How to become a web developer

A step-by-step guide on becoming a web developer

With most industries centring around technology, software and online resources, you might wonder what type of job role fits into our ever-changing world and how you can utilise your creativity in a modern, innovative space. Web development is just one of the many options which harness the power of today's systems and is a promising career path for those with analytical, visionary minds.

In this guide, we'll go through the basics of web development plus all the necessary steps needed to become successful in this field, from roles and responsibilities to the first day on the job!

What our guide will cover:

  • What is web development?
  • What does a web developer do?
  • Education and qualifications
  • Web developer skills
  • Portfolio and CV advice
  • Salary
  • Interview and career advice

What is a web development?

Web development is the process of building websites and online applications for the Internet or a private network. Therefore, a web developer's job is to create these websites, ensuring it is visually appealing, easy to navigate and fulfil performance and capacity needs.

So, what is a web developer? A web developer usually falls under one of three categories.

Backend developer

This job role includes creating the structure of the website and writing code whilst also managing access points for others who might need to manage or edit the site.

Frontend developer

Responsibilities include working on the visual side of the website which page visitors see and interact with. This might include designing the physical layout of each page, integrating graphics and using HTML or javascript.

Full-stack developer

This job role combines the work of both the backend and frontend developer and will supply the knowledge to build a complete website.

What does a web developer do?

From an outside perspective, web development can seem confusing and complicated, but like most jobs, the responsibilities can differ depending on the company and industry you work for. A web developer could work for a business, an agency or take on client projects as a freelancer. Tasks will vary depending on the work situation, company requirements and the type of development needed but day-to-day responsibilities might include:

  • Meeting with clients and creating propsals
  • Designing plans and prototypes
  • Writing code in different languages e.g HTML, Javascript, PHP
  • Building databases
  • Transfering information
  • Building APIs
  • Creating blocks, buttons, links and pictures
  • QA testing
  • Troubleshooting problems with performance

Key web developer skills

Employers, work colleagues and clients will expect web developers to have particular skills and knowledge in order to deliver services and solve relevant issues which we will explore on the next page.

Core technical and workplace skills

  • Coding and programming skills including HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP etc
  • Responsive design and creating sites for desktop and mobile
  • Technical SEO
  • Visual design and creativity
  • Attention to detail
  • Organisational skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Collaborative working skills e.g. with marketers, designers, and engineers

Education and qualifications

Becoming a web developer also comes with a lot of learning and to get the point of employment, there are numerous skills and experience required. Like most industries and job roles, times have changed, and staying in education isn't the only route to becoming a successful web developer. There are a number of ways in which you can obtain the relevant qualifications including University, apprenticeships, internships or online courses. But without passion, communication and a solid work ethic, these qualifications can lose their value. Here is a more in-depth look into the different routes available for web development.

Attending University

One of the most popular options that web developers take in terms of achieving their relevant qualifications is university. Although this isn't always a requirement from employers, it can give you that competitive edge and all the skills you need after you graduate.

In most cases, web developers will study and complete a computer science or website development degree which covers areas such as system design, data management and programming languages. There are also alternative courses which are still suitable for a future career in web development including web design, computer programming, graphic design and digital design.

With university also comes the opportunity to complete a sandwich course. A 4-year programme which includes having a year work experience in the middle. This placement offers real-life experience and can be a great opportunity to find future employment or even determine if it's definitely the right career.

Online courses

You only have to google search ' online web development course ' to see how many opportunities there are available. Studying an online course comes with a number of benefits including flexibility, independence and low cost. Web developers might study and complete courses in coding, web design, programme languages and software development. These resources might be free or cost money depending on who is hosting the course and what you get out of it.

One of the main things to consider when choosing the online learning route is that not every course will be credited or reputable, meaning when it comes to applying for jobs, the employer might not value this achievement. Saying that there are plenty out there which are recognised by employers and some Universities even do shorts courses which are less time and money compared to a regular degree.


Apprenticeships are a great way to obtain a qualification whilst also working. Unlike university or online courses, you are the one getting paid whilst learning everything you need to know about becoming a web developer. Typically lasting 2 years, apprenticeships can either be completed through a company or alongside a University and will offer some sort of qualification at the end. Achieving real-life experience, independence and in-depth knowledge, an apprenticeship can also lead to you securing a job in the end and remove the stress of finding future work.

Apprenticeship options include anything in

  • Web design and development
  • Computer science
  • Digital media development
  • Software engineering
  • Digital production

Web developer portfolio and CV

Although web development isn't all about art and making things look nice, creating an impressive portfolio and CV is crucial in any creative industry. Building a portfolio for web development can be a bit more tricky as everything will be online and might not resemble a traditional portfolio. However, bringing all your skills and experience to one place will create a highlight for an employer to appreciate. Whether your portfolio is a collection of prototype websites you've designed, sketchbook work or text, making this extra bit of effort could be the difference between you and another candidate.

What to include in your portfolio

  • Personal projects e.g. blogs, games, websites
  • Client work
  • Documented source code
  • Awards and courses
  • Graphic design skills

One of the easiest ways to demonstrate your skills is to actually build a professional portfolio through a website. This website in itself is proof of what you can do and can include relevant features such as copywriting, visual design, adaptability, coding and tool proficiency. In terms of the CV, you'll need all the standard information including personal details, education, qualifications, work experience and responsibilities, but will also want to highlight core skills and programmes that you're knowledgeable of.

How much does a web developer earn?

The average salary for a web developer in the UK sits at £34,119 however this figure widely depends on the company/corporation, level of experience, location and responsibilities included. A web developer is quite a highly skilled job, meaning that the salary range can reach substantial amounts. Salaries for a junior web developer can range from £19,000 to £25,000 whereas lead developers could earn anything from £35,000 to £70,000. This salary will also change if you decide to go down the freelancer route as this will all be dependent on the amount of work and clients.

Interview and career advice

Whether you have just graduated from university or are moving from one company to another, interviews can be pretty scary! But one of the best things about the creative industry is it's filled with likeminded people who will have similar hobbies and interests, making small talk that little bit easier. When accepting an interview for a web developer role, expect all the standard questions about experience, leadership, future aspirations and personal life however you will more than likely be asked a number of more specific questions too. See below some common questions asked in a web developer interview.

  • What is your preferred workflow and process when developing a website?
  • What specific languages do you work with/ enjoy working with?
  • How do you approach web accessibility?
  • Provide an example of a website application that you do not like, and how you would improve it
  • Introduce a project you are proud of and why
  • How is your time management when it comes to the development cycle? How do you plan your time effectively?
  • What do you know about SEO?

Many questions asked will be specifically related to the job description, so doing prior research is crucial. Make sure you know exactly what would be expected and what skills they'd appreciate the most. It's also always a good idea to research the actual company/agency to show you're interested in their growth and prospects. At the end of the interview, make sure to ask questions.

Life as a web developer

Once all the studying, job applications and interviews are out the way, there's no greater feeling than getting to where you want to be! So, whether you've got a masters degree or worked your way up in a local agency, landing your dream job is a huge achievement so well done! When starting a new job, meeting new people and taking on new responsibilities, everything can seem overwhelming, but it's important to use the support in place, enjoy learning new things and get stuck in to your new job.

Nervous about your first day in the office? Here are some top tips to keep you calm and prepared for the days ahead.

  • Prepare the night before by packing your bag, buying any stationary essentials, organising personal documents and recording and holidays
  • Ask plenty of questions
  • Be confident and remember why you're there
  • Talk to everyone and make a conscious effort to be friendly
  • Be open to new tasks and responsibilities

To finish off...

Being a web developer can be stressful, enjoyable and adventurous all in one, but if after all this, you're second guessing your career choice, that is also ok. With thsaIntee qualifications and experience you've achieved, there are numerous other job opportunities out there which might suit you're needs more. Technology is everywhere and everyone wants to be online, so you've got all the skills needed to make adapt and learn in a new role.