional development, and other resources, AIGA serves design students, entrepreneurs, thinkers, teachers, freelancers, and in-house design professionals.

American Webmasters Association

Founded in 2003, AWA helps share knowledge and resources across the global web development community. Members can benefit from networking opportunities, training programs, and career placement services.


GDI addresses the national underrepresentation of women and non-binary adults in computer science. Members can take advantage of classes, mentoring, and peer support.

International Web Association

As the industry's first generator of educational, ethical, and professional standards, IWA provides certification and training programs, job resources, and relevant news for web professionals.

Developers Alliance

This organization advocates for web developers by supporting industry growth and collaboration with public policymakers. By joining the community, you get access to research and analysis, plus opportunities to interact with policy and industry leaders around the world.

FAQ About Careers in Web Development

Do web developers need to know coding?

Yes — web developers need to know coding to develop and design websites. Front-end developers should learn coding languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Back-end developers can focus on Java or PHP.

What do web developers do?

Web developers create functional, user-friendly websites and web applications. They may write code, develop and test new applications, or monitor site performance and traffic. Front-end developers focus on the user-facing side of their work, while back-end developers make websites functional and secure. Full-stack developers handle both front-end and back-end tasks.

What do entry-level web developers do?

Entry-level web developers typically maintain, troubleshoot, or create websites by drawing from their programming and graphic design skills and knowledge.

What skills do you need as a web developer?

Web developers need proficiency in coding languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for front-end development, along with knowledge of server-side languages like Node.js, Ruby, PHP, or Python. They should also develop familiarity with version control systems and front-end development frameworks, such as React or Angular.

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