The Highest Paying Web Design Jobs

Whether an organization wants to serve the local community or aspires to sell goods and services to the entire world, it needs a website to inform its target audience. Gone are the days when these Internet introductions could be made by amateurs or employee dabblers in graphic design. To compete successfully, businesses require the services of web design specialists. The following are just a few of the highest paying professionals in the field.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), web developers average $66,100 per year, or $31.78, as of May 2012, which is the most current period for which salary statistics are available. The highest-paid 10 percent make at least $105,200 yearly, or $50.58 hourly. The lowest earners receive under $33,550 per year, or $16.13 per hour. This range of wages applies to the inexperienced, including those newly graduated from web design programs.

The job typically requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or technical school. However, those with exceptional design skills, as shown by their portfolio, and a computer graphics background are sometimes accepted as designers and trained on the job.

The highest paying industry for the profession is natural gas distribution at a mean annual $95,390, or $46.12 hourly. Ranking second is waste treatment and disposal, averaging $91,250 per year, or $43.87 per hour, followed by depository credit intermediation, at a mean $86,620 yearly, or $41.64 hourly.

The state with the highest-paying employer is the District of Columbia, which the BLS considers a state. Mean wages here run $81,150 per year, or $39.02 per hour. Next is New York, averaging $76,190 yearly, or $36.63 hourly, followed by Maryland, at a mean annual $75,560, or $36.33 per hour.

Among metropolitan areas, the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area of California, which forms gthe heart of Silicon Valley, boasts the best pay of $90,760 per year, of $43.64 per hour. San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, in the same state, ranks second with mean pay at $90,140 yearly, or $43.34 hourly. The New York-White Plains-Wayne areas of New York and New Jersey are next, averaging an annual 82,550, or $39.69 per hour.

For rural areas, the best pay is in East Idaho at a mean $48,300 per year, or $23.22 per hour. Ranking second is North Idaho, averaging $46,260 yearly, or $22.24 hourly. At third is Western Montana with a mean annual $41,280, or 19.85 hourly.

Salary Specifics For Different Web Design and Content Jobs

AIGA, formerly known as the American Institute of Graphic Arts, offers the salaries of both employees and freelancers in web design through their 2012 Survey of Design Salaries, which they compile with the help of Aquent, a staffing firm. The survey is the most comprehensive one for communication design professionals in the country.

  • Back-end web developers, sometimes called web programmers, code the infrastructure of an Internet site, which is not visible to the user. They may work with databases, web applications, networks and web server systems. They make a median $68,700 per year, with the highest quartile boasting $83,300. Freelancers receive $65 hourly.
  • Design or creative directors manage all design resources of their companies, which can include print designers, graphic artists, copywriters, marketing specialists, and web designers. They create strategic design goals and develop the strategies for reaching those goals. They are primarily managers, although often rise to their positions by starting as design professionals and receiving tasks of increasing responsibility. Because they may be in charge of several departments, they are the highest paid of all design professionals, making a median $100,000, with the top receiving over $140,000. Freelance rates are $70 an hour.
  • Design managers focus on organizing and administering the web design effort. They assign tasks, develop schedules, and create budgets, typically for all web design projects under their responsibility. They may also hire, train and motivate designers, meet with customers, and ensure all project requirements are met. As managers, they earn more than their technical subordinates, making a median $87,000 per year, or $109,000 for the top quartile. Median freelance rates run $50 per hour.
  • Designers create and execute the concepts the define the look of a web page, including the layout, typography, colors, graphics, and multimedia. Junior designers, with three years or less of experience, earn a median $40,000 yearly, with the best receiving over $52,000. Freelancers make a median $33 per hour. Experienced designers make a median $55,000, with the highest earners receiving over $65,000. Their freelance rates are $50. Finally, senior designers, who also take on project management as part of their task, get a median $75,000, with the best making over $90,000. Freelance rates run $65.
  • Front-end web developers create the interface that the user sees when he browses a website. They use HTML, CSS and graphics to create navigation controls, comment boxes, and interactive games, among other features. They make a median $60,000 per year, with the top earners receiving over $80,000. Freelancers get a median $50 per hour.
  • User experience designers rely on their expertise in human factors to ensure that users enjoy their interactive experiences on a site. Their skill include analyzing the target audience, prototyping group interactions such as chat rooms, developing avatars and characters, writing, and art creation. They are the highest paid of all web-development technical professionals, making a median $85,000 per year, with top wages of over $102,000. Freelancers earn $75 hourly.
  • Web-based graphics developers, also known as rich media developers, focus on interactive and immersive options, such as games, dynamic pages, advertising, and landing pages, using such scripting languages as JavaScript or ActionScript. They make a median $63,000 yearly, with the top earners getting over $90,000. Freelancers make a median $55 per hour.
  • Web content strategists plan the content of websites, including their standards, creation and delivery. They often work with a writer to develop a schedule of when written content is due. They make a median annual $65,000, with the upper quartile earning over $78,000. Freelancers earn a median $55 per hour.
  • Writers create the text content that goes on websites. They may also develop the words that go on controls or in help popups. They earn a median annual $60,000, with the top quartile receiving $80,000. Freelancers report $60 an hour.

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