Can you really specialize in everything? As technology continues to advance, developers are finding their niche – and staying there.
Front-end and back-end development present their own unique challenges which typically requires a programmer to be well-versed in one or the other. Full stack developers break that mold.
Front-end vs. back-end development
The front-end of a project refers to the interface a user sees. The back-end generally refers to logic, database interactions, server configurations, etc that an end user would never actually see.
Think about how a clock works. There’s the clock face that has its own set of features, like the hands and hash marks, that a user actually reads. Then there are the inner workings, consisting of cogs and gears, that make the clock move and function.
What is a full stack developer?
A full stack developer specializes in front-end and back-end development in order to complete the entire development process independently. While full stack developers aren’t necessarily masters at either of these, they have enough general knowledge and skill to work on both adequately and jump in when needed.
How to become a full stack developer
In order to become a full stack developer, you must have a functional knowledge of each and every aspect of building an app, website, or any other digital projects for that matter.
Full stack developers should be proficient in a range of areas and thus possess a wide variety of skills.
1. Learn multiple front-end languages
You are most likely fluent with at least one programming language. Start with what you know and build from there. There are a few front-end languages that have similar syntax, so after you learn the basic foundation and advanced concepts of one, the learning curve isn’t as steep for the second. Also, make sure to cover your bases and learn languages specific to web AND app development – even platform-specific languages like Apple’s Swift. A full stack developer typically has intermediate knowledge of these front-end languages:
Once you feel comfortable with the front-end languages, it’s time to learn a back-end language – or two. These are generally more intensive programming languages because you’re dealing with databases and logic. A few common back-end languages include:
Any digital project needs a database to manage the storage of data that will later be accessed by the app or website. There are different needs for every unique project, so a full stack developer must be familiar with a few different types of databases.
SQL appears in 4 out of 8 pairs of technologies most commonly tested together. The most popular SQL duplets include:
Java + SQL
.NET + SQL
PHP + SQL.
This proves that database skills are tested not only when hiring for full-stack roles, but also for front end and back end roles. If you recruit for developer positions, here's a comprehensive guide on screening SQL skills to help you out.
TIP: MongoDB is a popular document database which is commonly used for Internet products. Relational databases like Microsoft SQL and MySQL are often used for large-scale products. Learning the ins and outs of multiple databases for various use cases is highly recommended. Check out the top databases per category, rated by real users.
4. Build and leverage APIs
Utilizing existing or developing new application programming interfaces (API) is another skill full stack programmers should develop. Putting these “puzzle pieces” together speeds up the development process and can be incredibly helpful when used properly. This specific skill can save you time and money in the long run.
5. Create basic designs
I know, you’re not a designer. But, it’s extremely advantageous for a full stack developer to learn the basics and best practices of web and app design. It all starts with the code, so understanding how a designer thinks and works before you start programming makes the overall team communication easy and efficient.
Full stack developer jobs
There are over 15,000 full stack developers jobs listed on Indeedright now. It’s obvious that this role is in high demand. While some companies still prefer to hire highly specialized developers, there is a general shift toward a more well-rounded, problem-solving type of developer. It’s important to keep in mind that full stack developer jobs typically require more work experience than other developer roles.
Full stack developer salary
The average self-reported full stack developer salary is around $80,000, according to Glassdoor. Of course, the salaries vary greatly – starting at $55,000 all the way up to $120,000+ for more senior developer positions. It’s also common to see project-based contract work, which is usually paid hourly.
Strike a balance
Within any role, there is room for strengths and weaknesses. The same goes for full stack development. Chances are you’re coming in with a development background, and your strength will lie on either the front-end or back-end. Play to your strengths but build up your shortcomings with research and a lot of practical experience.
To get started, learn more about the most common tech stacks used by businesses today.
Bridget Poetker is a former senior content marketing specialist at G2, who focused on app development and design. Born and raised in the Chicago area, she graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I-L-L! In her free time, you'll find Bridget in the bleachers at Wrigley Field or posted up at the nearest rooftop patio. During the 8 months of Chicago winter, she hibernates. (she/her/hers)