With all the lucrative, flexible jobs being reported in tech (side note: many of these tech jobs don’t require a computer science degree), and growing opportunities to have a tech career outside of tech companies, you might find yourself asking how hard it is to find a tech job in the first place.
One of the most popular positions for tech newbies to apply for is that of a junior web developer (sometimes listed as an entry-level front-end developer). If you’re here because you’re wondering how to become a web developer or how much you can expect to make from a junior web developer salary, good news: you don’t need to go back to school to get a bachelor’s degree and start developing websites as an entry level web developer for serious money.
Why? Because you can pick up the skills you need to land a junior web developer position without ever setting foot in a college classroom again. We’ve rounded up a list of 12 essential steps to take on the way to landing junior web developer jobs. As an added bonus, you’ll also find some details on other common questions (like “how much is a junior web developer salary?”) and some of the starting skills web developer jobs require, so you can start building up your resume.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Web Developer: 12 Steps to Land a Junior Developer Job
- Build a Portfolio Site
- Do Freelance Projects
- Put Your Code on GitHub
- Contribute to an Open Source Project
- Participate in a Hackathon
- Network with Other Web Developers
- Follow Industry News
- Learn New, Relevant Skills
- Refine Your Resume
- Start Your Job Hunt
- Interview for a Web Developer Job—Even If You’re Not Sure You’re Ready
- Repeat the Process
- What is a Junior Web Developer Salary?
- Best Web Development Skills to Learn First
How to Become a Web Developer in 12 Steps
1. Build a Portfolio Site Full of Relevant Work
Your portfolio is the first thing potential employers will look at when considering you for a junior web developer job, so your site needs to be a real reflection of your skills and personal brand. But, before you can load up your portfolio, you need to code it, launch it, and make sure it stands out from other websites.
Once you’ve got your portfolio site built, it’s time to load it up with some core portfolio projects for tech beginners. You’ll want to include any work you’ve done for companies or clients (with their permission) that you feel particularly good about, and remember to include projects that show your range as a design and developer. What’s important here is that you’re uploading strong, clean work that is indicative of both your skill level and brand.
2. Do Freelance Projects
A great way to get some work for your new junior web developer portfolio if you feel like it needs some beefing up is to seek out freelance clients. Taking on projects as a freelancer will help you build business skills like negotiating, establish trustworthiness as a developer, and get you some up-to-date recommendations to show potential employers. It’ll also give you the chance to gain experience for full-time entry level web developer jobs (if that’s your goal) while building up your bank balance.
The projects don’t have to be huge ones—you can offer, for example, to re-do the navigation for a local restaurant’s website or to create an HTML newsletter for a charity organization. Both are great portfolio pieces for your shiny new website.
You also might consider doing some charity work yourself—in the form of pro bono projects. You won’t be bringing home any bacon from them, but they’ll beef up your portfolio, give you a way to network, and you can actually make unpaid projects pay off for you in lots of ways that will boost your job search and career.
3. Put Your Code on Github
Github is the industry-standard for version control, and many companies want to know that you have hands-on experience before extending an offer. You can prove that and show off your best code by creating your own Github account and using it as a repository for your projects.
After you get an account set up, make regular contributions to GitHub. This shows potential employers that you’re consistently working on your junior web developer skills, even if they’re only for imaginary projects. Keep your code clean and organized and include concise README documentation so that employers know you’ll be able to jump right in to collaboratively coding on their teams.
4. Contribute to an Open Source Project
You can look for open source projects of all kinds and sizes on Explore GitHub. And once you find a project you’re interested in, don’t be afraid to jump in and help! Some easy first steps are reporting bugs, helping prioritize issues, beta testing, working on the project’s website, or improving documentation.
5. Participate in a Hackathon
You can’t turn around nowadays without bumping into a hackathon! They’re a fun and exciting way to get to know tech people who share your interests, help tackle relevant problems, test your coding skills, learn from others, and maybe win prizes! At a hackathon, you’ll end up coding on a team, and if you’ve been learning to code on your own, proving you can hack it (I’ll show myself out) with a team of coders makes you a lot more appealing to hiring managers at web development agencies.
To find hackathons near you or online, try searching sites like AngelHack, hackathon.io, and ChallengePost. And remember to keep your eye out at the event for sponsors and recruiters. Many a web developer has gotten noticed at a hackathon and offered a job right on the spot!
6. Meet Techies Online and IRL
Hopefully you’ll gain contacts at hackathons, but don’t let the networking stop there. Keep reaching out to the people you meet, and learn more about the web development industry by talking online and in person. The easiest way to do this is through tech meetup groups. Almost every city has them, and if yours doesn’t, you can set up your own. Just pick the focus, find a place (even a coffee shop or local park will do!), and spread the word on social media, email, or in person.
Or, if you’re really not in a location that lets you get together with other techies, look for communities online. Answer questions on Stack Overflow, comment on Twitter threads related to development, or help out on the WordPress.org forum. Whether you meet in person or on the Internet, you’ll be expanding your horizons and getting to know people who can turn out to be your future co-workers or superiors at those dream junior web developer jobs.
7. Follow Industry News
Make a point to keep up with what’s happening in tech—this is critical for both your first web developer job interview and all the small-talk you’ll be making with new tech friends. You don’t need to be an expert on every story or topic out there; just get to know what’s hot and what’s happening. You can read blogs or tech news sites over breakfast, listen to podcasts when you’re walking your dog, or scan Twitter lists while you’re waiting in line at the store.
8. Learn New, Relevant Skills Regularly
Besides keeping up on the news, you should also keep up with new skills and tools of the trade. As an entry level web developer, knowing these will make you that much more in-demand. A few that are most requested are CSS preprocessors like Sass or Less, frameworks like Backbone.js, Angular.js, or Node.js, etc. or Ruby on Rails, and a CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress. You can explore the wonderful world of Ruby through a number of resources or try the Skillcrush WordPress Developer Blueprint to learn the world’s most popular CMS.
9. Refine Your Resume
Even though your portfolio is where you’ll show off your skills as junior web developer, most companies still ask for resumes and use them to weed out candidates. That means yours needs to be as polished and professional as your portfolio. Make sure you highlight your core skills, play up any tech-related experience, and give specific details to prove your achievements and strengths.
Additionally, take the time to choose a clean, easy-to read template (or design your own!) to use as a resume. There are a bunch of resume templates floating around the internet for free, and your future employer will thank you for having all your experience outlined in a clear, visually-pleasing way. Remember, you want to get hired as much as your employer wants to hire someone—why not make it easy for both of you?
10. Start Your Job Hunt for Junior Developer Jobs
Now that you’ve made the extra effort with networking and skill polishing, it’s time to dive into some actual entry level web developer jobs listings. Start by simply searching for “junior web developer” on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed, and don’t worry about the company or the location. The idea is for you to see what employers are looking for and what kind of options are available in general.
Keep in mind that job descriptions tend to list more (sometimes WAY more!) requirements than are really expected from candidates. Don’t let this discourage you. Many hiring managers makes their decision based on your ability to learn on the job—no one is going to know everything coming in to a new position and you’ll get some on-the-job training. Once you’ve gotten a feel for what’s out there, send out your resume for the jobs you’re really interested in. Be realistic but don’t be shy. Nobody’s going to come knocking on your door with a web dev position in hand. You have to put yourself out there.
And don’t forget the good ol’ grapevine! Let all your friends, family, neighbors, and—of course—hackathon/meet-up/online friends know that you’re actively looking. You never know who has a friend who has a friend who knows just the job for you.
11. Interview for a Job—Even If You’re Not Sure You’re Ready
When that shiny happy moment happens and you’re asked to interview, go for it! Even if you don’t get that first entry level web developer job (or second, or third), the experience you’ll gain from sitting down in person or via video chat with a potential employer will make you a more competitive candidate for jobs down the line. Why? Interviewing is hard. It just is. But the good news is that this learning curve can be overcome with experience. You have the skills, the knowledge, and the experience to impress an employer. Now you just need to be able to communicate that to them.
Skillcrush lead developer Emily Davis says that when she interviews candidates for developer positions, she looks for “a candidate’s ability to break down a problem into small pieces that can be worked through step-by-step. This means she is likely able to identify the root cause of an issue and work from there, rather than having little or no idea where to start.” Anticipate questions like this, where the interviewer is asking more about how you tackle problems and situations overall, as it gives an idea of who you are as a professional—not just your experience with one program or language.
Dress comfortably but professionally, practice problem-solving questions with a friend or family member, and research the company beforehand so that you have questions for the employer as well. No matter how your first interview goes, you’ll survive the experience, which will make the next one that much easier. Plus you’ll have a much better idea of what future interviews will be like and what you need to work on for them. In no time at all, instead of just applying for junior web developer jobs, you’ll be accepting your first one!
12. Repeat the Process
The brilliant thing about junior web developer jobs (and web developer jobs in general) is that your code speaks for you more than what’s on your resume. If you don’t get a job offer from your interview, keep going. Work on projects to add to your portfolio. The more you have in your portfolio, the stronger your coding skills will looks and—more importantly—be. By the next interview, you’ll be an even stronger candidate.
What is a Junior Web Developer Salary?
Junior web developers are people just starting their careers in the web development industry, but entry level web developer jobs are still a lucrative jumping off point.
Wondering exactly what a junior web developer salary looks like?
According to Indeed, the average entry-level junior developer salary for front end web developers is $61,512 a year working full-time in the United States (a number that eventually jumps up to over $108,000 yearly for web developers with more than three years of experience). For an even deeper dive on what to expect from a junior web developer salary, check out our Salary Series article, “How Much Does a Web Developer Make?”
And are you ready for more good news? As of this writing, there are over 3,000 junior web developer job openings on Indeed.
Junior Web Developer Skills You Can Start With
Beyond coding skills, there are some bonus features you can add to resumes for junior developer jobs, but it’s totally acceptable to get started tracking down entry level web developer jobs while you’re still collecting these additional skills. Often-asked-for extras for junior developer jobs are:
- Web design/UX/Photoshop
- Version control (Git/GitHub)
- Cross-browser compatibility
- Responsive web design
If you already have the core programming languages down and are hard at work adding extras to your tech toolbelt, you’ve conquered the hardest part of the pre-application process for entry level web developer jobs.
Kelli worked in international logistics and then freelanced for years as a corporate language trainer and translator before following her passion and making a career change into tech - in her mid-40's!
She was both one of the first Skillcrush students and one of the first Skillcrush team members, starting as our customer support manager and now serving as our Operations (aka HR) Manager, a writer for our blog, and a career counselor.
Kelli is a Texan living in Finland who loves tech, podcasts, Corgis, emoji, gifs, and, most of all, practicing for and going to catalan style line dancing events all around Europe.