Seeing Yourself in a Web Development Job - Getting a Job in Web Development - Getting a Web Development Job For Dummies (2015)

Getting a Web Development Job For Dummies (2015)

Part I. Getting a Job in Web Development

Chapter 4. Seeing Yourself in a Web Development Job

In This Chapter

arrow Understanding why web development matters

arrow Seeing yourself in different kinds of web development jobs

arrow Looking at official statistics and web development job growth

Web development work is one of the fastest-growing and most exciting job categories out there. If you’re not in the field, it’s a good thing to get into — but not necessarily easy. If you already are in the field, it can be a bit tricky to stay in.

Web development is somewhat amorphous — there are lots of different jobs that qualify, and also lots of jobs with some “web” in them, but that don’t really qualify as web development. Why bother to stay in this somewhat messy category? Why not just take interesting jobs as they come up?

The reason is that web development is where the growth is, and where it’s going to be for a long time to come. The overall trend of different kinds of human activity moving to the online world is only going to grow, and grow, and grow. That’s because the Internet is a flexible, powerful invention, much like the printing press — perhaps more so. See the sidebar, “The history of print,” for details.

Understanding How the Web Has Changed the World

With desktop publishing, the power of computers helped drive a new proliferation of form factors and new content in print. But now computers of different kinds are a complete platform of their own, for education, entertainment, shopping, and much more. Increasingly, products of all kinds are created, sold, transmitted, and used mostly or entirely online. Think of songs, movies, books — and, yes, magazines, as well as new forms like blogs. All these media are often mostly or completely digital, from creation through sale to consumption.

The first blogs appeared in the 1990s, along with Napster, the song sharing service — or song stealing service, as some would have it. E-commerce got going in the 1990s too, with Amazon.

Today, screen time competes with — or happens alongside — TV time and radio time. More and more U.S. households, for instance, are “cutting the cord” for cable television, getting all their video via the Internet, with an occasional old DVD thrown in the mix for old times’ sake.

E-commerce is on the rise too. In some categories, led by books, about 10 percent of all sales are online, and still growing steadily. No one knows what the eventual, stable share of e-commerce will be versus traditional commerce in different categories. Book sales could go almost entirely online; clothing sales will probably always have a “live” and in-person component.

But that’s the point of this little potted history: The changes brought by the online world are just beginning. The web is only roughly 20 years old. It took more than 500 years for the printing revolution to largely run its course.

We can also argue that the Internet will cause bigger changes. That’s because it includes not only traditional print products, like e-books, online newspapers, online magazines, and online catalogs, but new capabilities — multimedia and immediate interpersonal interactivity, gaming, and more.

So these bigger changes could, in theory, take more than 500 years to work out. On the other hand, it’s said that Internet years are like dog years — that one year on the Internet equals seven in the real world.

Even if that extremely rapid rate of change is fully true, though, that still means it will take 70 years for the full potential of the Internet to be realized. The digital world may also gain additional capabilities during that time, like self-driving cars — giving people more online time — and direct-to-brain interfaces. Those changes will take additional decades to work through.

There’s also a great deal of room for expansion in the number of web users. Currently, only about 40 percent of the world’s population has Internet access, according to Internet Live Stats. (Visit for up-to-date information.)

The CIA World Factbook has a comparison of Internet users per country. To access it, visit

The table is shown in Figure 4-1.


Figure 4-1: The CIA World Factbook contains a comparison of the number of Internet users per country.

As the number of people with access to the Internet increases, new users will drive demand for new, and different types, of websites.

Much of the growth in Internet use is from people accessing the Internet through smartphones, and there are now more smartphones in use than PCs. That means more and more users will not just use smartphones for some of their Internet use, but for all of it. They will also want information relevant to the places they live, their work, and home lives.

So moving into web development now means more than a lifetime of work, change, and growth. Also, many of the jobs that are added in the web development world will be replacing jobs that will be lost in other areas, such as retailing or print publishing. It’s much safer, as well as much more interesting and exciting, to be in the new world instead of the old one.

There isn’t anything else out there that has the same long-term potential for growth, change, and interest as web development. This chapter tells you how to get in — and how to stay in, if you’re already there, or after you get yourself established through your first web development job or two.

The history of print

It took more than 500 years for the printing press to make most of the changes it was going to make. The first mass-printed book, the Gutenberg Bible, was first made available in 1455. Until then, Bibles were rare, expensive, and very often in Latin. Printing changed this, although not in a totally unlimited way. You may remember the old saying — now out of date — “freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

The availability of the Bible to ordinary people made literacy important and led to the rise of Protestantism, religious wars, and much else. Printing was important in the ferment of ideas that led to the American Revolution, both for books and newspapers. And the arrival of cheaper color printing led to the rise of popular magazines in the 19th and 20th centuries — from Harper’s Weekly and the Atlantic to Time and Life and Newsweek.

Catalog shopping, made famous by the Sears, Roebuck catalog in the years around 1900, was the e-commerce of its day, undercutting local merchants in scores of categories.

Finally, computers made a somewhat indirect impact on publishing, with the rise of affordable laser printers and page layout software making desktop publishing a phenomenon in the 1990s. Suddenly, everyone could own his or her own printing press. “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one,” still, but the capability to own one is nearly universal — just as a new platform is on the rise.

This chapter tells you how to join the rodeo circuit — that is, how to position yourself for an early job in web development. And it tells you how to stay on the rodeo circuit after you’ve ridden a bucking bronco or two.

Your Journey into a New Frontier

Starting out in web development can mean a huge number of different things. The key is developing content that is primarily delivered online, or working on the technology that delivers content developed by others.

There are three main tracks you can get on to become a web developer. The strongest web development careers, and the greatest success, are most likely to come to those who combine the first two.

Getting into graphic design

Graphic design is simply making web pages look good in a way that also supports them working well for their intended users. Today, people who do strictly defined graphic design work are usually called visual designers, but the overall field they work in is still usually calledgraphic design.

Graphic design combines art, interface design, and interaction design.

Designers mostly create layouts rather than specific, attractive-looking graphics. That’s the difference between a designer and an artist.

Also, designers create pages that support user interaction well, but they don’t worry too much about optimizing exactly where users click or how they work their way through a multi-step process, like buying a cardigan online. Those roles are the job of the interface designer or the interaction designer.

To get into graphic design, take classes or look for professional opportunities where you create designs using Photoshop. Use these opportunities to start building up your portfolio, as described later in this chapter.

To stay in graphic design and build your career, you need to keep improving your portfolio — both the actual body of work you’ve done, and its online representation in your personal portfolio (see the section later in this chapter).

Do you have a technical mindset?

There’s a simplistic way of thinking about anyone’s interaction with technology in a wide range of jobs: there are people who code, and people who don’t. But the world of technology is really more complicated than that, and you can use that fact to your advantage.

If you are primarily a designer, it’s not hard to learn HTML. It’s a very simple code — not really a programming language, in the usual sense. (Programming languages can use logical constructs like if-then-else, or looping through a process several times.)

Learning CSS is not that hard, either. Style sheets are complicated, but they’re complicated for everyone. The basic commands are simple, if nerdy, and you can certainly learn to modify existing style sheets to get the job done.

The acid test for most designers is JavaScript. JavaScript actually makes things happen. Many designers have a mental block about using code to accomplish tasks.

Again, borrowing — or bricolage, as it’s known — is key. Learn to modify existing JavaScripts to get things done.

Also consider that technical help is widely available today. You can create enough HTML, CSS, and even JavaScript to get basic things done — then get help to make them work really well. You may have internal resources at your company, and there are websites such as eLance and oDesk that you can use to hire freelancers to get simple jobs done.

Your bosses don’t want to mess with this stuff either, and they’ll often be happy to approve minor expenditures to get complex technical tasks completed on time. The trick is that you’ve learned enough HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to know when you need help — and to manage outside contributors in delivering what you need, at a reasonable cost to the project.

You want to be taking on varied projects — small and large, complex and simple, design-led and content-led. Show that you can do it all. The web is constantly changing, so getting locked into one area where you’re an expert can be quite lucrative in the short term — but potentially limiting further down the road.

Starting out as a front-end developer

Front-end developers work with graphic designers to make pages look good. They use three main tools — HTML, CSS, and JavaScript:

· HTML: HTML, or HyperText Markup Language, is the code that tells a web browser what the different elements are on a page. There is an old-school and a theoretically pure approach to using HTML. In the old school, you used HTML to say what something should look like — bold or italic, specific font sizes, and so on. In the theoretically pure approach, you would simply state that something should be emphasized, and not specify that that meant bolding it. (Everyone ended up just bolding and italicizing things anyway.)

· CSS: CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, are layout instructions that specify pretty exactly how content should look on a page. Text is still allowed to flow as someone resizes a window, for instance, in most cases. But the font size and style, and use of bold or italic text, are precisely specified. Strong use of CSS greatly reduces the amount of work that has to be done in HTML; the way things look is almost completely controlled by CSS, and very little by HTML.

· JavaScript: JavaScript can control both the look of a page and interaction on the page. A simple example is what happens if users type their first name into an entry area that’s designed to hold their phone number. JavaScript will be used to look at the characters that are typed in, verify that they’re all numbers, parentheses, and dashes, and all placed properly. JavaScript will cause an error message to appear if they’re not.

To learn to use these tools, take courses and read books about using HTML and CSS together — that’s the best way to learn it these days, because a pure HTML or CSS course won’t teach you about how to manage the overlap between the two.

For JavaScript, you’ll find many good books that help you learn, and online sites that help you practice. Developing a portfolio site gives you the opportunity to practice using JavaScript on content and functionality that you actually care about.

The secret to success as a front-end developer over time is twofold. First, keep on top of the constant evolution in standards — different versions of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript — and the constant churn and growth in delivery platforms — different browsers and different mobile devices, from phones to phablets to tablets. See the sidebar, “The effect of mobile on front-end development,” for details.

The second secret to success is to not only be a front-end developer. Learn enough graphic design to be able to carry out, or at least lead, an entire website project on your own. If you’re the graphic designer, learn enough HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to be able to make the pages you design actually work.

To start learning, you can use a bunch of resources that are, of course, mostly online. Codecademy and W3Schools are two of the leaders. For links to these resources and more, visit the Lawrence Berkeley Labs page at

Resources for HTML and CSS are shown in Figure 4-2.


Figure 4-2: Lawrence Berkeley Labs points to core web development resources.

The effect of mobile on front-end development

The rise and rise of mobile phones and tablets as a tool for content delivery is changing the world of front-end development.

It’s critically important that web pages, especially high-functionality ones, work very well on a personal computer screen. People still think of the personal computer as the place to go to when they want to get something important done online. Applying to a university, shopping for a car, finding a product to learn a language with — these are all tasks that benefit from the bigger screen space and finer-tuned control that are only available on a personal computer.

But these days, web pages also have to work very well on mobile devices. There’s actually a pretty darn big difference between a tablet and a smartphone here — and there are two kinds of smartphones.

For tablets, the best-known product line is Apple’s iPad series. The screen resolution on newer models is comparable to a laptop screen. However, the screen size is smaller, so you have to be careful not to make text too small.

Also, it’s hard for the user to position a finger tap as precisely as a mouse click. So interaction has to be simple and oriented toward big buttons and minimal typing. Replacing a typed entry with a complicated pull-down menu does not demonstrate complete clarity with regard to the underlying content.

Further complicating the picture is that people will try to do things on a tablet even when they know the task is more suited to a personal computer. When one of the authors (Smith) had a new iPad with an add-on keyboard and a Windows PC, he would often stick with the iPad even for “real” work or complex personal tasks. The keyboard made it easier, and Smith hated the Windows PC. But he was often trying to perform tasks online that were really better suited to a personal computer.

However, when Smith broke the iPad keyboard and got a MacBook at around the same time, the balance changed. Entering text on the iPad was now harder; the MacBook was much handier and more “instant-on” than its Windows predecessor.

Most tablets support the trifecta of front-end design technologies — HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. However, you should do extensive testing on iPad, and basic testing on a couple of Android tablets, to make sure that pages work as intended.

Smartphones are a widely varied mix. A phablet, like Samsung’s Galaxy Note smartphones, has a big screen — somewhere between a phone and a tablet, thus the “phablet” moniker. Apple’s iPhones have fairly small screens, and their users expect everything to be super-simple. And some users, more so in developing countries, have “feature phones” rather than smartphones; these phones are not very capable, but people still try to accomplish tasks online with them.

You should pick a simpler design target for phones of all kinds and just try to get basic content and functionality across. Consider creating apps for Apple iOS and for Android if you need to deliver more complex functionality. Then, gradually improve the mobile site so its capabilities rival those of the app.

tip.eps When web designers code, they often aren’t coding from scratch. Instead, they’re modifying existing code to make it do slightly different things in a new environment. The fancy French term for this is bricolage (pronounced like brick-o-lodge, but without the “d” sound at the end) — using borrowed materials that you find at hand to create something new. Whatever you call it, learn to borrow and revise as much as you plan and create.

Working as a content developer

Content developers create content for online. That sounds simple, until you ask yourself — what is content?

There are three main kinds of content for online:

· Words: Writers for online develop a specialized approach to one of the oldest tasks in the book (ha ha!) — writing in a way that people understand and enjoy. Reading online is physically harder for online users, who are basically staring into a light bulb as they read. So smart content developers use fewer words, lots of headings and bulleted lists, links to complex information, and more pictures. (The saying that a picture is worth a thousand words was never more true than online.)

Writers for online usually use one or more CMSes — that’s Content Management Systems. A CMS lets you enter content once, take it through approvals and publication, and then reuse it in various places. Sometimes, frankly, the mechanics of using the CMS outweigh the need to get useful information online. For instance, many online help systems have content that is so optimized for easy translation that it’s almost devoid of actual information and interest. This is the kind of challenge a professional web writer enjoys taking on.

· Images: Interesting images are vital for successful communication online, and they’re often neglected. Images are often abandoned for display on a smartphone, for instance, so their value to the entire project is therefore diminished — a hefty proportion of the website’s users will never see them.

Also, most web project leaders have a web design background, and they believe that they can gin up a decent, web-ready image when one is needed. So there are many fewer web artists than there are web writers of various types.

But carefully crafted images can do a lot to carry the message of a web page forward — even on a smartphone. Facebook is an example of a web company that has cracked the code for the successful use of images on smartphones — and of advertising to accompany them. If you want to be a web artist, consider making yourself useful as a visual designer first, and then choose projects and job roles that take more and more advantage of your artistic talents.

One important area of growth is infographics — large graphics, often big enough to nearly fill a laptop screen, which convey a great deal of information at a glance. If graphics creation is your stock in trade, knowing how to create infographics is really valuable.

tip.eps If you don’t create graphics yourself, but serve on web development teams, look at the use of infographics online and develop an opinion as to when and how to use them on the sites you work on.

To see how the White House uses infographics, visit

Figure 4-3 shows the White House’s infographics page.


Figure 4-3: The White House makes its points with infographics.

· Multimedia: There’s a lot of overlap here with web artists, but there’s a lot of technology and planning that goes into the successful use of multimedia. One of the authors (Smith) was filmed in an online ad supporting then-Senator Barack Obama in 2008. The ad was carefully filmed against a black screen, with only one person onscreen at a time, and then with only their faces lit. This cut down on the need for compression to handle a full-frame image; most of the background was black, and only a small part of the foreground was moving. The ad appeared very high-quality even with the harsh compression used to render content ready for streaming on YouTube.

To be a successful multimedia content developer, you need a combination of artistic insight and technical savvy that will give amazing results from a very limited budget of time, money, and streaming capacity. You need the ability to meet a strict budget and the ability to create content that can “go viral” and carry a sponsor’s message to unexpected corners of the Internet. You also need to constantly update your toolkit with new hardware and software tools and your portfolio with interesting new projects, including a combination of pro bono or volunteer and paid work.

Managing projects

There are a few additional avenues of growth for web developers that are particularly interesting to those on the content side. Content work tends to be stressful and somewhat low-paid compared to front-end development or software development. To solve this, you can either go into management — which we describe in depth in later chapters of this book — or project management.

Project management is a strange beast, a weird combination of general management skills, consulting skills, task-specific skills — most project managers also do “real work” on a project, in some form or another — and the core skills of project management itself.

The best way to learn about, and to learn, the discipline of project management is to become a member of a project management organization and work toward a certificate. The largest such organization is Project Management International, widely known as PMI, and its core certification is known around the world as PMP, for Project Management Professional.

Adding project management to your toolkit can take your career in entirely new and interesting directions. For one thing, demand for project management professionals is widespread and international. Experienced PMPs can head overseas for a year or two almost at will, gaining valuable experience, high pay, and sometimes even hazardous duty pay while having most of their living expenses paid by the project.

Being a PMP with web development skills puts you in a small and highly desired group. If you need to jump-start and professionalize your career, consider attending a PMI meeting soon.

Looking at the Future of Web Development as a Career

Web development is a unique career. It’s a large area of employment, is growing fast, is attached strongly to positive trends in business and society at large, and is very well positioned for future growth.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics regularly publishes descriptive statistics and projections for web developer roles on its website (see Figure 4-4). This section describes what the BLS says about the profession as of 2012 (government statistics tend to lag a bit), and what it projects for the future as well.


Figure 4-4: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has a useful page on web developer jobs.

You can always find the most recent page at

Visit the BLS site regularly to get the latest information about the current situation and prospects for growth in web design and any other area you’re interested in.

What web developers do

The BLS gives the following description: “Web developers design and create websites. They are responsible for the look of the site. They are also responsible for the site’s technical aspects, such as performance and capacity, which are measures of a website’s speed and how much traffic the site can handle. They also may create content for the site.”

This is a useful general description, but of course, like any brief description, it misses some key details. The BLS description doesn’t disambiguate between visual development, front-end development, and content development. It doesn’t highlight the primacy of technical skills in distinguishing an average web development career and most outstanding ones. And it doesn’t make clear that graphic design skills are often, largely for historical reasons, a ticket to leadership in web design projects.

Work environment

According to the BLS, “About a quarter of web developers were self-employed in 2012. Non-self-employed developers work primarily in the computer systems design and related services industry.”

The statistic about self-employment for web developers being around a quarter is fascinating. That feels right, and is a very high number for any kind of well-paid professional careers that aren’t in sports or entertainment. Perhaps all of us in web design and related fields would do well to consider ourselves similar to entertainers, paid to engage an audience for some brief period, collect as big a paycheck as possible, and then get the heck out of Dodge.

The part about developers in regular employment working primarily in the “computer systems design and related services industry” would be accurate enough, except most of the words seem wrong. As the authors of this book, we both believe that a great number of web developers are working in large companies whose primary business is not in technology, but is instead in financial services, sports, entertainment, transportation, and others. It would be interesting for an analyst to take a look at the way BLS classifies job titles and industries to see if it might be undercounting web services positions that aren’t in the tech industry and thereby overstating the percentage that are.

How to become a web developer

The BLS describes the educational level needed to become a web developer as follows: “The typical education needed to become a web developer is an associate’s degree in web design or related field. Web developers need knowledge of both programming and graphic design.”

This is spot on, except for one exception. The part about an associate’s degree seems to be understating the case. America really needs a great many more jobs for which an associate’s degree — a two-year degree that you can get at a community college — is sufficient, and also jobs that can be obtained through a few months of technical or semi-technical training, as is common in other countries.

However, we think that this description is making a common statistical mistake that can be described as “asserting the central tendency of a bimodal distribution.”

A bimodal distribution is a range of description or achievement where there are two peaks. A normal distribution is the kind of bell curve we are all used to. That is, there’s a peak in the middle and tailing off at both ends.

Figure 4-5 shows a normal bell curve. The figure is from a U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) online course, Principles of Epidemiology in Public Health Practice, Third Edition: An Introduction to Applied Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

A bimodal distribution, by contrast, shows two distinct, separate peaks. For instance, a curve of droplet size in clouds, as shown in Figure 4-6, shows two separate peaks, one smaller and the other larger.

So when the BLS asserts that a two-year degree is sufficient for most web jobs, we’re reminded that most of the web developers we know have four-year bachelor’s degrees from a typical U.S. college — and a smaller number went through technical training, or have no degree at all. It seems to us that the two-year assertion might be a kind of mean between these two groups, but that it doesn’t fit very many actual people, compared to the four-year and “no college” groups.

warning.eps The recommendation, from the BLS and others, that an associate’s degree is sufficient for web development jobs might be out of date. To be on the safe side, go for a bachelor’s degree.


Figure 4-5: A classic normal distribution, or bell curve, as shown in a CDC course online.


Figure 4-6: A bimodal distribution is like a dromedary — a camel with two humps.

The importance of mathematics in web design

We assert throughout this book that graphic design skills are most often the entry point for web design jobs — and that technical skills, such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript coding — are what distinguish the better-paid web developers from others, with those who can “cover the waterfront” for both skillsets being the most desired of all.

Yet mathematical skills are an important underlying element in web design, even for those who are not so technical themselves. Mathematical thinking is clear, crisp, and concise. These characteristics are all desirable in web design. Even if you’re an artist or writer, which are roles that do not normally require a math background, having an interest in, affinity for, and ability in mathematics are desirable characteristics.

Not all uses of math for web design require a detailed understanding of advanced mathematics. For instance, design principles such as the golden ratio and the golden rectangle have been used since antiquity, and are still taught in design schools today.

To learn more about how mathematics are used in web design, visit Smashing magazine at

For a fascinating article about how these mathematical principles and others are reflected in nature, visit the NIH website at

The NIH article is shown in Figure 4-7.

Web development pay

The median annual salary for web developers is $62,500, according to the BLS. This is significantly less than computer and mathematical occupations overall, which have a median annual salary of $76,270 — a 22 percent increase. But it’s far higher than the median for all occupations, which is $34,750.

That’s right — a web developer makes 80 percent more than the typical U.S. worker. And web developers with outstanding overall skills, or even just a reasonable amount of technical skill on top of graphic design ability, can easily move up to the $70,000 range, which is double the median for all occupations.


Figure 4-7: Mathematical principles appear in nature and web design.

Now these salaries vary quite a bit by experience and expertise and geographic location, as well as by how people work — contract or regular employment, full-time or part-time. Across the U.S., the lowest 10 percent of workers earned less than $33,550 — just about the median for all fields — and the highest 10 percent earned more than $105,200, which is almost exactly triple the median for all occupations.

To get a bead on what these figures might mean for you, you have to look at the area in which you live. Glassdoor ( is a site that has a lot of information about salaries and working conditions for specific companies and in specific regions, as do some job sites such as The point of looking at the national averages is to understand, in a general way, just how well web developers are paid. Use local and company-specific information to get a feel for your particular market before negotiating a starting salary or a raise.

tip.eps There are very good cost-of-living comparison tools at both and

Working with web developers in person

It might seem odd for a job that’s all about cyberspace, but most web developers either work in offices with their clients, which can be internal clients, where everyone works for the same employer, or clients from another company, or meet with them regularly. Skype video calls, full videoconferencing, and online hangouts and chats don’t usually replace the need to meet in person.

This reality gives a strong regional flavor to web-related employment. In fact, in some areas, the need to live close to work can come down to a very small number of miles. During boom periods in Silicon Valley, for instance, it can take an hour to get 10 miles on U.S. 101, the main highway connecting San Jose and Palo Alto — the traditional endpoints of Silicon Valley with points north going up to San Francisco, which is getting integrated into the Silicon Valley economy as well.

So a web developer living in San Jose will usually only look for work up to about Palo Alto, and one in San Francisco will try to stay in the city, or at least within the range of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train network, which does not go down the Peninsula as far as Palo Alto.

A network of shuttle buses with free Wi-Fi cuts distances for employees of some tech companies, and consultants who work flexibly tend to schedule meetings for the middle of the day to avoid traffic that goes until 10 a.m. in the morning and starts at 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon.

Similarly, in New York City, people talk about what subway stops they live and work near to figure out the practicality of different work possibilities. Other world cities and large urban areas are the same. Use information like U.S. national averages as a starting point, but research your local area carefully to learn what you should expect in your area.

Projected growth in web development

The BLS says that web development will grow from 141,400 jobs in the U.S. in 2012 to 169,900 in 2022 — a total of 28,500 jobs, making for a 20 percent increase. This is one of the strongest numerical increases in the U.S. economy, and it’s in a professional area that’s among the higher-paying as well.

We believe, however, that even this job growth understates the case. While the net growth might indeed turn out to be 20 percent, many web developers move into related positions, whether in technology, non-web or not-strictly-web content development, graphic design, or the arts. It’s easier to get into a web development job than most other jobs because of the growth; it’s easy to get hired into a non-web development job from within the web development field because the skills involved are well-respected and valued.

The BLS provides an interesting description of web developer job prospects: “Job opportunities for web developers are expected to be good. Those with knowledge of multiple programming languages and digital multimedia tools, such as Flash and Photoshop, will have the best opportunities.”

This is a little off in detail — Flash development is, if anything, on its way out — but right on the bigger picture. Combining more technical and programming approaches with graphics, and being up-to-date with the latest and greatest, is the most promising way to build a strong career.

How similar jobs compare

The BLS is kind enough to list some related jobs and their expected salaries. Many of these roles can be sources of the talents needed to become a web developer, or the destination for a web developer who wants to head in a new direction. It’s also valuable to see that these roles, while closely related, are not considered part of the web development field.

Table 4-1 shows the roles — all of which require a bachelor’s degree — their median salaries, from lowest to highest, and a few notes about how they relate to web development.

Table 4-1 Jobs in Web Development and Their Salaries

Job Title

Mean Salary

Notes for Web Developers

Graphic designer


A graphic designer not working in the web development area is paid far less — about two-thirds as much as a middle-of-the-road web developer. The added technical ability needed to work on the web pays off.

Web developer


This is a mainstream web developer role, an umbrella which includes lower-paying and higher-paying roles.

Computer programmer


If you’re an experienced front-end developer, you’ll tend to make somewhat less than a computer programmer because HTML, CSS, and even JavaScript are not considered as technical as “real” programming languages like C or C++. But back-end work, using languages like Python and Ruby, should pay as much or more than mainstream computer programming work.

Database administrator


Most websites are database-driven, so this is a logical starting point for website architects and a growth destination for technically minded web developers.

Computer systems analyst


Systems analysts are people who decide how systems should work and then contribute to designing them. These high-level skills pay a significant premium.

Software developer


The terms “software developer” and “computer programmer” are often used interchangeably, but the software developer is expected to have a systems analyst’s view of a project, along with high-level programming skills.

Computer and information systems manager


It used to be that becoming a manager was the only way to make a really significant salary in many professions. Today, the top 10 percent of web developers earn more than $105,000, quite similar to a management-level salary without many of the hassles.

tip.eps Although the BLS is the most widely recognized source for salary information, you might also find interesting additional information from the American Institute for Graphic Arts. Visit