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Spoiler alert: breaking into tech isn’t as hard as it seems. And yes, we’re talking to you—the person who’s reading this because they’re wondering how to become a web developer and, more importantly, whether they can pull it off.
Whether you’re on the path to career change from another industry or want to rejoin the workforce after time away, there’s a good chance a tech career offers the flexibility and salary you’re looking for. One of the most versatile ways into tech is through web development, which leads us to the burning question:
How do I become a web developer when I have no previous experience?
It can sound like a hard-to-reach goal, but the path to becoming a developer isn’t as hard as you might think—for instance, try months versus years when picturing the time it takes to learn the skills you’ll need. Meanwhile, there’s a whole world of resources to teach you how to become a web developer, many of which are free (including our guide that goes even MORE in-depth on all things web developer right here). Read on to learn some of the basic steps you’ll need to take toward becoming a website developer.
Table of Contents
- Figure Out The Skills You’ll Need
- Build Experience (While Learning) Through Test Web Development Projects
- Find the Ideal Web Developer Jobs for Your Goals
How to Become a Web Developer: A 3-Step Guide
Step 1: Pick the Skills You Need to Work in Web Development
Web developer jobs are typically skill-based (as opposed to requiring credentials like a tech-specific bachelor’s degree or even an associate’s degree), which means if you have the skills, you can do the job. Step one then on the road to web development: identify exactly what those skills are.
In doing so, it’s important to note there are two categories of web developer jobs: front-end development and back-end development.
Front End Web Development Skills
Front-end developers work with the visual parts of a website that users see and interact with through their web browser. According to Ana Martínez, Front-End Developer at digital production studio Commite Inc., there’s a trifecta of coding languages that serve as a backbone for any front-end developer career. Martinez says:
Back End Web-Development Skills
- Ruby / Ruby on Rails
While these skills are the the necessary basics for starting out in either front-end or back-end web development, Martínez stresses that your personal approach and motivation is just as important as your skills. As in any career, Martínez says, it’s imperative for successful web developers to show initiative when it comes to learning and taking on new challenges, but also to genuinely enjoy their work. Martinez says:
“I don’t think it’s enough just to study one coding language or another. If you don’t have an affinity for the tech world and web development, your path will be a lot more difficult.”
So, to recap, here’s a simplified checklist:
Web Developer Skills Checklist
Front End Web Development
Back End Web Development
- Web frameworks like Ruby on Rails (and Ruby) and NodeJS
- We also recommend Git and GitHub (and teach them in our web developer course!)
Step 2: Start Learning Web Development and Put Your Skills in Practice
Find a Web Development Community for Feedback and Advice
In addition to learning skill basics through tutorials and online classes, you’ll also need to participate in online coding communities like GitHub and Stack Overflow. GitHub is a forum where web developers can post projects they’re working on, share code with other developers, and receive peer-to-peer comments on their work. Stack Overflow is a coding-related discussion board where developers interact through a question and answer format. Both of these platforms are ideal spaces to try out what you’ve learned and gain real-world experience and feedback.
Take on Test Projects to Build Up a Portfolio—Even If You Don’t Have a Web Developer Job
Another solid, long-term strategy is to use this time to take on test projects—whether these are small paid jobs for friends in need of a personal website or projects based on a hobby or passion of yours, building real sites while the stakes are relatively low will put you in position to feel comfortable as your projects and job opportunities become more complex.
Practice with Free Tools to Increase Your Knowledge
Finally, take time as you’re learning to familiarize yourself with the many free tools available to web developers and find the ones that give you the most value. Whether it’s text editors, web browser extensions, or content management systems, you’ll be surprised how many essential resources are available for no cost.
Step 3: Find the Right Web Developer Job for You
Once you’ve built up a solid web developer skill set, it’s time to think about what kind of work you want to do—do you want a regular job as a developer for an established company, or are you better suited to starting a freelancing business and being your own boss?
There are pros and cons to freelancing and going full-time, and the path you choose needs to be informed by what you want out of a web development career. The main point to keep in mind, though, is that either style of employment is totally possible for web developers.
Consider Freelance Work
If you’re transitioning from a more traditional 9-5 office job, freelancing might sound like a stretch, but Odelya Holiday, Developer at photo and video editing app company Lightricks, says that—while it’s not only possible to make money as a freelance web developer—in her experience web developers are more likely to be employed as freelancers than employed by a single company.
But Don’t Discount Working a 9-to-5 Web Developer Job
However, Holiday adds that in her opinion starting off at an established company is a good way to learn best practices early on. At Holiday’s company, for instance, all code goes through peer review and tests, making it an ideal environment for developers to grow alongside their colleagues. Of course, for some web developer hopefuls the flexibility afforded by being your own boss will outweigh the benefits of working side-by-side with colleagues, but that’s the beauty of web development—all of these options are on the table.
Either Way, Use These Web Developer Job Resources
In either case, once you start seeking paid work as a web developer you’ll need to glue your eyes to online job boards.
- General boards like Glassdoor and Indeed host a range of job opportunities and can be modified to search for web developer positions
- Other boards focus more specifically on remote, flexible, and freelance positions. (Each one of these links is a roundup of at least 22 job boards!)
Don’t Forget to Network with Other Web Developers!
Sites like Meetup.com and Women Who Code are invaluable assets when it comes to finding network opportunities and making face-to-face job connections at conferences, job fairs, and workshops. Use them!
Remember—the roadmap of how to become a web developer might seem epic, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these three simple steps and you’ll be in position to start reaping all of tech’s benefits when you become a website developer.
Scott Morris is Skillcrush's staff writer and content producer. Like all the members of Skillcrush's team, he works remotely (in his case from Napa, CA). He believes that content that's worth reading (and that your audience can find!) creates brands that people follow. He's experienced writing on topics including jobs and technology, digital marketing, career pivots, gender equity, parenting, and popular culture. Before starting his career as a writer and content marketer, he spent 10 years as a full-time parent to his daughters Veronica and Athena.