October 11, 2016

Everyone knows computer occupations have high growth. Yet, there is one that stands out: web developers. These jobs are projected to grow 27% in the next 10 years. This will not only provide vast opportunities to individuals purely interested in an IT related career but those who want to combine these valuable skills with their current expertise, which often leads to fascinating applications and a far more marketable job candidate.

This is all great news so why isn’t everyone running to gain these skills? Well certainly many are trying. In turn, increasing demand from the economy and individuals has birthed a plethora of resources offered both online and on-campus. It is likely though that countless drop the pursuit in frustration. The problem is that development is difficult and not for everyone. In order to gain the skill, it requires thousands of laser focused hours and an undying motivation that carries you through the brain numbing problems that happen to everyone. That, unfortunately, is the hard truth.

But, here is the good part. The whole learning process can seem daunting right now and you may even think code looks oddly similar to an archaic foreign language. However, it is all worth it when you finally manage to develop the power to create something of real value and, even prior to that, you will have numerous instances of immense pride from conquering complex problems. All in all, programming is likely one of the most mentally stimulating and fulfilling tasks you could ever learn to do.

If this field appears to be the right fit for you, keep reading for some helpful information to get started.

Basic Web Developer Job Description

There are generally two types of web developers that each have different sets of duties and requirements but work together to create a complete website:

Front End Web Developer

These developers are responsible for the design of the website and how it is interacted with. For example, they create the drop-down menus, buttons, sliders, forms and embed images/videos. Basically, they focus on its usability, aesthetics and overall attractiveness.

Computer Languages Commonly Used: HTML, CSS, JavaScript

Back End Web Developer

This type of developer handles somewhat more complex and programming heavy tasks usually centering on three parts: an application, a server and a database. They are the ones that make it possible through applications (computer programs) to complete various tasks such as buying an item, renting a vehicle or scheduling an appointment. When you complete these actions, corresponding changes are made to database. Additionally, all of these parts are stored on a server or servers. Thus, backend web developers handle the integration between these parts and allow for perhaps the most important capabilities of a site.

Computer Languages Commonly Used: C, C++, PHP, Python, Ruby, Java

How to Start The Learning Process

There are many paths to gain the skills necessary for either type of developer. Below is a list of several popular and effective ones. Although front end and backend developers have different requirements, the options and resources listed apply to both.

Formal Education

Educational requirements for web developers varies from a high school diploma to a *Bachelors in computer science or related field. Generally, backend developer jobs require a Bachelors degree while front end developers have far less formal education requirements.

The expense of formal education is worth considering for both, however. Backend developers need a wide range of skills and significant programming experience in order to be effective. A Bachelors will provide many of these skills as well as the ability to self-learn, which can account for any job requirement deficiencies down the road.

In the case of front end developers, an Associates degree in web design or related field may suffice. But, a dual Bachelors degree in a field such as graphic design and computer science will likely provide all necessary skills and access to any job opportunity.

If you are considering a Bachelors in CS, Oregon State offers an online post-Bachelors degree for those who already have a 4 year degree. It  allows students to earn their degree in as little as 1 year.

Coding Bootcamps

This option is relatively new. These are designed to get you job ready fast- usually 8-12 weeks – and cost $10,000 on average. The training is in-person, highly intense and has a far more narrow focus than formal degree programs. In fact, many have attested to spending 12+ hour days throughout the entire course.

This intensity can be great but can easily lead to burnout, especially for very inexperienced developers. Additionally, students may not learn anywhere close to everything they will need and the biggest critique has been coding bootcamps teach languages rather than problem solving, which is likely more important. One college professor who also worked as a web developer for a large manufacturing company provided a great example of this issue. They had an applicant for an open backend web developer job whose only experience was through a coding bootcamp. During the interview, this individual was exceptional at several aspects of the job but could not even complete certain simple tasks essential to their projects.

The point is these are likely not good as a standalone method for learning backend web development since so much is missed. Unless you are a naturally gifted and motivated individual who will continue to fill in the gaps, coding bootcamps are likely best used in conjunction with other resources. This means they can provide an excellent opportunity for those who either already have some experience or are in school to master a subset of skills required for backend web development.

Frontend web development, on the other hand, requires a lesser skillset that can be learned somewhat rapidly. Thus, coding bootcamps may be a good alternative to formal education for this field given the intensity and timeframe can make it possible to cover enough.

At the very least, they offer a credential and immersion, which will accelerate learning and potentially open up doors for continued growth.

Online Micro-Degrees

Treehouse and Udacity are two credible companies that offer micro-degree programs for web development and other related fields. These types of schools are also relatively new but have gained traction because of their ability to deliver a flexible, well priced service. In the case of Treehouse and Udacity, their micro degree programs range from $100 to $400 per month and are usually completed in 6-12 months. Udacity also offers half your tuition back if a program is completed in less than a year as well as job placement guarantees.

Both can be a good place to start for those who cannot devote the time and money to formal education or coding bootcamps.

Some last words…

Incredible opportunities in web development await the interested, motivated and talented. There are many paths into this career. Though we all hear stories of successful programmers who are completely self-taught, most us will find it extremely difficult to learn fast by ourselves. These three methods are several excellent options to consider when independent learning is not an option. Importantly, each path provides a credential which is going to show some proof of capability on paper and play a role in getting your foot in the door with most companies.

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