WordPress Development

How to be a professional WordPress developer in 2023 and beyond?

Branislav Nenin
Branislav Nenin
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Getweb Inc - Full-Cycle Web Design And Development Services

WordPress is an open-source, online, and versatile Content Management System (CMS) that powers more than 1/3 of the total websites available online today. It won’t be exaggerating if you call WordPress as the most powerful website building environment. It’s also the easiest to use, even for non-technical people.

This article will talk about how you can become a WP developer, even without any prior coding knowledge. We’ll provide a step-by-step roadmap followed by what you’ll need to land your first WP development job. We’ll also share some valuable resources to help you get started right away.

What is WordPress

WordPress is primarily a website builder software that is written in PHP and uses the MySQL database. Aside from drag-n-drop website builder, WordPress also features countless themes, plugins, and extensions that you can use to create everything from a simple portfolio to an elegant business website.

However, the platform is mostly known for blogging websites.

Who is a WordPress developer

A WordPress developer specializes in the WordPress ecosystem and infrastructure. There are countless things to do. Some developers improve the overall environment whereas others build useful and stunning themes, plugins, and extensions. They can also build hyper-functional WordPress websites from scratch on demand.

WordPress is easy for the user. They can create seamless websites without ever writing a single line of code, but having no technical knowledge about WordPress can create problems down the line.

Issues like increasing your website’s security, backing up the data, and customizing the website, will require technical knowledge. That’s where a WordPress developer can help you the most.

As a WordPress developer, you’ll mostly help other WordPress users build, manage, and scale their websites or develop new digital products like WP themes, plugins, and extensions. You can also contribute to the core WordPress structure to improve its functionality and response.

Roles and responsibilities

It is expected from a WordPress developer to have proficiency in multiple programming languages and frameworks. A WordPress developer is responsible for developing both the front and back end of the website. Additionally, there are numerous tasks a WordPress developer has to complete. Some of the responsibilities of a WordPress developer are:

  • Design and develop custom themes, plugins, and modules
  • Build, customize, and maintain WordPress websites
  • Migrating websites into WordPress
  • Optimize the website’s design for better SEO performance
  • Creating sitemaps/wireframes for websites
  • Developing web applications via Rest API
  • Working under multiple projects simultaneously
  • Communicating with the client and consulting potential leads
  • Creating roadmaps for future websites
  • Developing the core functionalities of WordPress itself (optional)
Wordpress Development

How to become a WordPress developer

Step 1: Learn basic Coding

WordPress is entirely made in PHP. This might be true that people can create websites without any prior knowledge about WordPress, it’s imperative to know the primary languages used in WP if you are going to be a WP developer.

The most widely used languages in WordPress development are HTML, CSS, JS, and PHP. You’ll also need basic ideas about the MySQL database.

HTML is a markup language that is used to provide the website’s structure. CSS can be used for styling, and JS is used to create interactive elements on the website that users can interact with. PHP is essential for back-end development. If you learn all the basics, you’ll be able to create, troubleshoot, and extend the functionality of your website.

Start with the basics. Make yourself efficient in the development environment of WordPress. Read a lot. We’ll be providing a list of useful resources later in this article, that can guide you in the right direction.

Step 2: Get yourself familiarized with WordPress

Once you’ve some know-hows, it’s time to get to know WordPress itself. In this step, you’ll need to read a lot about WordPress to build a sound knowledge about it. It’s better to start with the WordPress Codex, the official online manual from core WordPress developers.

You can also join a boot camp for a more concentrated learning experience. You can also pursue academic/professional degrees in WordPress if you can manage the time. However, the developer resources available online are more than enough to get yourself familiarized.

Visit the official website and community of WordPress to get a good idea about how this environment works and to collect necessary resources.

Step 3: Select your focus area

WordPress is a vast sector. The sector is so huge that it is really tough to become a jack-of-all-trade in WordPress development. That’s why people usually focus on 1-2 core features.

Some WP developers specialize in theme or plugin development. Some other developers will focus on creating WP websites, and maybe someone will develop custom APIs. We’ll talk about the core focus areas of WP development in a bit.

Once you’ve made your decision, it’s better to train more in that particular area so you become efficient and knowledgeable.

If you are interested in building plugins or APIs, develop a plugin of your own. If you are interested in learning website development and maintenance, build your first WP website from scratch. Evaluate existing codes, or test bugs to make the web solution perform even better.

Step 4: Create a development environment

No matter how much you read or learn, the lack of practice will destroy your skillset over time. That’s shy testing and practicing is the best way to learn WordPress development. To do that, you’ll need a development environment created to practice what you’ve learned.

The easiest way to do that is to establish a local/staging website. Unlike traditional websites, staging websites are hosted inside your computer and can be accessed offline.

There are numerous web solutions like XAMPP, LAMP, WAMP, and Local by Flywheel that can help you create an offline server for tasting your projects even if you’re not connected to the internet. You can set the environment manually, or use tools like Local or Devkinsta to set the environment up for you.

When the development environment is set up, you’ll need to get busy coding. Challenge yourself by creating an optimized version of your favorite website or plugin. Remember, the more you practice, the better you become.

Step 5: Build a portfolio and technical resume

Now you have the necessary skills to get hired as a WP developer but without an attractive portfolio or a technical resume, the recruiters won’t know how skilled you are. That’s why it’s imperative to create a portfolio and fill it with your best projects.

Your technical resume will focus on your skills, whereas the portfolio will showcase your problem-solving, and organizing skills. You can also take part in open-source projects to develop your skills even further.

If you want to freelance as a WP developer, creating a professional website will help you get more potential clients. Make sure that your website, portfolio, or resume showcases the best of your works in an organized manner.

Pro tip:If you are a fresh graduate or don’t have any projects completed, you can beef up the education section with related coursework, internship, or projects you’ve done before. Always recheck your portfolio and resume before publishing and make it error-free.

Step 6: Join the WordPress community

If you want to become well-known within the WP industry, this is a must. Compared to other available CMSs, WordPress has the largest global community where you can get help, find a mentor, or work on a project together. Join the WP community and reach out to WP developers and users worldwide.

You can also join support forums and communication channels. or even meet some of those developers in community events like the WordCamp conference. This will not only help you stay updated, but you will also be able to get help and build a rapport as a WP developer over time.

Types of WordPress developers

As I’ve mentioned earlier, WordPress development is a huge sector. As the field is so vast, there have been a couple of focus areas developed over time. However, due to the core languages and technology being the same, even if you are specialized in one area, you’ll be able to work in the other areas as well.

The major types of WP development are listed below:

Theme development

Theme Development

WordPress offers a massive amount of themes to choose from. However, the original developers created only a handful of themes. All the rest came from independent WP theme developers.

If you are a WP theme developer, your core responsibility will include building simple, stunning, and functional WP themes. You can sell the theme or its add-ons to the core WP developers, or in a theme marketplace. However, the competition here is high, as more and more themes are entering the market each day.

If you are really interested in pursuing this field, selecting a particular niche for your theme can provide good results. You can also try to sell themes to your clients.

Plugin development

If you are more interested in plugins, this is where you should invest your time and effort. Simply put, plugins are the tools developers use to add various functionalities to their websites without writing any code.

The goal here is to develop a plugin that is easy to use and gets the job done. If you are facing a problem and develop a solution (plugin) for that, there will be people willing to pay for solving the same problem.

Usually, most plugins are free. However, most of them also have a premium version that people can subscribe to. Just like in theme development, you can create and sell plugins as well.

Widget and API development

Api-Development

Just like WP plugins, you can also focus on developing widgets or APIs that can solve one or more specific problems. Widgets work in a similar way plugins do, but with more specific tasks. On the other hand, APIs help the website communicate with other web software like payment gateway and login interface.

This is especially helpful when you need to develop a theme from scratch. You may not find the exact functionality you want to add to your theme, so you’ll have to create one. You’ll also be able to sell the solution you created in a third-party marketplace.

Entire Website development

Also known as core development, this type of development consists of everything a website needs to run smoothly. Core developers are skilled in editing, optimizing, and securing all the necessary functionalities and data of any website. They are the most recognized WP developers as they can take care of everything from WP installation to content management.

You can either learn the entire process or focus on accomplishing a single task (SEO optimization, installing WP, etc.). This type of developer may also join the core WP development team and contribute to making the platform even better.

Skills required

As WP development is a vast area, you’ll need to master a number of different technologies and programming languages. Aside from the technical skills, a WP developer is expected to have some other non-technical skills as well. Let’s explore the skills you’ll need to master WP development:

Technical skills:

  • HTML (Preferably HTML5)
  • CSS (Preferably CSS3)
  • JavaScript
  • PHP
  • jQuery
  • Ajax
  • SQL
  • Basic SEO knowledge
  • Basic knowledge of local servers (Apache, XAMP, MAMP, LAPM, or WAMP)

Non-technical skills:

  • User adaptability
  • Research capability
  • Business knowledge
  • Good communication and teamwork
  • Problem-solving

Time needed

It’ll take you roughly 3-6 months to get the hang of all the basics. However, like any other technical job, WP development also requires skills that are based on hands-on practices. Most boot camps run for 12-18 weeks. You can also opt-in for an academic/professional degree if you have the opportunity. You can also learn in a self-paced environment.

A 1-year professional degree, 12-18 week boot camp, or 3-6 months in self-learning will make you ready for your first job. You can start applying for entry-level jobs. However, if you want to become a skilled authority, it’ll take significantly longer. The more you practice, the better you’ll become.

Academic vs boot camp vs online learning: Which one to choose

Most WP development jobs require a bachelor’s or an associate degree in a related field. If you have the opportunity, it would be better to secure a professional/academic degree as it can help you overcome the threshold for your first job. However, that doesn’t mean that you can be a WP developer without a degree.

There are also dedicated boot camps that can teach you the necessary technical skills within 12-18 weeks. You can opt-in for either full-time or part-time classes and learn all the key technical skills required for landing your first job.

You can also go for self-learning. There are countless WP resources available online. There are ebooks, blog articles, cheatsheets, tutorials, and guidelines that you can use to hone your skills. Platforms like Skillshare, Udemy, W3school, etc. are offering an opportunity to build up necessary skills at your own pace. These online learning courses are usually known as massive open online courses (MOOCs).

When it comes to the job sector, some companies prefer academic degrees whereas others will focus on testing your ability directly.

Career opportunities

Job sectors

  • WP web design
  • Core WP development
  • WP support
  • WP maintenance
  • WP administration
  • WP migration
  • Front-end WP development
  • WP development (PHP focused)
  • WP blogging
  • WP (theme, plugins, APIs) development

Expected salary

According to Glassdoor, a WP developer can charge anywhere between $90k – $107k in the USA. If you are fresh out of college, or have no notable experience with WP, you’ll get around $60k per year on average. Experienced WP developers can get up to $200k per year.


Branislav Nenin
VIP Contributor
Branislav Nenin
WordPress Developer

Branislav is a full-stack WordPress developer who has been creating custom WP plugins and themes, and tailoring WP admins for years. He’s obsessed with bridging the gap between engineering and design that reflects in his work.

He has rich experience in project management with strong organizational skills, coordinating deliverables with task prioritization according to client needs. He values trust and cooperation the most when working with remote teams.


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