How to Become a Web Developer in 2021 and Get Hired
So you’re looking for an exciting new career in a growing field that pays well? This could mean you’re thinking of becoming a web developer. Entry-level web developer jobs pay an average of $65,000 a year. Demand for web development keeps going up, including the demand for app development. This makes it a great field to get into, and now is a great time to do it.
But let me guess: you don’t know how to start. Do you need a computer science degree? Do you need to have been coding for decades? Happily, the answer to both is no. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average degree for web developers is an associate’s degree. This means that many web developers do not have any type of degree, and most do not have a bachelor’s degree.
To get in on web development, you just need to master the relevant skills and learn how to leverage them into a career. Yet, you might worry when applying for your first web development jobs. How do you overcome your fears and feel confident during the application process? Having taught over 300,000 students web development, I have seen first-hand that students who complete the course can get jobs at the top tech companies. They turn their dreams into a reality without a college degree, and so can you.
Learn to code to become a web developer
While you don’t need to have a computer science degree to become a web developer, you will need to learn some programming skills. You will also need to understand some frameworks and how to design. The coding knowledge required for web development varies over time and depends on what you want to do.
For instance, you might want to specialize in front-end web development, working with the parts of websites people see every day. Or you might want to specialize in back-end web development. Back-end developers handle the inner workings and code that makes everything go. Or maybe you want to be a full-stack developer, which is someone who understands how the front- and back-end works together. You could also focus on apps for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
Each of these areas can call for different specializations and knowledge. To figure out what you want to do and learn the skills and code you need, you can start with a bootcamp course or other overview course. You might find my Udemy course to be a great place to start.
HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. HTML is technically a markup language, not a programming language. This means it is a set of rules for text. Because the web was originally all text, HTML is the base code that displays everything on the web. The web would not exist without it, but it is not enough on its own.
To make a website look good and work well, you also need to understand CSS or Cascading Style Sheets. These are what hold the styles and designs. They help HTML work on different screens and devices. They also allow you to manage the layout of many pages at once. They use their own code, distinct from that of HTML, and are also a markup language.
Once you know the code and development skills you need, it’s time to put yourself out there. You have already made it through the most challenging step: learning web development. Now you need to prove to potential employers that you know what you are doing. So how do you convince them?
Show, don’t tell
But how do you prove that to a recruiter? The best way is to let your work do the talking. After you complete your coursework, the first thing you should do if you want to get a job is to build a portfolio.
A good way to do this is to take a project idea and build it yourself. Do not follow a tutorial. Instead, prove that you can code and overcome hurdles by yourself. Some good project ideas to show off your app and web development skills are:
- A browser-based notepad
- A task management website
- A multiplayer whiteboard
These are projects that your future recruiter is likely to use daily. Once you have built multiple projects, host the web apps. Be sure to put them on a nicely designed portfolio website. When you look for jobs, your portfolio will do the talking.
Your portfolio should focus on the area you are most interested in. If you want to do app development, it should showcase your app-building skills. Yet, your portfolio should also be a demonstration of your skills. You want it to show you know what you are doing and how to look professional. I recommend getting feedback from a friend or mentor to ensure your portfolio is as polished as possible.
Get experience working with clients
You can build a million web pages or apps on your own, but it will not show the same skills as creating websites or applications for clients. It’s important to understand client needs. You need to be able to translate “client speak” into your products. When you work at a company, it’s often not about what you want to build but what you need to build.
Therefore, you need to understand client requirements and feedback. Then you need to be able to build on it. An ability to work well with clients is an essential skill to get hired.
The best way to practice working with clients is by signing up as a freelancer on platforms like Fiverr or Upwork. Set your rates low and pick a project that is not too hard. You can always move to more complicated projects later. It’s better to under-promise and then over-deliver. You will learn how to understand client needs and how to communicate with a non-technical person.
By doing freelance work, you can also get paid while you learn. If you did a good job, you would also have a reference to count on to talk up your work.
If the clients are okay with it and you like the work, you will have more projects to show off. Again, just pick the best work that shows off what you want to do. You don’t have to be that picky in choosing projects, especially at first. Your goal is to gain the experience of working with a client over picking just the flashiest work, so not every project needs to be portfolio-worthy.
Get experience working in a team
Working with clients gives you experience on one side, but you also need to be able to build with others. No one wants to work with someone who has no experience working in a team. So how do you get that experience without already having a job?
One way is by contributing to GitHub open source projects. GitHub is the largest online code repository, where many people share projects. Many open-source projects are available for anyone to work on, and there will often be notes saying what the project needs. This will teach you valuable teamwork skills like communication, contributing to team repositories, and working with others. Employers will also look at GitHub to see what you have done there. Contributing gives you a chance to work on more significant projects than the ones you would be able to do alone.
Another way to gain teamwork experience is by going to Hackathons. Hackathons are free (and often with big prizes if you win), and you can go at any skill level. You can sign up as a developer and work with a team over a weekend to build a product together. TechCrunch does a big hackathon every year that a lot of people in the industry attend. You may also be able to find virtual and remote hackathons if travel is not possible.
The work you contribute to also adds to what you can show off in an online portfolio. Again, pick the work that best shows off what you want to do, and highlight it in your online presence.
Meet people in the industry
Hackathons and GitHub communications are also ways to start connecting to people in the industry. Industry contacts can help you learn more about the skill sets you need and get you in at a company. Jobs are often only advertised internally. Getting to know people in the space you want to work in is the key to getting to know about job vacancies. They can also personally pass your resume along when you apply. This means the hiring manager is more likely to consider you for the job.
One of the best ways to get to know people in your industry is through meetings and groups. Find groups meeting up online or, if possible, in person. In every city, there are always meetups happening. You can find groups on meetup.com, through companies, Slack channels, and social media. There may be ones for your specific interest or ones for people from similar backgrounds to you.
You can get to know people in anything from iOS development to finance to medtech. Pick a topic, specialty, or job sector that interests you. Want to work at Google? Go to one of the Google-hosted GDG (Google Developer Group) meetups. Want to work in FinTech? Go to a finance meetup.
You can talk to people who are full stack developers, front-end developers, or back-end developers. You can get to know people who work with content or structure like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or User Experience and User Interface (UX and UI). Figure out what specialty and industry appeal to you and meet people in that specialty or industry.
Don’t wait for the jobs; ask for them
As I said, some companies only post their jobs internally. Yet checking job boards is still important as it can help you see what skills are in demand and who is hiring. Through them, you can learn the basic needs of the industry you have an interest in. This is not always the best way to find a job, however. At startups, they may not even do a job posting at all. If you would like to work at a startup, it’s often much easier to go directly to the company.
Major cities often have groups or online lists for startups you can check. Find the ones doing exciting work that interests you. You can also learn about startups by joining mailing lists and watching social media for the areas you might want to work in. And, of course, you can connect with startups through the people you’ve met in the industry.
As someone who runs a startup, I know that most of the emails I get are from people who want something. You can set yourself apart by offering something. Try to think from the company owner’s point of view.
Figure out what the company founder needs and offer to do that for them. A task can quickly turn into an internship and then into a job. Freelancers can become employees as a company grows. Assistants and interns can go on to become web developers and even department heads.
The world is your oyster
You have built your skills through online courses and projects. You have created sample projects and done freelance work so you can show it off in a beautiful portfolio. You have worked with teams on open source projects and clients on freelance work. You have connected with people online and in person to build a strong network and knowledge base to help you find jobs. You have found startups doing work that excites you, and you have started to figure out what they need. You have studied how to develop websites and apps. You have learned how to convince potential employers that you are the person for the job.
If you have done all this, you are ready to look for your first job as a web developer. You can be an in-demand web developer before you know it.
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