How Long It Takes to Become a Front End Developer
Let’s get down to business — how long does it take to become a front end developer, exactly?
As we’ll explain in this article, the answer depends a lot on you, the learner. That being said, a multitude of factors can influence your timeline, including your existing experience, schedule, available resources, and more.
We’ll get into all of that in a moment. But first, here’s a quick recap of what front end developers are and what they do.
A front end developer is a programmer who specializes in website design — specifically, in the user-accessible “front end.” In this role, you will be responsible for creating the structure and aesthetics of a website, as well as ensuring that the site is optimized for speed and efficiency across desktop and mobile platforms alike.
Front end developers are multi-talented professionals; they combine aspects of creativity and design with programming knowledge to ensure that users have a convenient and enjoyable experience. Some of the essential responsibilities of the role include:
- Knowing and understanding the key principles of design
- Using server-side CSS to enhance the user’s experience
- Creating responsive, adaptive designs that work on desktop and mobile devices
- Writing code that is reusable and understandable by others
- Optimizing sites for speed and growth
- Using design software like Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop
Today, an ever-growing portion of our social interactions, shopping transactions, and business meetings are taking place online. Our increasing reliance on the digital world has positioned front end development as a high-potential, high-growth job. According to Stack Overflow’s 2020 Developer Survey, over a third (37.1 percent) of surveyed programmers worldwide identify as front end developers.
However, the job market is far from saturated. Projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that jobs for web developers will grow by 8 percent between 2019 and 2029 — a significantly faster rate than the average 5 percent expected for all other professions.
But how can you take advantage of that potential? Better yet, how long does it take to become a front end developer? Let’s break down your timeline.
How Much Experience Do You Currently Have?
Are you a veteran coder, or a relative newbie? The amount of experience you already have with programming will have a significant impact on your learning timeline.
Read over the three categories below and label yourself. Then, with that category in mind, we’ll map out a few of your best options below.
You might not have any professional experience, but that hasn’t stopped you from pursuing a career in tech. Maybe you like browsing the web or have an affinity for figuring out apps and programs. Sure, you may never have worked in technology — but you love the digital world.
Students with no experience are clean slates; they have the freedom to explore whatever front end technologies interest them, with no preconceptions to limit their investigations. That said, these learners will probably need more time and schooling than a professional who already has technical training in another coding branch.
But don’t let the extra training scare you; after all, every successful developer working today started with no experience at some point!
Some Technical Experience, But Nothing Formal
Perhaps you’ve created your own website or been asked to handle technical challenges that are typically outside your professional purview. In any case, you’ve discovered that you have a knack for building websites — but you’ve never completed a formal program or held an official job as a front end developer.
So, how long does it take to become a front end developer? For you, the road may be shorter because you already have some of the background, skills, and experience you need.
Existing Development Experience in Another Discipline
If you’ve already worked in tech — say, as a back end developer or UX designer — but haven’t held a position as a front end developer, you may be able to transfer some of your existing skills to your new career and shorten your educational timeline.
This route is generally less common, given that front end languages such as HTML and CSS are often the first taught to aspiring developers. However, if you are already a programmer, you will undoubtedly have an advantage in your educational path to become a front end developer.
What Is Your Target Timeline?
As a learner, you have a say in how long your upskilling journey takes.
Several factors will shape your choice, however. For one, your professional or personal obligations may compel you to choose a longer part-time program over a shorter, full-time schedule. The resources you have on hand to fund your education, too, will matter; after all, a college education will have a different price tag than a self-study program.
Once you’ve taken your experience, obligations, and available resources into consideration, you can begin to hone in on your preferred educational route and determine how long it will take to become a front end developer.
Become a Front End Developer in 3 Months
Best Option: Full-Time Boot Camp
A coding boot camp is an intensive program designed to prepare learners for a professional job in programming in a short period of time. A full-time program typically runs five days per week on an all-day basis; the average boot camp curriculum prioritizes teaching practical, marketable skills over programming theory.
In recent years, coding boot camps have become a particularly popular way to enter the workforce. According to recent research from Technavio, the global boot camp market size is expected to increase by $453.59 million between 2020 and 2024, with a compound annual growth rate of 15 percent.
In 2019 alone, 33,959 learners graduated from coding boot camps. Employers value these programs because they can trust that their graduates have industry-ready skills. Recent research published by HackerRank (PDF, 2.4 MB) suggests that a full 72 percent of hiring managers see boot camp graduates as “equally or better prepared” for a development role than those who have college degrees.
This good reputation is well-earned. A coding boot camp provides a swift path to upskilling. Within three to six months, students can build a sturdy set of industry-relevant skills, network with other aspiring front end developers, and compile a strong portfolio of class projects. Boot camps are also excellent for those who need flexibility, as they usually offer a variety of full-time, part-time, virtual, and in-person options.
Keep in mind, however, that the three-month timeline requires a full-time schedule. If that seems like a stretch for your current schedule, you may wish to shift to a part-time, six-month timeline.
Become a Front End Developer in 6 Months
Best Option: Part-Time Boot Camp
It doesn’t matter if you have some experience, limited experience, or no experience at all; you can become a front end developer within six months.
Generally, the best way to upskill within this span is to enroll in a part-time coding boot camp. As we mentioned above, these intensive programs offer structured lessons, hands-on curricula, and considerable instructor support — all of which are invaluable to fast-paced and ambitious learners. These programs will further focus on imparting the high-demand, marketable skills that employers want to see on interviewees’ CVs.
While full-time boot camps typically take three to four months, you can work your way through a part-time boot camp course in five or six months. This extended schedule is often ideal for those who need to balance a full-time job or personal obligations with their education schedule.
That said, enrolling in a boot camp isn’t the only six-month avenue available, though it is arguably the best one. A self-directed course of study can also work within a six-month timeframe.
Alternative Option: Self-Directed Learning
There are countless online learning programs, books, and other media you can use in your independent study program. Online learning platforms like freecodecamp, Khan Academy, and Udemy all offer formal, self-directed courses in coding fundamentals that allow you to learn at your own pace and in your own time. This method provides a lot of flexibility; if you primarily use books and tutorials to learn, you can set your own pace and timeline.
On the one hand, this flexibility makes it easy for learners to plan lessons around other professional and personal responsibilities. Self-directed learning is also relatively cheap.
However, there are some caveats to keep in mind. In general, self-guided courses of this type do not offer instructor support. Some aggregate platforms like Udemy do not always provide a consistent caliber of educational quality, so make sure to vet all potential online courses and learning platforms before you enroll.
Success in this approach also requires a high degree of self-motivation, as there is no external accountability or structure. Also, there are no certificates to be gained through this route, so employers may not be entirely convinced that you have the skills you need unless you compensate with a standout portfolio of professional projects. You are also solely responsible for determining which skills will be marketable to employers.
Self-directed learning provides schedule and cost flexibility, but often does so at the cost of education quality, efficiency, and learner support. If you want to become a front end developer in six months, you should strongly consider enrolling in a boot camp first, and then cherry-pick additional skills via self-directed learning if you feel it’s necessary.
Become a Front End Developer in 1 Year or More
If you want to make your career change in under a year, your best bet is to take your time combining self-directed learning with a full boot camp program to boost your knowledge. This will enable you to delve into coding theory or explore some specialized skills.
However, if you want to really gain a comprehensive background in programming and are willing to invest multiple years in the process, you may wish to enroll in an undergraduate degree program.
A four-year computer science degree is well-respected by employers. These programs provide comprehensive instruction in the theory and practice of programming, and further offer a wide array of internship, portfolio, and networking opportunities.
For all of these reasons, many developers choose the college path. According to Stack Overflow’s 2020 Developer Survey, approximately 75 percent of developers worldwide have completed the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Of course, while degree programs are great, there are some considerations.
For one, an undergraduate degree requires a full-time, multi-year course of study. They can be a great option if you are just leaving high school or starting your career, but if you already have a degree and need to change fields, you may not be in a position to pursue another traditional degree.
So, how long does it take to become a front end developer? Thoroughly measure your current situation and resources as you decide which educational path will take you to your new career!
How to Speed Up the Process
There are several ways to speed up the learning process, regardless of the educational route you take. All of the ideas listed below can also help you boost your resume before entering the job market.
Develop Your Own Projects
As an aspiring front end developer, you can develop your own projects. Create mock-up sites for fictional clients or begin to create a site that represents your professional interests. You can get involved with open-source projects or write your own open-source code.
All of these projects don’t just allow you to practice your skills — they also serve as additions to your portfolio. Getting involved in open-source communities can also provide some valuable networking opportunities.
Do Cheap or Free Client Work for Practice
When you first start out, you may struggle to get your first few clients. Doing some discounted or free work in exchange for recommendations can be a great way to get started. Of course, don’t undersell yourself — clients may get the wrong idea if your prices for the general marketplace are too low.
That said, you could work with a friend or family member to design a cheap or free website for their business, something you probably already want to do to support them. You could also reach out to a charity or cause you care about and volunteer your front end development skills.
As you search for a job, you may want to work for clients on a freelance basis. You could use job boards like Upwork, ask friends, and put yourself out there on social media platforms such as Twitter or Linkedin to enhance your networking opportunities.
Expected Time Spent on the Job Search
The job search itself can take a while depending on your geographic area. You may be in an incredibly competitive part of the country, or your region may not offer many jobs in coding. In some cases, you may want to consider moving for a great job. Given that more companies than ever are embracing remote work, you may also find a great job where you can work remotely.
Everyone’s job search journey is different, and the process could take a few weeks or a few months. Patience and diligence are key and will help you secure the results you are looking for. In the interim, taking freelance clients and making use of job boards can boost your marketability and your income at the same time.
The Verdict: How Long Does It Take to Become a Front End Developer?
So, exactly how long does it take to become a front end developer? Many factors influence the outcome, but it is entirely possible to make a successful career change and succeed in a new tech field. Think about your responsibilities, resources, and experience and begin to map out your educational timeline according to your learning preferences and situation.
A degree program, a coding boot camp, and self-directed learning can all provide great paths to success in the field — in the end, the one you choose will depend on your pre-existing experience and situation!