Have you spent any time working on computer coding or using computer programmes? Are you creative, flexible, curious, and happy to upskill yourself on new digital technology? At the same time, do you think you are a problem-solver with plenty of discipline to work on your own and have good communication skills? If this sounds like you, then have you thought about becoming a web developer?

The world we live in is becoming more and more digital and everyone is using the internet these days. At the same time, computer programmes are constantly being updated and new ones are being built. This means that there is a growing number of individuals and organisations that need other people to develop web sites for them. This is the reason why there is plenty of work available for web designers in South Africa. It is an attractive and well-paid career that is worth looking into if computers are your thing!

What is a Web Developer?
As a web developer, you take a design created by a client (or design one yourself based on a client’s brief) and use computer code to turn this into a website. To do this, you need to know a relevant computer language and ‘translate’ the design so that it can become a digital platform. People search for web sites all the time. Whenever they want to access news, find locations nearby or buy something online, they need to access a relevant website. That’s where your website becomes the link between the customer and your client who runs a business or organisation.

There are a number of coding languages available but the main ones for now are Python, Java Script or HTML. As these are regularly updated to include new information, you will need to be able to upgrade yourself whenever it’s required. Of course, you might also need to learn a new computer language if this becomes necessary so you will always be moving ahead!

There are three different types of web developer. Each one has a specific role to play. The front-end programmer is the one who writes the code to translate the design so that it can be placed on the internet. This includes all the colours, design, buttons, headers etc. You are responsible for what people actually see on the screen.

The programmer who works on the back-end is responsible for the coding behind the website. They make sure that the website loads and runs smoothly and that all the databases work well. On top of this they need to ensure that the website is found quickly on the internet if someone searches for anything related to that site. This is called Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and it is vital in today’s competitive digital environment. You usually will need to know a range of programming languages in order to do all of this.

The last type of web developer is called a full-stack developer. They work on both the front and back end of a website, so they understand what is needed to code both of these. As a full stack developer, you may design a complete website from beginning to end and you will have to be able to work in a number of different computer languages.

What do you need to study in order to become a web developer?
You don’t necessarily need a formal qualification to work as a web developer. However, if you want to study for a degree in Information Systems/Technology, they you will need an NSC matric certificate with English and Maths. Having CAT (Computer Application Technology) or Art/Design is an added bonus. When applying for a university course, you will need to have at least 50% for 4 or more of your Grade 12 subjects.

You can also study for a diploma in this field at a college or TVET. It’s certainly easier to get a job with large organisations such as governments, non-profit organisations, media and advertising companies or big businesses if you have a formal qualification of some kind. Both degree and diploma courses are three-year courses.

Where can you study to become a Web Developer?
University of Pretoria
Rhodes University
University of KwaZulu Natal
University of the Witwatersrand
Open Window
City Varisty
– School of IT: University of Cape Town
Cape University of Technology

There are many other institutions where you can study to become a web developer. Do make sure that they are accredited by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). There are a number of bursaries available for computer science and related degrees. See here for the list.

As a web developer you will be at the forefront of development in the digital space. You will be the creator of what we all see on our screens every day. This does mean that you will spend a lot of time in front of your screen but if this is where you feel most comfortable, then it’s for you! You may work as a freelancer or work in a corporate, you may create designs yourself or communicate with creatives and other developers. Whatever way your career takes you, you’ll be busy and proactive. There is no shortage of work in the digital field so if you love computers, then you have found your dream career!