Earning a Master's in Web Development Online

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Web developers design, manage, and implement a variety of online-based applications and interactive technologies. According to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the number of web development jobs is projected to increase by 15% between 2016 and 2016. It ranks among the fastest-growing job sectors, increasing at a rate much faster than the national average for all occupations. A recent USA Today report listed web development as one of the most secure job sectors nationwide, citing BLS data and the field's highly desirable work environment.

Web development touches nearly every aspect of industry, commerce, and digital communication. While a graduate degree is not a standard requirement for entry-level employment in the field, earning a master's in web development online allows learners to stand out from their peers and earn promotions to lucrative positions with more responsibilities and professional advancement opportunities.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree in Web Development?

Earning a master's degree in web design and development online or on campus offers distinct advantages. Learners can pursue this degree to gain specialized knowledge in their individual area of interest. Additionally, working professionals who earn an advanced degree can increase their earning power and expand their career prospects.

Learners can gain some of the aforementioned advantages by pursuing a professional certificate, as opposed to enrolling in a full graduate degree track, but a master's degree diversifies their portfolio more significantly while offering formal preparation for industry-specific credentials.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Web Development?

Pursuing Specialization

Earning a master's in web development online allows learners to concentrate their course of study, exploring specific areas of expertise to push their careers forward. Developing specialized skills in areas like user experience, data metrics, and advanced programming can increase an individual's standing when applying for jobs. Expert-level specialization gained through advanced graduate study may lead to higher-paying jobs with more responsibility, both in web development and other related job sectors.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Entry-level employment in web development does not usually require a master's degree, but master's graduates enjoy distinct benefits that place them ahead of the competition. Formal education and training in web development beyond the undergraduate level facilitates promotion and professional development. Working professionals who earn a master's degree in web design and development online can increase their earning power and rise to advanced positions more quickly than individuals who only hold a bachelor's.

Online Learning Technology

Degree seekers pursuing online master's degrees in the field also benefit from the learning technologies used in their programs of study. Synchronous and asynchronous content delivery methods closely mirror the web-based applications many professionals use on the job. Gaining first-hand experience with these communication technologies as a user broadens degree seekers' perspectives and understanding of the field.

Prerequisites for Online Web Development Programs

Prospective learners should familiarize themselves with common prerequisites for master's in web development online programs. Requirements vary by school, but most programs ask for the basic requirements listed below.

    • Work Experience: Generally speaking, most web development programs do not require professional work experience. Interested learners can apply and enroll shortly after earning their bachelor's degree. However, work experience can only strengthen an application and often facilitates advanced study. Field-specific skills and competencies acquired on the job promote academic success and can even expedite graduation.
    • Exams and Test Scores: Many schools offering an online master's in web development do not require applicants to submit standardized test scores. Specific requirements vary by program, so prospective learners should pay close attention to the admissions requirements for their schools of interest. Some institutions may ask applicants to submit GRE or GMAT scores.
    • Coursework: A master's degree requires applicants to hold a relevant undergraduate degree from an accredited institution. Most schools in the web development field ask learners to submit official transcripts for all previous coursework demonstrating a minimum cumulative GPA in the 2.5-3.0 range. Programs may not stipulate specific course prerequisites for admission, but degree seekers with some formal training in computer programming or information technology may receive preference.
    • Recommendations: Prospective learners typically submit 1-3 letters of recommendation with their application materials. These letters should discuss an applicant's competencies and professional experience in the field and address their readiness for advanced academic success. The most effective recommendation letters come from current supervisors, previous employers, and past academic mentors.
    • Essays: Many programs ask applicants to submit a short essay or personal statement. This document should outline why an individual is interested in entering the program, discuss their professional and academic goals, and explain why the program in question is the best option for achieving those goals. Most essay submissions consist of 500-1,000 words.
    • Interviews: Some schools may ask applicants to submit to an interview. Most of these interviews take place on the phone or through video conferencing, but some may involve a campus visit. Interviews give applicants a chance to make a personal impression, ask and answer questions, and add additional substance to the points addressed in their essay.
    • International Students: International learners must demonstrate English language proficiency prior to admission. This usually means submitting official TOEFL scores, but there are notable exceptions. For example, international degree seekers who hold a postsecondary degree from an accredited university where English is the primary language of instruction may be able to claim exemption.

How Much Can I Make with a Master's Degree in Web Development?

According to the BLS, web developers make between $37,930 (10th-percentile salary) and $124,480 (90th-percentile salary), while the median annual wage for the occupation stands at $69,430. As with any profession, workers who hold an advanced degree and/or more experience typically take home higher salaries.

Formal training in web development promotes a broad set of transferable skills that many potential employers may find attractive. Proficiency in information technology, programming, and database management, for example, solidifies professional standing in the field while also opening the door to less traditional job opportunities.

Traditional Careers for Master's in Web Development Graduates

Careers Stats Description

Software Developer

Median Salary: $105,590

Job Growth: 24%

Software developers oversee and implement the entire development process of a software program. They analyze users' needs, design each individual component of a program, make recommendations for potential upgrades, and ensure that a program continues to run smoothly without errors or interruption. Software developers typically work in firms that deal with computer systems design or software publishing.

Web Developer

Median Salary: $69,430

Job Growth: 15%

Web developers design websites and create various web-based applications. They meet with clients to determine the needs and design of a given product and work to implement solutions that meet those needs. They also conduct testing for websites and applications, ensuring that these elements function properly.

Graphic Designer

Median Salary: $50,370

Job Growth: 4%

Graphic designers create visual images and animations using computer software with the aim of communicating ideas that connect with customers. They work with art directors and other team members to translate marketing strategies into compelling visual imagery that meets the needs of their clients.

Source: BLS

Nontraditional Careers for Web Development Graduates

Master's degree graduates in web development can also pursue various nontraditional careers in adjacent industries. Many of the skills obtained during their course of study translate into lucrative and engaging job opportunities in other fields.

Careers Stats Description

Technical Writer

Median Salary: $71,850

Job Growth: 11%

Skills Overlapped: Critical thinking, analytical acumen, written and oral communication

Technical writers prepare how-to guides, instruction manuals, and other documentation. They work to communicate and translate complex information for public consumption. Technical writers work in a variety of job sectors, including the computer and engineering industries.

Multimedia Artist/Animator

Median Salary: $72,520

Job Growth: 8%

Skills Overlapped: Critical thinking, creative problem-solving, computer programming

Multimedia artists and animators create moving 2D and 3D images and image sequences. They work to implement these sequences and their accompanying visual effects into television, film, video games, and other media contexts. They may use computer programs and illustrations to generate these images and often work as part of larger creative teams.

Source: BLS

Paying for an Online Master's in Web Development

Graduate school can be quite expensive. Tuition rates vary by program, as do study timelines and pathways to degree completion. Part-time enrollment allows learners to work as they study and pay as they go, while accelerated timelines can expedite graduation but require a steeper time investment. Students can also explore financial aid opportunities specific to the web development industry. Prospective learners should weigh their options carefully and pursue a sensible path that works for them without creating undue financial burdens.

Scholarships for Online Web Development Master's Students

Scholarships, grants, and other financial aid opportunities can help defray the rising costs of a graduate-level education. Awards like the ones listed below are available to learners pursuing master's degrees in web design and development online.

What to Expect from a Master's-level Online Web Development Program

Most online master's in web development programs take 1-3 years to complete, depending on the program format and a student's individual circumstances. A typical program consists of 35-50 credits, split between core requirements and electives. Students learn about fundamentals in the field while also having the opportunity to specialize in areas like object-oriented methodologies; marketing analytics; digital content creation; and the JavaScript, PHP, and XML programming languages. The specific program pathways may vary, but the major milestones listed below are encountered during a typical course of study.

Major Milestones

  1. Application to Admission

    Prospective learners should prepare and submit their application materials well before enrollment deadlines. The application process allows degree seekers to assess a program, ask pertinent questions, participate in potential interviews, and make a campus visit.

  2. Core Coursework Requirements

    The first stage of the program requires learners to complete core requirements in the discipline. During this time, degree seekers take courses in website design and management, web information systems, and advanced programming.

  3. Free Electives and Individual Specialization

    After acquiring basic knowledge and skills related to the fundamentals of web development, learners explore cognate topics and potential areas of concentration. This allows participants to receive a tailored learning experience that matches their individual professional goals.

  4. Capstone Project

    Most programs require a capstone project, carried out near the end of the course of study. This project gives degree seekers the opportunity to explore an original research problem where they develop, test, and implement their own web-based applications.

  5. Graduation and Professional Development

    As graduation approaches, learners should begin to explore career opportunities beyond graduate school. Most programs offer internships and professional development resources that serve to connect students with potential employers in the field. Degree seekers may also look into additional professional certifications during this time.

Coursework

Coursework for these programs involve both core requirements and free electives. Each school provides its own catalog, complete with specific course offerings for each term. Prospective learners can expect to enroll in some classes similar to those listed below.

Web Design and Development

This course examines the fundamentals of the field and explores some of the primary tools and techniques used by developers. Degree seekers learn to design, implement, and test interactive web-based applications. Coursework also covers the social, ethical, and legal issues encountered in the industry.

Python Programming

This class covers the Python programming language and syntax. Students create front-end interfaces with Python, explore the Python library, and assess existing Python-based web components. The course may conclude with a Python-based development project that is subjected to rigorous peer review.

Usability Design in Web Development

Degree seekers enrolled in this course study the basic principles of web development from a user experience perspective. The course teaches learners to create web-based applications with effective and intuitive user interfaces. Topics explored include usability guidelines, best practices in design and development, and web navigation.

Website Optimization

This course introduces industry-standard website optimization strategies. Learners explore a variety of tools and techniques, including site monitoring, user counting, click-through assessments, and data gathering. Students create, implement, and assess optimization metrics and examine various methodologies designed to increase website traffic.

Network Security Fundamentals

Learners in this course survey the security basics needed for web development and design. Topics include security principles and challenges, effective countermeasures, and information assurance. Learners examine and implement these subjects in common development scenarios.

Degree Timelines

One of the many benefits of earning a master's in web development online is increased flexibility in terms of pacing and study timelines. Many schools provide learners with multiple customizable options for degree completion.

Enrollment Status Time to Complete Description

Part-Time

5 years

Ideal for working professionals already employed in the field, this degree path allows learners to more easily balance work and education. Part-time learners typically enroll in 3-6 credits each semester, pacing their course of study in accordance with their schedule and personal circumstances.

Full-Time

24-26 months

Degree seekers enrolled full time typically take 12-15 credits each semester. Some working professionals enroll full time, but this conventional pathway to degree completion is best suited learners who can devote most of their time to school.

Accelerated

18 months

Designed to expedite the program of study, accelerated timelines place high demands on degree seekers' time but allow participants to graduate quickly. Learners typically enroll in 12+ credits and often take advantage of summer and winter course offerings. Most schools recommend that learners avoid outside employment during this time.

Licenses and Certifications

Advanced postsecondary education provides degree seekers with the level of training and preparation necessary for success, but some employers may require additional credentials. Many professional certifications relate to the field of web development. These certifications can help graduates establish additional areas of expertise and may lead to more job opportunities with increased responsibility and higher pay. Although certifications tend to be optional, some web development programs provide certification preparation.

    • Adobe Certified Expert: Adobe maintains industry-standard tools and software for professionals in the field. ACE certification verifies the skills necessary to use these tools on behalf of potential employers. To earn this credential, candidates must pass a standardized exam, which costs $180.
    • Microsoft Developer Certification: Microsoft offers several professional certifications for web developers. These credentials validate a professional's expertise in the field, signaling vocational readiness to potential employers. Each certification requires candidates to pass an exam; exam fees vary by certification.
    • World Organization of Webmasters Certified Professional Web Developer: WOW offers a professional web development credential, which demonstrates expert-level competency in the field. This certification involves a 70-question online exam, which lasts 60 minutes. Exam topics include internet basics, HTML, CSS, Javascript, and server scripting.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Many professional organizations have been founded to support and connect current learners, recent graduates, and seasoned professionals in web development. These organizations keep working professionals up-to-date with the most recent developments in this growing, competitive industry. Organizations may also sponsor continuing education programs, host annual conferences and meetings, facilitate networking opportunities, and offer professional advancement services. Resource aggregates also provide support by offering the latest news in the field and providing useful tools and applications.

  • World Organization of Webmasters Empowering technical and creative web professionals since 1997, this nonprofit organization provides education and training resources for experts in the field. It also offers certification opportunities and fosters standards of excellence in web development.
  • International Web Association IWA advances web professionalism through global leadership. Founded in 1996, the organization is an industry leader in providing education and certification standards in the field. IWA hosts events and job boards and offers credentialing opportunities.
  • American Webmasters Association Established in 2003, AWA connects and supports the web professionals responsible for creating, marketing, and managing websites. The organization maintains a newsletter, promotes a code of ethics, and supports professionals by providing continuing education opportunities and job boards.
  • User Experience Professionals Association A professional organization focusing on usability and user experience, UXPA maintains 59 local chapters in 30 countries around the world. Operating internationally since 1991, the organization hosts webinars, events, and conferences. It also offers career services and expert publications.
  • Interaction Design Association Dedicated to the art and discipline of interaction design, IxDA serves more than 100,000 professionals in over 200 local cohorts. Initially launched in 2003, IxDA promotes excellence and innovation in the field by hosting events, facilitating a sense of community, and providing career services resources.
  • Designers List This resource aggregates useful tools and resources for web designers and developers. It maintains a regular newsletter and compiles insightful international articles and publications specific to the field.
  • Smashing Magazine Founded in 2006, this publication provides reliable and practical content to working professionals in the industry. The magazine sponsors webinars and local events, hosts job boards, and supports physical and digital publications related to web development and design.
  • A List Apart Focusing on web standards and best practices, this resource delivers content that supports innovation and creativity in the industry. A List Apart maintains a mailing list, sponsors a variety of professional events, and publishes articles on web design and development.
  • siteInspire This resource showcases some of the most elegant and innovative interactive designs around the web. It maintains an active directory of useful sites and design firms, as well as a regular mailing list for working professionals.
  • UX Movement An online publication focusing on user experience and interfaces, UX Movement offers working professionals in the field engaging content related to design and human-computer interaction.