Over the last two decades, technology and the internet have gained a humongous role in daily life, at a rate that no science-fiction could have ever predicted. The internet’s accessibility has begun to break down barriers between nations, cultures, religions, and all walks of life. Websites are now a central part of daily operations for individuals and organizations, and they serve an infinite variety of purposes. The scope and popularity of websites have made careers in web design and development particularly intriguing to those just entering the technical professions.
Web design and development is the career for individuals who want to work behind-the-scenes on the appearance, performance, and content of websites. Web designers or developers can choose to utilize their strengths in coding and content development to benefit their other interests or passions: education, social connection, information, networking, and advocacy are all made possible through websites and the organizations that work with them. For professionals who want to work with a team to give life to spectacular websites, this is a great career path.
Web developers most commonly prepare themselves to enter the field with either a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree. And while a plethora of backgrounds can lead a person to web development, individuals entering this field with a thorough understanding of HTML and experience or training with the languages used in web development may have an advantage.
Website developers work in three different areas within the umbrella of websites:
- Back-End Developers work with the technical construction that lays the framework of a website and ensures that it works correctly. Back-End Developers may also establish procedures for manipulating the content and design of their sites.
- Front-End Developers manage the aesthetics of a website. They create the layout, graphics, and content and may write web-design programs for other professionals outside of the technical field.
- Webmasters maintain and update sites regularly after their initial development. Webmasters are the masterminds behind the smooth operation of a site and are responsible for identifying and fixing errors.
Website development also involves responsibilities like:
- Meeting with clients and management to determine the needs and design of websites
- Creating and testing web applications
- Writing code for sites using a variety of programming languages
- Working with a team to plan content, information, and integration
Because of the scope and demand of websites everywhere, the field promises growth at a much faster rate than the national average—the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 27% growth by 2024. In addition to the variety and stability, the salary isn’t so bad either; professionals in web development earn $64,970 on average.
As a web designer, you'll work with both the customer and consumer to create a compelling and user-friendly site. While you could join a design firm, freelance or salaried gigs are also available. You could work for any organization that needs a site, such as a manufacturer, school, church, research facility, government agency, or retailer. Web design is constantly evolving, but your studies will give you a solid base of current theories, practices and methods. Once you're on the job, you'll need to stay updated on the latest trends. Like the web, this is a field that will be constantly upgrading.
Not all online degrees in web design are the same. For a more computer-based degree, look for a program offered by an engineering or science department. The degree may even be called web design and development. Online web design degrees offered by art schools will be more heavily focused on layout, graphic design and media. If graphics are your calling, you could also pursue an art-focused online degree in web design.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
Enrolling in an online web design or development degree means you likely possess a dual-sided mind. These degrees require that you master both the art of visual design and the logical complexity of internet programming languages. You must merge these two skill sets to create websites that function smoothly on a technical level but also look appealing. You'll take classes to amp your programming prowess and enrich your eye for design.
In addition to having a thorough understanding of the various tools used to develop and access websites, website designers and developers must also frequently provide friendly and responsive customer service. Therefore careers in web development and design are for creative professionals, who are not only detail-oriented but also active listeners that are skilled at complex problem solving, critical thinking, and deductive reasoning.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
You can launch your career by earning an online certificate, mastering popular code languages, or creating an amazing porfolio of design work. However, some employers prefer you to have at least a bachelor's degree. More technical—and usually higher paying—jobs usually need the expertise that an online web development or design degree can provide. If you already have a bachelor's in a related field, consider a certificate or master's degree to add to your skillset.
A web design degree program will teach you how to create efficient, logical and visually-pleasing websites. Your courses should cover a mix of computer science and design. This will give you a strong background in web development, but also allow you to whip up attractive websites for businesses and other organizations.
Expect your studies to include core courses in computer-based graphics, CAD, multimedia, user interface design and databases. Popular programming languages such as Java and Flash may also be taught in some programs. You should also take classes in the leading software design suites, such as Adobe. Other classes to consider include project management, graphic design and marketing.
The most competitive job applicants will also focus on building experience in their field while in school. Experience can come in the form of internships, projects completed for program completion, or previous work experience.
The total cost of a degree will vary depending on the resources that are offered, so make sure to keep an eye out for aspects of a program that may be worth a higher price tag. Some programs will offer a certification upon graduation in addition to a degree, and others may work with employers to provide students with internships.
The average cost of an online bachleor's degree in the computer sciences in just under $50,000. Keep this figure in mind as you compare online schools.