The web developer skills required to become a successful WordPress developer and ship WordPress themes, WordPress plugins, and more requires a mix of technical knowledge, soft skills, and use of modern tools.
Here is a list of 9 essential WordPress skills and responsibilities to help you either get hired, or increase compensation.
9 WordPress skills to master and add to your resume
1. PHP Programming
WordPress is built using PHP, so understanding the core PHP programming language is an essential skill. Familiarity with PHP will allow you to create custom plugins and modify themes. Going beyond basic PHP skills can help you level up in value as a WordPress Developer.
PHP can sometimes get a bad rap among programming languages by web developers, but it is a language focused on interacting with MySQL and outputting HTML that has improved in speed and architectural capabilities over the years.
A good understanding of HTML and CSS is a fundamental aspect of WordPress development, and as a skill that will translate into other areas of front-end web development projects if you ever need to pivot in your career.
Learning the importance of semantics in HTML is important, as well as when to use the proper tags and attributes. In terms of CSS, being able to convert PSD files or Figma designs into HTML and CSS and mastering layout is most important.
Learning different methods of organization or leveraging build tools like SASS or Tailwind can really come in handy.
WordPress uses MySQL for its database. While you don’t need to dive too deep into learning SQL Queries per se, it does help to know the WordPress database structure, and using a tool like PHPMyAdmin in order to interact with the database.
The WordPress command line interface is another method for interacting with the database.
Having basic knowledge of how relational databases work is among the most valuable skills you can have in your back end development career, even if your focus is more on front end development.
5. WordPress Functions and Template Hierarchy
Familiarizing yourself with the core codebase, functions, and overall structure of WordPress helps in extending and customizing its capabilities.
6. Development Tools
Understanding code versioning tools like Git can help streamline your development process and make collaboration easier. In addition, build tools, such as SASS or Tailwind for CSS can help with keeping your styles consistent and performant.
Some of my favorite development tools have been Carbon Fields and Advanced Custom Fields. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages, but are a great way to provide flexible content management system tools for managing web pages and content.
7. Responsive Design
Knowing how to adapt a design to different screen sizes and collaborating with designers on interactive elements is a key to leveling up coding skills as a WordPress developer. Familiarize yourself with concepts like animations, media queries, aspect ratios, as well as flexbox and grid.
8. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
While not strictly a development skill, understanding the basics of SEO is essential for building WordPress sites that rank well on search engines. This includes understanding on-page SEO, site speed optimizations, and the use of SEO plugins. If you work in digital marketing, knowledge of concepts like semantic HTML, follow vs no-follow links, redirects, XML sitemaps, meta title and meta description tags can all lead to a successful WordPress website. It can also pay to know how to connect to Google analytics or other website analytics solutions.
9. Soft Skills and Communication
As with any job, soft skills are critical. For WordPress developers, this means the ability to communicate with clients or team members, understanding user requirements, problem-solving, and staying updated with industry trends and best practices.
Most companies will utilize a system for managing tasks and support tickets, so mentioning any experience with Asana or Jira, for example, can help although often these are skills you will learn on the job.
What’s more important is your ability to effectively communicate in meetings, email, or in tasks and tickets. Often, knowing how how long various tasks will take is very valuable, so teams can prioritize efforts to move the business forward.
If you are able to work on all these areas as you progress as a WordPress developer, your experience will translate into more value to offer to clients and employers. The good news is these skills translate to becoming a better web developer overall.
9 WordPress Developer Responsibilities
Theme Development & Customization
Building a theme from scratch, or modifying WordPress themes to cater to the specific needs of a project, will make up a large portion of your workload as a WordPress developer. This also includes ensuring that the theme is mobile-responsive and optimizing it for speed and performance.
There may also be the need for specific content management system features to implement with the theme, so users can upload and manage content through the WordPress admin interface.
Plugin Management & Development
Identifying the need for new plugins, customizing existing plugins, or even developing custom plugins from scratch to add specific functionalities to a WordPress website also plays a big role as a web developer working with WordPress.
As you build websites gain more experience, knowing when to rely on plugins or avoid them can save you lots of time and headaches down the road. A successful website requires avoiding plugin bloat that can cause issues, especially if those plugins aren’t continually updated and tested by the creators.
Assisting with or managing the uploading, formatting, and updating of content on the web page or site. This might also involve ensuring that the content displays correctly across various devices and browsers.
Regularly updating WordPress core, themes, and plugins to the latest versions, ensuring backups are performed regularly, and addressing any site issues or bugs that arise.
Implementing strong security measures to prevent hacks, breaches, or any unauthorized access is a top priority.
This includes setting up security plugins, implementing SSL certificates, and routinely monitoring for vulnerabilities.
In my experience, choosing the right hosting provider along with implementing a well-maintained security plugin and keeping it up-to-date goes a long way in making sure your site is secure.
A WordPress site must have structure, code, and content that are optimized for search engines. This could include integrating SEO plugins, optimizing meta tags, and ensuring that the website loads quickly.
Thankfully there are a handful of plugins which help content management systems create proper on-page SEO.
Understanding of SEO goes a long way for being able to communicate with SEO teams and make recommendations to site owners, as well as setting up custom themes for a successful WordPress site.
Managing the WordPress database, which includes optimizing, backing up, repairing, or even migrating the database as needed.
Integration with Third-Party Services
Connecting the WordPress site to other platforms and services such as payment gateways, CRM systems, email marketing services, and more, often through API integrations.
Regularly monitoring the website’s performance using tools like Google Analytics, Search Console, or various speed test tools. This also involves making necessary tweaks or changes to improve the user experience and perhaps working with SEO and CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) teams.
Typical WordPress developer job description and salary ranges by experience level
How much can you earn as a WordPress developer? Here is an approximate breakdown of salary ranges based on experience and type of web development done. For simplicity, I used ranges which would be found in the United States. Your mileage may vary.
1. Entry-Level WordPress Developer ($30,000 – $60,000 annually)
An entry-level web developer should have a basic understanding of HTML/CSS, PHP, and the WordPress platform. They should be able to customize themes, but not necessarily be expected to create complex ones from scratch.
It typical to have less than 2 years of experience, and this is a great time to develop WordPress skills on the job.
In the U.S., they might earn anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000 annually.
To move up to a mid-level position, the WordPress skills to focus on would be custom theme development, and mastering translating responsive designs into HTML and CSS.
2. Mid-Level WordPress Developer ($50,000 – $75,000 annually)
2-5 years of experience is common, and in the U.S., salaries might range from $50,000 to $75,000.
To move up to a senior level position, the WordPress skills to focus on would be creating custom plugins and widgets, along with expanding knowledge of emerging technical skills such as headless WordPress, working with 3rd-party APIs, and continuing to emphasize speed and performance.
3. Senior-Level WordPress Developer ($75,000 to $110,000 or more)
The WordPress developer skills required to be senior-level involve being an expert in WordPress theme development, being able to create custom plugins and widgets if needed that may integrate with third-party APIs, as well as maintaining a strong understanding of modern development practices and tools.
5+ years experience is common at this salary level, and in the U.S., they can expect $75,000 to $100,000 or more.
Senior-level developers may want to consider specializing in advanced plugin and theme development, or overseeing large projects, and perhaps even leading development teams to increase their salary to the highest salary levels offered to WordPress developers.
4. Specialty Developers ($70,000 to $120,000 or more)
Specialty developers will focus in areas like advanced custom theme development, custom plugin development, or even e-commerce and large-scale management of workflows for high volume publishers.
They typically have 3+ years of experience in their specialization, and in the U.S., they might earn anywhere between $70,000 and $120,000 or more depending on their niche and the supply and demand of those skills in the marketplace.
Factors to Consider:
Freelance vs. Employment: Freelancers might charge by the hour or project. Their annual earnings can vary based on their clients, expertise, and how much they work.
A freelancer with a strong portfolio and reputation can potentially earn more than their employed counterparts, but they also bear business expenses and can have fluctuations in their income.
Location Factors: The cost of living, demand for WordPress development, and local economic conditions can significantly influence pay scales.
Despite the fact that many development jobs can be performed remotely, I believe most developers will benefit from living near a larger metropolitan area in order to make connections and find more opportunity.
Company Size and Type: A developer working for a major tech firm or a big-name brand might earn more than one working for a smaller local agency.
However, sometimes working in a senior role at a smaller agency has other benefits and can pay very well.
WordPress Developer Career FAQs
Is WordPress development still an in demand skill?
Since WordPress is still powering over a third of the internet’s websites, the simple answer is yes? Here are a few reasons it remains so popular.
Flexibility and Customization: Originating as a blogging tool, WordPress has evolved into a versatile CMS through plugins and themes.
Community and Continual Growth: WordPress has a very active community and continues to enhance features.
Affordability and Accessibility: Many small to medium businesses choose WordPress for its cost-effectiveness when compared to more spendy hosted solutions.
Is being a skilled WordPress developer really a good career?
Being a skilled WordPress developer can offer a rewarding career, both financially and in terms of job satisfaction. Like any profession, it requires dedication, continuous learning, and adaptability to market needs. Those who are passionate about web development and are willing to evolve with the platform will find it a promising and fulfilling path.
What is the future of being a WordPress developer?
As the platform evolves, increased specialization in areas such as custom Gutenberg block development, headless WordPress and JAMstack integrations, and integration with emerging technologies like 3rd party analytics platforms or AI technologies will shape the landscape in the near future for WordPress developers.
In general, it will always pay to invest in WordPress training, learn new business skills, stay current with the latest trends in web design, and be active in the WordPress community.