Simply put, webmasters manage all aspects of a web site and its contents. The most important tasks of the webmaster are ensuring the functionality of a site once it is constructed, and making changes to the site as required or requested. Webmasters might also assist in, or be responsible for, the design and development of the site. With large and extensive web sites, such as those maintained by sizeable corporations or major online shopping or information services, the webmaster acts as a coordinator, supervising the activities of other individuals who perform the hands-on site maintenance, changes and upgrades. Webmasters are often referred to as web administrators.
In the wild and wooly early days of the World Wide Web, webmasters took pride in being self-taught, and learned their trade by performing it. In the modern web environment, where an Internet presence is virtually mandatory for businesses and organizations or all sizes, an increasing number of employers are seeking webmasters with a college degree and professional training as well as pertinent work experience. It is possible to obtain employment as a webmaster in a major venue with an associate degree; however, a bachelor’s degree is usually the minimum requirement in most significant organizations. This is particularly true if the organization’s web presence is vital, extensive or complicated, or if the webmaster is to be responsible for a team of contributors or administrators.
The primary responsibilities of a webmaster or web administrator include administering the Internet or intranet infrastructure; collaborating with web developers and web designers to create, operate, upgrade and maintain web sites; ensuring that the directory structure of the site is well-defined, logical, and secure; developing or tracking performance metrics for the web site; performing quality assurance tests of the site; and troubleshooting problems in a timely manner without impact on the functionality of the site.
A good webmaster needs more than a facility with technology, however. Excellent communication skills are vital, to communicate clearly with a team and to report to people who might lack a technical background on various site statistics, problems and suggested upgrades. The webmaster needs to be able to work in a group and to be self-directed. Web administrators must enjoy the challenge of solving problems, should be able to work under tight deadlines, and must be prepared to resolve emergency situations without succumbing to stress.
As an increasing number of individuals and enterprises rely on the Internet to do and promote their business, webmaster job opportunities have also increased. Figures released by the U.S. Department of Labor indicate that in 2004, about 149,000 people were employed as web administrators, and indicate that the number of webmasters positions is expected to grow at an stable rate well into the next decade.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2004, webmasters earned an average salary in a range between about $50,000 to $70,000 depending on their training, location and employment venue. This salary range is expected to increase over the next decade as the demand for webmasters increases, and as the qualifications necessary to be considered for a webmaster position continue to expand.