A web developer is responsible for building and managing websites. An SEO (Search Engine Optimization) specialist ensures that people discover these websites using search engines like Google, Bing, etc. As you can see, both professions lean towards different individuals with different skill sets and career benefits.
Web developers beat SEO specialists when talking about the average annual salary. However, learning web development is also harder than SEO. Thankfully, both career paths don’t require a degree to land a job, and they enjoy excellent growth opportunities and job satisfaction.
In this article, I’ll explore the various career differences between a web developer and an SEO specialist. By the end, you should know which profession best fits your career needs and requirements.
Key Differences Between Web Developers and SEO Specialists
To help you better understand the difference between web developers and SEO specialists as a career option, I’ve put together a table comparing their average salaries, job/learning difficulty, necessary qualifications, job satisfaction, and growth prospects.
|Area of Comparison
|Comparatively more difficult as you need to learn complex ideas and have coding know-how.
A web dev also needs to know basic SEO.
|Comparatively less challenging with no coding knowledge required.
That said, you need to update your skillset routinely to stay on top of the game.
|Demonstrable expertise in building a website or managing a server.
A degree isn’t essential to apply for most jobs but having one certainly helps.
|Demonstrable knowledge of the best SEO practices is enough to land a job.
A degree isn’t necessary, but some high-end companies demand applicants to have one.
|3.9 out of 5.
|3.6 out of 5.
|Projected employment growth rate of 23% from 2021 to 2031.
|Projected employment growth rate of 10% from 2021 to 2031.
I’ve further expanded on each of these points in the sections below.
Web Developers Earn a Higher Salary Than SEO Specialists
Web developers enjoy a higher average salary than SEO specialists.
In the US, a web developer can expect an average salary of $61k/year. Your exact salary will depend on the company hiring you and how skilled you are at your job.
On the low-end, freshers with zero years of experience can expect close to $42k/year on average, whereas more skilled workers can demand a salary of around $90k+/year.
For SEO specialists, the median salary is much lower at $49k/year.
Freshers in the domain can expect about $37k/year as an average salary. This salary can increase upwards of $67k+/year for professionals who are more skilled and experienced in SEO.
Web Development Training Is More Challenging To Learn
Learning web development well enough to become job-ready is more challenging than becoming an SEO specialist.
You can usually learn all of that in a web dev Bootcamp, making you job-ready for a junior front-end developer role within 2-3 months. Of course, to grow in your career as a web developer, you’ll have to learn many more advanced tools and topics, which can take a long time—years.
As an SEO specialist, you should have an in-depth understanding of how search engines work. Learning this will barely take you more than 15-20 hours.
That said, the “top” and “best” SEO techniques become outdated quickly as the major search engines updates their algorithms routinely. Thus, fulfilling the role of an SEO specialist requires almost daily learning to stay on top of your game.
Web Developer vs. SEO Specialist: Necessary Qualifications
Both web developers and SEO specialists can land a job without having a degree or diploma.
In most cases, web developers who can demonstrate the necessary skills and an impressive body of work (even if they are websites built as unpaid passion projects) will be able to land a job.
Similarly, most SEO specialist positions don’t demand applicants to come in with a degree or diploma. If you know how to increase/influence online traffic and can demonstrate these skills (for instance, by showcasing traffic on your personal website/blog) to the interviewer, the job is yours.
However, some companies – especially the big multi-national organizations- require web dev and SEO specialist applicants to have a CS (Computer Science) degree or equivalent before hiring them.
Web Developers vs. SEO Specialists: Job Satisfaction
Web developers are slightly happier with their jobs than SEO specialists. That said, both professions have very high job satisfaction scores.
A Payscale survey of over 800 web developers found that they gave their jobs an average satisfaction score of 3.9 out of 5.
A similar study by Payscale on around 100+ SEO specialists found an average job satisfaction score of 3.6 out of 5.
These are respectable numbers, especially considering the 2017 report from The Conference Board, which concluded that only 51% (or ~2.5 out of 5) US workers are satisfied with their jobs.
Future Prospects for Web Developers vs. SEO Specialists
There will be many web developer and SEO specialist openings in the coming decade.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates there will be around 21,800 new web developer job openings every year from 2021-2031.
Now, the exact figure for the employment growth of SEO specialists isn’t available. However, BLS suggests positions for advertising, marketing, and promotion managers (of which SEO specialists are a part) will see a growth of around 35,500 new posts each year for the next decade.
This generous growth brightens the future for anyone aspiring to build a web development or SEO analysis career.
The average salary of a web developer is more than that of an SEO specialist.
But at the same time, becoming a web developer is comparatively more challenging as you must go through a more vast and complex syllabus.
That said, most web dev and SEO specialist jobs don’t demand applicants to have a degree or diploma.
Regarding job satisfaction ratings, both professions scored well above average at around 72-78%.
Also, the future employment growth rate for web developers and SEO specialists is bright and significantly higher than the national average.