Web Developer’s Milestone Map
A career in web development is open to anyone with the motivation to master web languages and technologies. See how one student spotted a need for user-friendly technology and turned it into a successful career.
Sets up web version of yearbook where students can upload photos
Online Associate Degree
Builds personal websites in free time to help pay for
Takes front-end developer job at national bank, helps relaunch main website
Picks up PHP and Node.js to expand programming skillset
Twelve years after starting, becomes bank’s VP of digital production
Learning Web Development Online
Affordability, flexibility and efficiency are the hallmarks of online learning, and for some types of degree programs, like web development, online learning is ideal. Students use many of the same programs and platforms, such as browser-based coding environments, that are used in professional settings, providing a powerful hands-on experience. With few exceptions, courses, exams, and study and discussion groups are attended online, and access to instructors, fellow students, and academic counselors is easily available.
Despite physical distance, students often report a great deal of camaraderie and collaboration with their peers, leading to an online experience that is both personal and productive. Team projects and group discussions play a vital role in online education, and most students find them both motivating and rewarding. Online institutions are also expert at facilitating the learning process through technological tools such as weekly class calendars, assignment reminders and graduation tracking.
Main Program Types in Web Development
There are online educational options in web development at both the undergraduate and graduate level. The list below outlines the scope of each, so prospective students can identify which will best fulfill their career goals.
(1 to 6 months)
- Associate Degrees
(18 months to 2 years)
- Bachelor’s Degrees
- Master’s Degrees
Certificates in web development vary widely in price and quality. Most programs fall into one of two categories: those that emphasize skill acquisition, and those that offer testing-based certificates. The highest rated programs offer both in-depth instruction and exams; however, for those who are already proficient in web development skills but lack traditional credentials, certificates based on skill testing alone are a reasonable option.
In the tech industry, knowledge and experience often outweigh formal training, so an associate degree is often acceptable for entry-level employment. Many quality programs can be completed in as few as 18 months, with students fulfilling the equivalent of about 60 semester credits. Options include an associate of science degree (AS), an associate of art degree (AA), or an associate of applied science degree (AAS). The first two include courses that generally can count towards a future bachelor’s degree, while an associate of applied science degree generally does not.
A bachelor’s degree can mean more extensive preparation, and lead to higher pay and leadership opportunities in web development. Completing a bachelor’s degree signifies to employers that students are dedicated to learning and doing the necessary work to move into management positions. A bachelor’s degree generally requires 120 semester hours of course credit; it often includes a senior seminar or capstone course, usually taken during the final program semester, and may require a major paper, project or internship. Online colleges and universities offer part-time and accelerated programs, allowing students to continue to work and gain experience while earning their degrees.
A master’s degree in web development offers the promotion potential of a bachelor’s degree, in addition to other professional opportunities. Not only are average annual salaries higher, a master’s degree can open up new career options such as teaching or consulting. Master’s degree programs require about 30 semester credit hours and are made up of approximately two-thirds graded coursework and one-third faculty-supervised research and thesis writing. Some programs may substitute a project or internship in lieu of a written thesis. Working students may find that challenges they face on the job can be channeled into opportunities for thesis research and projects. In addition, many companies reward employees who want to obtain advanced education by helping pay for the cost of the program.
Core Classes in Web Development Degree Programs
From website design and front end development (the part of the web that users see and interact with) to back end development (the hidden code that powers the website), web development is a broad discipline. Online web development degrees offer a range of courses, from introductory to advanced levels, which allow students to match their interests to different areas of expertise. Some classes offered in a web development degree program may include:
In this beginner course, students learn the basics of building web pages through project-based assignments that introduce core technologies.
Back End for Beginners
Students become familiar with server-side languages—including PHP, ASP.NET, Ruby, Python and Java—to learn the fundamentals of back end development.
Design for Web Developers
Design theory, managing and meeting client expectations, budgeting, brand strategy, and usability are topics covered in this course.
Mobile Application Development and Business Strategy
Topics covered include mobile platforms and development environments, the creation of single activity and multi-activity applications, user interface design, and business marketing basics.
Advanced Server-Side Development
Students use advanced server-side techniques to enhance user interactivity. Projects include interactive RESTful application programming interfaces (APIs) and API-driven web applications that use asynchronous scripting language callbacks.
Web Dev Program Selection: Advice & Tips
During the process of researching web development degree programs, it’s important to keep in mind the intellectual and time commitments that will be required, and students should choose a program that will optimize those investments. The following guidelines are some things to consider:
- Choose a program that works with your schedule now, and best suits your future career goals.
- Make sure you understand and meet program requirements such as GPA, course prerequisites, etc.
- Ensure that the school is accredited by a reputable organization.
- Speak in person with an academic counselor or other students to get a feel for the learning environment.
- Find out what services the school offers for job placement.
- Check out the financial aid options offered through the school.
- Talk to professionals in the field about the programs you’re considering.
- If you’re currently working, speak with your boss or human resources department about the program to see if they might offer any accommodations or incentives.
Accreditation: A Key Consideration
As students begin to narrow their choices for a program in web development, it’s vital to consider the accreditation status of schools. Accredited schools are recognized and respected as ones that meet the high quality standards of accrediting institutions endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education; thus, accreditation can directly affect the value of a degree.
Several other factors also come into play. For example, it’s much more likely to be able to transfer credits from an accredited school than from one that is not. In addition, students are only eligible for federal financial aid if they attend an accredited school.
Web development degree programs may not always have specialized programmatic accreditation. At minimum, look for institutions accredited by one of the six major regional accrediting organizations.
Please review our accreditation guide and computer science degree page for a more detailed look at the accreditation process.
Sample Enrollment Timeline: Steps for Success
While researching programs and accredited institutions, it’s imperative to know the timeline for meeting application requirements. Some programs, for example, may require applications more than six months in advance. However, online programs often offer a more relaxed timeline, with applications accepted only a couple of months before the start date, such as in the example below for an online bachelor’s program. In any case, students applying for federal financial aid should start the process as early as possible to maximize their chances for funding.
||Time Before Program Start Date
Graduate High School or obtain GED and take any requisite academic, skill, or language proficiency exams.
|3 to 4 months
Research programs and identify several candidates.
|3 to 6 months
Forward high school transcripts, credit transfer requests, and standardized test scores (such as the SAT or ACT), as necessary.
Complete and submit applications and any personal essay requirements.
Taking some extra steps can give you an edge in the applications process, as well as increase your ability to succeed once enrolled in a program. Consider some of the following prep work:
- Get involved in clubs, activities and projects that are web- and technology-related, such as a STEM club, robotics engineering, or game design.
- Try an introductory computer science or web development class at your high school or local community college.
- Volunteer or intern with a company or organization that has a web team to gain experience dealing with real-world issues in design, maintenance and troubleshooting.
Career Pathways in Web Development
An online web development degree can lead to a wide variety of jobs and careers, each with a different blend of technical skills and creative abilities. Some will require in-depth knowledge of server-side technologies, for example, while others require less technical expertise and instead focus on design skills that enhance the user experience. Take a look at some of the possibilities below:
A web designer works with clients, web developers, and marketing and sales teams to design user interfaces for a variety of websites and mobile applications. Successful web designers have excellent design skills, can develop and adhere to brand identity standards, thoroughly understand all aspects of web development, and may use front end development technologies.
Front End Web Developer
Back End Web Developer
Back end web developers are responsible for the server side of web development. They write web software and Application Program Interfaces known as APIs; since they are responsible for enabling the front end development work, they must also be familiar with front end technologies. Back end developers must be proficient in multiple server-side languages and technologies, and have the ability to integrate their code with front-end design. Security is also within the purview of back end development.
A webmaster is someone who monitors and maintains a website or multiple websites, fixes problems, makes improvements, and liaisons with various teams to ensure a positive and productive user experience. They must be familiar with all aspects of web development and design. Webmasters function as server administrators, and generally manage the day-to-day tasks associated with operating websites.
Vice President, Technology
A vice president of information technology manages technology-related investments, innovations and initiatives. They plan and implement IT strategies, as well as identify requirements for web systems, such as servers, software, and operating systems. They also manage the teams responsible for all web activity, development, monitoring and maintenance. A vice president of information technology is a senior level management position requiring extensive knowledge and experience.
||National Job Growth(2014-2024)
||National Median Annual Salary (September 2015)
|Front End Web Developer
|Back End Web Developer
|Vice President, Information Technology
Sources: Job growth data (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Note: Salary data (PayScale)
Web Development Certifications
Certifications are available in all aspects of web development and can either stand alone as evidence of acquired skills, or complement a degree program. Some web development certificates are issued by technology companies themselves, while others are offered by consulting and educational firms. Below are some of the top certifications.
Similar Online Programs in Computer Science
In addition to web development, students may also be interested in exploring other educational options in the fields of computer science and information technology. Below are some programs related to an online web development degree:
Online Data Science Degrees:
The field of data science is driving much of the innovation in the web and mobile app industries, and the ability to extract, organize and analyze data is in high demand.
Online Computer Programming Degrees:
Computer programmers turn ideas into instructions a computer can follow. Computer programmers may work in areas such as software development, security or social media.
Additional Web Dev Resources