Main image of article Web Developer Skills: Which Should You Learn First?

Which web developer skills will help you land a job building and maintaining websites? That’s a crucial question confronting any web developer—but the answer depends on whether you want to become a front-end, back-end, or full-stack web developer.

According to Lightcast (formerly Emsi Burning Glass), which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, organizations want web developers who have mastered a selection of the following skills:

In terms of prioritization, which skills should an aspiring web developer actually learn first? That depends on whether you want to pursue front- or back-end development work. Front-end developers, for instance, should emphasize learning HTML and JavaScript, which are critical to the end-user experience, while a back-end developer might want to focus on the elements that keep a website running, such as cloud-based storage and infrastructure.

Lightcast also states that the median annual salary for web developers is $91,991; the profession is projected to grow 8.4 percent over the next decade. That number inevitably rises as a developer masters new skills and builds out a portfolio. Just for comparison’s sake, the average U.S. technology professional salary now stands at $104,566—a 6.9 percent increase between 2020 and 2021, according to the latest Dice Tech Salary Report

Front-End Web Developer Skills

Job postings for many front-end web developer positions cite the following skills as necessary:

  • JavaScript
  • Front-End Development
  • Software Engineering
  • React JavaScript
  • TypeScript
  • Software Development
  • Web Application Development

In addition, many job postings list the following “soft skills”:

  • Teamwork/collaboration
  • Communication skills
  • Writing
  • Problem solving
  • Creativity
  • Troubleshooting
  • Planning

On top of those technical and soft skills, front-end developers can benefit from a strong design sense, as they’ll often end up working closely with UI/UX and graphic designers on the look and feel of the website. It can pay to become familiar with certain design languages such as Google’s Material Design.

Back-End Web Developer Skills

Back-end developers are responsible for building and maintaining a website’s backend; if they do their job correctly, a website’s users have a seamless and quick experience. Back-end developers must architect systems that can quickly deliver requested information; squish bugs before they can interfere with the website’s operation; and manage APIs.

Back-end web developer skills often cited in job postings include:

  • Java
  • PHP
  • SQL
  • Git
  • CSS
  • HTML
  • JavaScript
  • Python
  • Cloud platforms (AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure)

That’s in addition to having a working knowledge of databases and server-side applications. SQL is particularly important to learn, as it’s key to managing the relational databases that power many web services (familiarity with NoSQL is also a must for those who wrestle with databases).

As with front-end web developers, back-end web developers need “soft skills” in order to effectively work in teams and convey information in an easy-to-understand manner to other stakeholders, including executives who may not understand how the technology actually works.  

Full-Stack Web Developer Skills

If you opt to become a full-stack web developer, you’ll need to learn the principles of front- and back-end development, which is a complicated task—but it will allow you to stand out amidst a crowd of applicants when applying for new jobs.

Many full-stack developers start out mastering a popular front-end development language such as HTML and JavaScript; they might also learn languages such as Swift and Kotlin that allow them to develop for the mobile web. From there, they can expand to server-side programming languages and web frameworks, followed by database management.

While many tech professionals can learn everything they need to know about full-stack web development on their own, many also choose to pursue bootcamps or online instruction. There are always free courses, as well as resources such as W3Schools’ collection of tutorials.


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