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The web development industry is huge and the demand for skilled web developers is growing. According to glassdoor.com, at this time there are over 73,000 jobs and the current average web developer salary is around $75,000 yearly. Though many of the listings are for experienced web developers, there is still a huge demand for entry-level positions.
So how long does it take to learn the skills necessary to become a web developer? The answer is variable and depends on what avenue you want to pursue. There are many different types of web developers, here are the main broad categories:
- Front-End Developers
- Back-End Developers
- Full-Stack Developers
- WordPress Developers
Back-end developers deal with databases, scripts, and the code that interacts with the front end to display the information from the database. The coding languages they often use are PHP, Python, Ruby, SQL and also multiple frameworks. The back end is more on the technical side of things.
Full-stack developers are just what is sounds like, they are usually skilled in aspects of both the front and back end. They are mostly skilled and experienced developers who have been doing it all for many years.
How Do I Get Started?
The first two skills you need to learn for the quickest route to landing a front-end developer job are HTML and CSS. HTML is a markup language used to set the structure of a website. It consists of basic tags and the syntax is easy to learn.
CSS is used to style your website by setting size and dimensions, color, spacing, etc. These two skills are the most important starting point, as you can create a basic, yet professional looking website with these alone.
Once you learn these two languages, and with some practice, you can develop a portfolio of your work and land an entry-level front-end developer position or even an entry-level WordPress job within 6 months to a year.
After you start to get a good grasp on using HTML and CSS you can also start to freelance. You can go on sites like Upwork and Freelancer and bid for simple jobs. This will allow you to practice and build up your skills, all while making a little cash on the side. Not to mention it will give you more projects to show off in your portfolio.
Learning HTML is very basic and within a week you can understand the essentials. CSS will take a little while longer as it is not extremely complex, but for beginners, it will be a little confusing at first. To get a grasp on the basics of CSS will take you about a month with constant practice.
The thing with CSS is that it’s not something you learn all at once, you learn the syntax and basics, and then the more you use it you will naturally start building on more knowledge about different properties as you go. With that being said, this is also true with learning most concepts and languages in web development.
Where Do I Learn These Skills?
If you want to get the fastest available start in the web development industry, be persistent and practice every single day, even if it’s only for an hour. Watch tutorials on Youtube such as Traversy Media, RealToughCandy, and Codingphase.
Code along with the tutorials to really get hands-on practice. You can use tools like Codepen.io to practice with. It is basically an online code editor that displays the output on the same screen you are coding on.
There are free courses on sites like Codecadamy and Freecodecamp. They are good for learning the basics for free, but I recommend paid courses on sites such as Udemy, Coursera, Pluralsight, and TeamTreehouse. These courses tend to be higher quality information compared to the free courses.
I highly recommend The Web Developer Bootcamp by Colt Steele. You can buy this course through Udemy. This course alone will teach you everything you need to know to get started as a front end developer. It also goes into some backend languages for the second half.
You will also build a few projects that can be a good starting point for your portfolio. This course is essential for beginners, but also great for those who know the basics already. Do yourself a favor and build a solid foundation with this course.
Also I recommend using this Web Developer checklist tool by Toptal to keep your learning process more organized. You can access this checklist here at: Toptal Web Developer Checklist Tool
There are also coding boot camps you can attend, that will teach you with immersion, but they can be expensive and hard to fit into your schedule if you work a full-time job.
I highly recommend going the self-taught route, using a combination of free and paid resources to learn the basics. This is the path that I chose, and I am proof that it is possible to get into the web development industry completely self-taught.
Keep in mind that learning web development is a non-stop learning process, there will never be a time when you know everything. I have been a web developer for over 5 years and every day I still have to google to find solutions to certain problems. It is just part of the workflow, so while learning, never feel like your skills are subpar just because you had to google to find the solution to a code problem.
But Do I Need A College Degree?
Many companies still require a computer science or a related degree, but it is increasingly common for companies to hire self-taught developers. Even the businesses that have that requirement in there job posting, will sometimes hire developers who have impressive portfolios and can prove they have the skills necessary for the job.
So don’t let requirements in job posts stop you from applying. If you have put in the practice and work, it will show through in your portfolio. If they see the websites you have created and they see that you have the skill set that matches what they need, you will get the job.
The great thing about the web development industry is that it is mostly skill-based. If you have the skills they need, they will give you a chance. When you are just starting out, you might have to start working at a small business and then work your way up as your skills develop.
When you finally land your first web development position, your learning rate will increase exponentially. You can learn a lot faster when you working on real projects while having guidance at the same time. The important thing to remember is that the faster you can learn these basic skills and get your foot in the door, the sooner you will be getting paid while you learn.
Read my story about how I taught myself web development and how it completely changed my life. If you like this content, please share and subscribe to my newsletter for more great content about learning web development.