Mobile App Developer vs. Web Developer

A mobile app developer, as the name suggests, develops and manages mobile apps, whereas a web developer develops and manages websites. You might think this information should be enough to help you decide which job is right for you – but it rarely is. When choosing a career, you should also consider the average industry salary, necessary qualifications, learning curve, and future growth potential.

Mobile app developers command a higher salary compared to web developers. However, the web development learning curve is easier, and you can land a job without a degree. That said, both professions boast incredibly high job satisfaction scores and have impressive future growth potential.

In this article, I’ve presented a detailed breakdown of both careers – mobile app development & web development along with a thorough comparison. If you’re confused between these two professions, this article should help clear most of your doubts and questions.

Career Differences Between App Developers and Web Developers

To help you better understand the career differences between mobile app developers and web developers, I’ve put together the following table. 

It compares the salary of both professions alongside how difficult it is to learn each subject, whether you need a degree to land a job, the overall job satisfaction, and which career path has a better prospect.

Area of ComparisonMobile App DeveloperWeb Developer
Average Salary$76,387/year$60,987/year
Learning CurveComparatively more difficult as you need to learn more complex programming concepts to land a job.Comparatively less difficult as you can land a job without having to study advanced coding skills.
However, you’ll need to learn more complex concepts as you grow in your career and need to take on more advanced projects.
Necessary QualificationsDemonstrable knowledge of building a mobile app.
Many employers demand applicants to have a CS degree, but you can still land a job without one.
Demonstrable knowledge of building and managing a website.
A degree isn’t necessary to apply for most jobs but having one certainly helps.
Job Satisfaction4.1 out of 5 (Very high)3.9 out of 5 (Very high)
Future ProspectProjected employment growth rate of 25% from 2021 to 2031.Projected employment growth rate of 23% from 2021 to 2031.
Table: Comparison between mobile app developer and a web developer.

In the following sections, I’ll discuss these differences in greater detail.

Video: What do you actually do as a mobile app developer (iOS developer)?

Average Salary

Mobile app developers enjoy a higher salary compared to web developers. 

The average salary of a mobile app developer in the US is around $76,387/year, which can vary based on skills, experience, and where you work. 

If you’re just joining as a fresh app developer in a recognized IT company, you can expect a salary of around $50k/year which will only grow as you gain more experience. Skilled mobile app developers with a few years under their belt can demand a salary as high as $124k/year.

Other than a high salary, mobile app developers also enjoy benefits like

  • 401(k)
  • 401(k) matching
  • Health insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Paid time off
  • Parental leave
  • Work from home provisions
  • Tuition reimbursements

Coming to web developers, the average salary in the US is $60,987/year

This is considerably less compared to a mobile app developer, but again, this is an “average.” You can demand higher salaries if you’re handling advanced projects and have mastered the many complex tools and concepts present in web development.

When joining a company as a fresher or junior web developer, you’ll most likely get a salary of around $42k/year. However, this figure can rapidly grow if you display great skills and command over your work. On the higher end, experienced web developers can expect around $90k/year or more. 

Now, apart from the difference in salary, web developers enjoy all the same benefits as mobile app developers, starting from health and dental insurance to 401(k) matching accounts, parental leaves, tuition reimbursements, and much more.

Learning Curve

For the most part, learning mobile app development is comparatively more difficult than learning web development. This is because mobile app development requires you to know more concepts and tools before becoming “employable.”

As a mobile app developer, your job is to develop apps for mobile platforms, namely Android and iOS. 

To do this, you first need to learn a programming language – Java, Kotlin, or Swift – and coding fundamentals (along with some advanced topics). Next, you need to get a sense of UI/UX best practices, learn database management, how to use APIs, Git, and much more before applying for a job.

In comparison, with web development, you can potentially land a job as a front-end developer if you know how to work with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. These are relatively easier to learn than a full-fledged high-level programming language and all associated concepts.

However, if you wish to become a full-stack developer, you’ll need to master many more advanced tools and concepts like database management, APIs, different frameworks, etc. You might even need to learn a high-level programming language like Python to build a complex website or web app.

At the higher levels, it’s difficult to say that web development is easier than mobile app development, as both professions demand mastery over many different tools and concepts.

Did you know that you can become a front-end web developer after a few months of dedicated learning? Click on the link and read my step-by-step process.

Video: What does a Frontend Developer Actually Do?

Bootcamp vs. Self-Study

Thanks to the internet, there are a lot of useful resources available online that you can use to learn web development as well as mobile app development. However, how long it’s going to take before you gain the necessary skills to become employable depends on your discipline and dedication level.

That said, if you decide to go at it by yourself, following a detailed roadmap will help you so that you don’t get lost in the sea of internet content.

Here’s a roadmap to help you become a front-end web developer.

And here’s a roadmap to help you become a mobile app developer.

With that said, if you enroll in a Bootcamp and follow the course sincerely, you should be job ready by the end of the course. 

A typical mobile app development Bootcamp lasts 3-4 months if you do it full-time or 7-12 months if you do it part-time.

In contrast, web development Bootcamps last 2-3 months on average for full-timers and 6-10 months for part-timers.

My full stack web-dev coding bootcamp lasted for 15 weeks. And I managed to land an internship and some freelance work immediately after. And eventually also got my first job without studying anything related to programming.

Necessary Qualifications

The most important qualification for landing a job as a mobile app developer or a web developer is showing demonstrable skills and a solid portfolio of work

If you wish to become a mobile app developer, you need to prove to your potential employer that you know how to build mobile apps and understand how these apps work. 

In the case of a web developer, you need to display working knowledge of website development if you wish to become a front-end developer. Likewise, you need server-side management skills and database knowledge to become a back-end developer.

The best way to show this is by highlighting your previous work experience.

But what if you’re just starting?

In that case, build a few websites or mobile apps as you learn the various tools and concepts. This will help you build your portfolio to showcase to employers when you apply as a fresher.

Here’s a list of projects for a fresher mobile app development portfolio.

And here’s a list of interesting web development projects.

Also, apart from seeking employment, you can try picking up freelance work once you’re skilled enough.

Alternatively, you can build a website or mobile app to run your own businesses and make money that way. Being a skilled developer opens up multiple income streams, and your earning opportunities will not be bound to someone else’s decision to hire you.

Do You Need a Degree?

You don’t necessarily need a degree to land a job as a web developer or a mobile app developer, however, having a CS (Computer Science) degree will give you an advantage. It’s also worth noting that web development jobs are more lenient when it comes to having a degree compared to mobile app development.

In mobile app development, you need a solid grasp of a high-level programming language and many programming concepts. This is why companies often prefer – or sometimes even mandate – individuals applying for the role to have a CS degree or something equivalent.

You’ll also find web developer job listings mandating a CS degree, but these are generally very rare. For the most part, it’s easier to find work as a web developer without a degree.

Job Satisfaction

Mobile app developers are slightly more satisfied with their jobs than web developers.

According to a survey conducted by payscale, mobile app development received an average job satisfaction score of 4.1 out of 5, which comes to around 82%. In comparison, a similar survey found web developers giving an average job satisfaction score of 3.9 out of 5, or around 78% of their profession.

For reference, a report published by The Conference Board back in 2017 states that around 51% of US workers are satisfied with their jobs. So, as you can see, mobile app developers and web developers enjoy a really satisfying professional life. 

Here are 5 reasons mobile app development and web development have high job satisfaction scores:

  • They receive good financial compensation for their work. Being a developer pays better by the hour than in other fields. This means you get to meet your expenses and still have extra to save or invest.
  • The work is highly rewarding and engaging. Developing apps and websites that so many people will use makes you feel like you made a difference and that your work matters.
  • You get to work on a flexible schedule. Medium to large-sized companies allow their developers to work on hours they find comfortable with the provision for WFH (Work From Home). Some companies even have remote positions, which means you can submit your work while sitting at a beach house in Bali.
  • It’s easy to build other sources of income. You can use your knowledge as an app or website developer to build and publish your own apps and websites and earn passive income using them. This lets you build a side hustle and diversify your income stream.
  • Option to easily change careers. Mobile app developers and experienced web developers share a common skill set with many other IT job profiles. This means if you don’t like to build apps or websites anymore, you can easily switch to a different role such as DevOps, Quality Analyst, AI Engineer, etc.
different mobile apps
Did you know that if you use a certain web development framework, you can transition very fast into the world of mobile apps? One such example is using React Native library, which uses a lot of similar syntax as his big brother React so the transition into mobile app development is very simple and you will figure it out in a few days if you are already good with React.

Future Prospects

Both mobile app development and web development have excellent future growth potential.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), mobile app development – which falls into the software development category – will see around a 25% hike in employment rates from 2021 to 2031.

This translates to roughly 162,900 new openings per year where mobile app developers can apply along with other software developers, quality assurance (QA) analysts, and testers.

On the other hand, web development will see a 23% hike in employment rates in the next decade. This means that over 21,800 new web developers and digital designers will be employed annually.

But is a 20%+ employment rate good? Especially when you consider that it’s spread over a decade!

Well, for reference, BLS projects the average employment growth rate in the US as 0.7% per year spanning from 2020 to 2030. As such, the average US worker will notice around a 7.22% compounded growth rate over the next decade.

Looking at this, web development and mobile app development offer excellent future growth prospects. You can be sure to land a job in the coming times with excellent growth opportunities, even if you have just started studying.

Also, it’s essential to remember that these statistics are only in the US. Other places around the world with a higher demand for IT professionals can expect an even bigger rise in employment metrics.

Final Thoughts

Mobile app developers enjoy a higher salary than web developers, averaging around $76k/year compared to $60k/year. 

They also have a slightly higher job satisfaction score of 82% compared to 78% and a marginally better employment growth rate of 25% compared to 23%.

However, learning mobile app development is also more complex than web development and takes longer. 

Moreover, most employers prefer hiring mobile app developers with a CS degree, although some do allow non-degree holders. In contrast, you can get hired as a web developer by simply showcasing your skill – a degree is rarely necessary.

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