Studying Web Design

I’m interested in studying web design. What can you tell me?

Web design is part of the process of creating websites. In a web design program, you will learn to combine artistic skill with technical knowledge to create websites that are functional, user-friendly and visually appealing. If you want to study this subject, you should have an eye for design and a passion for technology. You will also need strong communication skills to help you meet the design specifications of your clients. And because web design is a highly competitive field, you will need to develop the confidence to market your abilities to potential employers. Web design programs are offered at the undergraduate level, although some people manage to start a career in web design with little or no formal education. Whether or not you choose to go to school for web design, you will need to participate in continuing education in order to keep up with the constant advancements in technology that affect the standards of this industry.

Let's hear some other perspectives

An Interview with Jessica Reaves

Jessica Reaves

Student, Master of Fine Arts in Media Design,Full Sail University

“I chose Full Sail University for my graduate degree because it is an art college. Its program allowed me many opportunities to develop my skills in a practical way. University of Phoenix was a fine choice for my undergraduate education, but its programs were more theory-based, and they did not offer me the kind of hands-on experience that I knew I needed from a graduate program.”Read the Full Interview

An Interview with Andrea Marrocco

Andrea Marrocco

Student, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design,University of Massachusetts, Lowell

“If a web designer does not get a thrill out of bringing ideas to life on the Internet, then they will never be able to sell their ideas to clients.”Read the Full Interview

An Interview with Tracey Greene

Tracey Greene

Professor of Web Design,University of Massachusetts, Lowell

“I would tell the student that web design is a broad field with many transferable skills. Other industries require specialization that can limit career mobility, but web design allows people to switch into different areas.”Read the Full Interview

Web Designer Overview

What exactly is a web designer?

Web designers are information technology professionals who create websites for businesses and individuals. Some web designers work for corporate businesses and others work independently. Sometimes their clients provide specifications that describe the general look and feel of the website they want, and other times web designers have full creative control. Even so, web designers must know much more than how to implement the elements of design. They also use programming languages to write code that tells a computer what to do.

Let's hear some other perspectives

An Interview with Erik Bettencourt

Erik Bettencourt

Sr. User Experience Architect,Bridgeline Digital

“As a user experience architect, I love that I get to be a part of building the future of the Internet. I love the fact that when we are creating functional websites, we are actually building tools that many people will be thankful to use.”Read the Full Interview

Personality Quiz

How do I know if web design would be a good fit for me?

Here is a quick quiz to help you decide if you have the personality it takes to succeed as a web designer. Rate, on a scale from 1 to 5, how well each of the following statements describes you.

I like to use the latest technology.

Web design professionals use cutting-edge computers and design software to complete their projects. If you are interested in new technologies, you might like web design.

I am artistically talented.

Web designers use design elements like color, balance and space to create websites that are visually appealing. If you excel in the fine arts, you can use your skills as a web designer.

I am a perfectionist and I pay close attention to detail.

Designing and developing websites requires painstaking attention to detail because mistakes like spelling or coding errors make sites look unprofessional. You cannot afford to be sloppy if you want to work in web design.

I plan for the future and am able to think ahead.

Good web design professionals anticipate industry or technology changes that will affect a website. You should be able to think ahead so that you can visualize upcoming modifications, updates and growth.

I am productive when I work on my own.

Web design professionals are often completely in charge of their projects. You must be able to motivate yourself and structure your time so that you can get your work done on your own.

I can keep track of many things at the same time.

Web designers often manage several projects simultaneously. You must be organized and able to multitask if you want to succeed in this field.

I am flexible and can adapt to change.

Web design technology evolves rapidly. You will need to constantly adjust to changes in software and incorporate new technology into your projects in order to produce quality work that looks modern.

I communicate clearly and effectively.

Web designers closely follow their clients’ specifications as they create websites. You will need to understand your client’s needs and articulate your own ideas clearly in order to meet their expectations.

I am confident showcasing my abilities and promoting my work.

Many web designers are freelancers who attract their own clients. If you work independently, you must seek work by marketing your skills.

I know how to learn from constructive criticism.

Web design professionals should attempt to get better at designing and writing code with each project. In this field, you need the ability to accept criticism and use it to improve your skills instead of taking offense.

Get My Score

*Note that this is not a scientific quiz. The result is simply my rough estimate of how well I believe your personality matches that of a successful web designer.

By my assessment, a career in web design is probably not a good fit for your personality. Please go to the Admissions Advisor homepage for a listing of other careers you may want to consider.

By my assessment, although a career in web design may not be an ideal fit for your personality, if you are willing to adapt in a few areas, you can still find success in the field. Please see the list to the right for information on the areas that you may need to work on.

By my assessment, your personality is a good fit for a career in web design. Scroll through our site to gain valuable insight into what it will take you to earn the necessary credentials.

Making the Right Choice

Is there anything else I should consider in deciding if web design is the right choice for me?

Informal Education

It may be possible to start a career in web design with very little formal education. Like many areas in the information technology industry, web design is an emerging field. Because it is a relatively new career, the job qualifications are less defined than those for many traditional professions. In fact, many web design employers consider innate design talent, experience and a strong professional portfolio to be more important than a degree. However, if you decide not to pursue formal education, you will need to practice new design and development techniques on your own and be prepared to keep up with new technology.

Web Design Professions

What web design professions can I choose from?

A lot of jobs in the web design industry are closely related, so you may be responsible for duties listed in several of these positions, especially if you work as a freelancer or for a small company. A large corporation might designate different people to concentrate on web design, web development and user interface design. But if you work independently, you may need to do your own research to decide who a site’s users are, how they will access the site and how you will present information to them. Some of the most common web design professions are:

Education Required:

Associates (2 years) or bachelors (4 years) recommended

Average Salary:


Work Environment:

Corporate businesses, government agencies, freelance

Job Description:

Web designers use web development and graphic design skills to create websites that appeal to their users. They work with clients to plan aspects of a site’s design like its layout, color schemes, typeface, organization and multimedia content. Some software programs that web designers use frequently include Photoshop, Flash and Dreamweaver.

Education Required:

Associates (2 years) or bachelors (4 years) recommended

Average Salary:


Work Environment:

Corporate businesses, government agencies, freelance

Job Description:

Web developers create the technical aspects of websites and mobile applications. They analyze business needs to determine what kind of information should be included on a website based on who its users are and why those users access the site. Web developers must be fluent in HTML and programming languages like Java, C++ and Perl.

Education Required:

Associates (2 years) recommended

Average Salary:


Work Environment:

Corporate businesses, government agencies

Job Description:

Webmasters maintain websites for businesses. They ensure that a company’s websites are updated and functional by using tools like HTML, JavaScript and PHP. They may perform a range of duties including debugging web applications, managing ad server software and planning future updates to the site. Webmasters may be hired as internal employees or on a contract basis.

Education Required:

Bachelors (4 years)

Average Salary:

$85,000 (Lowest 10% earned less than $54,000; highest 10% earned more than $128,000)

Work Environment:

Software publishers, corporate businesses, government agencies, freelance

Job Description:

Web application developers create functional website applications like project management systems and online shopping carts. They assess client needs and design a product to meet them. Some web application developers use programming languages to write their own code, and others write technical specifications that provide computer programmers with coding instructions.

Education Required:

Bachelors (4 years)

Average Salary:


Work Environment:

Software publishers, corporate businesses, government agencies

Job Description:

User interface designers are responsible for planning the interface of a website or application. They conduct market research like user testing and usability studies to determine how specific groups of people prefer to use websites. Based on that information, they plan sites that are interactive, functional and easy for the target group of users to navigate.

Job Outlook

What is the job outlook for web designers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, web designers and developers can look forward to a positive career outlook. In 2008, there were 961,200 people employed in the field of computer networking, systems and database administration, which is the broad branch of information technology that includes web design and development. Job prospects in this field are expected to increase by 30% through 2018, which is much faster than the average growth projected for all occupations.
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Average Salary Growth 2006 - 2011

Profession 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011

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Education Requirements

How long would it take me to become a web designer?

The amount of time that it takes to become a web designer depends on the educational route that you choose to pursue. If you decide to earn credentials through a certificate, you could start designing websites in less than a year. You can also earn web design degrees at the associates level, which takes about 2 years, or at the bachelors level, which typically takes 4 years.

Areas of Study

What can I expect to learn while studying web design?

As a web design student, you can expect to grow in artistic, technical and professional knowledge and skills.


Elements of Design

Elements of design are the artistic principles that guide design choices. They allow web designers to communicate visual messages by intentionally utilizing components like hues, fonts, shapes and layout. Some topics that will be discussed in courses on design include color theory, contrast, typography and balance.

User Interface Design

The goal of user interface design is to create a simple and efficient experience for users. It relies on tools like HTML and cascading style sheets (CSS) to develop web pages that are functional, interactive and easy to use. It also uses market research to discover ways that specific groups of people use the web. Finally, user interface design finds ways to make websites accessible for users with disabilities.

Media Theory

Media theory discusses the major schools of thought that have shaped media practices over the last century. It addresses different methods of mass communication including print, radio, television and the Internet. It also examines the way that the public responds to and interacts with various forms of mass communication.

Internet Marketing

Marketing strategy is fundamental to any web design project. Internet marketing introduces ways to increase the revenue of a business using online marketing techniques. Some Internet marketing strategies that will be practiced include e-mail marketing campaigns, search engine optimization (SEO) and principles of advertising.

Database Management

Database management discusses how to construct and use databases to store and access digital information. It requires students to understand how different pieces of data relate so that data can be queried, or searched for. Database administrators must know how to use programming languages like SQL and MySQL.


Graphic Design Software

Graphic design software allows web designers to plan layouts, manipulate images and create dynamic multimedia web pages. Your web design program will teach you how to use popular graphic design software programs like the Adobe Suite, which includes Dreamweaver, Flash, Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign.

Programming Languages

Programming skills are an essential part of your web design curriculum. Just like spoken languages, programming languages follow certain rules that govern their structure, syntax and organization. As a web design student, you will become fluent in popular programming languages like Java and JavaScript that you can use to write functional code that follows industry conventions.

Project Management

Whether you work as a freelance web designer or on a development team at a large company, you will need to develop a system that helps you keep track of what you have accomplished and what you still need to do. As a web design student, you will learn to use project management software to plan your work and assess your progress so that you can hit your deadlines.


In your web design curriculum, you will learn how to effectively use verbal and written communication. For instance, you will be able to write technical specifications that clearly present your ideas to others. You will also learn how to interact with clients and co-workers in a professional manner.

Problem Solving

As a web design student, your problem solving skills will increase with every project that you successfully complete. You will understand how to look at a design issue or coding problem from many different angles so that you can choose the best solution. You will also learn how to resolve conflicts with clients in the event of miscommunication.

Academic Degrees

What academic levels are available in the field of web design?

Web design is studied at the undergraduate level. If you decide to purse a career in web design, you can earn associates or bachelors degrees. If you don’t want to earn a degree, you can learn the basics of web design through a certificate program.

Select the degree level you are interested in:

  • Certificate
  • Associate’s
  • Bachelor’s


Web design certificates are a good option if you want to learn essential skills without pursuing a full degree. You can earn certificates in web design alone or in web design and development.

What are the different types of certificates that I can earn in web design?

For some subjects, schools differentiate between undergraduate certificates and graduate certificates, but there is no division for web design certificate programs. You can earn a web design certificate without any college experience or you can use it to enhance your skillset in other areas like business or communication.

How long will I have to study to earn my certificate in web design?

The length and depth of web design certificate programs vary by school. Most programs require students to complete 18 to 30 credit hours. Students are typically able to complete web design and development certificate programs in 6 months to a year of full-time study.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my certificate in web design?

If you choose to earn a web design certificate, you will take classes like typography, web writing, user interface design and project management. You will also learn to work with different design software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash and Dreamweaver. Finally, you will take courses that teach you how to use web development tools like HTML, XHTML, CSS, JavaScript and PHP.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a certificate in web design?

A web design certificate may qualify you for entry-level jobs as a web designer and webmaster. And if your program also provides classes in web development, you may be qualified to become a web developer.

What about getting an online certificate in web design?

Earning a web design certificate online may be a good choice for you. Online web design certificates allow you to earn your credentials without interrupting your career. And since the majority of classes are meant to teach specific computer skills, there is no reason that you cannot learn them through an online web design program. But before you commit to an online web design certificate program, you should compare its curriculum to that of a respected offline program to make sure that you will learn the same skills.

Associates Degree

You can pursue a degree in web design through traditional schools or art colleges. Associates degrees in web design will provide you with the essential knowledge and skills to work for a web development firm or start an independent freelance career. Note that some programs have slightly different names like web design and development or web design and interactive media.

What are the different types of associates degrees that I can earn in web design?

Associate of Arts AA

An AA degree in web design offers classes in the liberal arts that give you a broad education in the humanities. The AA degree is a good choice if you want to transfer to a bachelors degree program.

Associate of Science AS

An AS degree in web design has more business and technical classes than the AA. This degree is also a good choice if you plan to transfer to a bachelors degree program.

Associate of Applied Science AAS

An AAS degree in web design has classes that teach the most practical aspects of the career. The AAS degree is terminal, which means that it is the best choice if you plan to enter the workforce immediately.

How long will I have to study to earn my associates degree in web design?

Associates degrees in web design typically require students to complete 60 to 72 credit hours. Most students finish associate degrees in about 2 years.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my associates degree in web design?

If you decide to pursue an associates degree in web design, you will take courses that teach you the elements of design as well as business and computer skills. Some of the artistic classes that you are likely to take include color theory, typography and drawing. You will learn to translate your design skills to the computer in classes about programs like Illustrator and Dreamweaver. In addition, you will take essential programming courses in HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Finally, you will learn the business side of web design through classes about Internet marketing, technical writing and database management.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with an associates degree in web design?

If you earn an associates degree in web design, you will be qualified for entry-level positions as a web designer, web developer or webmaster.

What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my associates degree in web design?

When you are looking for a web design school, you may want to consider the computer equipment and the software programs that schools make available to you. Design software and high-quality computers can be very expensive if you have to purchase them on your own. In addition, you should look for a program that allows you to develop a professional portfolio. Potential employers will evaluate your skills based on your portfolio, so it is worth investing a lot of time into developing a collection of work that reflects your best abilities.

What about getting an online associates degree in web design?

Many reputable schools offer online web design associates degrees. You can learn all of the technical skills that you need through an online web design school. Therefore, if you have some knowledge of design software like the Adobe Suite and you learn well independently, there is no reason not to pursue your web design associates degree online. But if you are unfamiliar with design suites and the basic principles of programming, you may prefer to learn through one-on-one interaction with your professors rather than through an online web design associates degree program.

Bachelors Degree

A bachelors degree in web design will teach you to design and market websites that are functional and visually pleasing. At the bachelors level, most web design degrees incorporate more programming skills, so schools often call these degrees web design and development programs.

What are the different types of bachelors degrees that I can earn in web design?

Bachelor of Fine Arts BFA

A BFA degree in web design has more classes in the fine arts to give you a background in visual communication. This option is best if you want to work in digital art and web design rather than in development.

Bachelor of Science BS

A BS degree in web design has more programming and business classes to give you a technical management background. This is a good idea if you want to work as a web designer and developer.

How long will I have to study to earn my bachelors degree in web design?

Bachelors degrees in web design usually require students to complete 120 to 130 credit hours. Most web design students finish their bachelors degrees in 4 years.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my bachelors degree in web design?

If you decide to pursue a bachelors degree in web design, you will take courses about design aesthetics, information technology and business. For instance, you will take classes about art history and you will learn to use design programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. You will also learn programming skills like how to use HTML, CSS and JavaScript to develop multimedia websites and mobile applications. In addition, you will take classes in advertising, project management and communication.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a bachelors degree in web design?

A bachelors degree in web design will qualify you for positions like web designer, web developer and webmaster. In addition, you may be able to find work as a user interface designer.

What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my bachelors degree in web design?

As you decide which web design school to attend, you should consider whether the programs you are looking into place emphasis on creating a professional portfolio. As a web design professional, your portfolio will often be the deciding factor that determines whether you are hired, so you need to take it seriously. In addition, you should consider whether schools provide you with web design software and equipment, which can be very expensive to purchase at full price.

What about getting an online bachelors degree in web design?

Online web design bachelors degrees are offered at many schools. The major skills that you need to learn to start a career in this field can be learned through an online web design bachelors degree. Therefore, if you are comfortable studying independently, you may succeed in an online web design program. But if you want to earn a BFA in web design, you might think twice about online study. A BFA degree will require you to complete many classes in the visual arts, like life drawing and 2D design. These classes may be difficult to take through an online web design school if you have limited experience with these skills.

Licensing Information

What else should I keep in mind when considering studying web design?

Aside from your technical and artistic skills, there are a few other things to keep in mind if you want to pursue a career in web development.

Professional Certifications

If you decide to become a web designer, you should consider earning professional certifications. Several certifications are offered by various professional organizations. Although these certifications are not mandatory, they will verify your design skills, which can help you stand out in a pool of job applicants. Most of these certifications require you to pass an exam and pay a fee. Some common certifications that web design professionals pursue are:

  • Certified Professional Web Designer (CPWDS): This certification is offered by the World Organization of Webmasters (WOW). Designers must have 2 years of experience and be able to show expertise in HTML and WYSIWYG, web graphics, site management and legal issues.
  • Certified Professional Web Developer (CPWDV): Also offered by WOW, this certification is awarded to developers who can use database tools and applications to optimize web sites and create quality experiences for users.
  • Certified Professional Webmaster (CPW): This WOW certification focuses on web-based communication in the areas of web content development, technical operations and business management.
  • HTML Developer Certificate: This certification is offered by the Word Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the group that sets the standards for the web. It is awarded to professionals who demonstrate knowledge of HTML, XHTML and CSS.

Questions & Answers

Select a category to find answers to your questions


What are some other resources that can help me learn more about pursuing a degree or certificate in web design?

Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design

AIGA, The Professional Association for Design

Association of Web Design Professionals

International Webmasters Association (IWA)

Government Web Design Usability Guidelines

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) – Web Design and Applications

Web Designer Depot

Webpage Design for Designers

Web Design Tools and Resources

Web Design Library

World Organization of Webmasters