Earning a Master’s in Web Design Online

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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the number of web developer jobs to increase by 15% between 2016 and 2026. E-commerce expansion should drive demand for developers skilled in designing websites that seamlessly work on desktop computers and mobile devices.

Earning an online web design master's degree helps web professionals advance their ability to create interactive websites and mobile apps that meet the demands of a variety of contemporary digital businesses. According to the BLS, the median salary for web developers and designers in 2018 was almost $70,000 -- about 80% more than the median salary for all occupations in the U.S.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master’s Degree in Web Design?

Pursuing an online web design master's degree can lead to career advancement and more professional opportunities. Bachelor's-level students hoping to qualify for better-paying positions or managerial jobs earlier in their careers should consider earning an advanced degree.

An online master's degree in web design can also help seasoned professional who want to continue working while pursuing a credential that can lead to a promotion, extend career prospects, or qualify workers for resume-boosting certifications.

Why Get a Master’s Degree in Web Design?

Pursuing Specialization

While enrolled in a master's degree in web design and development online program, students can hone their skills in client-side and server-side development and focus on specialized areas that support their career goals. For example, students pursuing a web design master's degree online may take electives on brand identity, game design, or mobile apps if they hold an interest in working for a particular type of business or transitioning into a different field, like video games.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Earning an advanced degree can aid one's upward career mobility. With an online web design master's degree, students gain advanced training in web design and development by working with the latest tools, solutions, and scripting languages. Students who earn a master's degree can boost their chances for promotion into positions with more responsibility and higher pay.

Online Learning Technology

The online learning environment can provide web designers and developers with helpful insights into what goes into a successful user interface and user experience, including design principles, interactivity, and engagement. Understanding the latest communication technologies and successfully navigating a digital environment are two important learning outcomes for all web design and development students. Web design master's degree online programs emphasize hands-on learning, and success depends on a student's ability to work effectively within the e-learning platform.

Prerequisites for Online Web Design Programs

The following list includes several prerequisites that applicants to an online web design master's degree program should keep in mind. The exact admission process varies depending on the school, but applicants should be able to demonstrate their preparation for graduate studies through their a combination of their record of achievement, test scores, recommendations, and written statements.

    • Work Experience: Students can typically apply to master's in web design programs immediately after earning their bachelor's degree, without needing to accrue work experience. However, students who enroll in these programs after gaining some industry experience may have a better idea about how they want to specialize their education and in what direction they hope to take their careers.
    • Exams and Test Scores: Exam requirements vary by school and program. Some programs do not require entrance exams, but will consider them as part of an application packet. Applicants can also look into exam waiver criteria, such as high GPAs or significant work experience in a field. GRE and GMAT scores remain valid for five years.
    • Coursework: While graduate schools set different criteria for admission, all require that applicants hold a bachelor's from an accredited institution. Also, while many web design and development programs do not require that applicants hold a degree in a specify a major, students with a background in computer design, programming, mathematics, or related disciplines may be preferred. Undergraduate GPA requirements also vary by school, although a minimum 3.0 GPA is a common criterion.
    • Recommendations: Applicants to graduate schools should expect to be asked for two or three letters of recommendation. Individuals should ask former professors or supervisors who have direct knowledge of a student's abilities. Make sure to request letters at least a month in advance, and always write a thank-you note.
    • Essays: Essay requirements vary by school, but applicants should expect to submit at least one writing example. Prospective graduate students should carefully read any essay instructions to ensure they appropriately respond to prompts/questions. Essays may cover an applicant's interest in the field, their motivation for pursuing an advanced degree, or their ultimate goals in web design or development.
    • Interviews: Some schools may require applicants to submit to an interview. Online programs will typically conduct interviews on the phone or through Skype. Admissions committees use interviews to make final decisions, and applicants should prepare to answer questions about themselves, their background, their interests in the field, and why the selected a particular school or program.
    • International Students: Prospective international students must hold a four-year degree that is equivalent to an accredited bachelor's degree earned in the U.S. If they hail from a country with an official language other than English, they must also submit TOEFL or IELTS scores to demonstrate their English proficiency.

How Much Can I Make with a Master’s Degree in Web Design?

Web designers and developers can look forward to strong job prospects over the next several years. The BLS projects that about 25,000 jobs will be added to the field in the U.S. between 2016 and 2026. Earning an advanced degree and in-demand certifications can help web professionals secure higher-paying positions and more readily qualify for promotions or professional opportunities. According to BLS, the 10th-percentile salary for web developers is about $38,000, while workers in the 90th percentile earn almost $125,000 a year.

Traditional Careers for Master's in Web Design Graduates

Careers Stats Description

Graphic Designer

Median Pay: $50,370

Job Growth: 4%

Graphic designers create designs and visual concepts, such as logos, banners, images, and illustrations to help communicate a message or an idea to inspire, inform, or gain the attention of consumers. These workers put together graphic layouts, manipulating the color, image, and typeface. They may create images by hand or by using illustration tools, photo editing software, and layout software. A bachelor's degree serves as the minimum requirement for this position, although a master's degree can help job applicants stand out from their peers.

Web Developer

Median Pay: $69,430

Job Growth: 15%

Web developers design and build websites based on a client's specifications or for a particular purpose, such as an e-commerce or news site. Developers with an advanced degree, like an online web design master's degree, possess the skills needed to handle the client-side and server-side of a website. Some professionals may specialize as back-end or front-end developers. Web developers write code, integrate graphics, and monitor a site's performance and capacity.

User Experience Designer

Median Pay: $73,000

User experience (UX) designers create designs that are attractive and meaningful or relevant to users. As graphic artists, UX designers can work with print materials or in a digital environment, such as a website or mobile applications. UX designers handle the entire design process, from mockup to prototyping to the final product. In addition to aesthetics, they tackle aspects like branding, usability, and function.

Source: PayScale/BLS

Nontraditional Careers for Web Design Graduates

Many of the skills learned from a web design master's degree online program can be applied to other jobs and roles that a web designer or web developer may not immediately think of when searching for a new job. In an increasingly technology-driven world, companies look to hire individuals who bring a broad set of both hard and soft skills.

Careers Stats Description

Technical Writer

Median Pay: $71,850

Job Growth: 11%

Skills Overlapped: Critical thinking, technical writing, imagination, communication

Technical writers translate technical information into writing that less technical people can easily digest and understand. They may write instruction manuals, how-to guides, operational procedures, and journal articles. They also create diagrams and infographics to convey information.

Managing Editor

Median Pay: $61,000

Skills Overlapped: Project management, technical writing, HTML, design and publishing tools (e.g., Adobe Photoshop, InDesign), communication

Managing editors oversee the publishing process from start to finish. The same principles regarding content quality, accuracy, and integrity apply to both print and digital publishing. Working in an online environment requires familiarity with online platforms, programming languages, and website functions.

Source: PayScale/BLS

Paying for an Online Master’s in Web Design

In attempts to reduce student debt, many learners opt to enroll in online programs that allow them to eliminate the cost of commuting or relocating and continue to work part or full time. Some schools also offer more affordable tuition rates to online-only students, charging out-of-state and in-state learners the same tuition.

Students should also look into subject-specific financial aid, grants, and scholarship opportunities at the local, state, and national levels. For example, aspiring web designers and developers can look for scholarships reserved for technology, computer science, or visual arts degrees.

Scholarships for Online Web Design Master's Students

Many public and private organizations fund scholarships to support the academic pursuits of students. Future web designers can find scholarships that target students at all levels of their academic careers.

What to Expect from a Master’s-level Online Web Design Program

Students who attend full time can complete an online web design master's degree in two years, although accelerated programs enable learners to graduate in as few as 12 months. In general, programs require students to complete 30-39 credits. Virtual classrooms facilitate asynchronous learning, where students can log in at their convenience. Typical milestones in a master's degree in web design and development online program include working through core curricula, choosing electives, and completing a capstone experience.

Major Milestones

  1. Capstone

    In a capstone project, students take advantage of the skills and knowledge they gained throughout their program to put together a final project or presentation. For example, online web design students may turn in a portfolio of the research and studio work they completed while earning their degree.

  2. Core Coursework

    Every master's program includes a core curriculum, in which students take required courses fundamental to understanding their discipline. An online web design or development program may begin with the basics of working with HTML and CSS files and provide a historical overview of the web's evolution.

  3. Research Proposal

    A research or thesis proposal outlines a student's final research topic and paper, including the issues or questions they aim to address and an explanation of any further research. Research proposals must gain approval from an adviser.

  4. Certificates

    Some schools offer a certificate option. In these programs, students earn a certificate after they complete one or more courses that overlap with their major or concentration, such as cybersecurity or C++. In other programs, students may need to take additional courses to fulfill certificate requirements.

  5. Intent to Graduate/Completion Confirmation

    Before graduating, students must submit their intent-to-graduate forms. Once the school receives this request, the academic department reviews a student's academic record to confirm they have met degree requirements.

Coursework

While the exact curricula of online master's in web design programs vary, students can expect to take courses in web design; user interfaces; interactivity; and scripting languages like JavaScript, Python, and Ruby.

Principles of Web Design

Students gain foundational knowledge of web design in this core course, including working with HTML and CSS files. Participants acquire the skills needed to plan, design, and develop a webpage.

Interface Design for Websites

This course expands on introductory courses, focusing on users and the user experience. Students study concepts like interface design, design problems and strengths, and human-application interactions. Topics include web navigation, menus, scrolling, graphics, icons, and placement.

Programming for the Web

In this course, students learn the basics of HTML. They receive hands-on learning related to both document creation and web publishing. Students explore the differences between HTML and HTML5 and how browsers handle new elements.

Front-end Web Development

This course explores the concepts, techniques, and tools used in front-end web development and programming for the user interface. Topics include HTML programming, CSS, and Javascript. Students also learn the differences between client-side and server-side development.

Mobile Web Development

Students in this course learn how to transform a web application into a mobile app, optimizing the experience for users of multiple types of devices. Coursework also teaches learners how to build mobile apps that work across operating systems, including iOS and Android.

Degree Timelines

Most master's programs let students take up to five years to complete all degree requirements. Typically, a full-time student can graduate in two years, while part-timers take about twice as long. Additionally, students in accelerated programs, which may feature shorter terms and multiple start dates, can finish their degree requirements within a year.

Enrollment Status Time to Complete Description

Part-Time

3-4 years

Students who cannot commit full time to school, due to work and/or family obligations, can enroll part time and complete an online master's in web design program in 3-4 years. To do so, students usually take one or two courses each semester.

Full-Time

1.5-2 years

Full-time graduate students usually take 9-12 credits per semester, graduating in two years. Some programs also let learners take courses during the summer, which can reduce the time needed to graduate to 1.5 years.

Accelerated

1 year

An accelerated program typically features shorter terms (lasting 5-10 weeks) and multiple start dates throughout the year to provide increased flexibility. Students in accelerated programs usually need to take a break from work to concentrate on completing program requirements in a year.

Licenses and Certifications

Certification demonstrates an individual's expertise in a particular area or technology. It provides a recognizable benchmark that tells potential employers that a candidate meets the desired qualifications for a position. Certification is typically optional for web designers; therefore, professionals who choose to become certified can signal a higher level of achievement, drive, and initiative, which may open doors to more professional opportunities.

    • Adobe Certified Expert: Adobe offers various certifications for its applications in the areas of web design, technical communications, and e-learning. Web professionals can apply for ACE certification in Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC, and InDesign CC. Each certification exam costs $180 to take, and all come with prep courses.
    • Zend Certified PHP Engineer: This certification exam, which costs $195, recognizes PHP expertise -- a scripting language used in the development of static and dynamic websites. Exam topics include PHP basics, such as syntax and variables, functions, web features, data format and types, and object-oriented programming.
    • Amazon Web Services Certification: Amazon offers role-based certifications, such as credentials for cloud practitioners, solutions architects, and developers. The AWS Certified Developer-Associate Level examination tests a developer's skills and knowledge related to AWS-based applications. The exam costs $150, and test-takers can take up to 130 minutes to finish their exam. Students can take the test in English, Japanese, Korean, or Simplified Chinese.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional organizations provide members with useful resources, including industry news, new research findings, and career advice. Joining a professional organization can help students, recent grads, and seasoned professionals. While networking opportunities often represent the most useful benefit of a professional organization, members may also gain access to continuing education programs, annual conferences, and job boards. Students looking for scholarships should also consider joining a professional organization; many of these groups offer member-only educational awards.

  • American Webmasters Association Founded in 2003, AWA connects and supports web professionals who create, manage, and market websites. Members include web designers, website developers, system administrators, educators, and e-commerce experts. Benefits of AWA membership include networking opportunities; continuing education resources; and discounts on training, software, and web hosting.
  • International Web Association IWA provides educational and certification standards for web professionals. This nonprofit organization, founded in 1996, supports more than 300,000 members through 100 chapters around the world.
  • The Professional Association for Design Founded more than 100 years ago, AIGA supports over 70 U.S. chapters and 25,000 members. Member benefits include access to career services and resources for continuing professional development.
  • Association for Computing Machinery SIGGRAPH The SIGGRAPH community was launched in 1974 as a small special-interest group within the Association for Computing Machinery. Today, the group's international membership numbers in the tens of thousands and includes researchers, artists, developers, filmmakers, and scientists. It works to provide support for professionals interested in computer graphics and interactive techniques.
  • Graphic Artists Guild This group helps its members remain competitive in the ever-changing field of design. Members benefit from career advice, industry updates, and advocacy.
  • Khan Academy, Computer Programming Web design and computer programming students can practice their skills by taking free online asynchronous classes. Class topics include animation, games, visualizations, SQL, and interactivity. Students can track their progress through a personalized learning dashboard.
  • Usability.gov This government-sponsored educational resource provides how-to instruction, guides, and insight on ways to improve the user experience for digital communication. The site covers web design principles by teaching students how to better understand users.
  • Android Developer Guides This developer guide focuses on the development of Android apps. Individuals can learn application fundamentals like programming in Kotlin, Java, and C++; animation creation; and API use in the Android framework.
  • JavaScript Garden Web design students can visit this growing collection of documentation, which details how to work with JavaScript. This resource addresses common mistakes and some of the bugs, performance issues, and ill-advised practices that plague new programmers.
  • RailsCasts This screencast collection features monthly episodes offering tips, tricks, and advice on using the server-side application framework Ruby on Rails. Beginner and expert students may find these tutorials useful, although intermediate Rails developers stand to benefit the most.