7 min read

What Qualifications do you need to be a Web Developer?

Shape April 2022 HR 199
Updated on 13 Sept 2022


As of May 2022, there are over 8,000 job adverts looking specifically for web developers. With developer roles ranking as the third most in-demand profession in the tech world, it has become one of the most attractive areas for anyone looking to launch their career in a burgeoning industry.

A job in such high demand, with a high earning potential, must demand some pretty intensive qualifications and formal skill requirements, right? Well, not entirely…

Despite the obvious pros and growing popularity, there are a whole host of ways people can get their start in this attractive and lucrative industry.

What does a web developer do?

Let’s start with the basics. These days we all use websites daily, whether it’s for online shopping, browsing the news, or even just checking the football results. We spend more time online, and on websites than ever before, but have you ever wondered what it takes to create one?

Web development isn’t about the design of a website, it’s all about the programming that makes it functional.

A web developer must understand the user’s needs, to ensure the content, graphics, and internal structure of the site are used to make the experience as easy as possible for the user. They work by building the functionality, interactivity, and structure of the site, in line with the vision of the designers and the requirements of the site’s owner.

Everything you use on the internet, from social media platforms, apps, online shopping sites, and even the simplest web pages, has been built – and is maintained by – a developer.

A typical day can differ depending on whether someone is a back-end or front-end developer. Back-end developers work to create a website’s internal structure by writing code, and continuously test to ensure everything is working correctly. They’re also responsible for creating access points for anyone else who may need to manage the site’s content. This can include other developers, designers and the site's owner.

Alternatively, front-end developers spend their time working on the visual side of the website, i.e. the pages visitors see and interact with (also known as the user interface). They’re responsible for the physical layout, integrating graphics, and use a variety of programming languages to enhance the site’s appearance, usability and functionality.

Learn more about The Role of a Web Developer.

What skills do you need to become a web developer?

There isn’t a set path for becoming a web developer. Drive and ability are key.

Unlike some tech jobs, having a degree isn’t a requirement, and many make their way doing (often free) boot camps and online courses until they have a real feel for coding and what it takes to build a beautifully functional website. Industry favourites include Codecademy, freeCodeCamp, and Khan Academy.

Formal qualifications and on-the-job training will be the best route for some, and there are now multiple degrees and apprenticeships out there.

Whatever the path, before starting out in the industry, developers will need an understanding of:

  • Front-end programming languages like JavaScript, HTML, React, and JQuery
  • Back-end languages like C#, Python, Ruby, and PHP
  • Web servers and how they work/web application systems
  • Content management systems like Craft CMS
  • User Experience (UX)
  • User Interface (UI)

On top of this, key skills for every successful developer include:

  • A love of problem-solving: Programming languages operate on rules and definitions, nothing is subjective. The best developers can think through problems quickly, and logically, and can ultimately find a solution.
  • A creative mind: Web development combines creativity and analytical skills perfectly. An experienced developer will be proficient in an array of programming languages and will often get creative when deciding the best fitting languages or solutions for any given task.
  • A keen eye for detail: Even the smallest typo can lead to an error page. A developer must learn to re-read their code multiple times to find any mistakes. It takes endless patience, focus, and the ability to look at your work with an objective eye.
  • Strong communication skills: Whether they’re part of a large department, a small team, or freelancing solo, developers need to communicate throughout projects. From the initial idea stage to liaising with designers and clients, having an open line of communication is key to a successful project and an end result to be proud of.

Whether taking part in a coding bootcamp or learning via an online course or degree, you’ll learn about front and back-end languages and can choose which direction to take from there.

Whether someone chooses to pursue front-end, back-end or even full stack development will depend on where their strengths lie. A front-end developer may need to be more creative as they’re responsible for constructing the user experience elements such as menus, buttons, graphics, links and more.

A back-end developer should be adept at interacting with databases and servers, and also at solving more complicated sets of problems. Their core concern is with creating applications that will find and deliver data to the front end successfully.

If you have an affinity and interest in both, then becoming a full-stack developer gives you the best of both worlds, as their work consists of using both front and back-end languages.

Do web developers need a formal qualification?

In short…no. But self-learning isn’t for everyone, and with 40 web development courses available across 22 UK universities, many future web developers will choose this route.

Many of these degrees combine web development with web design, user experience, user interface, and even cyber security skills, giving students the option to specialise in a whole host of interesting – and rapidly growing—fields.

A maths or computer science qualification will certainly help, and you’ll need a high level of computer literacy to succeed.

One downside of a formal degree is the speed at which development technology changes and many tutors simply can’t keep up.

Since web development is largely a skills-based field, if you know how to – and are willing – to do the work, there’s no reason you can’t get hired.

Jason Mayo, Co-Founder and Lead Web Developer at MadeByShape explained, “When hiring, we don’t always check what qualifications someone has. When it comes to development, we’ve found that often people that do have computer science degrees, are sometimes the worst candidates for the position. Usually, because they are taught old technologies or outdated practices. We much prefer someone self-taught as they always seem to have more ambition and have learnt the latest tech. Sure they might pick up bad habits, but these can always be ironed out.”

Who can become a web developer?

People who love solving problems, being creative, and building something unique, will find themselves at home in this corner of the tech world.

There are many successful developers out there who took the leap from an entirely separate field, with no prior knowledge or experience and have never looked back. A passion for the industry and a willingness to learn goes a long way.

While, in theory, anyone can become a web developer, a global software developer survey in 2021 showed that the vast majority of developers are currently male, accounting for 91% of respondents.

Learn more about why there aren't more female web developers.

How long does it take to become a web developer?

How long is a piece of string?

Everyone is different, and your natural abilities and career background will have an impact on how swiftly you can start, or transition into, a paid developer role.

The quickest option would be a boot camp, some of which you can complete in as little as three months if you’re attending full-time and studying whenever you can. Alternatively, a formal degree or college qualification can take several years to complete.

Your education and ability are paramount; you need to know how to program effectively if you want to build a long-term career in the field. But there isn’t a ‘right’ way—or speed at which—to get there, and it will all depend on your circumstances, the resources available, and ultimately your goals.

Why choose a career in web development?

If you’ve got this far and have had your interest officially piqued, then maybe a career in web development is for you?

It’s no doubt a popular role, with great job security, career prospects, and some pretty desirable salary expectations to boot.

Entry level positions typically start at £30,000 per year - well above the national average. Mid-level roles can expect to take home around £40,000 per year, while experienced developers can make upwards of £55,000 per year.

With the pandemic forcing millions of businesses online, companies are crying out for developers to keep their businesses growing. Combine this with the global tech worker shortage and you’ll find yourself in a market with huge growth and earning potential.

As we now know, there are plenty of ways to break into this ever-changing industry.

Hello, I'm Natasia, and I'm a content writer for Shape.