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What does a front-end developer do?

Hi, I’m Patrick, I write about the job search. After graduating from Cornell, I became a content lead at UBS where I helped professionals at Fortune 500 companies understand their stock options, salary, and benefits. When I’m not writing about the hiring process, I write novels for teens.

Front-end developers code the parts of websites people actually see. Clean layouts, well-constructed pages, and impressive visuals are a front-end web developer’s bread and butter. Since their “client-side scripting” work shapes the customers/clients’ experience, front-end web developers often work with UX designers and may even learn some UX skills themselves to build visually striking websites. 

Many different roles fall under the front-end developer umbrella and their work often veers into other tech disciplines. Therefore, it can be difficult to know what front-end web developers do on a daily basis. To help you understand what front-end developers do, we’ve broken down the backgrounds and skills that hiring managers look for in candidates. Use this post to identify which front-end web developer positions are right for your skills and career goals.

What educational background do you need to land a job as a front-end developer? 

Many front-end web developers have degrees in computer science, internet technology, and similar fields. However, formal education is certainly not the only path. While most professional front-end web developers have associate’s, bachelor’s, or graduate degrees, plenty only have high school diplomas. If more formal education is not possible, aspiring front-end web developers can join a coding bootcamp. Here, they can learn the skills they need to land entry level web development jobs

Aspiring front-end web developers can take steps to launch their careers themselves. Self-study with online learning tools like Codecademy, Springboard, and Udacity are popular (and affordable!) way to learn the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript skills needed to start coding simple websites. Their hands-on coding challenges can also be great practice for technical interviews. Aspiring front-end web developers don’t need to be in classes to start building portfolio projects, either. So much of front-end web development is crafting striking websites. That is why having well crafted websites in your portfolio already is one of the best ways to impress recruiters. 

While individual portfolio projects impress recruiters, solo projects are not usually enough–aspiring front-end web developers should also contribute to open source projects and include those in their GitHub portfolios. This will help you get used to working on group projects and round out your portfolio.

Breaking into the industry

Even with a polished portfolio and a university or bootcamp certificate, breaking into the tech industry is no picnic. Hiring managers rely largely on past experience and successful projects to judge a candidate’s ability or even consider them for an interview. Many recent grads choose to bypass the more extensive corporate interview process and start their front-end web developer careers as freelancers. Freelance work will not only build up your portfolio, but also give you experience that will help you shine both on the job and in interviews. When you do start preparing for technical interviews, check out our list of 93 web developer technical interview questions so that you can go into interviews with full confidence.

What is front-end web development and what does a front-end developer do on a team?

Front-end web development is building the part of websites users see in their browser. This includes layouts, graphics, and other visible components of a page that make a website navigable and visually appealing. Front-end developers use programming languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and multimedia publishing tools such as flash. Since front-end development integrates complex graphics, audio clips, videos, and submission forms, product and graphic designers often play a role in the process. In addition to designers, software engineers often play an important role in a front-end web developer’s team.

What skills does a front-end developer need?

While front-end developers may need to learn some light UX/UI design and back-end skills, aspiring web developers will almost certainly be expected to master the following:

  • HTML5
  • CSS3 (including server-side)
  • JavaScript
  • jQuery
  • CSS and JavaScript frameworks
  • Responsive design
  • Testing/debugging
  • Basic UX/UI design knowledge
  • SEO best practices
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What types of roles fall under the front-end web development umbrella? 

Front-end web developer responsibilities often overlap with software engineers, product designers, UX/UI designers, and others. While software engineers may play a role in development, front-end web developers rarely play any engineering role. Front-end web developers focus on crafting a website’s appearance and experience, while engineers build more complex computer programs, applications, and software that goes far beyond what users see on their screen. Some front-end web developers may also have a background in graphic or product design since UX/UI and graphic design are so important to building visually appealing websites. 

If you are looking for front-end web development roles, keep an eye out for job listings with the following titles: 
  • Front-end developer (junior, apprentice, entry-level, mid-level, lead, principal, or senior)
  • Front-end web developer
  • User experience (UX) developer 
  • User interface (UI) developer
  • Front-end engineer (web)
  • CSS/HTML developer
  • Front end dev ops

Whenever we click on a web page, a front-end web developer has meticulously coded everything we see, from the page’s layout to the graphics. Front-end web developer roles often combine technical coding with design skills as developers craft stunning web pages that keep users coming back for more. However, knowing what a front-end web developer does and how you can do it too is not enough to launch a career. While skill is important, recruiters can only judge a candidates’ ability based on their technical interview and job application materials. Regardless of what applicants do or do not know, landing a front-end web developer job often depends on a totally different skill: job search navigation. 

Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and professionals 1-on-1 at each phase of the job search. Our experienced mentors have already helped 1,000+ people land great jobs, usually in only 3-5 months. If you are interested in optimizing your front-end web developer job search to land a great job faster, become a Pathrise fellow. 

Apply today.

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Patrick Bohan

Hi, I'm Patrick, I write about the job search. After graduating from Cornell, I became a content lead at UBS where I helped professionals at Fortune 500 companies understand their stock options, salary, and benefits. When I'm not writing about the hiring process, I write novels for teens.

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