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How to Become a Web Developer

Responsibilities, working hours, what to expect and qualifications needed

Career guides » How to Become a Web Developer

What does a web developer do?

A web developer is a professional programmer who plans, designs, creates and maintains websites and web applications. They use various programming and scripting languages to develop the layout and style of websites and ensure they are accessible and functional for end-users.

Web developers can work for various companies or be self-employed or freelance. They can specialise in areas of web development, such as front-end, back-end, full-stack or mobile web. Therefore, what web developers do will depend on who they work for and their specialisms.

Web developers aim to ensure the websites they build perform efficiently and correctly as per their clients’ or employers’ needs. Their goals may also be to increase website traffic to increase sales or revenue. Overall, they are essential in ensuring websites and web applications are fully functional, easy to navigate, interactive, attractive and secure.

Web developers will carry out many tasks, including keeping up to date on the industry, meeting with clients, discussing client requirements, using programming languages, liaising with others, designing and planning websites, building websites and using software, planning/creating/testing prototypes, using Applications Program Interfaces (APIs), troubleshooting, fixing bugs, maintaining security, improving functioning, updating websites regularly, increasing traffic, etc.

Web developers typically work as part of a development team. They can also work with colleagues, such as other developers, content creators, copywriters, web designers, graphic designers, project staff, etc. They can also deal with external stakeholders, such as clients, account managers, website and application end-users, technology companies, equipment and software suppliers, contractors, etc.

Web developers can work for large IT companies or other organisations in their in-house IT departments. They can also work for web development agencies on contracts, be self-employed with their own business or do freelance work. Most jobs will be office-based, but there may be working-from-home opportunities, and some may work at a client’s premises.

Responsibilities

A web developer’s responsibilities will depend on where they work, their role and their specialisms.

Some examples of their day-to-day duties can include (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Keeping up to date with the industry and the latest trends, programming languages, tools, techniques, and best practices.
  • Meeting with clients to identify their requirements and discussing their ideas and needs.
  • Using various programming or scripting languages to write and review code, e.g. CSS, HTML, JavaScript, XML, etc.
  • Liaising with other collaborators to understand and meet project goals.
  • Designing and planning new websites and web applications.
  • Building websites and using software to add buttons, forms, videos, sounds, links, pictures or animations.
  • Using Applications Program Interfaces (APIs) to build databases and exchange data between databases.
  • Planning, creating and testing prototypes.
  • Testing websites using a variety of browsers.
  • Troubleshooting, fixing bugs, checking for broken links and monitoring for other issues affecting the performance of websites.
  • Ensuring websites and applications are secure.
  • Improving the functioning of websites by repairing and optimising existing code.
  • Updating websites regularly.
  • Identifying ways of increasing website traffic.

Working hours

A web developer can expect to work 37-40 hours a week. However, they can do more or fewer hours depending on their role. Self-employed web developers tend to work longer hours to meet project deadlines and their client’s demands.

Being a web developer is not always a 9-5 job, and there may be a need to work unsociable hours, such as evenings, weekends and bank holidays.

There are permanent and full-time roles, but there may be opportunities to work flexible hours, such as part-time, job share, remote work, and work from home. There are also many temporary and fixed-term contract jobs (depending on where an individual is based), and individuals can become self-employed or work freelance.

If web developers are employed, they tend to work in a single workplace. However, if they are self-employed or work freelance, they may need to travel to their client’s premises, which can lengthen the working day. Overseas opportunities may be possible for those with experience and an excellent reputation.

What to expect

There are many positives to being a web developer, especially if individuals have a passion for technology and love being creative. They will discuss the project with their clients, but they will have a certain amount of autonomy and self-expression to create and build websites and applications as they see fit.

The job may suit those who do not want or cannot do physical work, as they will sit down for most of their working day. Web developers spend most of their time in offices, at home or at clients’ premises. However, it is still essential for individuals to do some physical activity outside of work.

Being a web developer is a rewarding role. Billions of people use the internet, websites and applications daily for various reasons. It can be exciting to be part of something so big. They also help businesses build and maintain websites and applications to increase traffic, aiming to sell services and products and increase revenue. They can go home after the working day knowing their job makes a positive difference to companies and end-users.

Those looking at entering this industry will likely have decent job security, as web developers are in short supply, and there is a high demand for those with the right skills. The salaries are also competitive, especially with more experience. Some lead developers can earn in excess of £60,000 a year.

There are many employment types available for web developers. As mentioned, they can work for companies, agencies, themselves or freelance. Many roles now offer remote opportunities, so it can be a good option for those wanting to work from home and have a decent work-life balance.

Boredom is unlikely to be an issue for web developers, as the industry is constantly evolving, and there is much to learn and keep up to date with. They will work on various projects and build/maintain different websites and applications. They can also work with clients and colleagues from all different backgrounds during their working day, which can be interesting.

Even though there are positives to being a web developer, there are challenges and cons, e.g. (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Long hours – web developers often have to work long hours, particularly when needing to meet deadlines to get a website up and running. Working on computers all day and concentrating for long periods can also be tiring.
  • Sedentary job – being a web developer is not the most active role. Individuals will spend most of their day sitting down and working at computers, which can lead to poor physical fitness and weight gain. In the long term, being sedentary can result in ill health.
  • Mental demands – web developers can get extremely busy. They have to adhere to strict schedules and meet tight deadlines. They may also have some complex projects. Therefore, the job can be stressful.
  • Specialist knowledge required – individuals will need to have knowledge of various programming languages and keep up to date with new trends and technologies. They must be committed to continued learning in this career.
  • Lone working – many web developers work alone or in other remote locations, which some people may find isolating and lonely. However, it could be a good match for introverts.
  • Underrepresentation of women in the industry – the number of women working in IT is relatively low. However, it should not put off women who want to enter the profession, as the industry is addressing this.

 

Every career choice has pros and cons, and individuals must know what to expect before deciding whether it is suitable. The job is mentally demanding, the working hours are long, it is sedentary work, and they may work alone. Also, the role requires specialist knowledge, and there is currently a gender imbalance in the industry. However, there are many positives too, and individuals who become web developers enjoy being in a fast-paced, technical and varied role.

Individuals should consider the pros and cons when deciding whether to be a web developer. They should also ensure they have the right personal qualities to carry out the role and responsibilities required.

Personal qualities needed to be a web developer

Some of the personal qualities a web developer requires will include (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Knowledge and understanding of computer operating systems, hardware and software.
  • A willingness to continue learning.
  • High level of computer literacy.
  • Creative, artistic, articulate and expressive.
  • Cooperative and responsible.
  • Persistent, determined, motivated, driven and adaptable.
  • Coding and programming skills.
  • Communication skills.
  • Technical skills.
  • Researching skills.
  • Maths skills.
  • Problem-solving skills.
  • Customer service skills.
  • Analytical and critical thinking skills.
  • Organisational and time management skills.
  • Being thorough, accurate and having excellent attention to detail.
  • The ability to write computer programmes using various programming and scripting languages.
  • The ability to work well with others in a team and alone using their own initiative.
  • The ability to multitask and manage complex tasks.
  • The ability to work in a fast-paced environment and meet targets and tight deadlines.
  • The ability to work well under pressure and remain calm in stressful situations.
  • The ability to accept criticism.
  • The ability to be flexible and open to change.

Qualifications

There are many different routes to becoming a web developer. Individuals could go to university or college, enrol on a course with a private training provider or apply for an apprenticeship. They could also do work experience to help them enter the role.

University

A degree is not essential for an individual to become a web developer. However, having a degree in a relevant subject can maximise their chances of success.

Some examples of subjects are as follows (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Web design and development.
  • Web and mobile development technologies.
  • Digital media development.
  • Software development.
  • Computer engineering.
  • Computer science.
  • Software engineering.
  • Informatics.

 

The entry requirements and the number of UCAS points needed will depend on each university, and individuals should check before applying.

They will typically require the following:

  • 1 or 2 A Levels for a foundation degree or higher national diploma.
  • 2 or 3 A Levels for an undergraduate degree.
  • 2:1 or 2:2 relevant undergraduate degree for a postgraduate degree.

 

Some institutions may also invite applicants for an interview as part of the selection process.

College/private training

Undertaking a college course can help individuals get a position as a trainee web developer.

Some example courses that may be useful are as follows (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Level 2/3/4 Diploma in ICT Professional Competence.
  • Level 3 Certificate/Diploma in Web Design and Development.
  • Level 4 Diploma in Software Development.
  • T Level in Digital Production, Design and Development.

 

Individuals usually need:

  • Level 2 – two or more GCSEs grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) or equivalent.
  • Level 3 – four/five GCSEs grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent.
  • Level 4/5 – one or two A Levels, a Level 3 diploma or relevant experience.
  • T Levels – four/five GCSEs grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent (including English and maths).

 

Private training companies may also offer courses. It may be worth enrolling on online courses in web development and coding to see if a career as a web developer would be of interest. That way, if not, it will save an individual a lot of time and trouble.

The Skills Toolkit has free online courses that individuals may find helpful, e.g. computer science and coding.

Courses and qualifications do not guarantee a role as a web developer. However, it will demonstrate to employers that they are keen on the job and may give individuals a competitive edge. Always check the entry requirements before applying.

Apprenticeships

There is an apprenticeship route to help individuals become web developers, e.g.:

  • Software Development Technician Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship (equivalent to A Levels) – individuals usually need four or five GCSEs, grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English and maths, or equivalent.
  • Software Developer Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship (equivalent to a foundation degree) – individuals usually need four or five GCSEs, grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A Levels, or equivalent.
  • Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship (equivalent to a bachelor’s degree) – individuals usually need four or five GCSEs, grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A Levels, or equivalent.
  • Digital and Technology Solutions Specialist Level 7 Degree Apprenticeship (equivalent to a master’s degree) – individuals usually need a bachelor’s degree or equivalent Level 4 or above qualifications, with a number of years of previous experience.

 

Opportunities are on Government’s Apprenticeships, Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and Indeed.

Large technology companies may also offer apprenticeships, usually advertised on their web pages.

Web Developers Training Together

Work experience

Relevant work experience, either paid or voluntary, can help individuals stand out and build their knowledge and skills.

To gain experience, individuals could (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Apply for a junior web developer role and work their way up by taking relevant qualifications while doing on-the-job training.
  • Work or volunteer with charities in a position that builds computing, technical, customer service, creative, organisational and communication skills.
  • Do work experience and shadow experienced web developers.
  • Attend conferences and seminars to meet others in the industry and learn about trends and new technologies.
  • Join a coding or web development society while studying at university.
  • Build their own websites and applications.

 

Training and experience may be necessary for some jobs and volunteer opportunities.

Job opportunities are on various websites, and there is information on volunteering and local opportunities on Do-IT, NCVO, Volunteering Matters and Charity Digital.

Web Developers Creating A Website

Training courses

Learning does not stop with experience or once someone becomes qualified. Attending relevant training courses and having additional certifications can help individuals enter the profession, enhance their employability and keep their knowledge and skills current.

We have many approved courses that can be useful for individuals looking for a career as a web developer, such as (this list is not exhaustive):

  • DSE awareness course.
  • DSE assessor training.
  • Lone working.
  • Office health and safety.
  • Understanding GDPR.
  • Workplace stress awareness.
  • Complaints handling.
  • Time management.
  • Customer service skills.
  • Resilience training.

 

Professional bodies and associations, such as the Chartered Institute for IT (BCS), the Institution of Analysts and Programmers, Techskills, the International Web Association, and others, can advise on reputable training courses. Some also provide events and support to help individuals become web developers and give those already in the profession the means to continue their professional development.

The training required will depend on what employers are looking for and the type of role an individual wants. It is worth looking at several job advertisements to identify the training needed for specific roles and specialisms. Jobs are on websites such as Web Developer Jobs, CWJobs.co.uk, Technojobs UK, and GOV.UK Find a Job Service, Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, other sites, and company careers websites. Also, look at recruitment agencies, especially those specialising in digital and developmental services.

More relevant training and competence (skills, experience and knowledge) will open up more opportunities for individuals. Refresher training is also advisable as it keeps their knowledge and skills updated.

Being self-employed/freelance

Individuals can choose to become freelance web developers. They can set up their own website offering their own services or join a community where businesses and individuals can find suitable web developers, for example (this list is not exhaustive):

 

If an individual decides to be self-employed, they will have additional responsibilities. They must:

  • Have the correct insurance, i.e. professional indemnity, cyber & data, general liability and business. If employing anyone, employer’s liability insurance will be required.
  • Register with HMRC.
  • File tax returns.
  • Register with the ICO to hold personal data (to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR).

 

Further advice and guidance on being self-employed is on GOV.UK.

If an individual decides to be self-employed, they will need to factor in certain costs, such as (this list is not exhaustive):

  • IT hardware and software.
  • Office equipment and supplies.
  • Utilities.
  • A good internet connection.
  • Vehicle, fuel, maintenance and insurance (if visiting clients).
  • Professional memberships.
  • Joining a community.
  • Training and CPD.
  • Certifications.
  • Insurances.
  • Marketing and advertising.
Web Developers Being Taught

Where do web developers work?

Web developers typically work in office-based environments behind a desk with a computer and other necessary equipment.

They can also work in the following locations (this list is not exhaustive):

  • From home.
  • In other remote places.
  • At clients’ premises.
  • In shared office spaces.

 

Web developers can work for:

  • Technology companies and engineering organisations.
  • Other companies (in their in-house development/design team or IT departments).
  • Software engineering firms.
  • Design and marketing companies and agencies.
  • Government organisations and departments.
  • Public bodies.
  • Charities and not-for-profit organisations.
  • Educational institutions.
  • Private clients (as a freelancer).
  • Digital agencies.
  • Themselves (if self-employed).

 

Most businesses need web development at some point, so there are plenty of opportunities for individuals with the right skills.

Cities are likely to provide the most work, but web developers could be based in towns and villages if they work freelance or are self-employed.

Web Developer Developing Programmes

How much do web developers earn?

What a web developer earns will depend on the following:

  • Their exact role and specialisms.
  • Their qualifications, training and experience.
  • Their industry.
  • Whether they are employed, self-employed, freelance or work for agencies.
  • The hours they work.
  • Their geographical location.

 

Some examples of average salaries for web developers are as follows:

  • £20,000 starter to £60,000 experienced a year (National Careers Service).
  • £26,966 a year (Payscale).
  • £33,605 a year (Indeed UK).
  • £34,000 a year (Jobted).
  • £37,420 a year (Glassdoor).
  • £37,500 a year (Talent.com).

 

The salary for self-employed and freelance web developers is variable. According to IT Jobs Watch, the median Software Developer daily rate in the UK is £500. Individuals will also need to factor in various expenses with being self-employed.

As an apprentice, the salary will depend on an individual’s age and how long they have been in their apprenticeship. Apprentices must earn at least the current National Minimum Wage (NMW). Some employers will pay more than this. However, it will depend on the organisation and role on offer.

Web Developer Developing

Types of web development to specialise in

There are many areas of web development in which individuals could specialise, such as (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Back-end development – involves the building and maintenance of the server-side of web applications using programming languages such as Python, PHP and Ruby. Back-end developers are responsible for connecting web applications to databases and other services and for the overall functionality of a website. Users cannot see this, which is why it is called back-end.
  • Front-end development – involves the creation of the user interface using HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Front-end developers are responsible for the website or web application’s design, appearance, layout and functionality. It is what web browser users see and interact with.
  • Full-stack development – involves front-end and back-end development of web applications. Full-stack developers are knowledgeable in numerous databases, frameworks and programming languages. They are responsible for the whole web application.
  • Mobile web development – involves developing web applications specifically for mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Mobile web developers use responsive web design to ensure web applications function on various screen sizes.

 

Specialist web development roles will require differing knowledge, skills, experience and qualities. All web developers must have excellent computer and technical skills. They must also know and understand computer operating systems, hardware and software. Any additional areas of expertise will depend on what an organisation is looking for (if employed) and the type of development role an individual wants. Further training may be necessary for some jobs.

Web developers not competently carrying out their roles can result in websites not functioning, businesses being at risk of cyber attacks, customer complaints and financial losses. It can also affect their reputation if they are self-employed or freelance, which could mean a loss of work. Therefore, whatever the type of role, web developers must have the necessary training and competence to carry out their work professionally and safely. They should also know the limits of their competency, i.e. asking for help when something is beyond their expertise.

Becoming a Web Developer

Professional bodies

Technologies, trends, programming languages, equipment, products and standards are changing regularly. Therefore, web developers must keep ahead of the latest developments and changes to carry out their roles effectively and correctly. Continuing professional development (CPD) gives web developers the knowledge and skills to keep up to date with these changes and progress in their careers.

Joining a professional body or association (as previously mentioned) can help individuals enhance their skills and overall career. These offer different levels of membership, CPD, support, access to industry contacts and networking events.

There is ample opportunity for career progression for web developers. With more training and experience, they could become a mid, senior or lead web developer or specialise in a specific area, such as full-stack development. They may move into a manager or project leader role. Alternatively, they could become self-employed with their own business or work freelance.

Knowledge, skills and experience in web development can also lead to a career in different areas. For example, they could apply for roles in other areas of IT, such as systems analysing or project management. Finally, there may be scope to work as a teacher or lecturer in further education or become a researcher.

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