Hi, I’m Brian, a former senior software engineer and now industry mentor at Pathrise. I have worked with hundreds of web developers and software engineers to help them land their dream jobs in tech. Check out my article where I answer the question – what does a web developer do?
Web developers are responsible for coding websites. Typically, the role is broken up into front-end, back-end, and full-stack development. You can also find web dev roles that are based around the different technologies.
To help you answer the question – what does a web developer do? – we have outlined the most common backgrounds and skills that recruiters and hiring managers want to see so that you find the right position to launch your web development career.
What background do you need to land a job as a web developer?
Many web developers have degrees in computer science, internet technology, and related fields. But, formal education is by no means the only path that you can take to jumpstart your web dev career. Some professional web developers have associate’s, bachelor’s, and graduate degrees, whereas others only have high school diplomas.
If formal education is not for you, you might want to consider enrolling in a coding bootcamp. These courses prepare you so you can land an entry level web development job. You can self-study using online learning tools and platforms like Codecademy, Springboard, and Udacity.
Once you have finished your degree, bootcamp, or certificate program, breaking into the tech industry can be challenging. Many people launch their web dev careers as freelancers so that they can build their portfolios. Besides working on side projects, web developers can contribute to open source projects on GitHub as well. Job-seekers should include both individual and open source projects in their GitHub portfolios. This will help them stand out to recruiters and hiring managers.
What is web development?
Front-end developers concentrate on how the website looks and feels by paying careful attention to layouts, graphics, and other components. Those who specialize in back-end development pay attention to the overall technical construction of the web pages. They make sure that basic frameworks function as expected. At the same time, they create procedures for adding web pages or making substantial changes. Finally, webmasters maintain the website by looking for errors, fixing any broken links, and addressing users’ comments. They identify and correct problems through testing, user feedback, and locating any blatant glitches on the website.
What types of roles fall under web development?
It is pretty common for web developers to have overlapping responsibilities with software engineers, product designers, UX/UI designers, and others.
In general, web developers focus on building functional websites and web applications. Alternatively, software engineers use engineering principles to build computer programs, applications, and software.
Some web developers have a background in graphic or product design and many designers know the nuts and bolts of software development. Designers are responsible for how the website/web app looks and feels. Web developers then take the designer’s prototypes and implement them on the website or web application.
If you are looking for web development roles, keep an eye out for postings with the following titles:
- Web developer (junior, apprentice, entry-level, mid-level, lead, principal, or senior)
- Front-end developer
- Back-end developer
- Full-stack developer
- Web programmer
There are quite a few specialized roles for web developers with additional expertise, including:
- User experience (UX) developer
- User interface (UI) developer
- Front-end engineer (web)
- WordPress web developer
- Shopify web developer
- Web developer / designer
- .NET web developer
To give you a better sense of what skills are required to land a job as a web developer, we have broken down the responsibilities and tools associated with each role so that you can discover what web developers actually do.
Front-end developers focus on client-side scripting, which determines what customers/clients see on the website’s pages. Working with UX/UI designers, front-end developers focus on the website’s style and functionality. This means that they make sure that websites and web applications have intuitive designs that are both user friendly and visually striking. Focused on the front-facing part of the website, front-end developers need to double check that their websites and web applications are functional on all browsers and devices.
Back end developer
The front-end, or the user-facing side of a website, is built on back-end technology. Back-end developers work behind the scenes with web servers, databases, APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), cloud-based platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS), and other elements of server-side development.
They create routines, protocols, and tools by writing server-side scripts that enable a website or app to communicate with external servers in order to retrieve important data. Back-end developers work with relational databases such as PostgreSQL, as well as non-relational ones like MongoDB. To communicate with databases, back-end developers should have a good handle on writing queries with SQL. If you’re looking to advance your SQL skills, check out our list of best resources to learn SQL [will link].
Back-end developers build features like upvoting systems on social networking platforms, which update without reloading the initial webpage. Using languages like PHP and Python, back-end developers create algorithms, structures, and other forms of logic that determine how information from a database is collected and used on the front end.
Relevant tools: Python, PHP, Ruby on Rails, SQL, Java, .NET, Node.JS, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Django, CakePHP, Apache, AWS, MongoDB, NGINX
Full-stack developers have a strong understanding of how the back-end and front-end components work together. They are responsible for to taking a step back and seeing the bigger picture. Full stack developers focus on how the server-side programs interact with the client side’s user experience. They have to be keenly aware of what limitations exist across the different frameworks.
Most full-stack developers spend years working in both front and back-end roles before landing a job as a full-stack developer. Thanks to their experience, they generally know the nuts and bolts of business/domain logic (the part of the program that stores real-world business rules) and UX/UI design. This can prepare them for leadership roles where they provide holistic approaches to enhancing, creating, and modifying websites.
You might be asking yourself, “Should I aim to become a full-stack web developer?” The answer depends on your career goals. While those who focus exclusively on front and back-end development can find fulfilling roles in their respective specialities, major tech companies like Facebook and Amazon are known for hiring full-stack web developers. Full-stack developers are versatile and have a wide range of skills. This can impress employers looking to hire for front- and back-end roles.
Relevant tools: front-end and back-end tools
To offer developers additional support, Shopify launched the “Shopify Partner Academy” certificate program in 2018 to provide courses, study guides, and other resources to help developers learn the necessary skills to succeed as a Shopify developer. People who are interested in pursuing this path should have a good understanding of payment gateways, checkout systems, inventory management tools, and other important e-commerce features.
Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream job in tech. If you are interested in optimizing your web developer job search by working 1-on-1 with a mentor, become a Pathrise fellow.