Education and Training: Varies—see profile
Salary Range: Median—$66,105 per year
Employment Outlook: Excellent
Definition and Nature of the Work
A webmaster is in charge of maintaining Web sites for companies and individuals on the World Wide Web. This is a job that requires a wide range of skills and abilities, since many webmasters must do much more than simply write computer codes or update links to other Web sites. The webmaster is ultimately responsible for ensuring that a Web site is easy to navigate and that it addresses the needs of the client and its customers.
Although a webmaster sometimes assumes the role of a web designer, the main job of a webmaster is to monitor, improve, and update the performance of existing Web sites. The webmaster must know about the client's business and the industry to which it belongs. If the goal is to sell products or services to customers, the webmaster must learn about the client's marketing policies and sales objectives.
A webmaster works with many different people in an organization, since he or she is often the only one with the technical expertise to answer questions about or troubleshoot problems with the Web site. The ability to work and communicate well with others is therefore an important skill for any webmaster to possess.
The webmaster must perform a variety of technical tasks to make sure that a Web site works properly and can be accessed quickly by as many people as possible. These tasks include making sure the server (a computer in a network that provides services to other computers in the network) and browsers (the different programs used to access the Web site) can properly handle e-mail, transmit news, and download files. Customers using a variety of browsers or operating systems such as Windows or Macintosh should be able to access the site equally well. These duties require the webmaster to keep up with changing technical standards in areas such as HTML (hypertext markup language), HTTP (hyper-text transfer protocol), and XML (extensible markup language) that affect the workings of the Web site.
File security is another important technical concern of the webmaster. The Web site must be secure enough that the client can control who has access to confidential files yet open enough so that customers can easily access relevant information. The webmaster must maintain a "firewall" that protects the client's information from hackers or others who may try to steal or destroy it electronically.
Once a Web site is created, it is the job of the web-master to maintain the site so that it remains a valuable resource for the client and the client's customers. Maintenance is a more routine task than site design and creation, but it occupies the majority of most webmasters' time and effort. They must update information contained on the Web site or in databases linked to the site and check the links on the site regularly to make sure that they are still working and that the information they provide is still current. The webmaster may spend a great deal of time surfing the Web to become acquainted with new developments and ideas and to discover new pages to link to the client's Web site. The site itself must be checked for bugs or other problems such as images that do not load properly.
The webmaster also monitors how many people visit the site to determine if it needs to be upgraded to handle increased use. By monitoring traffic on a site, the webmaster also tracks how often various pages, features, and links are used. This information is used to update the Web site to make it more appealing and functional. The webmaster must keep abreast of new technology, understand how to implement it, and know which technologies will enhance the client's Web site.
Education and Training Requirements
Many webmasters have college degrees in computer science, mathematics, engineering, or design-related fields; however, many others have only a year or two of college training or perhaps none at all. It is common for webmasters to be self-trained, learning their skills by working with the World Wide Web and its related computer applications.
Technical skills are of the utmost importance for a webmaster. These typically involve experience in programming languages such as C++ and Java. Knowledge of the Unix operating system is also important, as is familiarity with Internet applications such as HTML, HTTP, and XML. The webmaster also needs to keep up to date with new, rapidly changing Internet technologies. Certification in the field is offered by the International Webmasters Association. The level of certification attained depends on a webmaster's experience and performance on an examination geared toward one of three skill levels.
Getting the Job
A growing number of companies now list openings for webmasters in newspaper classified ads, industry magazines, and Internet job banks. In many cases, an employee who has strong computer and Internet skills can create a webmaster position within his or her firm. Those who serve as webmasters on a consulting basis often establish their own home pages on the World Wide Web to advertise their services to potential clients.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Webmaster positions can lead to jobs such as team leader or technical manager, which involve overseeing the work of a team of web specialists. Those who develop a strong understanding of the role of the Internet in promoting the goals of an organization can advance to positions such as web strategist or chief technological officer. The outlook for webmasters is very bright as the demand for qualified people outstrips the current supply. Demand is expected to grow faster than the average through 2014 as more businesses develop their own Web sites.
Webmasters typically work in clean, comfortable surroundings in a modern office environment. Those who work as consultants may spend time both at the client's office and working out of a home office. Webmasters usually do not work according to a traditional 9-to-5 schedule. Designing and setting up a Web site can require intensive work for concentrated periods of time. Updating and maintaining Web sites can mean working late or weekend hours when user demand for site access is low. Because keeping up with new Internet developments is an important part of the position, any time a webmaster spends online may serve as research and contribute to job performance.
Earnings and Benefits
Pay for webmasters depends on location, the type and size of the company for whom they work, and whether they are salaried employees or freelance consultants. Entry-level salaries are highest on the West Coast. Salaries at California-based companies start at $53,000 per year. The median annual salary for a webmaster is $66,105, but pay can range up to $100,000 for an experienced and talented webmaster.
Where to Go for More Information
American Association of Webmasters
7017 Litchfield Rd., #331
Glendale, AZ 85307
International Webmasters Association
119 E. Union St., Ste. F
Pasadena, CA 91103
P.O. Box 10735
Glendale, CA 91209-0735
Self-employed webmasters charge hourly consulting fees that vary according to experience and the range of tasks being performed. These freelance workers must supply their own benefits. Webmasters who are employed full time by a company enjoy the same medical and retirement benefits offered to other employees.