Front End Web Developer Careers: Salary & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a front-end web developer career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a front-end web developer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Front-End Web Developer Career

Front-end web developers design the actual page interface that users see when they visit a website. Check out the pros and cons to see if a career in this field is right for you.

Pros of a Front-End Web Developer Career
Minimum education requirements (27% have some college, but no degree)**
Faster than average job growth (20% projected from 2012-2022)*
Can use creativity in the design process and telecommute*
Can be your own boss (about 25% of web developers were self-employed in 2012)*

Cons of a Front-End Web Developer Career
Ongoing training needed for learning new web development technologies*
Can require long hours to complete projects on deadline*
Outsourcing may reduce demand*
May have to work on-call to fix website issues*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics., **O*NET OnLine

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Front-end web developers work with other developers and designers to maintain existing website code, create new designs from mockups, add new interactive features to existing sites and work with layouts. In addition to using web programming and scripting languages, they also use graphic design tools to make site banners, backgrounds and other page elements. Troubleshooting and testing are also part of the job. Developers work to ensure sites are accessible in multiple browsers and that all web applications work correctly.

In addition to making sure that a website is technically functional, front-end web developers are required to meet clients' specific needs. They must meet with customers to determine what a site should be able to handle in terms of web traffic or interactive content. For example, a developer might design a site that makes online gaming or purchasing accessible or that includes specific requested applications.

Career Prospects and Salary

With more companies conducting business transactions online, the BLS projects a 20% increase in employment from 2012-2022 for web developers. Although some jobs may decrease if companies hire developers from abroad, web developers should still have favorable job prospects, especially if they keep up with industry trends and learn new tools as needed. The computer systems design industry has the highest level of employment.

As of May 2014, the BLS estimates that the mean annual wage for web developers was $68,670. The independent artists, writers and performers industry offered the highest pay with an annual average wage of $89,360.

Career Skills and Requirements

While some positions can require a bachelor's degree in computer science or visual communications, employers are usually more interested in an applicant's technical experience and abilities than they are in formal education. Front-end web developers must have advanced skills in scripting (JavaScript and ActionScript) and markup languages and style sheets, such as HTML, XML and CSS. Experience with commonly used programs, such as Flash and Photoshop, is also needed, as well as basic web server administration skills. You can learn these computer skills by attending a community college or technical school and obtaining a degree in a computer field; otherwise, you can enroll in seminars and online programs that provide the knowledge needed to be successful in front-end web development. Other skills needed may include an attention to detail, the ability to come up with creative solutions to problems, the ability to work in a team with other developers and designers, strong communication skills and a desire to learn new methods.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers look for a combination of education, web design skills and proven experience. In addition to requiring proficiency in multiple scripting and programming languages, some want experience in social media, online marketing and graphic design. The following list of job postings were open in April 2012:

  • A staffing firm in New Jersey sought a front-end web developer experienced in HTML, CSS, website graphics, Unix, Linux, JavaScript and AJAX. In addition to two years of work experience, the candidate needed a bachelor's degree, preferably in computer science.
  • A Detroit professional services firm advertised for a front-end web developer with an existing portfolio of design projects and a year of experience, as well as proficiency in JavaScript, HTML, CSS, FTP and XML. Preferred skills included knowledge in Unix administration, web services and scripting.
  • A California digital marketing firm was looking for a front-end web developer with experience in online marketing, web analytics, social media, JavaScript, XHTML, web services, PHP, jQuery and CSS. Other requirements included four years of work experience and a bachelor's degree.
  • An association in New York advertised for a front-end web developer who knew JavaScript, CSS, HTML, Flash and graphic design applications, in addition to having three years' experience and a design portfolio. Preferred candidates had a bachelor's degree related to visual communications or fine arts, as well as experience in social networking APIs, e-mail marketing and HTML 5.

How to Maximize Your Skills

Create a Portfolio

Beyond meeting the education and skills requirements for front-end web developer positions, having proven work experience can help employers notice you. One of the most common ways to prove your skills is through an online portfolio that shows previous website design work, such as school projects or work done through an internship, previous job or volunteer role.

Learn More

You can also maximize your skills by learning a variety of web programming and scripting languages beyond HTML, JavaScript and CSS. Python, Perl, HTML 5 and PHP are some examples, although individual employers may look for others.

Develop Related Skills

Some employers don't just look for candidates who can build websites; they seek out those with experience in online marketing and multimedia. Related online marketing skills include knowing how to integrate social media into the company's site, using web analytics tools to monitor website performance and following requirements for search engine optimization to improve the site's ranking.

Knowing how to use multimedia can also help you stand out, especially if you learn common graphic design tools and image optimization. Employers may look for candidates who know how to use Adobe products, such as Photoshop and Illustrator.

Other Careers to Consider

Graphic Designer

If you want to design websites but aren't interested in coding, consider a career as a graphic designer. In addition to making graphical layouts and images for websites, graphic designers can create material for print media such as books, magazines and journals.

According to the BLS, you'll usually need a bachelor's degree related to graphic design or fine arts for this career. Although there is competition for graphic design jobs, job growth is projected at 13% from 2010-2020, which is about as fast as average. The mean annual wage as of May 2011 was $49,000.

Software Developer

If creating Internet applications is more interesting to you than designing the front-end interface of a website, you could become a software developer who specializes in Internet applications. In addition to maintaining existing code, these developers come up with new applications, create the code and perform tests to ensure everything works properly. This job requires extensive knowledge in programming, scripting and database languages, and a bachelor's degree in a technical field is usually needed.

The BLS projects a favorable 30% job growth for computer software engineers from 2010-2020. As of May 2011, the mean annual wage for this career was $92,000.

Popular Schools

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    1. Full Sail University

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      • B.S. - Digital Arts and Design
      • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
      • B.S. - Web Design and Development
      • B.S. - Game Design
      • B.S. - Computer Animation
      • B.S. - Game Art
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    2. Georgetown University

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      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
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    3. Saint Leo University

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      • BS: Computer Science
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      • AA: Cybersecurity
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Featured Schools

Full Sail University

  • B.S. - Digital Arts and Design
  • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
  • B.S. - Web Design and Development

What is your highest level of education?

Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Saint Leo University

  • BS: Computer Science
  • BS: Computer Science - Information Assurance
  • AA: Cybersecurity
  • AA: Information Technology

What is your highest level of education completed?

Purdue University Global

  • MSM in Information Technology
  • BBA: New Media and Internet Marketing
  • AASIT: Network Admin

Which subject are you interested in?

Colorado State University Global

  • Master - Information Technology Management
  • Graduate Specialization - Information Technology
  • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • B.S. in Computer Programming
  • B.S. in Information Technology

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Colorado Christian University

  • Cyber Security, M.S.
  • Computer Information Technology, B.S.
  • Computer Information Technology, A.S.

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Northcentral University

  • PhD-TIM - Computer Science
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • MSTIM - Computer Science
  • MBA - Computer and Information Security

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