Web developers are in demand as companies try to supersede their competitors' digital presence and e-commerce functionalities

Your primary task as a web developer will be to create reliable and high-performing applications and services, which can be accessed over the internet. Focusing solely on the underlying software and databases (known as the 'back end') is most common, however some web developers work on the interface and visual design (the 'front end'), while others combine both ('full-stack development').

Whether you're in an agency or working as a freelancer, your job will be to create products that meet clients' needs. The work can be particularly varied with many projects to work on simultaneously, and lots of meetings with clients to discuss their requirements and update them on progress.

Job titles can vary according to the focus of the role.

Responsibilities

As a web developer, you'll need to:

  • write code in one or more programming or scripting languages, such as PHP or JavaScript
  • plan and prototype new applications
  • design the architecture of the components of an application
  • decide on the best technologies and languages for the project
  • test sites and applications in different browsers and environments
  • problem-solve
  • fix bugs in existing projects
  • test new features thoroughly to ensure they perform the correct task in all cases
  • run performance benchmarking tests
  • review colleagues' code
  • build and test Application Program Interfaces (APIs) for applications to exchange data
  • research, incorporate and contribute to Open Source projects
  • meet designers, developers and project staff for progress updates
  • gather requirements from clients and users
  • learn and test new technologies, frameworks and languages
  • stay up to date with new trends and advancements in web development
  • build and maintain databases
  • carry out code refactoring and optimisation of existing code
  • document code, so other developers can understand and contribute to it
  • attend and speak at web development conferences and workshops
  • design information architecture within an application or website.

Salary

  • Salaries for junior or entry-level web developers can range from £19,000 to £25,000.
  • Mid-level and senior web developers usually earn between £25,000 and £35,000.
  • Lead developers typically earn between £35,000 and £60,000, potentially rising to £75,000 in London.

Salary also depends on the type of company and its location. For example, salaries are usually higher if you're working in London and are employed by a large company. However, progression to a senior or lead developer may be faster within a smaller company.

Specialising in newer or more sought-after technologies can lead to higher salaries.

According to ITJobsWatch the median contractor rate for a developer in the UK is £465 per day. Exact rates will vary depending on experience and location.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You'll typically work normal office hours, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

However, if you work for an agency you may be expected to work longer or irregular hours to meet deadlines, or to work on projects for clients in different time zones.

What to expect

  • Remote work and self-employment are common as the only equipment needed is a good quality computer and internet connection. Companies may advertise for web developers on a completely remote basis.
  • Women are currently under-represented in the IT industry as a whole but the issue is being addressed by the sector. Organisations such as Code First: Girls, Women in Tech, Rails Girls and GeekGirlMeetup provide communities, vacancies and educational tools for women wanting to work in web development and IT.
  • There is currently a skills shortage for programming and development roles so opportunities are good for those with the right combination of skills. CWJobs reports that the top three cities in the UK for developer jobs are London, Manchester and Edinburgh (October 2018).
  • In the UK, most office-based web development roles are in cities such as London, Manchester and Leeds.
  • A small amount of travel is common in client-focused roles to meet clients over the course of a project. There will usually be opportunities to travel to conferences and workshops.

Qualifications

There is no formal qualification needed to become a web developer in the UK, though some employers prefer applicants to have a technical degree. Relevant subjects include:

  • computer science
  • informatics
  • software engineering
  • web design and development.

Knowledge and experience are usually the most important requirements. A relevant degree can provide you with demonstrable knowledge, particularly the fundamental principles of programming and application design.

It's sometimes possible to find entry-level positions that don't require any experience. If you take this route, you'll be trained on the job in the specific languages and technologies used by the organisation. Starting salaries for these roles are generally lower than other web development positions.

Although employers occasionally look for a postgraduate qualification, this is rare and generally only applies to senior positions.

Search postgraduate courses in web development.

Other options include short university courses on specific topics like developing web applications in PHP and MySQL, and HNDs in more general subjects like computer science.

Private training providers who specialise in programming and web development offer courses online, in a classroom setting, or in one-day or weekend boot camps.

Employers usually don't mind how you gained your skills, so long as you can demonstrate them and talk about the technical requirements of the job confidently at interview.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • technical knowledge in areas such as client-side components, server-side languages, web application frameworks and database management systems
  • experience with version control systems, and a thorough understanding of the architecture of web applications and web security and encryption
  • attention to detail
  • a logical approach to problem solving
  • the ability to work independently and in mixed teams
  • experience of development methodologies (such as Agile and Waterfall)
  • the ability to manage a complex range of tasks and meet deadlines
  • good communication skills.

Work experience

Some degrees include a year in industry or placement, which is a great way to develop web development skills. You can also gain experience through volunteering and building your own sites and applications.

Other ways to build experience include joining a web development or coding society at university, completing an internship, attending 'hackathons', conferences and workshops, attending meet-ups for different programming languages and interest groups and contributing to open source software.

If you work to work as a freelancer, it's important to have a portfolio of your work, and if you can include some testimonies. Use code repositories such as GitHub and Bitbucket to demonstrate what you can do.

Employers

Almost all organisations require web development work at some point. If the work is needed on a regular basis then an organisation may hire in-house web developers, otherwise they will probably use a web development agency or freelancer. Agencies are therefore a rich source of vacancies for web developers.

If you're more interested in working as a web developer for a particular employer or in a certain sector, look for jobs in the same place the organisation or industry advertises their vacancies - such as specialist press/journals.

The projects you work on in an agency are usually more varied than working as an in-house web developer. However, some web development agencies specialise in particular sectors or have long-standing relationships with a single large client, so don't assume that client work will always be varied. It's important to research an organisation before you submit an application.

If you want control over the projects you work on, then becoming self-employed or freelance is an option. While your work can be more varied and interesting than being employed by an agency or in-house, it's also typically more unpredictable and can result in an unsteady income and more stress.

Freelancers have full responsibility for sourcing and completing their work and so it can be more challenging to keep a healthy work/life balance.

Look for job vacancies at:

Professional development

In an agency, or technical organisation, you'll receive the majority of your training from more experienced developers. This is especially the case in the early stages of your career.

In small organisations, or as part of non-technical teams, you'll usually need to dedicate time to independent research and self-led learning. Most of the learning materials needed for building web development knowledge can be found on the internet, usually for free, and some web developers consider themselves completely self-taught.

Web developers can also receive training and keep up to date with changes in the sector by attending conferences, workshops, training camps and meet ups. There are events for almost every web development language, framework and technology, and most employers encourage you to attend relevant events.

More formal professional qualifications can be obtained from the BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT), including certifications in:

  • agile development
  • information security
  • software testing
  • solution development and architecture
  • IT management.

Employers may expect you to become professionally certified in any relevant technologies they use, and depending on your career path, you may be offered the opportunity to undertake in-house or external management, business/systems analysis, and project management training.

You need to stay up to date with the world of web development, test out new advancements and integrate them, if appropriate, into the organisation. Learning new programming languages can help advance your career, as can helping out with other projects, leading on new projects, training and supervising new staff and attending client meetings.

Career prospects

Having usually started your agency or tech organisation career as a junior or entry-level developer, you'll generally progress to a senior or mid-level developer role after around five years. As a senior developer, you'll usually work on more significant projects, be given a greater number of clients and lead client meetings. You may also manage one or two junior developers.

In an agency, progression is usually marked by being given more clients, leading client meetings and working on more important projects. As a senior developer, you might also manage one or two junior developers.

After ten or more years the next step is to lead developer, technical lead or head of development. At this level you'll usually do less coding work and will manage a team of web developers and contribute to the organisation's technical strategy and goals.

After this, you could move into a senior or even board-level position, for example chief technical officer (CTO) or technology vice president.

In non-technical or very small organisations, there may not be distinct grade bands to progress through. However, your knowledge and skill will increase over time and should be rewarded with more responsibility and pay increases.

Some organisations hire very experienced and reputable web developers known as 'evangelists'. Acting as an ambassador, they promote and train people in the use of a new technology or systems developed by the organisation.

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