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How To Land Your First Web Developer Job

There are over 1.7 billion websites in existence today and over 4.4 billion internet users cruising the web across the globe, according to Internet Live Stats—and those numbers rise every day. What's more, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration reported that in 2021, just over 74% of people in the U.S. used the internet for shopping and other consumer services. We have web developers to thank for all of this web activity.

Web developers are the architects of the internet. They combine creativity and IT savvy to design and create functional, visually appealing websites. In this way, web developers draw visitors to sites and help them easily find information to complete their desired tasks. If you've ever come across a website that sparked your creativity or inspired you to create one of your own, then a web developer job might be perfect for you.

Further Reading: Cybersecurity jobs are your ticket to the Big Apple!

6 Steps to Becoming a Web Developer

This article discusses six steps to take to attain your first job as a web developer and how to thrive in the role. Read on to learn more.

1. Crafting Your Digital Portfolio

Web development is both a technical and creative endeavor, which means it takes practice to become proficient at it. Spending time sharpening your skills in user experience (UX) design, user interface (UI) design, and writing code can go a long way in preparing you for a web development career. As you practice, consider creating a personal website or portfolio to showcase your projects and record your progress.

 To craft a strong portfolio, remember that your website projects should be tailored for web users. This way, the front end—what users see—will be accessible and functional. Additionally, consider the importance of programming languages like HyperText Markup Language 5 (HTML5), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and JavaScript, and how they are foundational in building web pages.

 Keeping a varied digital portfolio that emphasizes your own personal brand could help you stand out to potential employers and even set you apart from competition in the web development job market.

 2. Showcasing Your Skills on GitHub

As a web developer, you may want a place to write, store, and share your code. GitHub has grown in popularity as a convenient resource to manage all aspects of writing code. GitHub uses AI technology to offer distributed version control for multiple programmers and developers. With this service, you can showcase your own code to like-minded users and access public archives of code written by others.

You can freely browse GitHub content via a browser or mobile app, but you’ll need to register for an account to share code and other content. With full account access, you may also interact with other users, giving and requesting feedback on tasks and projects. Your skills in and passion for web development could increase as you regularly contribute to GitHub discourse.

3. Contributing to Open-Source Projects

Along with using GitHub as a tool, you might find value in contributing to open-source web projects in general. Open-source services allow anyone to take part in creating, modifying, distributing, or otherwise using a project, whether it’s back-end coding, front-end editing, or any number of other tasks. By taking part in this collaborative effort, you can improve your skill set even as you network with other developers.

How can you get involved in open-source projects? Look for areas that interest you personally or professionally and then decide what to bring to the table. For example, you might track and report bugs in an e-commerce platform’s code or update the way an internet browser’s files are stored. Whatever you choose, you’ll benefit from working with both veteran and novice web developers. Plus, you’re likely to gain experience that’s relevant to your specific career path.

4. Gaining Experience through Freelancing

Another pathway for preparing to become a professional web developer is to engage in freelance work. Freelancing is a great way to gain exposure to different types of web development as you complete projects for a variety of organizations. This way, you can gain well-rounded, practical experience to help build out your portfolio.

Many organizations rely on freelancers for contract work and typically compensate these individuals based on how many hours they take to complete tasks. Freelancers can work full-time or part-time and often negotiate with their clients on the type and number of projects as well as pay. Even taking on small or pro bono web development projects as a freelancer could open doors to lucrative opportunities in the future.

5. Participating in Hackathons

Did you know that not all hacking is bad? Many web developers and software engineers find excitement in social events called “hackathons,” where they work together to create or improve different types of software programs. These events are usually hosted by a company or other type of organization looking to find industry talent or discover solutions to challenging problems.

Hackathons present myriad ways to practice programming principles, showcase web development knowledge, network with participants and recruiters, and more. You can find available hackathons in your area or online through social media or dedicated hackathon websites. Most hackathons are free and—regardless of your level of expertise—grant valuable, intensive learning experiences that could be a great boon to your career.

6. Networking with the Web Development Community

One of the most impactful strategies to help further your path to web development success is networking with the right people. Networking can happen in all kinds of settings, including local tech meetup groups, career fairs, online forums, social media, and more. Effective networking usually has less to do with formal discussion—though it very much can take that form—and more to do with casual conversation about industry topics, skills you’ve acquired, and goals you’ve set.

The new information you take from networking encounters as well as the impressions you make on others can help create even more opportunities for connection in the future. Remember to stay open to meeting new people, ask relevant questions, give out business cards with your aspiring title and contact information, and use resources like LinkedIn to develop strong networking skills.

Now that you've learned about different steps to become a web developer, let’s dive into the different areas of web development to understand how you can position yourself for success in this competitive field.

Web Development in Action

Web developers often meet with clients to discuss what they're looking for in a website. Then, they design a site that meets the client’s goals and write the code that brings the site to life. Once a site is up and running, web developers test and optimize it to ensure it works as intended on all web browsers.

The IT side of web development involves three different types of work:

Front-End Development

Front-end developers—also known as client-side developers—write the code that determines what users see when they visit a website. These developers are well-versed in HTML, JavaScript, and CSS programming languages, since they’re the basic languages for creating text, images, and other visual elements on a web page.

To increase your likelihood of landing an entry-level front-end developer job, be sure to practice these coding languages in conjunction with learning UX and UI principles. Include relevant front-end work in your digital portfolio. Additionally, consider that a bachelor's degree in software engineering could help you further the skills needed to be a front-end developer.

Back-End Development

Back-end developers—or server-side developers—write the code that controls the behind-the-scenes functions of a website. These developers apply their knowledge of databases to write applications that seamlessly connect site visitors with the information they need to complete online tasks. Advanced understanding of programming languages like JavaScript, Ruby, and Python is useful since it allows back-end devs to accomplish more with fewer lines of code.

Developers on the back end typically hold a bachelor's degree in computer science or information technology, though having a degree in cloud computing on your résumé can show employers that you're well-studied in foundational web development techniques and up to date on emerging web development technologies.

Full-Stack Development

Full-stack developers combine front- and back-end web development principles to determine how operating systems influence web page UI. These developers are typically keyed into customer and business needs in a comprehensive sense. They also have a working knowledge of nearly all aspects of website development.

For large-scale web development projects, different front- and back-end tasks are typically divided among multiple developers who specialize in one area or the other. For smaller or less intensive projects, full-stack developers might be responsible for carrying out all tasks.

Because of this role’s balanced skill set, becoming a full-stack developer could potentially increase your job prospects and make you a more attractive candidate for web developer positions.

Job Prospects for Web Developers

Nearly every type of organization in the world relies on a website to disseminate information and connect with visitors. This means that web developers can find jobs in virtually any industry. You might work for a marketing agency or web development firm that designs websites for multiple clients. You may work for a large company that employs many different web developers to build and maintain its websites. You might even work for yourself, freelancing and building web assets for clients that you recruit.

The job market for web developers looks optimistic: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects web developer jobs to grow by 16% from 2022 to 2032. The BLS also states that the average annual salary of web developers in May 2022 was $83,240.

Becoming a Web Developer

Successful web developers need to convey strong communication and interpersonal skills to collaborate effectively with team members and understand client needs. Web development projects often go through several rounds of revision; strong project management skills can help developers stay on top of these tasks. An aptitude for design and creativity are essential skills that help web developers turn ideas into reality.

All web developers should understand how computers and web servers operate. Prospective developers can further differentiate themselves and increase their earning potential by acquiring certifications in database technologies. A bachelor's degree in computer science, software development, or cloud computing can impart the fundamental technology skills you’ll need, including programming, scripting, and database management skills.

With certain degrees, you'll be able to apply yourself as an app developer—a professional who creates, tests, and manages web applications and the software behind them. While web developers are responsible for building websites, app developers tend to specialize in areas like mobile applications, productivity tools, and graphics software.

Further Reading: 3 tips for asking for a raise.

Want to learn more? Visit WGU’s web developer career guide or apply for an IT program that could put you on a fast track to landing a job in the web development industry.

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