How to Become a Web Developer 2020

How to Become a Web Developer 2020

 I contemplated how to become a web developer a lot when I first started considering my career change, and what skills I needed to learn. I wondered what the future looked like for web development, how would I fit into a career like this, and would this be something long term that could support my future? Currently, I am fresh into a career as a web developer and would like to shed some light on others looking into making this change. How to become a web developer in 2020 could not be easier. As I started to research this, I found so many resources to grow my web development skills.

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 Web developers create our virtual internet world through the power of code. They employ some of the most bleeding-edge technologies to grow the internet. However, it is a constantly changing industry, so it can seem overwhelming to start. But this blog post is going to help change that!

Where Do I Start?

 The first step is planning out and researching your process. Proper planning can save you a lot of wasted time and effort in your journey to become a web developer in 2020. Just do not get stuck in a never-ending process of planning. Take action as soon as you have the general idea of what you want to do! First, you need to figure out if this is the right job for you. I talk about the stress of being a web developer here, to give you more of an idea of the day to day. I also talk about the work hours and what to expect here.

You Should Ask Yourself:

  • Do I like working to solve complex problems?
  • Can I handle life long learning to stay relevant in my industry?
  • Am I okay with handling unknown problems and growing into my role?
  • Can I be self-sufficient and thoroughly research my problems?

How Much Does a Web Developer Make in 2020?

 As of 2020, a web developer has the potential to make a lot of money being in the tech industry. I do not think this should be your deciding factor when starting this career, but it definitely helps. Learn to find something you enjoy and it becomes a lot easier to want to grow, learn, and thrive within that industry. Part of your salary is dependent upon your web development skills, so enjoying the process makes it easier to continually push yourself to grow and learn!

web dev salary infographic

 Web developer salaries are very dependent upon where one lives. It is hard to say completely what you will make because this can change drastically upon your location. So this mixes in entry-level developers with more senior ones, as well as a developer in San Fransisco and the Midwest. That being said I personally recommend going to Glassdoor to research your companies beforehand to get an idea of the typical salary range. Glassdoor has options to also look at your specific field based upon your current city that you live in. This is important because 60k per year could be really good for someone out in the Midwest getting started; however it would be a complete struggle for someone living in San Fransisco or Silicon Valley.

What is a Web Developer and What Do They Work With?

 So how do you become a web developer? You have decided this is a career you are interested in, but what do I need to do to start? It feels overwhelming due to so many options and paths you could take. There are so many web development skills to learn, but what do I learn first? Let’s breakdown the path to a web developer and make it a bit easier to understand. If you want a deep dive into web development, I talk about it more on this post!

Skills of a Web Developer

Programming Languages

 Depending on your preference and where you want to start in the web development world this can be a host of different languages and skills.

Front End Languages Typically Consist Of:

  • Html
  • CSS
  • Javascript

 At their core, this is what the internet spits out when you visit a site. So knowing this is the best starting point for a front end developer. Just keep in mind, this is not comprehensive to everything you may run into at a front end developer role. This can vary from role to role depending on the stack and process the company uses for development. While you will not necessarily need to know a lot of languages you will be using libraries a lot. Typically these will be Javascript based libraries, so make sure you are comfortable with implementing those.

Back End Languages Typically Consist Of:

  • Php
  • Python
  • .NET
  • Java
  • Ruby
  • Javascript
  • SQL
  • Rust
  • Django

 Back end development languages have a bit more variety. As a web developer in 2020, there are a lot of options on how to communicate with the server you set up. Back end development requires a lot of logical thinking and problem-solving. This is not a visual role by any means. Do not think you have to learn all of these languages, nor is this comprehensive of what you could run into. In the real world, jobs use a regular stack of languages and standardize their web development workflow. With this in mind, look around in your area for what companies are using around you. This way you can focus on what is relevant to getting you a job.

Hosting & Domain Names

 You should know how to launch a website before applying for a job. Knowing how to get a domain, set it up to an IP address are important and crucial things to launching a website. Thankfully, it is not too difficult. Personally I purchase my domains through namecheap.com, you can check them out here. When I go to host my domain, I prefer to use cloudways.com. They make the process easy and I find their support helpful as well, you can check them out here. <–(Big scary affiliate link, you get $15 towards hosting so enjoy!).

SFTP

 SFTP is the secure file transfer protocol. What you need to know here is that this is typically how you will connect to a server to see its files. There are different options when it comes to connecting to a server and changing files, but I find this one the easiest. You connect based upon the IP Address and it gives you a window with the file system of your server. It is a really easy way to upload files, delete, and make changes to your website! I use Transmit, you can check them out here.

Web Developer vs Web Designer

 A lot of people see these job titles thrown around, but do not know the difference between a web developer and web designer. I go a bit more into this here.

Web-Developer-vs-Web-Designer

Web Designer

 So we know what a web developer is now. But what does a web designer do? A web designer plays a key part in the visuals of a website. They are the creators of the design as their name sounds. They typically will work a lot within Photoshop, InDesign, Sketch, Illustrator, and a host of various programs. While they do not need to know how to code, it is extremely useful for them to know some basics. This way they are designing in a way that makes sense for the programmer to develop. So their required skills are a bit different than a web developer, but they work together closely.

 Typically, the web designer will be the starting point of a website. For instance, they create the designs, after the approval process of either their boss or the client; they hand it off to the developer. The web developer and web designer work hand in hand to make sure everything is pixel perfect. After the site is finished by the web developer, the web designer will go through and make sure it is exactly like the design they created.

Back End Developer vs Front End

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 In the realm of web development, there are usually two paths. People either start at front end or back end development. Front end is usually the most popular path as it is a more visual job that focuses on creation. In contrast, back end development is more about logical problem solving and connecting code to the server. While back end has some visual element to it, you are not creating it. Rather, the back end developer focuses on the communication between the server, database, and front end code. Front end development is the most common path, as back end development will take a little longer to learn. With all of this in mind, back end development has fewer applicants and pays more, but be prepared for a harder learning curve!

What is a Front End Web Developer?

 So how does one become a front end developer and what web development skills do they need to know? Well, we know the internet spits out html, css, and javascript; so logically this is the first place to start. You should get a firm grasp of html and css because starting out, this is usually what you will be working in the most. Depending on your job you could be working with a lot of javascript or from time to time. This is usually where people will look at your programming abilities, as Javascript starts to bring in a more traditional programming language structure. It will set the baseline for you to branch out into other languages and potentially backend frameworks as well!

Html

 Html is the easiest out of the three, and often along with css, referred as not a true programming language. To compare, these are markup-based languages without any logic or programming. Getting the hang of html is going to be fairly easy. W3Schools does a good job of laying out the basics of html here. The sidebar has a list of just about everything you would ever need to know about html.

CSS

 CSS is similar in how it is easy to understand link html. While the learning curve is fairly easy, the road to mastering it is different. People tend to get hung up on the placement of html and manipulation of css. In retrospective, I got lost a lot here. I had the basics down, but it took a lot more practice than html, to get comfortable. After a few major projects, lots of research, and practice, you too will start to get comfortable after practical application of CSS. Personally, I used css-tricks a lot as a reference for my problems, design ideas, and all things css. When googling how to do something in css, they will pop up a lot of the time; as they are a leader in the industry in CSS. They will give you some cool web development tricks and help you practice your CSS skills.

Javascript

 Javascript, what powers the internet. Html and CSS display information and make it look good, but what good is something that looks good but doesn’t do anything? Javascript is what makes things move, communicate, manipulate, change, and so much more. In 2020 and beyond, javascript is going to continue to grow for front end web developers. It is such a versatile language being able to be manipulated and used in so many different ways. If you have never been introduced to programming logic and problem solving, there will be a bit of a learning curve. This is probably the toughest part of front end development. The good news is, there are a lot of resources for you to learn and practice with. Codecademy gives a free intro course to javascript. While you do not need to be a master of javascript to get a job, I highly suggest getting comfortable.

Resources

 Buying courses not an option? Investing in your education should be a high priority if you want to become a web developer in 2020. If your current situation does not allow for it, you should be doing everything you can to get to a spot where you can start investing in your future. That being said, I totally understand; as I have been there before too! I recommend scouring the internet for any and all free sources, trust me they are out there! Youtube is a great starting point, look for tutorials and try to recreate them on your own afterward. This is a results-based industry, so what matters the most is your skills within web development.

 No affiliates, just here to throw out my path of learning. The course that helped me out the most was Angela Yu’s Web Development Bootcamp. This course is where I first had my clicking moment. Things started to make sense to me. Keep in mind, that just by doing this course you will not be job-ready; but you will be close. You will need to polish off your web development skills by building more of your own projects. The good news is, you will have a great baseline to start doing your own projects. You need to create a portfolio anyway, so I recommend doing your best to create your own projects for a kick-ass portfolio to apply to jobs with.

A list of free resources

 Fortunately, there are plenty of resources on the internet to get you prepared as a front end developer. It is just a matter of how badly do you want it? I personally coded every time I had the chance until I landed my job. It is not an easy path. Some days are busy and life gets in the way. What matters is making sure you are consistent over time.

What is a Back End Web Developer?

 The path to a back end developer is a bit more complicated. So what web development skills do you need for back end development? As I am sure you have seen up until this point, it seems like an endless list of languages and technologies for back end development. The good news is that you really only need to be proficient in one. Which one should you do though? This is really location dependent. For me in Columbus, OH I see a lot of Javascript, PHP, and .NET. But this could be completely different for you in your area. Look around on indeed, linkedin, google, glassdoor, etc for their language and technology requirements for the job. This will give you a better idea of what to learn for your situation.

Do I Need to Know Front End Development Too?

 While you do not need to know nearly as much as a front end developer, you should know the basics. If want to take the path as a back end developer, do not focus on mastery of front end development. Focus on getting a general understanding of how things work. You should know how to create a basic web page, but most of your time should be spent on back end technologies and Javascript.

My Thoughts:

 If I had to pick one language for a web developer in 2020, personally I think php is a good choice and the path of least resistance. Any language at first can be a daunting task to tackle. The reason for php is because it is easily intertwined with your html. It is what you need to know for custom WordPress development and has so many different applications. That being said, if you do not see a lot of php jobs in your area; I would not recommend starting with it then. As with front end there are still a lot of resources on the internet, you just have to search for them. I would start with youtube and google. Unfortunately, given the vast amount of languages and learning paths; I will not give a list of resources for this one (at least as of yet, maybe in the future).

 If you want a deep dive into the differences and skills required between front end and back end development, I talk more about it here.

How to Create a Web Developer Resume

Let’s start with some things not to do,

Do not:

  • Put percentages or levels of your web development skills
  • A bunch of personal things about you
  • Make it more than one page
  • List APIs as skills or languages
  • Talk about your soft skills (show them instead)

Do:

  • Give a list of all the languages you have experience with and can talk about on an educated level
  • If you have a degree list it
    • If you have certifications you can list them, but in most cases, I do not think certifications do much in the way of getting job or being worthwhile.
  • List all relevant experience you can leverage
    • If you don’t have any go do free/discounted work to get some
  • Breakaway from the boring traditional formats that look like you used the Microsoft Word Paperclip to vomit out your resume in the late 90s; c’mon its 2020, you’re better than this as an upcoming web developer
  • I personally have seen great success slapping a photo of myself on my resume to put a name to face, but your mileage may vary. Include the best professional photo you have of yourself.
  • Include a tailored cover letter for every job (this is where you get to shine and sell yourself)
    • Think of it this way, you get about 300 words the employer is willing to read about you to distinguish if they should call you for an interview above the rest of their applicant. Shouldn’t you pour all your efforts into selling yourself here? In many cases, this is the only form of communication you get with them to get the interview.

Okay I know What You Are Thinking, I Have No Experience

 Leverage everything you have. If you do not have anything, I recommend getting experience first. I would try to have at least two professional websites you have built before applying and a killer portfolio of projects you have done. Once you have done the required learning, this will be an easier task, and one where you can show off your newly learned web development skills!

How To Get Experience

Free:
  • Friends, family, and anyone you know who has a business that needs a website
  • Call your local charity and offer to do their site
  • Places you frequent or have acquaintances at
  • Look for organizations local to you i.e. sports, community, etc; anything that may need a website
Paid:
  • Similar as above: friends, family, acquaintances, and business you have connections at
  • Call around, go in person, and come from a place of gratitude
    • “I am a loyal customer here and love the x/y/z you do here. I took a look at your website, and I would love to help you get online/update your site.”
      • If you really want to go the extra mile, and you have time, create a general template for their niche i.e. a homepage for restaurants, a page for mechanic shops, etc and show them an example of what you could do for them.
  • Utilize Facebook groups, meetups, and other social channels to share what you are doing
  • If you want to bid for jobs or do some lower-paid work try to get some gigs at Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer, and any other sites you can find to leverage
    • Personally, I have never been a huge fan of these sites, as I see them as a race to the bottom, but there are opportunities to build a professional portfolio here

So What Should I Do?

 Now I know this community is big on knowing your worth. I think that it is important to keep this in mind when getting experience. Definitely figure out the scope of the project and do not get yourself into something that companies would charge thousands to do for free or next to nothing. My personal take: Do something small for free if you want to experience quickly and go the paid route and do something for 50% off as they are your first projects. If you have nothing to show to get your first paid gig, then make something. It is what I did! For instance, make at least two example websites. This way you can show whoever is interested in paying you for their website, that you are more than capable with your web development skills!

Is the Web Development Industry Growing?

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 Think about how much the internet has grown since conception. Web development is an ever-growing field with advancements in mobile technology. Its 2020, web developers are advancing how we use the internet every single day. This is because every day more people start using their mobile devices to browse the internet. In addition, we also have a stronger push for e-commerce! Web applications, website development, and various aspects of it are continuously growing as the demand grows. As we grow into 2020 for web development and beyond, I strongly believe that this field will grow as the need for mobile development and e-commerce rises.

Is the Web Development Field Going to be Long Term for 2020 and Beyond?

 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so within the United States, the industry is expected to grow about 13% from 2018 to 2028. 2020 is only the cusp of this growing curve for web developers. This is great news for anyone currently in or seeking out a career within the field of web development. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics goes even further to state that demand for this is being driven for the increase in e-commerce and mobile development. Personally, for me, this made me think about how many people use their smartphones to access websites and how many brands are becoming mobile-centric for the consumer.

What Education Do I Need as a Web Developer in 2020?

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Specifically, this is a pretty loaded question that will be answered in short for now, and answered with links as I grow this blog.

Personally I think there are 3 main paths:

– College:

Pros:

  • You get a degree
  • It helps you get past filters and requirements for jobs
  • If you do internships while in college or network while you are there, it will open up opportunities
  • Structured learning

Cons:

  • You potentially acquire debt
  • It takes four years to complete
  • Information and teachings potentially will be outdated by the time you get out

– Bootcamp:

Pros:

  • These usually only take about 9-14 weeks to complete
  • Rapid learning experiences allow for more current and desired technologies
  • Potentially networking within your classmates
  • Less debt than a four-year school and some have the option to not pay until you land a job
  • Some offer job search aide

Cons:

  • You still have debt associated with it
  • They are usually not a complete solution and some require studying upfront
  • This used to be a golden path but has started to become crowded but still has its place
  • Some jobs will look down upon bootcamp students

– Self Taught:

Pros:

  • No debt and minimal cost
  • You choose your learning path and speed
  • It has the most flexible time commitment

Cons:

  • No connections are made or career services
  • Requires the strongest portfolio out of the 3 as it is all you have to offer
  • May require work for free or at a limited cheap capacity before landing a job
  • You will get filtered out on job applications for not having a degree or relevant experience

 I do not think any of these paths are innately wrong or right. I think it really just boils down to these few things:

  • How much time do you want to spend getting there?
  • Do you want to spend money to get there, if so how much?
  • What type of learner are you?
    • Can you set your own pace and routine or do you need a more structured environment?
  • How much of a portfolio can you/are you willing to create?
    • Regardless of your path, this is something you should put at the highest importance of your priority; as this is the center-piece of conversation when landing the job.

So Which One?

 With all of this in mind, there are a lot of junior web developers within the market. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it means you need to sell yourself and there are not any handouts when getting a job. It is going to be all on your desire and abilities. It takes time to learn a lot of the required technologies.

 Personally, I think the best way to go about this is to look at the jobs and their required tech stacks and languages to get an idea of what you should be learning. If all else fails keep applying and/or maybe consider applying to a less competitive city. With this in mind, it took me 76 job applications to land a job I love, your mileage may vary depending on where you live; i.e. significantly more applications and interviews in tech-centric cities vs smaller cities. Above all, don’t give up on the first no, failed test, or interview. Every no is a step closer and a learning experience towards a yes.

How to Get Your First Web Developer Job in 2020

 So you decided which path you want to take, you chose your desired learning path, you are comfortable with your web development skills, you have made your resume, but now what? How do you become an official web developer now in 2020? I talk about my personal journey on how I got into the web development world here.

Apply, Apply; Get Denied? Apply More

 I applied to 76 places before I got my job. Keep in mind, this could be more or less depending on your experience and location. My guess would be it would be in the several hundreds and a bit more learning for me to have applied in San Fransisco and probably less within smaller cities in the United States.

Do Not Let No’s Get You Down

 I’ll be honest, it gets discouraging hearing no so many times. It can be a very disheartening experience applying for a web development position. Moreover, sometimes the competition can feel overwhelming, but in all honesty, they are just all learning experiences. I truly believe anyone can do it, it just is a matter of how determined you are. Nothing worth doing is going to be easy. Every interview you fail, look at it as a learning experience. Every whiteboard question or coding test you don’t pass, look at it as an area you need to focus on to grow. Keep in mind, it is extremely rare for someone to pass their first interview and test. Keep practicing and eventually, you will get comfortable with the interviewing process.

Conclusion:

 Is it worthwhile to become a web developer? I personally think so as this field is growing and continues to grow on the demand for more mobile development, e-commerce, and custom solution needs. The technologies are always growing, advancing, and changing so life long learning is a required nature of the career; but something I thoroughly enjoy. As your knowledge and web development skill sets continue to grow, you will become a more desired developer. While the path is not an easy or one size fits all, it is a worthwhile journey if you find enjoyment out of it. 2020 is a great year to become a web developer.