Web Developer vs. Graphic Designer

What is the Difference?

Graphic design and web development are both rewarding, lucrative career paths that many people choose to pursue.

However, although they are similar in some ways, each job has its own unique educational and skill requirements. Wages and employment prospects for people in these two professions differ as well.

Comparing the various aspects of web development and graphic design jobs is a smart way to determine which profession would be a better fit for your skills, interests, and career goals.

Check out this post to discover some of the key differences between graphic designers and web developers.

Job Descriptions

Web development and graphic design require a combination of technological know-how and artistic ability. Both jobs also involve creating visuals to attract audiences to a particular company, product, or brand. Even so, the exact duties of professionals in these fields vary, meaning one may involve more technology– or art-focused tasks than the other.

What Do Web Developers Do?

A web developer uses programming languages like HTML, JavaScript, and CSS to build website layouts that suit the site’s intended function and provide a simple, enjoyable user experience.

Typical Duties

Typical workday duties for web developers include:

  • Meeting with clients and employers to discuss the website’s purpose, target audience, and overall goal
  • Plan web page layouts, color schemes, text fonts, videos, audio files, and images based on the site’s intended purpose
  • Gather content and information from digital artists, SEO professionals, and other coworkers to add to the website
  • Implement approved web content and designs using the proper software and code
  • Run tests to troubleshoot, debug, and optimize the website to improve the structure and promote increased visibility and user engagement

What Do Graphic Designers Do?

Where web development is part of the digital marketing sphere, graphic design typically involves creating printed visuals and marketing materials. Graphic designers use digital illustration and layout software to create the eye-catching advertisements and visuals that many businesses use to promote their products.

Typical Duties

Depending on the client’s needs, a graphic designer might make:

  • Company logos
  • Billboard advertisements
  • Event posters, pamphlets, and banners
  • Branded merchandise, like tote bags, pens, T-shirts, and mugs
  • Digital graphics and images for video games, mobile apps, and websites


Hopefuls need strong attention to detail, creativity, and time management skills to be successful in both of these professions. However, both graphic design and web development jobs also require their own set of unique abilities. Because of this, only one of these career paths might suit your personal skills and interests.

What Skills Do Web Developers Need?

Since they handle the look and function of entire websites, web developers generally need more technical knowledge than graphic designers. Computer literacy and a solid understanding of different programming and coding languages are essential for these professionals.

Additional Skills

Web developers also need:

  • Logical and critical thinking skills
  • An ability to discuss and explain technical matters clearly
  • Strong numeracy skills and mathematical knowledge
  • Quick and effective problem-solving abilities
  • Communication skills for collaborating with coworkers and talking with clients

What Skills Do Graphic Designers Need?

Graphic design requires more artistic abilities than web development, so skills for these workers usually include drawing, color coordinating, and typography.

Additional Skills

A graphic designer should also have the following skills:

  • Understanding of foundational design principles, including balance, harmony, shape, texture, rhythm, and emphasis
  • Interactive media knowledge
  • Ability to use various design software programs
  • Fundamental branding and marketing knowledge
  • Presentation skills for delivering designs to clients

Educational Requirements

Although the curriculum and class topics for these two training courses differ, web developers and graphic designers have similar educational requirements. While you can learn the basics of both these professions on your own through solo research or by purchasing specific software programs, most employers and clients prefer to hire developers and designers with certificates or degrees.

Web Developer School

During their educational programs, aspiring web developers learn web programming and application, interface design, 3D modeling, and database management.

Certificate programs might be six to nine months long, though you may choose to pursue a two-year or four-year degree in computer science or web development.

Tuition for a web development program is usually between $2,500 and $60,000.

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Graphic Design School

In addition to learning to use various software programs, graphic design students study the history of art and design, color and design theory, visual communication, marketing, drawing, and photography.

You can earn a graphic design certificate in three to six months or obtain a degree in two or four years.

Program costs usually range from $11,000 for certificates to about $40,000 for degrees.

Annual Earnings

For some people, the decision between becoming a graphic designer and a web developer might come down to which job comes with the highest salary. Comparing the average annual earnings for both professions can help you determine whether one of these career paths pays more than the other.

How Much Do Web Developers Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for web designers is about $78,300 per year. Annual earnings may vary, depending on whether you work as a freelance web developer or get a job working with a particular company. You might also make higher wages by taking on high-profile clients and more complex projects.

How Much Do Graphic Designers Make?

BLS reports show that earnings for graphic designers in the U.S. stand at roughly $50,710 per year. Freelancers can set their own rates but might make less than an in-house graphic designer if they struggle to find clients. However, like web developers, these professionals can often negotiate higher wages if they have formal education and industry experience.

Career Outlook

If you’re wondering which of these professions has the most job security, comparing research about the job outlook for graphic designers and web developers can help you find the answer. From there, you can decide what additional skills and qualifications you can obtain in order to stand out and have a better chance of getting and keeping a job in your preferred field.

Job Outlook for Graphic Designers

Over the next ten years, the demand for graphic designers in the U.S. will likely increase by about three percent. Despite this seemingly limited growth rate, you can increase your chances of getting hired if you stay informed about the latest design software on the market and maintain an impressive portfolio of commissioned work.

Job Outlook for Web Development

Reports indicate a 23-percent projected growth rate for web developer jobs over the next decade. Hopefuls with certificates and degrees tend to have an easier time finding work, especially if they have previous experience building successful website layouts and structures.

Should You Become a Web Developer or a Graphic Designer?

Ultimately, the decision between a web developer or graphic designer job comes down to your personal skillset and career ambitions. Consider whether you want to work in an exclusively digital medium or prefer to use digital programs to create branding for tangible items. From there, you can determine which career path comes with the educational requirements, salary, and job security you’re looking for.

Related: Graphic Design without a Degree?