Home / Career Guides / WordPress Developer

WordPress Developer Career Guide

What is a WordPress developer?

WordPress developers specialize in the infrastructure and ecosystem of the WordPress platform. Open-source tools build and improve websites, tailoring them to clients’ requirements. Expertise lies in creating and customizing a website with proprietary themes and plugins.

The popularity of WordPress as a website platform has grown exponentially. Developers are essential to the digital landscape, providing solutions for businesses and individuals seeking to establish a solid online presence. Unique, functional, and engaging websites stand out in a highly populated digital space, improve the user experience, and drive traffic.

Duties and responsibilities

A WordPress developer designs and implements websites for clients, creating themes and plugins tailored to their needs. A significant part of the work involves writing code, primarily in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP, the backbone language of WordPress.

Tasks include troubleshooting and resolving issues on the WordPress platform and ensuring optimal performance of websites. WordPress developers often manage all technical aspects of the content management system (CMS), install and update plugins, apply patches, and perform backups. Work may also include gathering information from clients and other stakeholders and providing training or technical support.

Work environment

WordPress developers work in various settings, including digital agencies, technology companies, or as freelancers. Work can be performed almost anywhere with a stable internet connection, which makes remote or home-based work common in the field.

The work environment is often collaborative, especially when working as part of a broader development or project team. Communication with non-technical stakeholders is also a regular part of the role. As with many development roles, the work can be intensive, requiring problem-solving skills and attention to detail.

Typical work hours

The work hours for WordPress developers can be flexible, particularly for freelancers or remote roles. Work in a traditional employment setting may be a standard work week from Monday to Friday. Due to its project-based nature, additional work hours may sometimes be needed to meet deadlines or resolve technical issues. WordPress development is also continuously evolving, so developers often spend time outside of traditional working hours to keep their skills up to date.

How to become a WordPress developer

To become a WordPress developer, you must acquire a solid foundation in web development, master WordPress core concepts, and stay up-to-date with the platform’s latest trends and technologies. This career guide section will cover several steps to equip you with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in this field.

Step 1: Learn the basics of web development

The first step is to understand the fundamentals of web development. This includes learning HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, the core languages used to create websites. Online tutorials, courses, and resources are excellent places to gain knowledge. As you progress, build simple websites to solidify your understanding. 

Here is a sample of some of the options available for online courses:

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with PHP and MySQL

WordPress is built on PHP, a server-side scripting language, and MySQL, a database management system. Acquire a solid understanding of PHP syntax, functions, and best practices, and learn PHP to modify and create custom themes and plugins. Similarly, learn MySQL to manage databases effectively.

Step 3: Explore WordPress in-depth

Understand WordPress comprehensively by studying its core components, such as themes, plugins, and the WordPress REST API. Learn how to install and set up WordPress, create custom themes and plugins, and use built-in functions and hooks to extend the platform’s functionality. Become familiar with the WordPress Codex and official documentation, and participate in the WordPress community to stay informed about new developments.

Step 4: Master version control systems

Version control systems like Git are essential for managing code efficiently and collaborating with other developers. Learn how to use Git to track changes, create branches, and merge updates. Additionally, get familiar with popular platforms like GitHub and Bitbucket to manage repositories and collaborate with others.

Step 5: Develop a portfolio and gain experience

While learning and working on projects, build a portfolio showcasing your skills as a WordPress developer. Include examples of custom themes or plugins, any client work, or open-source contributions. Use the portfolio to demonstrate expertise and experience to potential employers or clients.

Step 6: Stay updated and continue your learning

The world of web development and WordPress is constantly evolving. Stay up-to-date with industry news, trends, and best practices by following relevant blogs, attending webinars, conferences, and participating in online communities. Continuously expand skills and knowledge to stay competitive and excel as a WordPress developer.

How much do WordPress developers make?

The salary of a WordPress developer can differ significantly depending on several factors, including the level of experience. Developers with more experience and a comprehensive range of skills, such as proficiency in PHP, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, will likely earn more than those with fewer skills and experience.

The industry in which they work also plays a part in determining salary. For example, developers working in industries that rely heavily on a robust online presence or e-commerce, like retail, technology, or marketing, may earn more.

Geographic location is another critical factor. Developers in cities with a higher cost of living and a strong tech industry, such as San Francisco or New York, often earn more than those in other areas. However, as many work remotely, location can sometimes be less of a factor.

Finally, education and certification can influence their salary. While many successful professionals are self-taught, having a degree in a related field like computer science or web development, or possessing specific certifications, can increase earning power.

Highest paying industries

  • Computer Systems Design: $88,750
  • Information Services: $87,220
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises: $86,500
  • Advertising and Public Relations: $86,110
  • Educational Services: $83,300

Highest paying states

  • Washington: $93,800
  • California: $92,050
  • New York: $90,000
  • Virginia: $88,000
  • New Jersey: $87,830

Browse WordPress developer salary data by market

Types of WordPress developers

This career guide section will explore the various types and specializations associated with WordPress developers. Specialties can vary depending on a project’s complexity, a client’s requirements, and the specific functionalities needed.

WordPress theme developer

Themes determine a website’s appearance, layout, and functionality. Developers use knowledge of PHP, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create visually appealing, functional themes that meet clients’ needs.

WordPress plugin developer

Plugins are pieces of software that add specific features to a WordPress website, such as SEO tools or e-commerce functionalities. Plugin developers need strong coding skills and a deep understanding of integrating software with the WordPress platform.

WordPress front-end developer

Front-end developers work on the client-facing aspects of a website. They use HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and sometimes PHP to create a visually appealing and user-friendly interface. Quality checks ensure the website looks good on all devices and all elements function as expected.

WordPress back-end developer

A website’s back end includes the database and server infrastructure. On the server side, developers use PHP, SQL, and possibly other languages to ensure the site runs smoothly, loads quickly, and can handle the anticipated traffic.

WordPress full-stack developer

Full-stack developers have the skills to work on a website’s front and back ends, handling everything from creating custom themes and plugins to optimizing server performance. These developers are typically highly experienced and comprehensively understand the WordPress platform.

WordPress security developer

Website security measures include regularly updating and patching software, monitoring for security breaches, and responding to security incidents. Security developers implement these measures and ensure they perform correctly. 

Each of these specializations offers different challenges and opportunities, providing a wide range of potential career paths for those interested in creating and managing WordPress websites.

Top skills for WordPress developers

WordPress developers are pivotal in the digital landscape, shaping websites that power a significant portion of the internet. Critical skills needed for this role include proficiency in PHP, an understanding of HTML/CSS, familiarity with SQL and JavaScript, a grasp of SEO principles, and problem-solving abilities.

Proficiency in PHP is fundamental for a WordPress developer as it is the platform’s primary language. PHP allows developers to create, modify, and enhance themes and plugins, providing a customized experience for each website. A deep understanding of PHP can help developers unlock the platform’s full potential.

HTML and CSS are the building blocks of any website, so WordPress developers need to be adept in these languages. HTML dictates the structure of web pages, while CSS controls the visual appearance. Together, they enable developers to customize themes, create user-friendly layouts, and implement responsive design for optimal display on various devices.

Familiarity with SQL and JavaScript is essential for WordPress developers. SQL interacts with the WordPress database and retrieves, updates, or deletes data. Conversely, JavaScript adds interactive elements to the website, enhancing user engagement and functionality.

Creating aesthetically pleasing and functionally robust websites is important, but it’s also critical that search engines can discover these sites. Developers need an understanding of SEO principles to structure websites and content in a SEO-friendly way that optimizes loading speed and implements schema markup. 

Finally, problem-solving abilities are a must-have skill for WordPress developers. Unique challenges, from plugin conflicts to theme customization issues, take troubleshooting skills to resolve. This skill, and a solid understanding of WordPress and its languages, ensure success.

WordPress developer career path

A WordPress developer’s career path often begins with a junior or web developer role. These positions focus on smaller projects or parts of larger projects and learning the ins and outs of WordPress development under the supervision of experienced team members. Experience is gained in creating and customizing WordPress themes and plugins and managing website functionality and performance.

With experience and a good portfolio, advancement to a mid-level or senior WordPress developer role is possible. More complex tasks and responsibilities are assigned, such as planning and implementing entire websites, optimizing for SEO, and integrating third-party services. A senior developer would also be responsible for troubleshooting, solving complex problems, and mentoring junior developers

With further progression, it is possible to become a lead WordPress developer or development team leader, managing a team of developers and overseeing projects from conception to completion. At this level, developers may go beyond coding and be responsible for making strategic decisions related to website development and performance.

Further down the line, a WordPress developer with expertise could specialize in areas like e-commerce or SEO. Alternatively, managerial roles such as project manager or tech lead are possible. Another common path is to become a freelance developer or start a web development company.

Developers are in high demand as WordPress continues to be one of the most popular platforms for building websites. One significant trend is the increasing emphasis on responsive design. With the proliferation of mobile devices, developers must ensure that websites are equally accessible and user-friendly across all device types.

Another trend is the growing importance of SEO knowledge. While WordPress is inherently SEO-friendly, much can be done to optimize websites for better visibility in search engine results. Therefore, developers with a solid understanding of SEO principles are highly sought after.

The introduction of the WordPress Block Editor, also known as Gutenberg, has transformed the WordPress ecosystem and brought a demand for developers skilled in creating custom Gutenberg blocks.

Lastly, with a heightened focus on website security and data privacy, developers are expected to understand best practices for securing WordPress sites and protecting user data.

Employment projections for WordPress developers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), WordPress developers fall under “Web Developers and Digital Designers.” The BLS projects that employment in this field will grow 23% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. Expanding e-commerce and mobile device use primarily drives this growth. WordPress, as a leading platform for web development, contributes significantly to this demand, making the outlook for developers quite promising. Developers with a strong understanding of multiple programming languages and digital multimedia tools will have the best opportunities.

WordPress developer career tips

Stay updated with WordPress changes

WordPress is a dynamic platform that continually evolves. Staying current with the latest WordPress updates, themes, plugins, and best practices is crucial to meeting client’s needs and delivering high-quality work.

Master relevant programming languages

While WordPress simplifies many aspects of web development, a deep understanding of languages like PHP, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript is still needed. These skills are used to customize themes, create plugins, and solve complex problems that may arise during development.

Understand SEO principles

A well-developed website site should be SEO-friendly. Understanding the basics of SEO helps to design and develop websites that rank well in search engine results, increasing client visibility and traffic.

Build a professional network

Networking with other developers can provide valuable insights, learning opportunities, and potential collaborations. Consider joining professional associations and communities such as:

  • WordPress Foundation
  • The WordPress Developer Club
  • WordPress Meetups

Pay attention to user experience

A website’s user experience is critical to its success. Ensure developed sites are not only visually appealing but also intuitive and user-friendly. This involves understanding UX design principles and regularly testing the sites to identify and rectify issues.

Implement continuous learning

The world of web development is constantly evolving, making continuous learning a must. Stay updated on new web development technologies, design trends, and WordPress features. Areas of focus could include:

  • Advanced WordPress development
  • Responsive design techniques
  • New programming languages or frameworks
  • Web accessibility standards

Prioritize website security

Website security is a crucial aspect of WordPress development. Understand and implement best practices for securing WordPress websites, such as regular updates, strong passwords, and reliable security plugins.

Develop problem-solving skills

As a WordPress developer, there may be various challenges and problems. Thinking critically and developing practical solutions is a crucial part of the job. Constantly approach issues with a clear, logical mindset and a willingness to explore multiple solutions.

Where the WordPress developer jobs are

Top companies

  • Automattic
  • WPEngine
  • Bluehost
  • GoDaddy
  • Yoast

Top states

  • California
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Florida

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • Glassdoor
  • Upwork
  • Toptal


What skills are necessary for a WordPress developer?

WordPress developers should have strong skills in programming languages such as PHP, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, which are used to build and customize WordPress websites. A solid understanding of MySQL to manage database interactions and familiarity with WordPress-specific APIs, themes, and plugins is crucial. Responsive design, SEO principles, and website performance optimization knowledge are also needed.

What are the typical duties of a WordPress developer?

WordPress developers design and implement new features and functionality, establish and guide a website’s architecture, ensure high performance and availability, and manage all technical aspects of the CMS. Tasks include developing custom themes and plugins, integrating third-party services, and ensuring the website is secure and up to date. Developers work closely with designers and content producers to ensure websites meet business needs and provide a good user experience.

How does a WordPress developer contribute to website performance and security?

Developers play a crucial role in website performance and security. They optimize websites to load quickly and run smoothly, performing tasks such as compressing images, minifying CSS and JavaScript files, and setting up caching. Security measures to protect websites from threats can include configuring security plugins, setting up firewalls, regularly updating WordPress, plugins, and themes, and backing up regularly.

What is the role of a WordPress developer in SEO?

WordPress developers can significantly influence a website’s SEO by ensuring the structure is SEO-friendly, optimizing page load speeds, implementing schema markup, and helping set up SEO plugins. In collaboration with SEO specialists and content creators, developers build a XML sitemap, create SEO-friendly URLs, and ensure websites are mobile-friendly. 

What are the benefits of custom theme development in WordPress?

Custom theme development allows greater flexibility and control over a website’s appearance and functionality. It enables developers to create a unique design that aligns with a brand’s identity and meets specific business needs. Custom themes are typically faster and more secure, as they only include the necessary features and code. However, customization requires more time and skill to develop than pre-built themes.

What challenges might a WordPress developer face?

One challenge is keeping up with frequent updates to WordPress itself, plugins, and themes. Developers might deal with compatibility issues between different plugins or between a plugin and the WordPress version. Security can also be challenging, as WordPress sites are a common target for hackers. Optimizing WordPress sites for performance and SEO can require significant effort and expertise.

How does a WordPress developer use plugins?

Plugins add specific features or functionality to a website without coding these features from scratch. Developers can choose from thousands of pre-built plugins available in the WordPress repository or create custom plugins when necessary. It is important to select reliable plugins that are compatible with the current WordPress version and each other, integrate them into the website, and update them. 

What is the role of a WordPress developer in content management?

While WordPress developers primarily focus on the technical aspects of the website, they also play a role in content management. A content management system (CMS) is set up to facilitate easy creation and editing. Some might build custom post types and fields, configure a site for multilingual content, or integrate SEO and social media sharing tools. Working closely with content creators ensures the CMS meets clients’ needs. 

How does a WordPress developer work with designers and other team members?

WordPress developers often collaborate with designers to transform designs into fully functioning websites. This involves translating design files into code while ensuring the website remains responsive and looks good on various devices. Developers work with UX designers to ensure the website is user-friendly. They may also collaborate with content creators to set up the CMS in a way that makes content creation and editing easy. Communication and teamwork are crucial in these collaborations, as each team member brings different skills and perspectives to the project.

Is it necessary for a WordPress developer to know multiple programming languages?

While a WordPress developer should be proficient in core web technologies like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP, learning additional programming languages can broaden skills and versatility. Familiarity with languages like Python and Ruby or frameworks like React or Vue.js can be valuable, especially if working on complex projects or in a diverse team environment.