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What is Web Development?

Are you considering enrollment in a web development degree program in Alabama? As workers in this field typically plan, design, and maintain websites for private, non-profit, and government entities, this major can lead to many career opportunities in various industries. However, it’s generally best-suited to those with excellent communication, problem-solving, and customer service skills who want spend time creating digital content for themselves or others.

Web developers are generally responsible creating and maintaining websites, often to make client and/or employer visions a reality. They often oversee various technical aspects for websites, including performance and capacity. These professionals may also generate applicable content.

While specific responsibilities will vary by position, most web developers are responsible for meeting with clients or management to discuss website needs, design ideas, and functionality. Some other common duties assigned include creating and testing applications, making prototypes, writing code, ministering traffic, and designing graphics. These professionals also often work with other team members to determine what information the site should contain. Additionally, web developers may work with graphic designers to determine website layouts, as well as integrate various graphics, audio, and video aspects.

While many developers handle all aspects of a website’s construction, others may focus on a single aspect of the process. It’s also possible for these professionals to concentrate their efforts in building particular types of websites such as E-commerce, news, and gaming. As certain subjects require different knowledge, skills, and/or applications, it is sometimes necessary to seek specialized training.

Most web developers work for companies and organizations related to computer systems design, education services, advertising, and public relations. Some professionals, however, are self-employed. While expectations vary, most work full time schedules. Notably, it’s possible and not uncommon for web developers to work from home.

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Online Web Development Education in Alabama

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for web developers and digital designers is projected to grow 23% from 2021 to 2031. This is much faster than the average for all occupations and will result in an increase of about 21,800 job openings each year. Most of these opportunities are expected to result from the need to replace workers transferring to different professions or exiting the labor force completely.

Professional and business services is the third largest industry in Alabama, accounting for $22 billion in revenue each year. As companies and organizations continue to increase online offerings, however, demand for these workers is expected in almost every sector. This means that professionals in this field are likely to find employment opportunities in many of the state’s other top industries, as well. Graduates may have success applying for positions in manufacturing, real estate, education services, healthcare, retail, finance, wholesale, construction, entertainment, and utilities.

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Based on data provided by the BLS, Alabama employed 900 web developers in May 2021. The annual mean wage for these professionals was $49,100. Notably, this is just above the state’s reported annual mean wage of $48,110 for all occupations.

Many colleges and universities offer online degrees in web development, as well as other related subjects. These programs are particularly popular among distance learning students, as all requirements can generally be completed virtually. While online learning options makes it easy to study and complete academic requirements from nearly anywhere, those planning to pursue employment in Alabama should give preference to institutions located in the state. Local schools will be most familiar with employer standards and expectations in the area, ensuring graduates possess the knowledge and skills needed for success. It’s also common for colleges and universities to establish relationships with nearby companies and organizations. These connections can make it easier for students to secure paid and unpaid internships and can lead to more professional opportunities for alumni.

Education requirements can vary significantly for web developers depending on preferred work settings and employer size. While it’s possible to find employment in this profession with only a high school diploma, many companies and organizations give preference to candidates who possess some amount of higher education.

Many colleges and universities offer degree programs in web development and related subjects. Prospective students can generally choose from options at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels, although options may be limited at higher levels. Additionally, professional certificates are often available at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Online Associate Degree in Web Development (AS)

Associate degrees in web development generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately two years to complete. At this undergraduate level, students are typically required to take both general liberal arts and major-specific classes. Curriculums vary, but those enrolled can expect to gain the knowledge and skills needed for many related careers. Most also include basic computer science and information technology training, as well as instruction in various programming languages, web frameworks, and other website-building tools. Some of the most common courses are web development fundamentals, JavaScript, database programming, WordPress development, and mobile app development.

This type of degree is ideal for those who want to obtain the minimum knowledge and skills needed to pursue entry-level employment in the field as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Associate programs are generally offered by community colleges, which tend to charge lower tuition rates. Not only do graduates join the workforce within only a couple years, but they spend less and have fewer academic loans. Some common employment opportunities include web developer, user interface designer, web designer, and computer support specialist.

Graduates are also likely to possess a strong foundation for future learning. As a result, many choose to continue their education by enrolling in bachelor’s degree programs. Notably, undergraduate class credits can be transferred to other properly accredited academic institutions. This means those with associate degrees are often much closer to graduating again than they think. Most colleges and universities accept up to 60 or 90 semester hours in transfer credit, which equals approximately two academic years.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Web Development (BS)

Bachelor’s degrees in web development often consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately four years to complete. This is another undergraduate program, with students taking both general liberal arts and major-specific classes. Curriculums vary, but students can expect broader learning opportunities at this level. Some common course options include web content design, internet systems architecture, JavaScript, computer systems security, and multimedia authoring.

This type of degree is ideal for individuals who plan to seek employment as web developers but it can also lead to careers beyond crafting and optimizing websites. The knowledge and skills gained are easily transferrable to other professions or fields that require computer, network, coding, and/or multimedia expertise. Some common opportunities include software developer, graphic designer, computer programmer, computer systems analyst, and information systems manager.

Graduates may also choose to pursue further education by enrolling in related master’s degree programs. Prospective students should be prepared to meet minimum grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) score requirements set by gaining institutions.

Online Master's Degree in Web Development (MS or MC)

Master’s degrees in web development generally range from 30 to 45 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately two to three years to complete. Undergraduate credits are no longer applicable, but some colleges and universities do offer accelerated programs and/or professional certificates that take less time to complete. Curriculums vary, but most include training in user-centered web design and development. Common courses include full-stack development, mobile application development, web design, software practices, and computer programming. Students can also expect to learn about various programming languages, libraries, frameworks, and development techniques. Additionally, independent research and study is frequently incorporated, with those enrolled often applying their knowledge of standard concepts by designing working website and applications.

Prospective students should realize that not all colleges and universities offer master’s degrees in web development. In some cases, it may be necessary to enroll in information technology or computer science programs with applicable concentrations.

This type of degree is ideal for those interested in upper-level management positions or other highly specialized roles in computer and information technology. In addition to seeking employment as web developers, graduates may qualify for jobs as computer and information systems managers, information research scientists, and software developers. Many companies and organizations give preference to those who have completed graduate school. Earning a master’s degree in web development can also lead to faster promotions and higher pay.

Online PhD Degree in Web Development (PhD)

A PhD or doctorate in web development may consist of between 60 and 120 credit hours that can take full-time students up to seven years to complete. Program structure and length varies, however, with most options at this level available online only. Curriculums also differ, although students can typically expect to spend time learning about qualitative and quantitative research. In addition to traditional classroom learning, those enrolled are likely to focus their attention on thesis preparation. Most colleges and university PhD programs require the defense of dissertations prior to graduation.

However, it’s important to note that few professions in the field require this level of education. PhD and doctorate degrees are most appropriate for individuals planning to pursue jobs in higher education as professors. Some research positions may also be available to graduates.

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And relatively few institutions offer PhD and doctorate degrees in web development. Those interested in continuing their academic pursuits in this field may need to consider related programs in computer science, computer engineering, machine learning, language processing, or biological engineering.

Become a Web Developer in Alabama

The first step to becoming a web developer in Alabama is establishing your ultimate career goals. There are many professions related to this field; identifying your preferred occupation will make it easier to determine the level of education necessary to meet minimum hiring qualifications. Additionally, it will make it more obvious which elective courses, minor areas of study, concentrations, and/or internship opportunities are most appropriate. Taking time to research and plan now can ensure you obtain the knowledge, skills, training, and experience needed to be successful in your chosen occupation.

Alabama also does not have specific educational requirements for web developers. Instead, hiring standards are managed by individual companies and organizations in the state.

Once you have achieved your desired level of education, it may be beneficial to obtain one or more relevant certifications. These typically help professionals learn foundational or in-depth methods in numerous topics in the field. While not always necessary for employment, those who possess additional credentials often stand out among job candidates. This is particularly true for professions that call for specialized knowledge of specific systems or programs. Earning at least one certification can also increase promotion opportunities and/or pay potential.

Notably, there is no single most important credential recommended for web developers. Instead, you are generally free to pursue certifications that expand your knowledge in areas of interest. Options vary significantly, making it essential to consider pricing, skill level, and applicability prior to making a final selection. You will also need to verify that the credential is offered by a credible provider such as an academic institution, professional organization, and reputable company.

Some examples of potential certifications available to web developers include:

  • Google UX Design Certification
  • World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Front-End Web Developer Certification
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Full Stack Development Certification
  • Springboard Software Engineering Certification
  • CareerFoundry Full-Stack Web Development Certification
  • Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) Certified Web Application Defender Credential
  • Adobe Digital Learning Services Adobe Certified Expert (ACE)
  • Oracle University Java Enterprise Oracle Certified Expert Credential

Many web developers also benefit from becoming members of related professional organizations and associations. These groups can offer many perks including discounts for development opportunities, access to academic journals, and invitations to networking events. Some also offer reduced membership rates for recent graduates.

A few prominent options include:

  • International Web Association (IWA)
  • American Webmasters Association (AWA)
  • Higher Education Web Professionals Association (HighEdWeb)
  • Web Professionals (WOW)
  • Webgrrls

Careers for Web Development Graduates

  • Application Developer
    Application developers create, develop, manage, and maintain new programs and software for use on smartphones, computers, tablets, and more. They often help companies and organizations remain relevant with the latest technologies and web developments. These professionals may also be expected to collaborate with other web and information technology professionals. According to PayScale, application developers make an average base salary of $72,450 per year.
  • Computer Systems Analyst
    Computer systems analysts automate various distribution, manufacturing, and sales functions using computers and related systems. They are typically tasked with identifying accurate and efficient processes based on employer goals. These professionals may also recommend, install, configure, maintain, and upgrade computer and networking software. According to PayScale, computer systems analysts make an average base salary of $73,200 per year.

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  • Computer Technical Support Specialist
    Computer technical support specialists diagnose and troubleshoot hardware and software problems, providing assistance to fellow employees and/or consumers. They often work as part of information technology services departments. They may also be responsible for helping customers install and operate new purchases. According to PayScale, computer technical support specialists make an average base salary of $53,200 per year.
  • Front-End Developer
    Front-end developers manage complex project details and analyze associated design requirements. They often interpret and design plans to meet employer goals, as well as identify and solve various problems that arise. These professionals are also responsible for recommending technical solutions that allow projects to be scalable, maintainable, and efficient. According to PayScale, front-end developers make an average base salary of $78,400 per year.
  • Graphic Designer
    Graphic designers make visually captivating imagery to portray specific messages or advertise products/services for their employers. They often use various colors, illustrations, and fonts to create logos, item packaging, print materials, and websites. These professionals can use many different mediums, but most utilize software such as Adobe Illustrator and InDesign. According to PayScale, graphic designers make an average base salary of $48,050 per year.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialist
    Search engine optimization (SEO) specialists work to ensure that their employers appear early in online search results for designated keywords. They often help develop and/or implement SEO strategies for text, images, and videos across numerous search engines. These professionals also work closely with other content professionals to ensure optimization standards are met. According to PayScale, SEO specialists make an average base salary of $49,050 per year.
  • Software Developer
    Software developers create computer applications intended to help users perform specific tasks on various electronic devices. They typically work with teams of systems engineers and computer programmers to perfect products. These professionals must also be familiar with various computer languages including C++, Python, and Java, as well as different operating systems such as Linux, Solaris, and HPUX. According to PayScale, software developers make an average base salary of $74,250 per year.
  • Software Tester
    Software testers typically work in quality assurance or engineering quality control departments, providing assistance during program development process. They often receive and test software at various stages of completion, noting repeatable crashing and bugs. These professionals must also document their findings and communicate insights to developers. According to PayScale, software testers make an average base salary of $56,450 per year.

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