What Does a Web Developer Do (and How Do I Become One)?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Web developers build websites and ensure they perform reliably and efficiently. Learn more about this critical role in the tech industry and how to get started.

[Featured image] A web designer is at the office working.

What is web development?

A web developer’s job is to create websites. Whilst their primary role is ensuring the website is visually appealing and easy to navigate, many web developers are also responsible for its performance and capacity. 

Types of web developers

Web developers usually fall under one of three categories: back-end developers, front-end developers, and full-stack developers. Some web developers also work as webmasters. Let’s take a closer look at each of these roles.

  • Back-end web developers create the website’s structure, write code, and verify the code works. Their responsibilities also may include managing access points for others who need to manage a website’s content. 

  • Front-end web developers work on the visual part of the website—the pages visitors see and interact with (also known as the user interface). They design the physical layout of each page, integrate graphics, and use HTML and JavaScript to enhance the site. You can gain essential front-end web development skills with Meta's Front-End Developer Professional Certificate.

  • Full-stack developers fulfil both roles, completing tasks of both back-end and front-end developers. These developers have the knowledge to build a complete website and may work for organisations that don’t have the budget for a large website team. If you're interested in full-stack web development, consider earning IBM's Full-Stack Developer Professional Certificate.

  • Webmasters are essentially website managers. Their primary responsibility is to keep the website updated, ensuring that the links and applications on each page work properly.

Web developer tasks and responsibilities

As a web developer, you could work for a company or agency or as a freelancer taking on projects for individual clients. Your tasks will vary depending on your work situation, but day-to-day responsibilities might generally include:

  • Designing user interfaces and navigation menus

  • Writing and reviewing code for sites, typically with HTML, XML, or JavaScript

  • Integrating multimedia content onto a site

  • Testing web applications

  • Troubleshooting problems with performance or user experience

  • Collaborating with designers, developers, and stakeholders

Web developer career path

Many web developers start their careers with a single focus, usually front-end or back-end development. They may move on to be full-stack developers or explore careers in related fields, including project management, computer programming, or graphic design. 

How much do web developers make?

As of November 2023, the average base pay for web developers in the UK is £39,876 per year; however, some can earn up to £52,822, according to Glassdoor salary insights [1]. How much you earn will depend on many factors, including where you work, what industry you work in, and how much experience you have.

An increase in web development jobs is occurring because of the growth of e-commerce. Companies are becoming more reliant on functioning websites that operate on multiple devices, suggesting that demand for skilled professionals in this role will continue. In 2022, Computer Weekly noted that the UK sees approximately 750 developer jobs newly advertised every day, with many experts contending that finding skilled talent to fill those jobs was a significant challenge [2]. 

How to become a web developer

Formal education isn’t always necessary to become an entry-level web developer. Some web developers have a bachelor’s degree in website design or computer science, but others teach themselves how to code and design websites. Whilst earning a degree can make you a more competitive candidate, a strong portfolio can go a long way towards validating your skills to potential employers.

If you’re interested in becoming a web developer, here are some steps you can take.

1. Build web developer skills.

Employers and clients usually expect web developers to have certain skills that demonstrate their ability to deliver on website requirements. If you’re interested in a career as a web developer, these are some skills you can focus on to build a foundation for success.

Technical skills

  • Coding: Common programming languages include HTML, PHP, cascading style sheets, and JavaScript for front-end design. Consider learning Python, Java, or Ruby if you want to do back-end development.

  • Responsive design: People use a variety of devices to view websites. Developers should be able to create sites that look as good on smartphones and tablets as they do on computer screens.

  • Technical SEO: Many factors of website design can affect the site’s search engine ranking. Understanding how search engines rank sites is useful in a developer’s work.

  • Version control: This lets you track and control changes to the source code without starting over from the beginning each time you run into a problem.

  • Visual design: Understanding basic design principles, such as how to use white space, choose fonts, and incorporate images, could boost your marketability.

Workplace skills

  • Communication: Web developers spend time discussing design ideas with their clients and team members through each step of the project.

  • Customer service: A web developer creates websites for the client and should remain client-focused to achieve the best results.

  • Detail-oriented: Little details, like a small change in code, can make a big difference in how a website performs.

  • Organisation: Keeping track of deadlines, project tasks, workflow, and budgets is helpful if you want to complete a website design on time.

  • Problem-solving: Web developers often run into issues when designing websites. They should have the patience and ability to identify problems in the design or coding and solve them in a methodical way.

2. Consider a degree in computer science or web design.

Whilst you don’t always need a degree to get a job in web development, it can certainly help. If you’re already in school (or considering earning a degree), some modules might better fit your career goals than others. If you’re more interested in back-end web development, consider a degree programme in computer science. If you feel more drawn to front-end development, consider opting for a degree in web design or user experience (UX).

3. Take a course in web development.

You don’t necessarily need formal training to work as a web developer. It’s possible to acquire the skills you need on your own. For example, you can take a course to learn programming languages like HTML, JavaScript, or CSS and then put what you learnt into practice on your own website.

By completing an online course in web development, like Web Design for Everybody: Basics of Web Development & Coding, from the University of Michigan, you can build skills whilst completing development projects for your portfolio.

Get a feel for what the course is like by watching this video on interactivity with JavaScript:

4. Build a portfolio of web development work.

As a web developer, your portfolio is often one of the most important parts of your CV. This collection of projects shows potential employers what you’re capable of creating. Include the types of projects that represent the work you’d like to do. If you’re including code, be sure to annotate it to show your thought process.

5. Get certified.

Earning a certification can validate your skill set to potential employers. You’ll find a range of general and vendor-specific options, including:

  • Adobe Certified Expert (ACE)

  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSD)

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Developer

  • Zend Certified PHP Engineer

Get started with Coursera

If you’re considering becoming a web developer, you can start learning today. Get an overview of web development from industry leader Meta, with Meta Front-End Developer Professional Certificate, or specialisation with Web Design for Everybody: Basics of Web Development & Coding from the University of Michigan. If your career goals include a role as a web developer, learn more about how a degree in computer science can help create new opportunities.

Article sources


Glassdoor. “Web Developer Salaries United Kingdom, https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Career/web-developer-career_KO0,13.htm.” Accessed November 21, 2023.

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