15 Web Development Career Paths

career Oct 04, 2023

If you're looking to become a web developer these days, it can be very overwhelming for many different reasons including the amount of technologies and tools available, the rapidly evolving landscape especially with all of the AI advancements, and just the vast amount of information to absorb. In the past, we classified web development into 3 categories and that is frontend, backend and full-stack. The truth is, there's so much more than that and the lines that separate those categories are pretty much gone. Especially with technologies like server-side rendering (SSR) frameworks and serverless functions.

So what I want to do in this article is give you an in-depth list of more targeted paths that you can take and different roles that are available in the wide range of web development. Frontend, backend and full-stack are all meshed in these categories, but I didn't use those as umbrella terms to describe any of these categories. This will be quite a long video because I really want to touch on a lot of the skills and tools that you'll need if you do decide to really niche down and take one of these paths.

I have met a lot of people over the years that I've been doing this and it seems like the ones that make it, are the ones that really focus on a specific area and become an expert in that area. So let's go ahead and get started.

1. UI/UX Designer

Alright so the first area is not even full-blown "web development". It's more in the area of web design and that's UI/UX, which stands for user interface and user experience. When you go to a website or application, there are stories to create for users to follow and this is where UI/UX designers come into play. They focus on creating the look, feel, and functionality of the user interface, ensuring that it's visually appealing and user-friendly. I think this gets overlooked a lot when it comes to talks about web development. Great you know React, but someone has to put together the story, the flow and the design aspects of the application. This is an incredibly important position. It's really the start of everything. If you feel like you have more of an eye for design than hardcore programming and logic, this may be a route to take.

Skills & Tools

  • Design Principles: Learn the principles of design, including color theory, typography, contrast, etc.
  • Design Software: Specialize in graphic design tools like Figma, InVision and Adobe products to create layouts and stories.
  • Wireframing: Create wireframes to plan the layout and structure of web pages or app screens.
  • Prototyping: Develop interactive prototypes to test and refine the user experience.
  • Responsive Layouts: Create designs and layouts that are responsive to the screen size and device.
  • User Research: Conduct user research to identify and validate user needs.
  • User Testing: Test and validate designs with users to see if they meet user needs.
  • Basic HTML & CSS: This is just my opinion, but even if you are a UI/UX designer, I think you should still have a basic understanding to HTML and CSS. By having a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS, UI/UX designers can bridge the gap between design and development, leading to smoother collaboration and a more cohesive final product.

If you have a creative eye and a passion for making technology user-friendly, this could be the niche for you in the world of web development.

2. Single Page Application (SPA) Developer

This is essentially a "frontend developer". SPA developers specialize in creating single-page applications, which are web applications that load once and dynamically update content without requiring page reloads. SPAs are often built using JavaScript frameworks like React, Angular, or Vue.js.

Skills & Tools

  • JavaScript Frameworks: Master JavaScript frameworks like React, Angular, or Vue.js for building SPAs.
  • Routing: Implement client-side routing to manage different views and components within the application.
  • State Management: Utilize state management libraries like Redux (for React) or Vuex (for Vue.js) to manage application data.
  • API Integration: Communicate with back-end services through RESTful APIs or GraphQL.
  • Lazy Loading: Optimize performance by implementing lazy loading for components and assets.
  • Security: Apply security best practices to protect against common SPA vulnerabilities like XSS (Cross-Site Scripting) and CSRF (Cross-Site Request Forgery).

3. Server-Side / Full-Stack Developer

Next, we have server-side developers, which is basically what we know as a 'full-stack' developer. They specialize in creating web applications that generate and render content on the server before delivering it to the client's browser. There are a few ways to do this. You could use something like PHP with Laravel and Blade templating or you could take advantage of the newer SSR frameworks like Next.js, Remix and Nuxt.js and have some code on the client and some on the server. The JavaScript-based SSR frameworks are really popular right now, but other languages have had a lot of the same capabilities for years. So you can be a server-side web developer and specialize in Python, PHP, C#, GoLang or just about anything else.

Skills & Tools

  • Server-Side Languages & Technologies: Node.js, Python, PHP, GoLang, Java, C#
  • Backend Frameworks: Work with backend MVC-like frameworks like Django, Express, Laravel.
  • Server-Side Rendering (SSR) Frameworks: Work with SSR frameworks like Next.js (for React), Nuxt.js (for Vue.js), or Sapper (for Svelte) that facilitate SSR.
  • Database & ORM: Work with data including database systems like Postgres and MongoDB as well as ORMs like Sequelize, Mongoose and Prisma.
  • Templating Engines: Use templating engines like EJS, Pug (formerly Jade), or Handlebars to generate HTML on the server.
  • Authentication & Authorization: Learn to implement authentication systems and learn about sessions, cookies, JSON web tokens, OAuth and 3rd party tools like Auth0.
  • Server-Side Routing: Define server-side routes to handle different page requests.
  • Client-Side Interactivity: Enhance SSR with client-side interactivity when needed using JavaScript frameworks.
  • SEO Optimization: Optimize pages for search engines by pre-rendering metadata and structured data.

This category has a huge range. You may be a JavaScript developer using Next.js or you may be a PHP Laravel Developer using Blade templates.

4. API & Microservices Developer

API and microservices developers specialize in designing, developing, and maintaining microservices architectures and APIs. They create small, independent services that communicate through APIs, enabling the development of scalable and modular applications. This is similar to a backend web developer except they only focus on the heavy logic and data rather than rendering views and worrying about templates and so on. Their end result is going to be JSON or some other data format.

Skills & Tools

  • Backend Languages & Frameworks: Node.js/Express, Python/Django, Ruby On Rails, C#/.NET
  • Microservices Architecture: Understand the principles and patterns of microservices, including service discovery, load balancing, and fault tolerance.
  • API Design: Create well-structured and RESTful APIs with clear documentation for ease of use.
  • Containerization: Work with containerization technologies like Docker for packaging microservices.
  • Orchestration: Use orchestration tools like Kubernetes to manage and deploy microservices at scale.
  • API Gateways: Implement API gateways for routing and load balancing requests to microservices.
  • Message Queues: Set up message queuing systems like RabbitMQ or Apache Kafka for asynchronous communication between microservices.
  • Authentication & Authorization: Secure APIs and microservices with authentication and authorization mechanisms.
  • Monitoring & Logging: Implement monitoring and logging solutions for tracking the health and performance of microservices.
  • Testing: Develop unit tests, integration tests, and end-to-end tests for microservices.
  • Scalability: Design microservices to be horizontally scalable to handle varying workloads.

If you really like the behind-the-scenes logic and never really enjoyed the UI creation, this may be a good path to take.

5. DevOps Engineer

Next up we have the DevOps engineer. This is the person who focuses on the deployment and operations of the application. They're the ones that are responsible for the infrastructure, such as the servers, databases, and other services. They're also the ones that are responsible for the deployment process, such as continuous integration and continuous deployment.

Skills & Tools

  • Cloud Providers: Learn how to use cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud.
  • Infrastructure as Code: Learn how to use tools like Terraform and CloudFormation.
  • Containers: Learn how to use containers like Docker and Kubernetes.
  • Serverless: Learn how to use serverless functions like AWS Lambda and Azure Functions.
  • Continuous Integration: Learn how to use CI tools like GitHub Actions and CircleCI.
  • Continuous Deployment: Learn how to use CD tools like AWS CodeDeploy and Azure DevOps.
  • Monitoring: Learn how to monitor applications with tools like New Relic and Datadog.
  • Logging: Learn how to log applications with tools like Loggly and Papertrail.
  • Alerting: Learn how to set up alerts with tools like PagerDuty and Opsgenie.

So overall, these are the folks who make sure everything runs like a well-oiled machine behind the scenes. From managing servers and databases to deploying applications seamlessly, that's the role of DevOps. Their toolkit includes cloud providers, container technologies, and smart deployment strategies.

6. Mobile Developer

Mobile developers specialize in creating applications for mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. They are responsible for developing apps that run on iOS, Android, or both platforms. Mobile development is a rapidly growing field, and it offers various career opportunities. There are a couple of different types of mobile developers. There are native mobile developers, which are the ones that create apps for a specific platform, such as iOS or Android. Then there are cross-platform mobile developers, which are the ones that create apps that work on multiple platforms, such as iOS and Android. In many cases, they use a framework like React Native or Flutter to create the apps. So if you're a web app developer and you want to get into mobile development, you can use your existing skills to create mobile apps.

Skills & Tools

  • iOS: Learn how to create iOS apps with Swift and Objective-C.
  • Android: Learn how to create Android apps with Java and Kotlin.
  • Cross-Platform: Learn how to create cross-platform apps with React Native and Flutter.
  • API Development: Learn how to create APIs for your mobile apps to interact with. This could be with Node.js, Python, PHP, or any other backend language.
  • Mobile Testing: Learn how to test mobile apps with tools like Jest and Appium.
  • Mobile Build Tools: Learn how to use mobile build tools like Xcode and Android Studio.
  • Mobile Performance: Learn how to optimize mobile performance with tools like Lighthouse and Web Vitals.

7. Freelance Web Developer

I wanted to put freelancer in it's own category because it's a very different type of role than working for a company. You can be a freelancer in any of the previous roles, but in the world of freelancing, it's about finding tools that allow you to build websites and applications quickly and efficiently. You also need to be able to communicate with clients and manage projects. If you are a solo freelancer, then you need to be the UI/UX person, the frontend developer, the backend developer, DevOps engineer, and everything else. However, you usually work on smaller-scale projects and don't use a lot of the same tools as you would in the industry. For instance, most freelancers don't need to use Docker or Kubernetes.

Skills & Tools

  • Content Management Systems: Learn how to use CMSs like WordPress and Drupal as well as headless CMSs like Sanity.io and Strapi. These are great for building dynamic websites quickly.
  • Static Site Generators: Learn how to use static site generators like Gatsby and Next.js. These are great for building static websites quickly.
  • Website Builders: Some freelancers use website builders like Wix and Squarespace. These are usually more business-oriented and not for building complex web applications.
  • Communication: Learn how to communicate with clients and manage projects. This is a very important skill to have as a freelancer.
  • Marketing: Learn how to market yourself and find clients. This is also a very important skill to have as a freelancer.
  • Search Engine Optimization: Learn how to optimize websites for search engines like Google and Bing.

Freelancing is a bit different than the categories here because it also includes business and communication skills. I know many tech people think they lack those skills, trust me, I've had social anxiety my whole life, so I get it. But you can push yourself to do it.

8. E-commerce Developer

E-commerce developers specialize in building online shopping platforms, payment gateways, and customer management systems. They play a crucial role in enabling businesses to sell products or services online. Custom E-commerce websites are pretty daunting. Especially because you are dealing with money and transactions. If you do take on custom E-commerce projects, then you really need to know what you're doing. I know people that specialize in creating custom platforms for businesses and they make 5 to 6 figures from a single project. You could also use existing platforms like WooCommerce and Shopify. You won't make as much money per project, but it is a lot less of a headache than creating them from scratch.

Skills & Tools

  • Payment Gateways: Learn how to use payment gateways like Stripe and PayPal.
  • User Accounts & Authentication: Learn how to implement user accounts and authentication. This is very important for e-commerce websites.
  • Overall E-commerce Flow: Learn how to implement the overall e-commerce flow, including product pages, shopping carts, and checkout.
  • Product Management: Learn how to manage products, including inventory, pricing, and shipping.
  • Order Management: Learn how to manage orders, including order status, refunds, and cancellations.
  • Customer Management: Learn how to manage customers, including customer accounts, customer support, and customer reviews. -Search & Filtering: Learn how to implement search and filtering for products.
  • E-commerce Platforms: Learn how to use e-commerce platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce.
  • E-commerce Testing: Learn how to test e-commerce code with tools like Jest and Cypress.

9. Web Security Specialist

This is much different than the traditional "web developer" role, but still very important and related to web development. Web security specialists are responsible for protecting websites and web applications from cyber attacks. They are also responsible for identifying and fixing security vulnerabilities. This is a very important role, especially with all of the data breaches that have been happening lately. If you're interested in this role, you'll need to learn about web security vulnerabilities and how to prevent them. You'll also need to learn about penetration testing and how to perform security audits.

Skills & Tools

  • Web Security Vulnerabilities: Learn about common web security vulnerabilities like SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and cross-site request forgery (CSRF).
  • Web Security Tools: Learn how to use web security tools like Nessus, OWASP ZAP and Burp Suite.
  • Penetration Testing: Learn how to perform penetration testing to identify security vulnerabilities.
  • Security Audits: Learn how to conduct security audits to identify security vulnerabilities.
  • Security Compliance: Understand compliance standards and regulations relevant to web security, such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

10. Web Game Developer

This is a very niche area of web development, but it's a lot of fun. Web game developers specialize in creating games that run in the browser. They are responsible for developing the game logic, as well as the user interface. They also need to optimize the game to run smoothly in the browser. If you're interested in this role, you'll need to learn about game development and how to create games with JavaScript. You'll also need to learn about game engines like Phaser and Unity.

Skills & Tools

  • Game Logic & Design: Master game logic, game physics, and game design principles. Create immersive gameplay experiences that challenge and entertain users.
  • Game Engines: Learn how to use game engines like Phaser and Unity.
  • WebGL: Learn how to use WebGL to render 3D graphics in the browser.
  • Cross-Browser Compatibility: Ensure your web games work smoothly across various web browsers and devices, optimizing performance and responsiveness for a wide audience.
  • Testing: Learn how to test with tools like Jest and Cypress.
  • Game Performance: Learn how to optimize web game performance with tools like Lighthouse and Web Vitals.

11. Blockchain Developer

Blockchain developers specialize in building decentralized applications (DApps) and smart contracts using blockchain technologies like Ethereum, Binance Smart Chain, or Polkadot. This field involves creating secure and transparent applications that leverage blockchain's distributed ledger capabilities.

Skills & Tools

  • Smart Contract Development: Learn how to write smart contracts using languages like Solidity or Rust.
  • Blockchain Platforms: Familiarize yourself with blockchain platforms such as Ethereum, Binance Smart Chain, or Polkadot.
  • DApp Development: Create decentralized applications that leverage blockchain technology for various purposes.
  • Decentralized Finance (DeFi): Understand the principles and tools used in the emerging field of decentralized finance.
  • Web3.js: Use libraries like Web3.js to interact with blockchain networks from web applications.
  • Blockchain Security: Be aware of blockchain security best practices, as blockchain transactions are irreversible.
  • Tokenomics: Understand the economics of blockchain-based tokens and cryptocurrencies.

12. Augmented Reality (AR) / Virtual Reality (VR) Developer

AR/VR developers specialize in creating immersive experiences that blend the digital and physical worlds. They use technologies like ARKit, ARCore, or WebVR to build applications that enhance reality or create entirely virtual environments. This specialization requires expertise in 3D modeling, spatial computing, and interaction design.

Skills & Tools

  • AR/VR Frameworks: Learn frameworks like Unity 3D or A-Frame for building AR/VR applications.
  • 3D Modeling: Develop skills in 3D modeling and animation to create assets for AR/VR environments.
  • Spatial Computing: Understand spatial mapping and tracking technologies for precise interaction.
  • Gesture Recognition: Implement gesture recognition and hand-tracking for user input.
  • Immersive Design: Focus on creating immersive and user-friendly AR/VR experiences.
  • Cross-Platform Development: Adapt AR/VR applications to run on various devices and platforms.

13. Progressive Web App (PWA) Developer

PWA developers specialize in creating web applications that offer a native app-like experience across different devices and platforms. PWAs are known for their offline capabilities, fast load times, and responsiveness. This specialization combines web development skills with mobile app development principles. So it's almost a middle ground between a web app developer and a mobile app developer.

Skills & Tools

  • Service Workers: Understand and implement service workers to enable offline functionality and background synchronization.
  • Web App Manifest: Create a web app manifest file to define the app's appearance and behavior when added to a user's home screen.
  • Responsive Design: Ensure that the PWA adapts to various screen sizes and orientations.
  • Caching Strategies: Implement caching strategies to optimize the app's performance and reduce load times.
  • Push Notifications: Enable push notifications to engage users and re-engage them with the app.
  • Cross-Browser Compatibility: Ensure that the PWA works consistently across different web browsers.
  • App Shell Architecture: Employ the app shell architecture to provide a fast initial load experience. This is an architecture where the core of the web application, often referred to as the "shell," is loaded initially and provides a basic user interface and navigation structure. This shell includes the app's basic layout, header, footer, and other static elements.

14. IoT (Internet of Things) Developer

IoT developers specialize in connecting physical devices and objects to the internet, allowing them to communicate and share data. They create web-based applications that control and monitor IoT devices, enabling automation and data-driven decision-making.

Skills & Tools

  • IoT Protocols: Familiarize yourself with IoT communication protocols such as MQTT, CoAP, and HTTP.
  • Hardware Integration: Learn how to interface with sensors, actuators, and microcontrollers.
  • Cloud IoT Services: Utilize cloud-based IoT platforms like AWS IoT, Google Cloud IoT, or Microsoft Azure IoT.
  • Data Streaming: Set up data streaming pipelines to collect and analyze data from IoT devices.
  • Security: Implement strong security measures to protect IoT devices and data from cyber threats.
  • Real-Time Data Processing: Process and visualize real-time data generated by IoT devices.
  • Mobile Control Apps: Develop mobile applications that allow users to control and monitor IoT devices remotely.
  • Machine Learning: Apply machine learning models for predictive maintenance and anomaly detection in IoT systems.

15. Chatbot Developer

With the advancement of AI, chatbots are huge right now. Chatbot developers specialize in creating conversational agents or chatbots that interact with users through text or voice interfaces. They design and develop chatbot applications for a variety of purposes, including customer support, e-commerce, and information retrieval.

Skills & Tools

  • Natural Language Processing (NLP): Learn NLP techniques and libraries like NLTK, spaCy, or TensorFlow for language understanding.
  • Chatbot Frameworks: Use chatbot development frameworks like Dialogflow, Microsoft Bot Framework, or Rasa to build conversational agents.
  • Integrations: Integrate chatbots with messaging platforms like Slack, Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp.
  • Voice Assistants: Explore voice-based chatbot development for platforms like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
  • Contextual Understanding: Develop chatbots that can maintain context and engage in meaningful conversations.
  • Testing: Conduct extensive testing to ensure chatbots understand and respond accurately to user inputs.
  • Analytics: Implement analytics and user behavior tracking to improve chatbot performance.


So there you have it. There are so many areas of web development that you can get into. Take some time, sit down and really think about what you want to do. What are you passionate about? If you have always loved video games, then maybe you want to get into web game development. If you love to create things, then maybe you want to get into UI/UX design. If you love to help people, then maybe you want to get into web security. There are so many options. I hope this article helped you narrow it down a bit.

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