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Front End Developer Career Guide

What is a front end developer?

A front end developer is a key figure on any team focusing on website design. These professionals are the bridge between a website’s design and the actual implementation on the web. They often work in conjunction with user experience (UX) designers and back end developers to bring wireframes, or website blueprints, to life. Their specialty lies in transforming design concepts into functioning, aesthetically pleasing web interfaces that effectively capture the intended user experience.

They play a vital role since the success of any digital platform largely relies on how effectively end users can interact with it. These developers ensure that websites are visually appealing but also functional, user-friendly, and responsive. If a website’s design is the vehicle driving a brand’s online presence, they are the mechanic who makes that vehicle run smoothly.

Duties and responsibilities

A front end developer is responsible for creating and implementing visual elements that users see when they visit a website. They typically receive the website design from a design team and translate this into code. HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are the primary tools at their disposal, which they use to build the visual components of a website.

Other duties include making design suggestions, testing the site for bugs and fixing them, ensuring that designs look the same across different platforms and devices, and working with back end developers to implement their servers and databases. Another key responsibility is maintaining the software workflow management and constantly looking for development process improvements.

Work environment

The work environment of a front end developer can vary greatly. These professionals can be found in large corporate offices, small startups, or even working remotely from home. Regardless of the location, they often work on a team of other front end developers, back end developers, graphic designers, UX designers, and project managers.

It’s a collaborative environment where multiple individuals contribute toward a project. They need to effectively communicate with team members and adjust to changing demands or issues that come up during the design and development process.

Typical work hours

Front end developers typically work the standard 40-hour work week from Monday to Friday. However, since the completion of projects often operates on tight schedules, overtime may be required, including working into the evening and over weekends.

For those who work remotely, hours might be more flexible. They may have the option to set their own schedules, provided they meet their pre-arranged deadlines. Developers who work freelance will have the most control over their schedules, but their hours may fluctuate greatly based on the scope and timeline of the projects they take on.

How to become a front end developer

This career guide section outlines the steps to become a front end developer. The critical process involves obtaining the required education, learning programming languages, gaining practical experience, and building a portfolio.

Step 1: Obtain a degree

Although some might argue that a degree isn’t always necessary, it is often beneficial. A bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or a relevant field provides a solid foundation in understanding how computers and programs work. This formal education can also expose students to various coding languages and program development.

Step 2: Learn programming languages

A strong grasp of specific programming languages is essential. HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are the foundational skills. Other useful languages and frameworks include jQuery, AngularJS, and React. Online resources, boot camps, and workshops are available to learn these skills.

Step 3: Apply your knowledge practically

Reading and writing codes are two different skills. The best way to improve coding capabilities is by practical application. Write code regularly, build small projects, or contribute to open-source projects. This helps to build experience and fluency.

Step 4: Master the basics of web design and UX

Understanding the basic principles of design and UX is important to create aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly websites. Familiarize yourself with design tools like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, and learn basic principles such as typography, color theory, and layout design.

Step 5: Build a portfolio

Creating a portfolio is an essential step to showcase your skills, projects, and growth as a developer. A well-curated portfolio shows potential employers your capabilities, creativity, and problem-solving skills. It can be a personal website or a collection of your work on a platform.

Step 6: Gain experience

Whether it’s an internship or entry-level position, gaining experience in a professional setting is important. Working in a team, meeting deadlines, and understanding the workflow of a development project are all important experiences that will prepare you for a front end development career.

Step 7: Keep learning and staying current

The realm of front end development is constantly evolving. Being a front end developer will require you to stay up-to-date with the latest updates in the industry, whether learning new programming languages or adapting to new trends in web design.

Step 8: Apply for jobs

With a strong portfolio and hands-on experience, start applying for jobs. Your portfolio should showcase your best work and demonstrate your skills. Networking and building connections in the industry can also be vital in securing a job.

How much do front end developers make?

Front end developer compensation varies by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Data complexity, the need for custom design solutions, and the demand for high-end advanced technologies can impact their compensation.

Highest paying industries

  • Software Publishers – $113,700
  • Securities and Commodity Contracts – $112,400
  • Data Processing and Hosting – $112,300
  • Wholesale Electronic Markets and Agents and Brokers – $111,850
  • Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing – $110,600

Highest paying states

  • Washington – $114,750
  • Virginia – $112,800
  • New York – $112,000
  • California – $111,300
  • Delaware – $109,250

Browse front end developer salary data by market

Types of front end developers

Below, we explore common career types and specializations for front end developers. This overview should provide a comprehensive understanding of this dynamic profession’s different paths and niches.

User interface (UI) designer

Professionals in this role spearhead the creation of application or website designs according to user requirements and business standards. They focus on the look and feel of the website, ensuring it is aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly.

Responsive web designer

These designers’ responsibilities revolve around optimizing websites for devices like tablets, desktops, and smartphones. The idea is to create a seamless browsing experience across all platforms.

JavaScript developer

These developers specialize in JavaScript, one of the key languages used in all modern websites. They use JavaScript to create dynamic, interactive elements on a website, such as sliders, pop-up boxes, and form validations.

UX researcher

UX researchers look into user behaviors and responses when using the product. They are integral to the process of enhancing user satisfaction and shaping the product development roadmap.

Web developer

These professionals focus on using coding languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create the visible part of a website or application—the part users interact with directly. They ensure that the layout and elements of the website work smoothly and look good.

Web accessibility expert

Serving a vital role in digital product development, these specialists focus on making web applications accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. They work toward breaking down barriers to information caused by inaccessible websites.

Front end QA tester

Quality assurance testers in the front end development space play a critical role in identifying bugs and issues in the user interface. They test every functional aspect of the front end to ensure a flawless user experience.

Top skills for front end developers

This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as a front end developer.

Problem-solving skills

Given the nature of front end development, they must be equipped to troubleshoot and resolve problems effectively. From functional issues to intricate design faults, problem-solving skills play a fundamental part in performing their daily tasks.

Attention to detail

Balancing aesthetics and functionality requires an eye for detail. It’s essential to identify and rectify small errors that could significantly impact the overall user experience or cause potential bugs in the system.

Knowledge of programming languages

These developers should master various programming languages such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and jQuery. There’s also a need for familiarity with frameworks like React or Angular. A solid understanding of these helps create functional, responsive, and interactive features on websites and applications.

Understanding of responsive design

With the multitude of devices people use to access the internet, understanding responsive and adaptive design principles is central to this role. It ensures that websites and applications optimally perform on a variety of screen sizes and platforms.

Ability to work in a team

They commonly work in a team alongside back end developers, graphic designers, or other professionals. The ability to communicate effectively and work collaboratively with various team members is critical for successfully completing projects.

Time management skills

Given the fast-paced environment of the tech industry and the frequent need to juggle numerous tasks, efficient time management is vital. It helps in meeting deadlines without compromising the quality of work.

Front end developer career path options

A front end developer’s career has a path with various milestones they can aim to achieve. With dedicated work, they can elevate their position from an entry-level developer to a senior front end developer. At this stage, they will have had substantial experience and technical skills to manage complex projects.

For individuals with leadership skills who enjoy managing projects and teams, the next step in the career progression could be a front end development team lead or a project manager. In these positions, they will coordinate with stakeholders, plan projects, and oversee the team’s work rather than just focus on coding and technical issues.

Typically, after gaining substantial experience and comprehensive knowledge in the industry, some developers get into roles that focus more on strategy and planning. This might involve consulting roles or becoming an information technology strategy manager. These roles require a combination of technical expertise, industry knowledge, and strategic thinking.

Developer with an entrepreneurial spirit might explore creating their own startups, offering web development services, or developing their own software products. In this path, opportunities are limitless and solely dependent on the individual’s ambition, creativity, and knack for business.

The increased focus on UX design is a major trend impacting this industry. Developers are no longer solely coding experts; they now have to consider the smoothness of a website’s interactive features, layout, visual appeal, and overall user-friendliness. The ability to design interfaces that provide seamless pacing and intuitive navigation is becoming increasingly valued.

The constant evolution of web technologies continues to shape the field. Advances in JavaScript and the emergence of frameworks like React.js, Vue.js, and Angular.js are prominent examples. Professionals in this domain are expected to have a solid understanding of at least one of these technologies and to stay up to date on new developments. Comfort with both traditional and emerging tools is key to standing out and securing the most sought-after roles.

Notably, the rise of mobile internet usage is directly affecting the job market for front end developers. Focus on responsive design principles, which allow websites to function optimally across various sizes of screens, is an expanding area in web development. Professionals who can create sites that deliver a consistent experience no matter the device will stay ahead of the curve.

Employment projections

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of web developers, including front end developers, is projected to grow 23 percent through 2031. This growth is driven by the expanding popularity of mobile devices and e-commerce. With businesses increasingly investing in their online presence to continue attracting and engaging customers, the demand for experienced developers is expected to rise accordingly.

Front end developer career tips

Master both technical skills and design sensibility

You will need extensive knowledge of coding languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. However, technical skills are only one side of the coin. A great developer is also a good designer with an excellent understanding of basic design principles, UI, and UX design. This combination will allow you to craft aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly websites.

Stay updated with latest technology trends

The field of front end development is constantly evolving, with new frameworks, libraries, and tools emerging frequently. It’s important to stay updated with the latest trends in your field to ensure that your skills stay relevant. Regularly checking tech news sites, following key influencers on social media, and joining online communities can help you stay on top of industry developments.

Experience with responsive and mobile design

In the current digital age, users are accessing websites on many devices. A strong understanding of responsive and mobile design is no longer optional; it’s a necessity. Top developers understand how to design for various screen sizes and how to optimize performance for mobile users.

Understand SEO fundamentals

While search engine optimization (SEO) might seem more pertinent to marketers, it’s becoming increasingly important for front end developers, too. Building a website with a solid understanding of SEO can greatly improve a website’s visibility and ranking on search engines, bringing more traffic to the site. SEO best practices include properly using meta tags, creating an XML sitemap, and ensuring fast loading speed.

Build a professional network

Building a professional network will open doors to new opportunities, help you gain exposure to different ideas and technologies, and provide a platform for knowledge exchange. Here are a few professional associations and networks that can help you start.

  • Interactive Design Association (IxDA)
  • American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA)
  • Association of Web Design Professionals (AWDP)

Recommend continuous learning

Given how fast technology advances within front end development, continuous learning is crucial. Here are some specific suggestions:

  • Get certified: Receiving a certification, like the Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate, Google’s Mobile Web Specialist Certification, or Aquent Gymnasium’s Coding for Designers, can help you gain extra credibility
  • Follow industry blogs and influencers: This can keep you updated on best practices and new emerging trends
  • Enroll in online courses: Websites like Codecademy, Udemy, and Coursera offer numerous online courses that can help you enhance your skills and dive deeper into specific areas

Where the front end developer jobs are

Top employers

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Amazon
  • Microsoft
  • Apple

Top states

  • California
  • Washington
  • Massachusetts
  • New York
  • Texas

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • StackOverflow
  • Dice


What skills and knowledge do front end developers need to have?

Front end developers should have a strong understanding of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. These are the core technologies they’ll use to build a website’s visual and interactive components. They should also have experience with design tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, or Sketch to help them conceptualize and build elements. Knowledge of CSS pre-processors, frameworks, and library-specific languages like TypeScript or JSX can also be beneficial.

What does a typical day look like for a front end developer?

Typically, a front end developer will start the day reviewing tasks, which could include bug fixes, feature development, or design updates. They’ll spend most of their day writing and testing code, collaborating with designers and back end developers. Meetings often occur to clarify requirements or to review progress with the team. The rest of the day may include more coding, troubleshooting, optimization tasks, or research to keep up with the latest technologies and trends.

Do front end developers need to have a technical degree?

While many front end developers have degrees in computer science or related fields, it’s not a strict requirement. What matters most is a strong understanding of the core technologies and principles of front end development, which can be learned through self-study, coding boot camps, or community college courses. Some employers value practical experience and a demonstrable skill set over formal education.

How do front end developers collaborate with other team members?

Front end developers work closely with many other roles within a typical development team. They cooperate with designers to realize visual ideas into coded solutions, work alongside back end developers to integrate their work with server-side logic, and interact with project managers and stakeholders to ensure product requirements are met. Effective communication and teamwork are vital for this role.

Is coding the only task front end developers do?

Although coding is a significant part of a front end developer’s role, it’s not the only task. They also design or improve user interfaces, optimize web pages for speed and scalability, utilize or create web services (like APIs), and test and debug their code. They may also participate in code reviews and assist with maintaining source code repositories.

What are the common tools used by front end developers?

Front end developers use a variety of tools to do their tasks more efficiently. These may include code editors (like VS Code or Sublime Text), version-control systems (like Git), package managers (like npm or Yarn), task runners (like Grunt or Gulp), frameworks (like React or Angular), and browser development tools. Knowledge of web performance tools and accessibility tools can also be beneficial.

How important is creativity for a front end developer?

While front end development is a technical field, creativity is quite important. It involves problem-solving, innovating, and continuous learning. This creative thinking can come into play when deciding how to tackle a coding challenge, how to make a web page interactive, or how to optimize a site’s performance. The ability to translate design concepts into functional elements also requires a creative eye.

What are some common challenges faced by front end developers?

Common challenges include keeping up with the fast-paced changes in the field, including new tools, frameworks, paradigms, and best practices; working with conflicting designs and scope changes; resolving cross-browser compatibility issues; and maintaining performance while delivering complex features. They may also encounter difficulties in communicating technical concepts to non-technical team members.

Are there any specialties within front end development?

Yes. Some front end developers specialize in certain areas or technologies, such as JavaScript or a specific JavaScript framework like React or Angular. Others may focus on mobile-first development, progressive web apps, or development for accessibility. It’s also common for them to gain expertise in UX design or the visual aspects of web design.

Is it important for a front end developer to understand back end development?

While not a strict requirement, understanding back end development can be highly beneficial for a front end developer. It can enhance their ability to communicate effectively with back end developers, provide insights into how the server and database interact with their client-side code, and instruct them on how to create efficient and optimizable code. In some cases, it may open opportunities for them to become a full stack developer.