How Long Does It Take to Become a Web Developer

So let's get right to it. You want to know how much will it take you to shit your career towards development. Well, it depends on what you already know and what path you take.

But there are some basics.

How long does it take to become a web developer?

How long it takes to become a back-end developer depends on your training or education. If you go to college or university, you’re looking at 2-4 years of college and perhaps 6 months - 1 year of junior work to start getting some real world experience.

Some courses, if you are already familiar with programming in general, maybe shorter, but you'll need plenty of experience (a few weeks if you've got programming experience, or a few months if you're starting from scratch) to be good enough to get to a level where you are comfortable actual real-world sites or apps based on web development.

But why why would you want to become a web developer?

According to glassdoor.com there are almost 16,000 open positions in the IT and software development sector.

If you’re looking for a career with a (reasonably) secure future, web development could be it!

It’s a challenging career with a lot to master, long hours and constant learning. It’s also a rewarding career with great prospects, lots of employment opportunities and the chance to work on some cutting edge projects.

If you feel a change in career coming on or you’re planning your future, how long does it take to become a web developer?

That question, and many others, will be answered in this post!

The main types of web developer

The main types of web developer

There are many distinct sorts of web developer, each with its own set of skills. You can train to be any you like but you’ll need to tune your training accordingly.

The following are the 4 major categories of web developer:

  1. Front-end developer
  2. Back-end developer
  3. Full-stack developer
  4. WordPress developer

Let’s take a quick look at each.

Front-end developer

Front-end developers work with the visual side of a website, often converting designs into code that become the websites you use every day.

They mostly code in HTML, CSS and JavaScript but may also use other frameworks. This is typically the first step toward learning web development and one of the quickest ways to obtain an entry-level position.

Depending on your interests and chosen road, developers may eventually move into back-end, full-stack, or WordPress development.

How long does it take to become a front-end developer?

Becoming a front-end developer is usually the first rung on the career ladder. You can start straight out of college or from your online training or boot camp.

While the first step, many very experienced developers started front end and loved it so much they are still there.

Back-end developer

Back-end developers handle databases, scripts, and the code that interacts with the front end to show data from a database.

The back end is more technical in nature and you’ll need to learn PHP, Python, Ruby, SQL, and other frameworks.

While back-end developers tend to grow from front-end work, you can go straight into back-end development if you want to.

How long does it take to become a back-end developer?

How long it takes to become a back-end developer depends on your training or education.

If you go straight from college, you’re looking at 2-4 years of college and perhaps 6 months - 1 year of front end work.

You may find a role directly from college or go straight into back-end if you’re particularly good with any of the languages.

Full-stack developer

Full-stack developers are skilled in all aspects of the front and back end. The term ‘full stack’ literally means someone who knows the full stack of tools end to end.

They are mostly skilled and experienced developers who have been doing it all for many years.

You can learn to be full-stack from the start but many find it easier to work as a front and back-end developer first.

That way you get a solid grounding in all aspects of development, which is essential to be a successful full-stack developer.

How long does it take to become a full-stack developer?

Some web development college degrees cover front-end and back-end, preparing you for full-stack right away. You’ll still benefit from experience though, so you may want to work your way up to full stack.

How long that takes depends on how hard you work and how flexible your employer is.

WordPress developer

WordPress developers deal with a Content Management System (CMS) called WordPress. They tend to be full-stack developers that can handle all aspects of the CMS.

You’ll interact with languages such as HTML, CSS, PHP, SQL and JavaScript.

Depending on the role, you may be designing and developing WordPress themes, plugins, APIs, features or functions.

You can learn WordPress development on its own but you will greatly benefit from existing knowledge or experience.

How long does it take to become a WordPress developer?

WordPress developers tend to be full-stack developers, so will either have a college degree or a few years’ experience under their belts.

You don’t have to get a degree, but you’ll need to be able to demonstrate your skills with lots of personal projects or freelance work.

Plan for a year or two of intensive learning online or via boot camps and another year freelancing or building your own projects alongside a day job.

What can you earn as a web developer?

What can you earn as a web developer

Now to the million dollar (or $100k) question. How much can you earn as a web developer.

Much will obviously depend on where in the world you are, how much experience you have and how many languages you can use.

Here’s a rough average as of January 2024:

  • Front-end developer – From £48,848 pa (UK), $112,157 pa (US)
  • Back-end developer – From £54,543 pa (UK), $157,092 pa (US)
  • Full-stack developer – From £50,444 pa (UK), $124.943 pa (US)
  • WordPress developer – From £30,000 pa (UK), $65,162 pa (US)

(UK source, US source)

As you can see, salaries for back-end developers are higher than for others, but all four types are in-demand so it could be purely up to your negotiating skills.

What should you learn to become a web developer?

HTML and CSS are the first two skills you'll need to master in order to get a front-end developer position.

HTML is a markup language used to structure a website. It has simple tags and follows straightforward syntax rules.

CSS is a markup language that allows you to format your text and or images. It's also used to style your website by setting sizes, dimensions, colours, spacing, and so on.

These two skills are the most essential entry point because they can help you build a simple yet professional-looking website.

Once you've learnt these two languages, and with some practice, you'll be able to construct a portfolio of work and get an entry-level front-end developer position.

If you want to specialize in WordPress, you may be able to secure an entry-level WordPress developer job after 6 months to a year in post.

Learn JavaScript

Learn JavaScript

JavaScript is a programming language that allows you to add interactivity to a website.

You can use it to create features like slide menus, animations, and other features that allow users to engage with a site.

This is only a fraction of what JavaScript can do which is why we strongly recommend learning it.

JavaScript is more complicated to learn than HTML and CSS. It'll probably take six months to a year for you to feel at ease with it.

You'll get it if you stick with it and practice regularly, and it will be well worth the time invested. Being adept in JavaScript will help you find a good role as it’s used almost everywhere on the web.

It’s also used with AI, IoT, desktop and mobile applications and a huge range of other areas.

That makes it well worth mastering!

Do you need a college degree to be a developer?

Do you need a college degree to be a developer

You don’t need a degree to become a web developer but it definitely helps with some employers.

Complete a bachelor's degree and you’ll have a solid grounding in development and some completed projects to show off your skills.

You’ll also have a formal qualification from a recognized institution to back you up.

Many larger employers will only employ graduates so this is still the most viable way to begin a career in development.

However, other employers, especially startups and forward-looking companies, appreciate not everyone has a degree.

As long as you have demonstrable skills and plenty of examples in your portfolio, you can still get a job as a web developer.

You’ll need to work harder to prove your worth, and maybe start at ground level, but the opportunities are still there.

Don't let a job postings' requirements deter you from applying. If you've invested time in your skills and have a decent portfolio, it will show through.

The wonderful thing about web development is that its primarily talent based. You’ll get a chance if you have the abilities they need.

How to become a developer without a degree

As we mentioned earlier, a degree is the traditional way to become a web developer but it isn’t the only way.

You could also learn on your own terms using online learning, boot camps or online resources.

Like any career, the more you put in, the more you get out.

We would suggest learning HTML, CSS and JavaScript to get you started. Once you’re at a good level, create a few demo websites showcasing your skills.

The more examples of work you have, the more seriously you’ll be taken.

If you can work as a freelance developer and get some paid clients under your belt, all the better. The more ‘real world’ experience you have, the better you’ll come across in an interview.

The fact you have operated commercially as a web developer, with happy clients and successful projects will count almost as much as a college degree for some employers.

From there, learn other relevant skills depending on where you want to work and keep learning.

Web development is one of those careers you’ll start learning and never stop so the quicker you get used to acquiring new skills, the better!

About the Author
David Attard
David has been working in or around the online and digital industry for the last 21 years. He has vast experience in the software and web design industries using WordPress, Joomla and niches surrounding them. He has worked with software development agencies, international software companies, local marketing agencies and now is Head of Marketing Operations at Aphex Media - an SEO agency. As a digital consultant, his focus is on helping businesses get a competitive advantage using a combination of their website and digital platforms available today. His blend of technology expertise combined with a strong business acumen brings a competitive edge to his writings.

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