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How To Become A Web Developer

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Web development is a relatively new career option for people around the world. The requirements of web developers as well as the barrier to entry into the occupation continually evolve. For people hoping to become professional “code ninjas,” this can cause some confusion.

It’s common for people to have questions regarding the required credentials that developers need in order to gain employment at a particular company. We will discuss some of the most common paths that people take to become web developers and what the typical web development journey might look like in the near future.

Option 1: Get a computer science degree from a university. This might be the most typical path taken to become a developer. People who take this route can utilize the structured curriculum offered by a university and learn the best practices of development from professors who typically have several years of experience.

A major advantage with this option is that larger companies will generally require job applicants to have degrees relating to computer science. HR departments in larger companies normally sift through hundreds of applications when a job is posted. Having a degree related to that particular job will at the very least get your resume looked at and possibly read through once. Another advantage with the college route is students will have access to large networks of alumni and employers once they graduate. These networks can be incredibly helpful tools for students competing for jobs in the global developer market.  

A few disadvantages to taking this path are the cost, the time requirements, and the content limitations of the university. The cost to attend a four-year university has increased exponentially over the past few years. The current web development community is starting to buck the notion that you MUST get a four-year degree in order to land a high paying job. This path also has a time frame this is much longer than is necessary to actually obtain employment.  

Many times college students are required to take “basic” courses that are completely unrelated to development for two years before they are allowed to sign up for programming classes. This eats up more time and more money. A final disadvantage of going to college if you want to become a web developer is that the curriculum might not be as up-to-date as other options.  Because web technologies change so rapidly, there is no guarantee that the course you took in a specific programming language will be relevant in two or three years.

Option 2: Teach yourself through books and video tutorials. This path requires the most amount of dedication and self-discipline. It is also growing in popularity, especially since the cost of college tuition continues to rise.

There are several books available that can help individuals who choose the self-taught path. Two of my favorites are both written by Jon Duckett. “HTML & CSS Design and Build Websites” and “Javascript & Jquery Interactive Front-end Web Development” are books that are well written, easy to follow, and cover most of what is needed to become employed as a junior developer.  

Video tutorials from teamtreehouse.com and other websites are incredibly useful as well.  Treehouse constantly produces high quality instructional content covering the latest web technologies. With this service you are not bound by the constraints of college semesters so you can learn what you need, when you need it. I always log on to Treehouse when I need a refresher or if I want to learn new development techniques.  

The advantages of the self-taught route are its cheaper cost and its convenience.  The books that I’ve mentioned can be purchased for less than $50 and a membership to Treehouse is $25 a month. If you utilize these tools, you will be able to create web applications and potentially gain employment at a smaller company as a junior developer.  

Some disadvantages to being self-taught are the discipline required to teach yourself and the lack of access to certain jobs with bigger companies. If you are not self-disciplined, get distracted easily, or are unwilling to put in the work, this route might not be the best option for you. Also, as previously mentioned, some employers in bigger companies might require job applicants to possess four-year degrees.   

So which option is best? There really isn’t one right answer. I’ve seen successful, talented developers emerge from both paths. Both options have their pros and cons and there is even a third option that is gaining traction in the form of coding bootcamps. Because I’m currently attending a coding bootcamp called Bloc, I’ll save my critique for a future blog post.

As long as you choose the path that fits your learning style and your current situation you can gain the skills needed to become a developer.      

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