10 Red-Hot Roles for Web Developers - dummies

By Kathleen Taylor, Bud E. Smith

Web developer jobs are nothing if not flexible. It’s great to know which roles are hot. Not only is it fun, but you can aim your own career in the direction of any hot job that attracts you.

Visual designer

The traditional title for this role is graphic designer. However, used properly, the term visual designer means something somewhat different. It emphasizes the effect of your designs and assumes that your designs can travel with integrity across platforms.

If an employer differentiates between graphic designers and visual designers, or hires visual designers and artists but not graphic designers, it is making a statement — a statement that partly means “we’re up to date” and that partly shows that it gets the difference.

SQL web developer

As an SQL web developer, you create databases, write code to interact with them, and work with others on most of the web-specific parts of the job.

What makes this accessible is that SQL database programming is, for many people, not as complex or confusing as “real” programming in languages like C++ or even Python. Yes, table joins can be confusing, but a lot of the rest of it is not that hard for people who can handle, say, introductory-level calculus or statistics.

This is a growing job category with a lot of promise.

Interaction designer

Human-factors work, which is the overall world you have to spend time in to succeed as an interaction designer, is just plain cool. From jet-fighter cockpits to video-game interfaces to e-commerce click-to-buy front ends, really understanding what makes humans tick under different kinds of pressures is just plain fun.

This is also one of the “hardest” — that is, most technical and most metrics-driven — jobs that a person with “soft” skills like graphic or visual design can hope to get into without learning programming. The metrics focus means you can show your value, which means you can justify a hefty paycheck.

Mobile developer

Mobile development is intensely competitive, and you have to make your point and make your users happy in a much smaller screen space than on a personal computer screen. Many people, however, consider these kinds of constraints fun.

The only thing you need to do to get into mobile development is get a role on a development team that ships something on mobile, hopefully something that’s moderately successful.

You can even jump-start this career by creating your own app, using one of many toolkits out there, such as Sencha Touch.

Art director

As an art director, you get to think big about how design and all the other elements of the website experience work together to help customers, reinforce your brand, and support clients’ or users’ goals.

You can approach becoming an art director from just about any position on the design side of the web development careers spectrum.

One suggestion, both to help you get the job, and to help you enjoy it more if you do get it: Consider getting your PhD, from as demanding and reputable a university as you can manage.

Full stack developer

As a full stack developer, your expertise is making all aspects of web software, from front-end software such as JavaScript to back-end software such as C++ or Python, work together to make the whole site work smoothly.

The key to becoming a full-stack developer is becoming good at all the different technologies that make up a software developer’s world in web development, without abandoning the range of technologies in favor of any one discipline or technology.

Product manager

A product manager is a kind of business unit manager for a product or service. In the web development world, you can move up to product manager from any number of other spots. You just need to be good at your initial job and show some business savvy.

Product managers often have MBAs, so if you want this job, consider getting one of those. It’s a good career, but you won’t necessarily be in web development anymore; after you’re a product manager, you can end up managing all sorts of products.

Project manager

Typically, a project manager has spreadsheets or Microsoft Project project plans for every part of a project, and does all he can to help make sure that the project meets the deadlines in the project plan.

This job is conceptually simple, but really, really hard. Despite the job’s high degree of difficulty, project managers seem to enjoy their work. They enjoy it even more when they join a professional organization, such as the Project Management Institute, and get a professional certification, such as the PMP, or Project Management Professional certification.

Program manager

Despite the title, a program manager doesn’t necessarily write software. Instead, a program manager can be the boss of a group of product managers, the boss of a group of project managers, or the directly responsible individual, as Apple used to call it, responsible for all aspects of a project.

Program managers are often former product or project managers, but they can come from other spots tool. Useful qualifications to be a program manager include a technical bachelor’s degree, an MBA, and a PMP certification.

Program managers breathe pretty rarefied air, making big decisions and making big money while they do it.


Webmaster today means two things, both of them great. The first meaning is for someone who will, well, “solve” the web for some hapless company. These days, when most business professionals “speak web” to a high degree, it can be a lot of fun to work in an environment where that’s not the norm.

The second meaning of webmaster is an arch, ironic use of the term by people who know that it’s vague and imprecise, but are looking to hire sharp web people without pigeonholing them too much. It can be really fun to work for a company that exhibits this degree of understanding of the current web and its own situation.