December 13, 2023
min read

What is a React Developer?

Eli McGarvie
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Whether you know it or not, you have most definitely interacted with a website build with React, and so, have gloried in the hard work of a React developer. Apps and websites such as Instagram, Netflix, Airbnb, and Reddit have all been created with React. 

In this article, we are going to dive into the world of the React developer and explore the various aspects of the role so that you can understand what this job entails and how one can become a React developer. We’ll start with an introduction to React (for the newbies) and then jump into the fun details regarding the role.

What is a React developer?

A React developer is a frontend developer that builds JavaScript-based websites and applications with the React library. React or React.js is an open-source JavaScript framework. That means it operates like a toolkit for JavaScript developers. The React toolkit comes with pre-existing templates that help developers build faster. 

A React developer is a subset of a JavaScript developer (JS being the foundational knowledge). A Vue.js developer, Angular developer, and Ember developer are all subsets of a JS developer as well. These developers work exclusively with the frontend functions of web applications. For example, you open UberEats and you see the beautiful home page with all your recommended food items — the design, the layout, the features, the forms, the navigation is all in the scope of a React developer. 

What is React?

React is an open-source JavaScript library (or framework) developed at Meta for use on Facebook’s news feed and later Instagram. The technology was used to quickly and easily build user interfaces. When it was released to the public, it quickly became one of the most popular JS frameworks. It is employed by many of the popular software companies (Netflix, Instagram, Salesforce, UberEats, Airbnb, etc.,).

There are two types of React that you might come across: React.js and React Native. Native is the mobile version of React, which is also hugely popular among mobile developers. You will often hear React being compared to Angular (Google’s open source library) and Vue.js. (Independent). If you are interested in the origin story of React (it’s quite fascinating) we recommend this documentary produced by Honeypot. 

What does a React developer do?

A React developer is going to perform the same duties as a Frontend developer. Overall, a React developer blends creative UI/UX design with technical JavaScript programming to create web and mobile applications. Their day-to-day duties might include (not limited to): 

  • Programming new features: Writing code using React principles to build new features for the application. The bulk of the work for a React developer lies here (though that might be dependent on seniority and experience). You might also spend your time giving a website a face lift or migrating an older application to React.

  • Updating & maintaining existing code: With new updates and features, code can sometimes break or have bugs. It’s a React developer's job to solve these issues to make sure the application is working smoothly, this includes debugging and testing, plus working through tickets the development team receives.

  • Creative design: Frontend design is not just down to the developer, there are a lot of people involved. In some companies, you might have UI/UX designers or product designers — these are graphic designers who create the blueprints for webpages. React developers work closely with these designers to ensure the finished product is as close to the blueprints as possible. 

How to become a React developer

The career path of most developers is going to look different, meaning there’s no one way to do things. That being said, to land that first junior position is going to be tougher if you come from a self-learning background. Exceptional managers and employers understand that skill and experience is the only thing that matters – they won't even look at education background. If you have nothing that showcases your skills, educational background becomes important. 

Let’s quickly go through the steps to finding a job working with React:

  • Education: Since a lot of the work a frontend developer does is UI related, there’s not a huge importance placed on computer science degrees. Though, an understanding of fundamental mathematics is going to make learning and working with JavaScript easier.

  • Learn the basics: If you are starting from scratch, you need to begin with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. These scripting languages are going to be the foundation of your career. Mastering CSS will improve your web and app design skills. Since a lot of what you’ll be doing will be visual, it’s also important to understand the fundamentals of visual design and the tools they employ. Most resources are free (or very cheap). YouTube, Codacademy, W3Schools, freeCodeCamp, etc.

  •  Learn React: Once you’ve got a solid understanding of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript — that includes having built some apps yourself — it’s time to start learning React principles and familiarising yourself with its library. The best way to learn is by doing, therefore you should be building apps / websites and publishing them to the web.

  • Gain paid / real world experience: The first and hardest step to getting your foot in the door is convincing someone to pay you for your work. Contributing to the codebase of a website is also similar. Freelancing is a great option to start out, it won’t pay well, but it will give ample opportunity to build your portfolio with real world examples. If you’ve created a feature or given a website a facelift — these are great examples for employers.

  • Create a portfolio: Hopefully by the time you’ve learnt the basics of frontend development, you’ll have half a dozen examples of programs you designed and created. These will eventually be replaced by better real world examples, but if you’ve got nothing else, use these to jumpstart your portfolio. Remember, React developers specialise in UI, so your personal website needs to look good, as it’s a reflection of your skills and tastes. Inspiration here.

  • Apply for junior roles: This step is going to be very disheartening, as you’ll face a lot of rejection and feel as though you’re wasting your time. Keep pushing, finding your first full-time job can take months, so plan accordingly. The important thing is to keep building during that time. If it takes you three months to find a job, you should be a much better developer after that three months. You can take on freelance work or work for free (internship). 

Demand for React developers

The need for software developers is only growing, and there is currently a shortage of developers in many countries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job projection for web developers and digital designers (frontend) is expected to grow 16% over the next ten years (2022-32). It’s important to be aware of the changes happening in AI which are impacting software development. There is going to be more of an emphasis on design. 

React developer salary 

The earning potential for a skilled and experience React developer is high. Once you hit the five-year mark, your employment options open up and therefore there’s a noticeable increase in salary. Salary is dependent on where you live and work. The average salary for frontend developers (worldwide) is $59,970. In the US, React developers tend to earn significantly more than in Europe or UK. For a full breakdown on what React developers are earning around the world, check out this article

React developer jobs

If you are looking for a React developer job or to find a talented developer for your company, specialised job boards are the way to go. You can check out our list of job boards which are all tech specific and will help you land a great hire or find your next React job. If you are in Europe, consider signing up for WeAreDevelopers, we work with some of the best companies in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland — and have help thousands of developers find new jobs in Western Europe. 


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min read