Webmaster - Career Opportunities

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CAREER PROFILE

Duties: Develops, manages, and maintains a Web site for a hotel, resort, or travel-related organization; oversees programming and content for the site

Alternate Titles: Web Site Administrator; Web Developer; Web Producer; Web Site Manager

Salary Range: $40,000 to $70,000 and up

Employment Prospects: Fair

Advancement Prospects: Fair

Best Geographical Location(s): All, with the greatest opportunities in large cities and heavy tourist regions with many resorts and hotels

Prerequisites:
Education and Training—Bachelor’s degree in computer science preferred, but not required; knowledge of computer programming
Experience—Related experience creating and managing Web sites through full-time work or internships
Special Skills and Personality Traits—Excellent computer programming skills; understanding of Internet and online communication technologies; strong organizational skills; ability to meet deadlines and work well under pressure; knowledge of graphic design


CAREER LADDER

Webmaster, larger organization
?
Webmaster
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Web Page Designer or Programmer


Position Description

Web sites are an essential part of the hospitality and travel industries. The Web site of a hotel or resort can be crucial to its success, as people book reservations online and learn about amenities and specials. Furthermore, visitors conduct much of their travel research online as well, reading reviews of different destinations and attractions, as well as arranging for transportation, meals, lodging and more. Webmasters create and implement these Internet visions.
Starting from scratch, Webmasters strategize as to what will make a successful Web site for their organization, whether it is a beach resort, hotel or restaurant chain, small bed-and-breakfast, a travel review site, or large tour operation. They gather information from all the departments and key players to determine the overall structure of the site. Their aim is to command the attention of visitors and to make them want to linger on the site. A user-friendly site can mean a considerable difference in success.
The job of a Webmaster is often defined differently at varying sites. It may include programming, graphic design and determining the appearance of the site, content development, and production. Most Webmasters continuously maintain and update their sites after development, troubleshooting problems. They create the links that visitors use to navigate the site. Also, they record the “hits” so they know the parts of the site people most often visit and whether they complete online registrations.
Additionally, Webmasters may work on both the back end and the front end of a Web site. The back end involves the database and hardware infrastructure that supports the site, requiring the Webmaster to be skilled at programming. The front end relates to the aspects that users can see, such as design and navigation tools, which requires the Webmaster to be up to speed on graphics and content development. Webmasters must decide on the hardware needed to build the site and the software needed to make it work properly.
Webmasters must continuously communicate with the different departments at their organization (including public relations, sales/marketing, and many others) to make sure that the information on the Web site is up-to-date and reflects the most current information. Information gets outdated in the blink of an eye, so they must be on top of all new developments such as reduced rates, special events, promotions, and news. Usually, they serve as internal liaisons and do little work with external vendors.
Furthermore, Webmasters create the documents— Web pages—that constitute the site. They may supervise the content writers and computer programmers that develop the text and graphics. Always, they are guided both by what will work as well as what will look aesthetically pleasing. Web design and Web development may also be components of the Webmaster’s job. Web design involves the visual art and graphic design that defines the look of the site. Web development focuses more on the site’s structure and interactivity.

Their duties may include:
- setting up and managing internal and external Listservs
- fixing soft ware bugs
- brainstorming ideas
- adding new features such as discussion boards and registration capabilities
- researching Web sites of similar organizations
- writing code
- responding to visitor feedback
- supporting users nationwide and worldwide
- posting content pages
- editing and reviewing content
- testing the links on the site to make sure they work properly
- dealing with security issues

Webmasters use their technical skills to make information accessible to the public. Most Webmasters are passionate about the Internet and are very involved in their work, getting paid to indulge in one of their favorite hobbies. Since the Internet does not function on a nine-to-five schedule, neither do most Webmasters. Their jobs may involve long, nontraditional hours to enable sites to go live and fix any problems.

Salaries
Salaries of Webmasters vary based on where they work, as well as their job responsibilities. As the position continues to change and get redefined in new media, salaries will differ. Typical ranges can be anywhere from $40,000 to $70,000 and up for those with considerable experience. These figures demonstrate the large range for these types of positions.

Employment Prospects
Employment prospects for Webmasters are fair. However, growth is promising as even small hotels and restaurants are developing and building on their Web sites to make themselves competitive and known in this tight market. Sometimes, the Webmaster role is combined with that of a Web designer or other specialist. Opportunities are best for those with a wide range of skills including programming, writing, management, and graphic design. Some Webmasters work on a freelance basis, which may be a good way to gain experience in the field.

Advancement Prospects
Webmasters may advance by moving to larger organizations with more complex Web sites. They may seek out positions that enable them to build more online features such as reservation features and discussion boards, and even cutting-edge technologies such as streaming videos. Webmasters at larger organizations can earn higher salaries. Webmasters may also decide to become self-employed, working as new-media consultants. Those who have built experience working in the hospitality industry can develop a niche area for themselves as consultants.

Education and Training
While formal education is less important for Webmasters than having the required skill sets, most position listings require bachelor’s degrees. Fields such as computer science, programming, or information technology are especially helpful. Some positions require additional skills, such as writing and graphic design.
The best training for the field comes from actually doing the work. Most Webmasters gain experience through internships and part-time jobs while they are students. As they design Web sites for campus organizations or companies, they receive the valuable training needed to perform this job on a regular basis. Furthermore, constant training is needed to keep skills up-to-date with new technologies.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Excellent computer skills are required to become a Webmaster. Depending upon the position, different programming languages may be needed. Some common requirements may include HTML, XML, CGL, SQL, Java, JavaScript, ASP, Cold Fusion, and C++. Web development and design tools such as Acrobat, Dreamweaver, Flash animation, and Photoshop can also be required. Webmasters should be experienced and familiar with Internet technologies, having already had the experience of personally building and maintaining several Web sites in order to get hired.
In addition to technical skills, Webmasters need to be excellent organizers. They need to have creative vision combined with the ability to manage projects, meet deadlines, and work well under pressure. Those Webmasters who write and develop content should have strong writing skills as well.

Unions and Associations
Webmasters may belong to a variety of professional associations including the World Organization of Webmasters and the Internet Society, as well as to regional groups. Others who are involved with online news may belong to the Online News Association. New associations form frequently since the field is still so new.

Tips for Entry
1. View a wide range of travel Web sites ranging from online guides to travel reviews to hotel chains. A few to try include www.fodors.com[/url], www.tripadvisor.com[/url], and www.ritzcarlton.com.[/url] Notice the features they have in common.
2. Volunteer to create and maintain the Web site for a student organization on campus. This will provide firsthand experience in the work of a Webmaster.
3. Courses that enhance your computer skills can be very valuable. In addition to those offered by local universities, there are hundreds of online tutorials. Conduct a search engine query for the programs you want to learn to explore the options.
4. Apply for a formal internship in Web development. This will provide you with skills as well as mentors who may be able to help you find a job.

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