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Evan Stern
Evan Stern
February 13, 202323 min
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Welcome to the exciting world of web development! If you're reading this, you're likely considering a career in this ever-growing field. This article will guide you through becoming a web developer from scratch, covering everything from web development to finding job opportunities.

As a seasoned software engineer with over 18 years of experience, and a professional web application developer for over 13 years, I (hopefully) bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to this guide. My journey through the process of becoming a web developer will inform the rest of this article, and I hope to use my experiences to shed some light on how to go from wanting to be a web developer to getting paid to do it.

Laptop, Monitor, Keyboard, and Tablet

What is Web Development?

Web development is a field that encompasses the creation and maintenance of websites and web applications. It involves using programming languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to design, build, and improve websites for personal and business use. Whether creating a simple personal blog or developing a complex e-commerce platform, web developers play a critical role in bringing the online world to life.

Why Become a Web Developer?

If you're passionate about technology and enjoy problem-solving, then a career in web development may be a perfect fit for you. The demand for web developers continues to grow, and with the rise of e-commerce and online business, the need for skilled web developers is higher than ever.

Not only does web development offer a wide range of job opportunities, but it also provides the potential to work as a freelance web developer or start your own business. And let's not forget the satisfaction of bringing your creative ideas to life through code!

I first entered the world of web development in 2009, during the "great recession." Since then, I've been fortunate to maintain a busy and productive workload consistently. The demand for web development has been high and shows no signs of slowing down.

Overview of Skills Needed to Become a Web Developer

Becoming a web developer requires a combination of technical and soft skills. Some of the most essential skills for aspiring web developers to have include the following:

  • Knowledge of programming languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Understanding of computer science concepts such as algorithms and data structures
  • Ability to problem-solve and think critically
  • Attention to detail
  • Strong communication and collaboration skills

In the next section, we'll dive deeper into the basics of web development and what you need to know to get started.

Understanding the Basics of Web Development skills

Code editor open on a laptop

Before diving into the world of web development, it's essential to understand the basics of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. These three programming languages are the building blocks of the web, and a strong understanding of each is essential for any aspiring web developer.

This is a quick overview of the bedrock foundational web development skills. A good web developer will learn as much as possible about these topics.

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)

HTML is the standard markup language used to create web pages. It provides the structure and content of a website, and is the foundation upon which CSS and JavaScript are built. HTML consists of elements and attributes used to define a web page's structure and content.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)

CSS is used to style the appearance of a website. It allows web developers to separate the presentation of a website from its content, making it easier to maintain and update the look and feel of a website. CSS provides a wide range of styling options, including font styles, colors, and layout, and is essential for creating visually appealing websites.


JavaScript is a high-level, dynamic programming language used to create interactive elements on websites. It allows web developers to make pop-ups, drop-down menus, and other interactive elements that can enhance the user experience. JavaScript is a powerful and flexible language for creating dynamic and engaging websites.

Other Programming Languages Used in Web Development

While HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are the core technologies used in web development, many other programming languages can be used to create web applications. Some of the most popular include Python, Ruby, and PHP. As you advance in your web development career, you may choose to specialize in one or more of these languages.

The following section will explore the importance of building a solid computer science and web development foundation.

Building Strong Web Developer Skills

A child at a computer coding an application

To become a successful web developer, it's important to have a strong foundation in computer science and web development. This section will explore the key concepts and skills you'll need to master to advance your career as a web developer.

Importance of Computer Science in Web Development

A solid understanding of computer science is essential for web development. This includes a deep understanding of algorithms and data structures, which are fundamental concepts in computer science and are used in many areas of web development.

Is a degree in computer science a requirement for becoming a web developer?

The answer is no. Throughout my career, I have worked with numerous professional web developers and software engineers who did not have a computer science degree. Some individuals have successfully entered the field without a degree at all. Like many other software engineering forms, web development is more of a craft than a science. More critical is demonstrating your skills and knowledge effectively rather than holding a specific degree.

Developing a Strong Understanding of Algorithms and Data Structures

Algorithms are sets of instructions used to solve problems, and data structures are ways of organizing and storing data in a computer. A strong understanding of algorithms and data structures will allow you to write more efficient and effective code and will be an asset in your career as a web developer.

Is it essential to have a grasp of algorithms and data structures in web development?

Yes, a strong understanding of algorithms and data structures is a key component of success in any software engineering discipline, including web development. While these concepts may seem challenging initially, you will gain a solid understanding of them with time and practice. The specific algorithms and data structures you will use will depend on the type of web development work you are involved in. For example, front-end developers will become well-versed in data structures like lists and dictionaries, while back-end developers may focus more on sorting algorithms.

Understanding Web Development Frameworks and Libraries

Web development frameworks and libraries are pre-written code that can be used to help speed up the development process. Some popular web development frameworks include Ruby on Rails, ReactJS, Angular, and Express.js. Understanding how to use these frameworks and libraries can significantly simplify the development process and make your work as a web developer more efficient and effective.

Is it necessary to become proficient in all web development frameworks?

No, there are too many frameworks out there for any one person to master them all. However, as a seasoned professional with over 15 years of experience, I can consider myself an expert in only two or three popular frameworks. The key is not to try to know everything but to experiment with different frameworks and choose a few you enjoy working with that have job opportunities. Then, as trends and market demands shift over time, you can expand your knowledge to include new frameworks.

Building a Web Developer Portfolio

A strong portfolio is an essential tool for any aspiring web developer. It showcases your skills and experience and can be used to demonstrate your abilities to potential employers or clients. A portfolio is a great way to practice your skills and gain real-world experience. It can be an invaluable resource as you look for job opportunities.

How can I start building my web developer portfolio?

As a hiring manager, I often review portfolios of junior developers just starting in their careers. While a portfolio is valuable, I know I may not see professional work projects in it. That's perfectly fine! Including projects you worked on for fun, as part of your education, or learning new technology is acceptable. However, I'm seeking evidence that you have a deep understanding of the assignment and a genuine passion for web development.

In the next section, we'll explore the skills and knowledge you'll need to advance your career as a web developer.

Skills and Knowledge for a Successful Career in Web Development

Two developers pair programming at a laptop

To advance your career as a web developer, it's important to continuously develop your skills and knowledge. This section will explore the key skills and knowledge you'll need to become a successful web developer.

Full Stack Web Development

Full stack development refers to the ability to work on both the front end and back end of a web application. This requires a deep understanding of front-end technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and back-end technologies like databases, server-side programming languages, and web application architecture.

Is it necessary to be a full-stack Web developer for success in the field?

The answer is no, but it's helpful to have a solid understanding of both front-end and back-end disciplines. Many web developers specialize in either front-end or back-end development. There are valid reasons for doing so, as it can be challenging to excel in both areas. For example, I am a full-stack developer, but my specialty lies in front-end technologies. I am proficient in several JavaScript-based front-end and back-end frameworks, but my passion lies in front-end work. It's common to feel drawn toward one aspect of web development over the other, and it's perfectly acceptable to specialize in one area.

Strong Problem-Solving Skills

Web development often requires solving complex problems, and strong problem-solving skills are essential for success in this field. As a web developer, you'll need to be able to analyze a problem, break it down into smaller parts, and find an effective solution.

Attention to Detail

In web development, attention to detail is crucial. Small mistakes in code can cause big problems, so it's important to be meticulous and catch errors before they become bigger issues.

Adaptability and Flexibility

Web development is a constantly evolving field, and it's important to be adaptable and flexible to stay current and competitive. This means being open to new technologies, methodologies, and approaches and quickly learning and incorporating new skills and knowledge into your work.

How can I stay up-to-date with the latest technologies in web development?

It can seem like a new framework or library is being released daily, making it challenging to keep pace. I understand this feeling all too well! However, there are a few ways to stay current. I stay informed by reading blogs from respected tech leaders, subscribing to RSS feeds that cover the latest developments in my field, and talking to friends and colleagues about their current projects. If you are genuinely interested in web development, you will likely find it enjoyable and exciting to stay updated on the latest advancements and actively seek out this information.

How can I learn all the new frameworks and libraries in web development?

It's unrealistic to expect yourself to learn every new technology that emerges. Instead, stay informed about the current advancements in the field and have a general understanding of what's going on. Then, only invest time in learning a new technology if it interests you or is a requirement for your future job. This way, you can focus on building expertise in the technologies relevant to your goals and interests.

Communication Skills

Web development often involves working in teams, and strong communication skills are essential for success. As a web developer, you'll need to effectively communicate your ideas and solutions to your team and understand the requirements and feedback from stakeholders.

In the next section, we'll explore the different paths you can take to become a web developer and start your career in this exciting field.

Paths to Becoming a Web Developer

University graduates throwing their hats in the air

Now that you have a better understanding of the skills and knowledge required for a successful career, let's explore the different paths you can take to become a web developer.

Formal Education

One path to becoming a web developer is through formal education. This can include earning a degree in computer science, web development, or a related field. Formal education provides a structured and comprehensive introduction to the field and can be a good option for those who prefer a traditional learning environment.

Is formal education necessary to become a web developer?

As previously mentioned, it is not a requirement to have a formal education to become a web developer. However, having a degree in computer science, web development, or a related field can be beneficial, especially when seeking employment with highly competitive companies like Meta or Microsoft. While work history, project portfolios, and practical experience are more highly valued in most cases, having a formal education can still serve as an advantage.

Online Courses and Bootcamps

Online courses and bootcamps are another popular way to become a web developer. These programs are designed to provide a focused and intensive learning experience and can often be completed in a shorter amount of time than a formal degree program. Online courses and bootcamps are also more flexible, allowing you to learn at your own pace and schedule.

Are coding bootcamps a valuable investment?

Based on my experience, the answer is yes, as long as you have a genuine passion for web development. I have worked with and hired many successful web developers who got their start in a coding boot camp. However, I have also worked with individuals who completed a coding boot camp but did not have the drive and motivation to succeed. The critical factor in determining success in these cases was not the quality of the education but rather the individual's level of motivation and passion. So, while results may vary, a firm determination is crucial to making the most of a coding boot camp experience.


Self-study is a third option for becoming a web developer. This approach involves teaching yourself through books, tutorials, and hands-on experience building websites and web applications. Self-study can be a good option for those who prefer a more self-directed learning experience, but it requires strong motivation and discipline to stay on track and progress.

Can self-study be an effective way to learn web development?

Definitely! Self-study can be a highly effective approach as long as you are dedicated and put in the effort required. There is a vast array of information, free courses, and resources available online for self-study, but it's up to you to locate and utilize them. Additionally, having a strong portfolio becomes even more crucial without the backing of degrees or certificates. While self-study can be a valid and valuable way to gain experience and develop your skills, it may require more effort and dedication than other learning paths.

Regardless of your path, it's vital to continually learn and develop your skills to advance your career as a web developer. In the next section, we'll explore the different programming languages and technologies you'll need to master to become a successful web developer.

Key Programming Languages and Technologies for Web Developers

A person coding on a laptop

As a web developer, you must master several programming languages and technologies to build websites and web applications. Here are some of the key ones you should focus on:

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)

HTML is the foundation of all websites. It is used to structure content and create the basic layout of a web page. HTML is a markup language, which means it is used to define the structure of a document but does not contain any logic or styling.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)

CSS is used to style and visually enhance web pages created with HTML. It provides a way to define the look and feel of a website, including the font, color, and layout.


JavaScript is a high-level programming language used to create interactive and dynamic websites. It can add interactivity to web pages, such as responding to user events, updating content, and making dynamic requests to a server.

Learn TypeScript!

It's crucial to make learning TypeScript a priority, as it's becoming more and more prevalent in the programming job market. TypeScript is a type-safe superset of JavaScript that adds a layer of type-checking to the language. By gaining proficiency in TypeScript, you'll set yourself up for success in your career and increase your marketability as a programmer. Seriously, learn TypeScript.

Front-End Frameworks

Several popular front-end frameworks can be used to speed up the development process and make it easier to build complex interactive web applications. Some of the most popular front-end frameworks include React, Angular, and Vue.js.

Which front-end framework should I focus on as a beginner?

As a beginner, I would recommend starting with React or Vue, as they are considered the easiest to learn. While Angular is a highly regarded framework with plenty of job opportunities for front-end developers, it does have a steeper learning curve. React, and Vue may seem more approachable if you have already gained experience with basic HTML and JavaScript. Ultimately, it's a good idea to understand several frameworks and then choose one that aligns with your learning style and goals.

Back-End Frameworks and Technologies

Back-end development involves building the server side of a web application and working with databases. Several popular back-end frameworks and technologies include Node.js, Ruby on Rails, and Django.

Which back-end framework should I focus on as a beginner?

As a beginner, I recommend starting with Node.js. It's a server-side JavaScript runtime environment that enables you to develop back-end servers using JavaScript. While Node.js is not typically used to build back-end APIs on its own, you can use a framework such as Express.js, designed to run on Node.js, to make your server-side infrastructure. One of the benefits of learning a framework that runs on Node.js is that you can utilize your existing knowledge of JavaScript to quickly and efficiently become a full-stack web developer.

It's important to note that this is not an exhaustive list of all the programming languages and technologies you may encounter as a web developer. However, mastering these core skills will provide a strong foundation for your career and help you build a diverse range of web applications. In the next section, we'll discuss the types of web development jobs and the required skills.

Web Development Jobs

A person sitting at their desk at work, programming

As a web developer, you have a variety of career paths to choose from. Depending on your interests, skills, and experience, you may find that one type of job is a better fit for you than another. Here are some of the most common types of jobs:

Front-End Web Developer

A front-end web developer is responsible for designing and building the user-facing side of a web application. This includes creating the application's layout, styling, and interactivity and ensuring that it is optimized for different devices and browsers. As a front-end developer, you will need to be familiar with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and front-end frameworks such as React or Angular.

Back-End Web Developer

A back-end web developer is responsible for building the server side of a web application. This includes implementing the application's logic, connecting it to databases, and serving data to the front end. As a back-end developer, you must be familiar with server-side languages such as Node.js, Ruby on Rails, and PHP and database technologies such as MySQL or MongoDB.

Full-Stack Web Developer

A full-stack web developer is a developer who can work on both the front-end and back-end of a web application. This requires a broad range of skills, including proficiency in front-end technologies, back-end technologies, and database management. As a full-stack developer, you can work on the entire process, from idea to deployment.

Freelance Web Developer

You can choose your projects and set your own schedule as a freelancer. You will work on a project-by-project basis for individual clients or companies. To be successful as a freelance web developer, you will need to have a strong portfolio of work and a network of clients or contacts in the industry.

Team Lead or Manager

As a team lead or manager, you will lead a team of web developers and ensure that projects are completed on time and to the highest standards. In this role, you must have strong project management skills and a deep understanding of web development technologies and practices.

Each type of web development job has unique challenges and rewards. By understanding the skills and qualifications required for each type of job, you can make an informed decision about which career path is right for you. Whether you want to specialize in front-end development, become a full-stack developer, or lead a team of developers, there is a web development job out there that is a good fit for you.

Finding Web Developer Jobs and Opportunities

A typewriter with the phrase "Job Application" on the paper

As you gain experience and build your web development skills, you may wonder where to find job opportunities or freelance projects. Several options are available, and I'll go into more detail about each below.


An internship, whether paid or unpaid, is a great way to start your career as a web developer. Many universities have internship programs that provide students with real-world, hands-on industry experience. And after completing an internship, there's a good chance you'll be hired by the company you worked with. Internships are an excellent way to gain valuable experience in the web development field and get your foot in the door.

Why I'm a Fan of Internships

As a personal experience, my journey in the software development field began with an internship program through my university. It was, hands down, the most challenging and valuable experience I had during school. Upon graduation, I was offered a job, and that opportunity kickstarted my career. The practical, real-world experience I gained was priceless, and I would highly recommend this option to anyone who has the opportunity to participate in a university internship program.

Online Job Boards

Websites such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn Jobs are great places to start your search for jobs. These websites make it easy to search for open positions based on location, job title, and salary range. They also often allow you to upload your resume and set up job alerts, so you can stay informed about new job openings that match your interests.

Freelance Marketplaces

Websites like Upwork and Freelancer are great places to find freelance web development projects. You can create a profile, showcase your portfolio, and bid on projects that match your skills and experience. These websites also make communicating with potential clients and managing payments easy. If you're starting your career, freelance marketplaces can be a great way to gain experience and build your portfolio.


Building relationships with other web development professionals and attending industry events can be a great way to learn about job openings and find new opportunities. Consider joining online communities or attending local meetups to connect with other web developers. You can also contact web development professionals you admire and ask for advice or guidance. Building relationships and expanding your network will increase your chances of finding new job opportunities.

Networking is Key

This statement couldn't be more accurate when finding web development opportunities. In my experience, most of the jobs I landed were through personal connections and networking rather than submitting my resume. It's a common phenomenon in almost every industry that the right connections and personal relationships play a significant role in finding job opportunities. So, don't be afraid to leverage any contacts and make the most of your personal and professional network.

Company Websites

Many companies post job openings on their websites, so be sure to check the careers or jobs section of websites for companies you're interested in working for. You can also reach out to recruiters at companies you're interested in to learn about any open positions or upcoming job opportunities.

Job Fairs and Meetups

Attending job fairs or networking events in your local area can be a great way to connect with potential employers and learn about new job opportunities. Also, consider attending industry events like tech conferences to meet other web developers and learn about recent trends and technologies.

Remember, finding the right job or project is a process that may take time and effort. But by networking, building your portfolio, and continuously learning, you'll increase your chances of finding the right opportunity.


An elderly man in a suit giving two thumbs up

Becoming a web developer is a rewarding and fulfilling career choice. The field is growing, the demand is high, and the pay is good. However, it's not an easy road to travel. You'll have to put in the time, effort, and dedication to making it happen. But, if you have a passion for the craft, you'll find the journey well worth it.

Whether you pursue a formal education, attend a code boot camp or self-study, you'll need to learn the basics of algorithms, data structures, and how to use front and back-end technologies. You'll also want to be familiar with TypeScript and learn at least one back-end framework.

When it comes to getting hired, there are many paths to choose from. You can start your career with an internship, build a portfolio, or attend a code boot camp. Networking is also crucial, so leverage any connection you have to increase your chances of landing your dream job.

Ultimately, it's all about determination, passion, and hard work. If you have what it takes, you'll be able to make an excellent career in web development. Good luck on your journey!

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