If you’re in search of a rewarding career in the tech industry, working as a web developer may be the perfect fit for you. The work is exciting, the field is ever-growing, and the pay can be anywhere from comfortable to extremely lucrative.
But before we answer the burning question of how much a web developer earns, we need to understand first what a web developer actually does.
What Exactly Is A Web Developer?
In a web developer job description, the position is not a single job, but an umbrella term for a range of responsibilities and skills, all related to building a website.
While web designers deal with the aesthetic component of a website, web developers are programmers that take design and make it functional. So, say, if a website were a car, the web developer makes sure everything that’s underneath the hood is working together so that the car can run smoothly.
Of course, this analogy cannot possibly account for the sheer complexity of a web developer’s responsibilities. Web developers can best be categorized into three general groups; front end, back end, and full-stack developers.
Web developer employment is projected to grow 15 percent by the year 2026, much faster than other occupations.
Front-end developers are responsible for websites and applications. Their work--creating the visual elements and interactive parts of a website--is what we see when we visit a website. Front end development is an easy entry point for green developers, meaning front-end salaries are often on the lower end of the spectrum.
Back-end developers specialize in servers and databases. Their role is crucial yet often unnoticed. They make sure data flows seamlessly from the website’s front end to the back end. Back end developers generally tend to earn a higher salary than front end developers.
Full stack developers can implement and oversee both sides of web development. On average, full stack developers are the highest earning web developers.
At first glance, it may appear in your best interest to learn front and back end all at once to increase your earning potential. However, be careful not to become a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. Build your expertise slowly, making sure to master each skill before moving on to the next domain.
Web Developer Salaries Depend On Experience
When researching the average salary of a web developer, you will find quite a wide range. Don’t be confused; this spread has much to do with the web developer’s level of expertise and accumulated knowledge.
Web development may have a lower barrier to entry than other technical fields that require many years of study and advanced degrees, but companies still value commercial experience and pay accordingly. Different companies use different metrics to assess programmer competency and skills acquisition.
Entry-level web developers (sometimes referred to as a junior-level developers) have just begun their career, often fresh out of university or coding boot camp. They have a basic knowledge of computer programming, can write at least one programming language, and can solve small errors in code. Naturally, their salaries start off the smallest, and grow as they accumulate skills.
Junior-level developers (considered mid-level developers, to some) have had a few years of web development experience. They understand how the industry operates and their designated role in the scope of a project, but still require supervision. Their income tends to represent the middle range of salaries. If you see an “average web developer salary,” you can assume it’s for a junior-level developer.
Senior web developers have extensive experience solving problems and are experts in their field. Their salaries represent the highest range in the business--and rightfully so, as they’ve spent years perfecting their craft.
How Much Money Do Web Developers Actually Make?
Given the growing costs of living and the range options for work in the digital age, it makes sense that money is a primary consideration when exploring a new career in web development. Demand for programmers is on the rise, and salaries are trending higher. Web developer employment is projected to grow 15 percent by the year 2026, much faster than other occupations.
This tremendous growth leads us back to the central question: “What is the average salary of a web developer in the U.S.?”
According to Indeed.com, as of December 2019, the average salary for an entry level web developer in the United States is $47,509 per year. This number increases to $54,793 for a junior front end developer, and $74,720 for a web developer (unspecified), and $99,085 for a senior web developer. As of 2018,
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual wage for web developers is $69,430 per year, and $33.38 per hour.
Averages are by no means guarantees, but they do provide a ballpark for what you can earn as a web developer. Keep in mind these programmer salary averages span across the United States, and are compiled exclusively from jobs listed on their site. Some estimate that only 20% of jobs are actually advertised, and the rest are filled through networking.
These numbers are by no means specific to skillset or level of expertise, but are useful in gaining a sense of the nationwide web developer salary trends.
The Programming Language Affects Web Developer Salaries
The sheer number of languages you can learn can be overwhelming, with new languages created weekly. We’ve compiled a chart with some of the most common languages, using data from top web developer job sites.
These average web developer salaries will still vary between cities and companies. Even a simple change of phrase, from “web developer” to “engineer” to “programmer” can beget slightly different average salaries.
Geography Impacts Average Web Developer Salary
Beyond the skills and experience of a web developer, salaries vary based on geography. As one might expect, web developer jobs in urban areas pay more than nonmetropolitan areas. Top paying states for web developers, such as California, report an annual mean wage of $86,160, well above the national average of $69,430. The high salaries on the coasts may be enticing, but the steep cost of living can deplete your actual earnings.
Below are the states with a high concentration of jobs and their corresponding annual mean wage. As you can see, there is a difference of over $30,000 between Vermont and Washington.
District of Columbia: $87,320
New York: $79,880
According to recent labor market data, the country is experiencing a changing landscape of talent. While “superstar cities” like New York and L.A. still have a disproportionate share of high-tech startups and corporate headquarters, unexpected areas are making it onto the map as attractive regions for talent.
The high cost of living in coastal hubs motivate talent to look to unexpected places like Jacksonville, FL and Denton, TX for work and affordable housing. Large counties in the west, such as Idaho and Utah, have seen continued growth and served as a refuge from high-cost cities like San Francisco and Seattle.
The increasing demand for web developers and expanding presence of tech companies make for a wealth of opportunity.
How Does Working Full Time Or Freelance Impact Pay?
Given the growing demand of web development, there are many kinds of job openings, from full-time, to part-time, to freelance and remote work. Some employees long for the flexibility and self-directed lifestyle that freelance web development allows, while others find security and structure in traditional full-time employment.
Ultimately, the decision whether to work as a full-time web developer versus a freelancer is an individual choice, and not a permanent one. The plethora of opportunities make it easy to move from one kind of work to another, so you’re never stuck.
Discussing freelance web developer opportunities begs the question, what is the average hourly rate of a web developer? This question is as difficult as trying to nail down the cost of rent in the United States.
Rates will vary widely depending on the quality of the services the web developer can provide. Based on data culled from their sites, Codementor reports web developers earn an average hourly range of $61-80, whereas Ziprecruiter indicates $25-43.
To earn in the high percentile, establish yourself as an expert in a certain area of programming. More specialized web developers can charge higher rates and offer consulting services. Freelance marketplace can make finding clients, managing communication, and handling transactions easy.
Web developer positions are projected to increase more than twice as fast as other occupations
Conclusion: Web Development is a Valuable Career
Web programming is meaningful work for more than just the monetary incentives. As software plays an increasingly vital role in how our society functions, web developers are key stakeholders in building a digital world from the ground up. But it is no secret that web developers can earn big paychecks, making it an attractive field for those in search of reliable income.
If you decide to pursue a career in web development or are negotiating your salary as a programmer, let these average salaries be your guide. Clinging to a single figure would be unwise, as the field is highly specialized and region-specific. The average salary for a web developer depends greatly on the nature of your programming work, your level of expertise, and your location.
Nothing about web development is static, which means you’re not stuck with your salary, either. Web developer positions are projected to increase more than twice as fast as other occupations ( 15% from 2016-2026). As you continue to improve and the field expands, your salary will grow, too.