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Routes into web development: Which path to take?

Making the leap to the world of web development and design can be a daunting prospect owing to the wide ranging technologies, terminology and experience required to prosper in the industry. Fortunately, there are a number of routes available including online courses, higher education, junior positions and self-education. It is important to remember that the vast majority of web developers and designers have both qualifications and experience in IT so the ideal route begins with a course suited to your particular niche or career.

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Computer literacy is key for prospective web developers but a degree is not always a requirement. However, you will find it easier to procure volunteer and contracting work by having recognised qualifications; for example, if you wanted to be a JavaScript Developer or Senior Developer then you would be best placed to pursue that career by completing a CIW JavaScript Specialist course. You could also take a foundation degree, HND or college course if you wish to take a more educational route to success. Relevant subjects for higher education include web design and development, multimedia design, interactive computing and digital media development.

As a student, you can decide to focus either on a creative, design front end course or a computer science focused back end degree. Web designers use creative and technical skills and are generally more interested in visual arts and the look and feel of a website. They use their right cerebral hemisphere to design incredible experiences for the end user by utilising imagination and intuition. In contrast, web developers focus on the technical aspects and how to build the foundation of the website. They are builders and use their left hemisphere for logical, linear and technical thinking. The front end uses HTML, CSS and Javascript while the back end uses programming languages such as .NET and PHP.

The digital age has enabled talented individuals to use online tools and resources to learn web development and design skills. It is possible to do it on your own, but web development and design is much more than pure coding. A formal education will give you the time and the means to master your programming skills, finding the right solutions to business challenges and preparing you to work on a day by day basis with clients.

It is also a good idea to keep your options open when thinking of future career trajectory. The internet is ubiquitous in almost all modern industries, so experience and skill in web development opens up opportunities in a wide range of sectors. Continuing innovation also continually creates new job roles that simply did not exist a few years ago. A growing sector at the moment is digital security and backup services. A good example is a company such as Black Umbrella, started by Catherine Hooper, a businesswoman dedicated to helping companies protect their assets in the face of natural disasters. As you can see in the article ‘Loving a Madoff’, Hooper has taken her experience in dealing with crisis, and applied it to an innovative business. Start ups such as this offer up-and-coming developers and designers an ever growing pool of opportunity so it definitely pays to think outside of the box when looking for your first professional role.

If you want to become a web developer or designer, you should explore all of the educational options available to you. Higher education will usually provide you with the best qualifications and a great foundation for future success while online courses and tools are ideal for learning the basics of coding and new technologies.

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