The tech industry grows side-by-side with the increasing demand for web developers. Now, it requires more knowledge to fully understand everything that goes into creating a website or web apps. And with the industry constantly changing, having someone well-rounded that knows all aspects of web development is important. Enter: the full-stack developer, that rare unicorn that has her hands in the full development process. Full stack developers get their hands dirty from the product design phase all the way through to the end product launch.
Our guide intends to be your primary source for getting started as a full stack developer.
What Is a Full Stack Developer?
A full stack developer is an expert in both front end and back end development. That is, these devs have a keen understanding of both “stacks.” A software stack is simply a collection of different technologies that developers use to accomplish certain goals.
These developers can create the interactive elements of a website, the same way front end developers can. They can also develop websites and applications on the server-side, as well as work with databases.
Some say “full-stack” is just a piece of business jargon and that these devs are just a myth. That may be partly true. But striving to learn all areas of web development is still a smart goal, even if you are ultimately a specialist.
What is Front End Development?
Becoming a full stack developer means understanding both front-end and back-end development. Specialization in front end development involves every aspect of the presentation of a website. That is, a front end developer had to create everything you see in your browser.
Another aspect of front end development that is becoming a necessary skill set is the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design. This isn’t necessary for all front end developers, but many companies are looking for this skill.
What Is Back End Development?
Specialization in back end development involves most of the aspects of design that the front end doesn’t cover. Creating, collecting, editing, and updating data is most of what back end development encompasses, but the position may involve more than that.
Back end developers are often tasked with writing code to receive information from users. They also create systems that store this data in secure locations. These server-side developers have to learn scripting languages, such as PHP, Python, Ruby, and other programming languages. They must also have mastery over databases, such as MySQL and Mongo.
Back end web developers also have to deal with server management and troubleshooting issues. These could be things like applications loading or operating slowly or how to scale a website to handle more users.
Full Stack Development Programming Languages and Technologies
Full stack developers have a well-rounded skill set, knowledge of multiple programming languages, and the ability to use various libraries and frameworks. Here are a handful of the most common programming languages, skills, and other technologies full stack developers use.
1. HTML and CSS
Every web developer, whether back end, front end, or full stack, should know at least the basics of HTML and CSS. HTML provides the semantic structure for a web page or document, while CSS provides the visual styling.
PHP is a popular backend scripting language that is often used to make pages dynamic. It is also the backbone of many popular content management systems like WordPress and Drupal.
Over the past few years, Python has become one of the most popular and easy-to-learn programming languages.
6. Other Programming Languages and Technologies
Those were just the tip of the iceberg. Here is a list of even more technologies and skills you’ll likely encounter in full stack development.
- Ruby on Rails
- User experience design
- User interface design
- Django stack
- AWS Cloud
- Cloud technologies like Docker and Kubernetes
Other Full Stack Developer Skills
Any good developer needs to master a variety of “soft skills” in order to thrive in any business, organization, or development team.
Since full stack developers have so many skills and abilities, it can sometimes be a challenge not to lose focus on your current task. Your ability to focus completely on finding one solution or deploy one thing at a time will be a crucial component of your success.
2. Willingness to Accept Feedback
Your role as a developer is to take part in an iterative process. As part of that process, you have to be a committed learner who can take constructive feedback gracefully. You should make it a point to seek out advice at every step of your journey as a learner of web development.
3. Understanding of People
A skill that is often overlooked by students is the ability to truly understand people–that is, users. If you don’t have an understanding of what people want and how they use technology, you’ll have a hard time finding solutions for them.
4. Understanding of Business Concepts
No matter what organization you work for, you’re ultimately working for a business. Having some level of understanding of business techniques and components will be an enormous asset in your role as a developer.
How to Become a Full Stack Developer
Due to the rise in demand for full stack developers, there are now more ways to become a full stack dev than ever before. Here are the most common paths students of web development take.
Computer Science Degree
For a long time, the only way to become a full stack web developer was to obtain a bachelor’s degree in computer science. And sometimes a master’s in CS was required. Computer science degree programs tend to involve learning a lot of theoretical curriculum, rather than focusing on practical applications.
A computer science degree is a great way to launch a career as a software engineer or a computer scientist. But it may not be the most practical route for someone who wants a full stack developer job.
A popular method to start a career in full stack development is self-study. It’s also clearly the most affordable. That said, there are several downsides to learning web development this way.
First, you’ll have to develop your own curriculum and determine the web development courses to take. This can lead to gaps in knowledge and skills if you’re not careful.
Second, when you learn on your own, you pass up the opportunity to earn a certificate of completion from a reputable source. It can be quite challenging to demonstrate your aptitude to potential employers without certification of some kind.
Finally, you have to be especially dedicated and really put in the hours of practice to be successful. If you can find a mentor or tutor to help you stay on track, you’re much more likely to stick with it.
Still, it’s certainly more plausible to start learning web development on your own than it is to learn computer science or software engineering.
Due to the increasing demand for qualified full stack developers, a new kind of technical education program has emerged: coding bootcamps.
A bootcamp is a short-term, intensive job training program with hands-on full stack curriculum. After completing a bootcamp, you receive a certification to demonstrate your learning. Coding bootcamps have received rave reviews, and many graduates go on to become full stack developers at top tech companies.
Keep in mind, though: coding bootcamps can be intense. You have to be willing to attend all class sessions and put in many extra hours after class. Luckily, you’ll have access to mentors who can help you as you progress through the program.
Reasons to Become a Full Stack Developer
The average full stack web developer salary in 2020 is $91,123 per year. The amount of money these developers earn can be more, based on their location, experience, and the company. Depending on the company, developers may even receive a yearly bonus, and regularly receive raises based on their performance. Indeed, the earning potential for full stack developers is considerable.
There are opportunities for people who want to work in the front end or backend. While this position is growing in popularity, you can still find success working in any part of the web design and development field.
However, large tech companies are looking for versatile developers, people who know all aspects of the design process. If you want to work with the largest tech companies but lack experience, pursuing full stack development might get you in the door. As the industry grows, the demand for full stack developers grows too. That means you will have more career opportunities in the future.
Your knowledge of full stack development also allows you to work in multiple career fields. You can also transfer these skills into other tech career paths or more easily learn new things to add to your skill set.
Benefits of Becoming a Full Stack Web Developer
There are many benefits to being a full stack web developer. While it isn’t necessary to become one to work in the industry, it does give you many opportunities.
Full stack developers understand the entire design structure of websites and web applications and that makes them great for problem-solving. A significant aspect of any programming or design job is debugging. When there is an issue with your website or application, full stack developers can look over every aspect of it to find the issue.
When it comes to working in tech, being able to tackle any web development job makes you a vital asset to a company. Full stack developers can hop onto any task for a project. If images need to be added to a web page, full stack developers have the knowledge to do so. On the other hand, those developers can jump to a different project where their tasks involve working with servers.