Webmasters make an average of $60,000 a year, yet you can learn all the core skills needed to become one without a college degree. Some of these skills are technical, but there are open source ways to learn them without taking on debt to pay for a bachelor's degree.
Like many career paths in the information technology field, self-taught applicants can become webmasters by demonstrating a set of skills during the interviewing process.
They can also find success starting up their own business as a consultant, and other webmasters develop a business around a website.
In this article, we'll cover five webmaster skills you can learn at home.
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#1 Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)
The most basic webmaster skill that you'll need to learn is Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). It sounds like a major subject to study, but it's not difficult to understand.
HTML consists of a set of tags that surround text, which acts as a markup that tells a web browser how to display it.
For example, there's a tag for marking text on a web page to be displayed with a bold or italic font face.
HTML tags get more complex than this, of course, but they aren't difficult to learn on your own with a good tutorial on hand.
As a webmaster, you'll need to understand how a web page is created with HTML so that you're able to edit files when they haven't been marked up correctly.
If you get involved with developing website content, you'll need to understand HTML principles to create well-written documents.
#2 Networking Protocols
A webmaster usually doesn't get involved with content creation unless they wear multiple hats on a web design team. A core responsibility of a webmaster, though, is maintaining a web server that publishes a website over the internet.
This task can involve a few different skill sets ranging from knowledge of networking protocols to handling server hardware. Even if the hardware is hosted remotely by a third party, you'll need to use networking tools to set it up properly.
To learn the ins and outs of network administration, you'll need to manage the internet domains registered to a website and learn the technical details of how Domain Name Servers (DNS) work.
You'll also need to become proficient with common tasks and apps used by webmasters like FTP, remote desktop sessions, and cPanel.
These subjects can be difficult to learn on your own, but there are inexpensive lessons available online that will get you started.
#3 Client-Side Programming
Another basic skill that webmasters are expected to possess is an understanding of client-side programming.
You'll also need to learn how scripts are embedded into web pages so that users can interact with widgets and controls.
These scripts are called "client-side" programming because they run in the user's browser rather than on the webserver.
This makes learning client-side programming less complex than server-side programming, but it still requires the ability to code.
#4 Server-Side Programming
Alongside client-side programming is server-side programming.
This skill encompasses a plethora of programming languages and frameworks that have been developed to make website development more sophisticated over the years.
As a webmaster, you'll need to learn the basics of how server-side apps work with a server to create dynamic web content on the fly.
It'll help to become familiar with at least one server-side programming language like PHP or Ruby.
As a webmaster, you'll be setting up servers to run server-side apps and troubleshooting them when they break. This involves installing the software needed on servers and setting it up to work seamlessly when web pages are requested. You might also troubleshoot server-side apps or help with programming them.
#5 Web Servers and Networking Hardware
This skill set is last on our list because it's becoming less common as a need for webmasters.
Organizations increasingly are outsourcing their web hosting hardware to outside companies, which makes the skills involved in maintaining server and network hardware in person less important.
It's essential, however, to understand computer hardware and how servers are built.
Webmasters are tasked with troubleshooting any issue that might degrade a website's performance, and the server itself is part of that responsibility.
One aspect of managing a web server's performance is having a thorough understanding of how server software works as well as the underlying operating system.
For Windows-based servers, that means digging into diagnostic and configuration tools that you can use to tweak Windows performance.
Another aspect of managing servers is being familiar with the components of a computer, how to diagnose malfunctions, and how to replace defective components.
Filling the role of a webmaster involves several different technical skills that combine to make managing a website possible.
You'll need to understand underlying technologies used to develop and publish a website to the internet, as well as how to troubleshoot problems after publication.
HTML, server hardware, networking standards, and both client- and server-side programming combine to make a website possible.
All these technologies can be learned at home using free or inexpensive resources available online, and becoming a webmaster is an excellent way to break into a web design career.
Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate techie. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie devours the news on the latest gadgets and binge-watches his favorite TV shows. Follow him on @bmorepeters