This is Part 3 of our How to Be a Web Developer series. If you’re just joining us, here’s what you’ve missed so far:
- Part 0 – Series Introduction
- Part 1 – What you’ll need to know
- Part 2 – Non-coding, technical skills
As I’ve mention in previous posts, knowing your end goal can help you decide what steps to take once you’ve mastered basic web development skills. There are many different types of web development jobs out there, and each has its own specific required skill set and career path. Here is a brief overview of some of your options.
What do web developers do?
Some developers are categorized according to what kinds of projects they do, or, more common, which parts of a website or app that they work on. Here is an overview of some of the more common development job titles.
Back-end developers use PHP, Ruby, Python, and other server-side languages to create applications and connect them to a database on one end and the front-end of the website (so people can use it) on the other. Back-end developers are less concerned with design and more focused on security and making sure all of the moving pieces are working together smoothly behind the scenes.
Full-stack developers do both front- and back-end development. It isn’t unusual for a web developer (particularly a freelancer) to have skills in both types of languages. For instance, WordPress development is primarily front-end development that dips into back-end development for customizing templates and managing databases. However, a full stack developer isn’t someone who just knows a little bit from each column; she can build a site from start to finish on her own.
This is slightly different from web development, but the skills you learn as a web developer lend themselves to this job as well. App developers can specialize in iOS for iPhones or Android for other devices, to name a couple. Some apps are developed for a specific use by a company (an app that captures emails at a trade show, for instance) and others are sold directly to users (all of the apps in the Apple App Store).
Some developers focus on an actual technology rather than a specific type of work or end product. It’s possible to be a PHP developer, for instance, if you have gained an impressive proficiency in that one language. In that case, you can be hired to create the PHP for any app or website that seems like a good fit for you.
Related Job Descriptions
Certainly most web developers get in the business because they want to write code, but there are some other jobs in the industry that can be a nice fit for a person with a web development background. Project management and UX design both benefit from coding and web development knowledge in addition to other skills, like administration and design.
Where do web developers work?
Here is an overview of some of the kinds of places where web developers work, though this list is far from complete, and it’s intended to be a jumping off point for your own research.
This is when you run your own small business developing websites. These can be one-woman shops, which means the web developer also wears all of the other hats (marketing, customer service, bookkeeping) unless she pays to outsource the work.
Web Shop or Studio
These are small companies devoted to creating websites. They can range in size, but they almost always have a small team of designers, developers, and other industry experts that work together to create websites for clients.
In-House Developers for Non-Tech Companies
When I say non-tech companies, I mean companies that don’t sell tech products. They use tech products like websites and apps to promote and sell other products or services. Depending on the size of the company, you could work by yourself or as a member of a full development team.
Web Developers/Engineers for Tech Companies
These companies work on creating and supporting tech products, like apps and new technologies. There is less of an emphasis on client-work and website builds, and you can expect to work with a large team of industry experts. Tech startups are in this category, though those might be on a smaller scale.
How do I start?
No matter where you want to work, there are a few important things can be doing right now (besides learning the technologies that interest you) to get you started.
Look at Job Postings
If you’ve figured out the kind of job you want, keep a close eye on job postings that might interest you. While you aren’t in a position to apply for them now, you can take a look at the kind of qualifications and experience that employers are looking for. This can give you concrete goals and a plan for the skills you need to focus on.
Start talking to other people in the industry and making connections. You can do this through social media. I’ll discuss networking to find clients in a future article, but don’t feel like you need to wait until you’re a full-fledged web developer to start talking to people. Share and promote the work of industry experts you respect. Get involved in online discussions that are relevant to your interests. And don’t overlook others at the same “level” as you, because those connections can be incredibly helpful as you both develop your careers.
Build Your Portfolio
No matter the kind of work you want to do, a strong portfolio is the easiest way to demonstrate your skills and value as a web developer. You don’t have to wait for paying clients to start this process. Practice building websites and then put the ones you’re most proud of in your portfolio. This doesn’t need to be fancy at first; just be curating a body of work that you can point to when you’re looking for business.