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What is Web Development?
Choosing to major in web development or other similar subjects can help you gain the knowledge and skills needed to create digital content for yourself and others. This type of degree is particularly beneficial for those interested in planning, designing, and maintaining websites. Graduates often possess expertise that is easily transferrable, however, making it relatively easy to find work with private, non-profit, and government entities or businesses.
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.
Web developers are typically hired by companies and organizations to create and maintain websites. Some professionals in the field do, however, work for themselves or as independent contractors. Similarly, job scope can have a huge impact on the daily tasks performed. Some may be responsible for all aspects of website construction, while others focus on just a single part of the process. It’s also possible to specialize in certain types of website design such as E-commerce, news, or gaming.
While responsibilities vary, many web developers spend a significant amount of time working to ensure that appropriate images and content are available to be viewed by target audiences online. They are also likely to oversee various technical aspects associated with the websites they create, such as performance and capacity. Other common expectations include creating and testing applications, making prototypes, writing code, ministering traffic, and designing graphics. These professionals may frequently meet clients and/or management to discuss website needs, design ideas, functionality, and content. In some cases, it may be necessary for web developers to coordinate creative efforts with other team members.
Most web developers are employed by companies and organizations that deal with computer systems design, education services, advertising, and/or public relations. They usually maintain full-time schedules.
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Online Web Development Education in Kentucky
Professional and business services is the fourth largest industry in Kentucky, accounting for $17.9 billion in revenue each year. These professionals may be able to find work in many of the state’s other top sectors as well, however. Other top sectors in Kentucky include manufacturing, real estate, education services, healthcare, wholesale, retail, finance, transportation, construction, and entertainment.
Based on data provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Kentucky employed 670 web developers in May 2021. The annual mean wage for these professionals was $66,580, which is higher than the state’s reported annual mean wage of $51,490 for all occupations. The state also employed 490 web and digital interface designers with an annual mean wage of $68,420.
Many colleges and universities offer degrees in web development and other related topics; you may also find web development degree programs in this field from a technical college. Prospective students are also likely to find a large number of these programs available online. Those interested in pursuing employment in the state, however, may want to consider enrolling with institutions in the local area. These schools tend to be more familiar with the standards and expectations of nearby employers and, as a result, typically provide the most geographically relevant curriculums. Options include the Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Jefferson Community and Technical College, the University of Kentucky, Murray State University, etc.
Education requirements can vary wildly from one web development job to another. As hiring standards are set by individual companies and organization, there is no set standard for the field. It may even be possible to find employment with nothing more than a high school diploma or GED. Self-taught knowledge and skills can also prove very valuable in this line of work. However, most web development professionals do possess some amount of higher education. The majority of businesses seeking to hire individuals with this type of expertise prefer candidates with academic degrees.
Kentucky is home to many colleges and universities, many of which 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. Additionally, academic institutions commonly have relevant professional certificates programs for undergraduate and graduate students. While sometimes helpful for current professionals, these are usually utilized by individuals who possess unrelated degrees and want to change fields.
Online Associate Degree in Web Development (AS)
This type of degree is a good choice for those interested in pursuing entry-level employment as web developers, user interface designers, web designers, and computer support specialists. Graduates generally possess the knowledge and skills needed for success in many different information technology careers, however. Associate degrees are often considered a great option for students who want to complete gain expertise in the field quickly and inexpensively. As they are often offered by community colleges, lower tuition rates allow participants to graduate without accumulating large amounts of student loan debt.
Graduates also tend to be well prepared for further education. In fact, a significant portion opts to enroll in bachelor’s degree programs because they already have a strong academic foundation for additional learning. This can be a great option, especially for those who transfer previously earned credit hours to their new institutions. Most colleges and universities accept between 60 and 90 undergraduate credits from other properly accredited schools. This can drastically decrease the number of remaining courses needed to graduate with a more advanced degree.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Web Development (BS)
This type of degree is ideal for those seeking to become web developers, but can also lead to careers as software developers, graphic designers, computer programmers, computer systems analysts, or information systems managers. Graduates may also possess many easily transferrable knowledge and skills that can qualify them for employment in other fields. This is particularly true for industries that regularly utilize professionals with expertise with computers, networks, coding, and multimedia.
It's also relatively common for graduates 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 institutions.
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Online Master's Degree in Web Development (MS)
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. General liberal arts classes are no longer incorporated into these programs, though certain major-specific concepts may be required as prior learning in the form of prerequisites during enrollment.
Curriculums typically focus exclusively on subject matter pertinent to the field such as full-stack development, mobile application development, web design, software practices, and computer programming. Students can also anticipate instruction in various user-centered web design and development topics, as well as programming languages, libraries, frameworks, and development techniques.
This type of degree is ideal for individuals seeking careers as computer and information systems managers, information research scientists, and software developers. Graduates tend to be qualified for positions in upper-level management, as well as highly specialized roles in computer and information technology. Those with master’s degrees often receive preference during the hiring process. They also typically have higher earning potential than those with less education.
Prospective students must realize, however, that not all colleges and universities offer master’s degrees in web development. As a result, it’s sometimes necessary to enroll in other related subjects, such as information technology or computer science. In these situations, it may be possible to select web development as a concentration.
Online PhD Degree in Web Development (PhD)
A PhD or doctorate in web development can vary in length significantly, consisting of between 60 and 120 credit hours that can take full-time students up to seven years to complete. As with master’s programs, relatively few colleges and universities offer this type of degree. Common alternative majors include computer science, computer engineering, machine learning, language processing, and biological engineering.
Program structures at this level vary significantly from institution to institution. Generally, students spend some amount of time receiving traditional instruction in classrooms. Common topics include qualitative and quantitative research methods, which are frequently used when pursuing independent study and research. These are both often required while preparing dissertations, a common requirement before graduation.
These degrees are most appropriate for individuals planning to pursue jobs in higher education as professors. A limited number of research positions may also be available to graduates.
Become a Web Developer in Kentucky
The process of becoming a web developer in Kentucky should begin with determining your ultimate career goals. As previously mentioned, there are many different kinds of jobs available in the field, each with unique qualifications, standards, and expectations. Once you identify and research your preferred occupation, it will be easier to select an appropriate degree program. You can also gain a better understanding for which elective courses, minor areas of study, concentrations, and/or internship opportunities will be most beneficial.
The state of Kentucky does not have any established employment standards for web development professionals. Instead, companies and organizations set their own hiring requirements for job candidates. These can range significantly, making it essential for those in the field to research opportunities carefully before submitting application. While not always the case, individuals with the most education and experience will have access to the highest paying positions. This is also true for occupations with supervisory components, as these are typically reserved for professionals who possess graduate degrees.
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While certification is not mandated by the state, obtaining one or more credentials relevant to your intended profession is often beneficial. Certification not only demonstrates your capabilities, but it shows an overall dedication to the field. There are many credentials relevant to the web development field. Because there is no single most important recommended certification, however, professionals can generally choose which options they want to pursue. Selections are typically based on personal interest and career applicability. Price and required skill level are also important factors to consider.
Some of the most common credentials sought by web development specialists 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
Most certifications for web development workers are offered by academic institutions, professional organizations, and reputable companies. Verifying the credibility of the provider should be a top priority, however, as some options carry more professional weight than others.
In addition to the various credentialing opportunities, you can seek membership with one or more professional organizations and associations in the field. There are many benefits associated with becoming a member of these entities, including access to developmental opportunities, academic journals, networking events, discounts, and other helpful resources.
A few prominent options include:
- International Web Association (IWA)
- American Webmasters Association (AWA)
- Higher Education Web Professionals Association (HighEdWeb)
- Web Professionals (WOW)
Potential Careers for Web Development Graduates
- Application Developer
Application developers help ensure the companies and organizations they work for remain relevant with the latest technologies and web developments. They generally do this by creating, developing, managing, and maintaining new programs and software for use on smartphones, computers, tablets, and more. They are often expected to collaborate with other web and information technology professionals on projects and troubleshooting efforts. According to PayScale, application developers make an average base salary of $72,463 per year.
- Computer Systems Analyst
Computer systems analysts are tasked with finding ways to automate various distribution, manufacturing, and sales functions using computers and related systems. These professionals are also responsible for adjusting procedures in order to better meet employer needs. In addition to identifying the most accurate and efficient processes available, they also recommend, install, configure, maintain, and upgrade computer and networking software. According to PayScale, computer systems analysts make an average base salary of $73,224 per year.
- Computer Technical Support Specialist
Computer technical support specialists are hired to diagnose and troubleshoot hardware and software problems. These professionals typically work as part of information technology services departments, helping customers install and operate new purchases. They are also expected to provide assistance to fellow employees and/or consumers when issues arise. According to PayScale, computer technical support specialists make an average base salary of $53,224 per year.
- Graphic Designer
Graphic designers are responsible for creating captivating imagery for the companies and organizations that employ them. Common examples of the graphics provided include business logos, item packaging, print materials, and websites. They work to ensure the images provided portray specific messages or adequately advertise products and services offered and may be expected to use many different creative mediums to create various color schemes, illustrations, and fonts, but most utilize Adobe Illustrator and InDesign software. According to PayScale, graphic designers make an average base salary of $48,052 per year.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialist
Search engine optimization (SEO) specialists are hired to develop and implement strategies that make text, images, and videos easier to find across numerous search engines. These professionals work to ensure their employers’ information appears early among online search results for designated key words. They may also be expected to check and verify that content created by other workers meets important optimization standards. According to PayScale, search engine optimization (SEO) specialists make an average base salary of $49,062 per year.
- Software Tester
Software testers play an important role during the program development process by providing assistance to quality assurance or engineering quality control departments. They are generally responsible for checking test software at various stages of completion and offering insights and recommendations to the development team. They document and report any repeatable crashes and/or bugs to better direct future developmental efforts. According to PayScale, software testers make an average base salary of $56,468 per year.
- UX Researcher
UX researchers are tasked with assessing user needs and wants related to the services and/or products offered by their company. They conduct comprehensive qualitative and quantitative examinations in order to enhance the items, services, and/or software offered. Other responsibilities commonly include writing screener questionnaires, recruiting targeted users, implementing surveys, and conducting interviews. They organize and present pertinent findings to other team members and stakeholders. According to PayScale, UX researchers make an average base salary of $88,859 per year.
- Marketing Manager
- Cybersecurity Analyst