An overview of the role

The role of a web developer is to build and manage functioning websites and applications that meet the requirements of their clients. There are three different areas in which a web developer can specify:

  1. Front end development. This involves working with the parts of a website that users see and engage with directly. Front end web developers typically use coding languages such as:
    1. HTML
    2. CSS
    3. JavaScript
  1. Back end development. This involves working with the underlying structure of the website. Back end web developers typically use coding languages such as:
    1. PHP
    2. Ruby
    3. Python
  1. Full-stack development. This involves working with both front end and back end languages to implement whatever is necessary. A full-stack developer generally knows a range of front end languages as well as having detailed knowledge of one back end language. Full-stack developers do not generally build entire websites by themselves unless they are freelancers or have exclusive responsibility for a particular project.

Although it is common for full-stack development jobs to be advertised as such, applicants will rarely see job postings listed as exclusively ‘front end’ and ‘back end web developer’. It is much more common for employers to list the language/s they want the developer to work with, so job advertisements are likely to read as:

  1. PHP web developer
  2. Front end JavaScript developer
  3. Full stack developer (C#, Angular, Agile)

What are the responsibilities of a web developer?

The responsibilities of a web developer include:

  1. Writing code in a variety of scripting languages
  2. Designing and planning new websites and applications
  3. Repairing and optimising existing code to improve website function
  4. Creating and testing prototypes
  5. Liaising with colleagues (including other developers, website and graphic designers and other contributors) and clients to understand and implement project goals
  6. Developing skills, including learning new languages, to stay relevant in the IT industry
  7. Participating in Open Source projects

I go to work each morning knowing that what I’m working on has a direct and visible impact. I can see things improving as a result of my work, and that’s really satisfying.

Sam, Web Developer 1

What are the key skills required by a web developer?

Key skills for a web developer include:

  1. Excellent attention to detail
  2. A methodical, logical approach to work
  3. A goal-oriented personality
  4. A love of problem-solving
  5. The ability to work independently for long periods
  6. Good communication skills

What qualifications does a web developer require?

No formal qualifications are required, although a degree is advantageous. Relevant degrees include:

  1. Web design and development
  2. Computer science
  3. Information and technology
  4. Informatics
  5. Any other STEM subject

Aspiring web developers can also take a whole range of other courses to improve their technical ability. Provided they are competent enough to carry out the technical requirements of the role, the source of a developer’s knowledge is not that important.

Do I need relevant work experience to become a web developer?

Web development is a role for which work experience is essential – to develop skills, create a portfolio and network within the industry.
Applicants to development jobs are often hired on the strength of their portfolios, so it is vital to have a good means of showcasing your skill set. Any work completed during internships or voluntary placements will contribute to this. Aspiring web developers can also use platforms such as Bitbucket and GitHub in order to build up an online presence.
Web development agencies often work for specific sectors, so any experience related to that sector will benefit an applicant. Candidates interested in working with development for a specific industry should try and get experience within that sector in any capacity to demonstrate commitment and breadth of experience.

What are the prospects and salary of a web developer?

The salaries of web developers vary considerably, depending on the industry, the company, the project and of course the extent of the developer’s experience. Jobs based in London and the South East, or those that focus on newer and/or more niche technologies, will earn web developers the highest salaries.

Entry-level web developer: £22,000
web developer: £30,000
Head web developer: up to £50,000

The prospects of a web developer depend on their career trajectory. Coding and web development skills are so universally applicable that a whole range of career paths are possible for those with talent.

A developer who prefers working full-time could move into development strategy, project management or a senior web developer position in which they are responsible for strategy and training.

Full-time managerial roles result in a decrease in actual coding, which is not ideal for everyone.

By contrast, developers who love the hands-on aspect of their work could go freelance and acquire a more varied skill set to supplement their coding ability such as content management, SEO or web design skills, depending on their preference. A freelance developer with these abilities could design, build and maintain a website from the ground up and would be much sought after.

Web developers have great freedom regarding work environment and may work in-house, for agencies or freelance depending on their choice. Remote work is common, since all that is required for a web developer to do their job is a good quality computer with online connection.

I love making people happy and fixing things for them. When customers come back and they say nice things, that’s really gratifying.

Mai Nakamura, Lead Web Developer 2

Is the role of a web developer right for me?

There are both pros and cons involved in the role of a web developer.
Pros of being a web developer include:

  1. A highly creative and rewarding job
  2. No qualifications are required – as a self-taught coder you are employable provided you can demonstrate excellent skills and a portfolio
  3. Once you have sufficient experience you have total freedom regarding your work style and environment
  4. You have the chance to make a very good salary
  5. Your skills will always be in demand
  6. The role offers excellent opportunity for professional development – in such a fast-paced industry you will constantly learn new skills and hone your talents
  7. In-house and agency web development jobs normally involve a relaxed, casual work environment with plenty of perks

Cons of being a web developer include:

  1. Working overtime is very common when deadlines are approaching
  2. Web developers must constantly work to ensure that their skill set is useful and relevant in an ever-changing industry and this can prove very stressful
  3. A heavily male-dominated field, although many in the IT industry are taking steps to ensure greater diversity
  4. A 9-5 computer job can have a serious impact on the body unless steps are taken to ensure proper posture as well as reduce eye strain and RSI

Related occupations

Occupations related to the role of a web developer include:

  1. Database administrator
  2. Software developer
  3. Web content manager
  4. Web designer
  5. Technical author
  6. Programmer
  7. Hacker
  8. Games tester
  9. Graphic designer