So you’ve decided on a career in dev. You already picture your impeccably designed business card in smooth, bold, font, “Software Developer Extraordinaire, Your Name”, slickly removed from your blazer pocket and passed along to the CEO of Google/Activision/One of the 50 Tech Companies in Australia Everyone Wants to Work for Right Now…
But wait. What kind of software developer are you going to be? A front-end developer? A back-end developer? Or do you want to be the hybrid: the full-stack developer? That big-name CEO on the other end of your business card gifting is probably going to want to know where your skills lie!
Today we take a close look at each of these 3 types of development areas: front-end, back-end and full-stack. By the end of this read, you should have a better idea of where your skills and interests lie, so which developer career you might naturally gravitate towards. Here to help you along, we have some words of wisdom from Rale Chung, Head of Web Development at Winning Group, and Ray Dai, Developer at AgriDitial.
What key skills are needed to be a front-end vs. back-end vs. full-stack developer?
Key front-end development skills
Dai adds another important aspect of front-end development: “A good front end dev will also have an understanding of event-based interaction, security, and performance.”
Consider yourself quite creative? Front-end development might be your calling.
Key back-end development skills
As an overview, Chung outlines that, “Backend developers work implementing the business logic. They have to have knowledge of frameworks, software architecture, design patterns, databases, APIs, interconnectivity, DevOps, etc. They need to be able to manage abstract concepts and complex logic.”
In terms of the technologies involved, says Dai, “A skilled dev will have a deep understanding of servers and databases (SQL or no SQL), API layer and program languages such as Java, python, PHP, C#, go and scala. With increased demand for microservices and serverless, back-end devs should be across these too.“
Prefer the logical side of programming or love working with data? Back-end development might be more your speed.
Key full-stack development skills
A full-stack developer will have a combination of both front-end and back-end development skills. Says Dai, “Being a full stack developer means taking a holistic view — comparing the pros and cons of both back-end and front-end before determining where the logic should sit.”
For a true full-stack developer this means not just being able to know the front-end and back-end technologies and how to apply them correctly. It also means being able to engineer a full solution — and see where the separation of logic should lie.
What are the key differences between back-end and front-end dev?
Is it really as simple as front-end = look & feel and back-end = logic? Well, not quite, there’s a little bit more to it than that.
As Ray explains, “Front-end dev requires interaction with users and logic, working with varying browsers and capabilities and an understanding of the way content is presented on platform desktops and devices.” Essentially, front-end development is all about User Interface (UI) design and development and User Experience (UX), through ensuring an intuitive, responsive interface that works across browsers/devices.
“Back-end development, on the other hand, involves interaction with clients and an understanding of how to model business domains and relationships. There is also a strong focus on data, with back-end developers working across numerous databases and integrations from different service providers.” In back-end development, you never have to worry about how something looks — only about how it works, and making sure functionality and underlying design fits the brief.
It also pays to note this: According to Stack Overflow’s latest survey, skill in back-end dev technologies generally command a higher salary than front-end techs. Full-stack developer roles often go higher still. But hey, money isn’t everything.
How do you go about finding your niche/focus area?
If you haven’t yet started your studies, then the world is your oyster. “Think about what interests and excites you, and stay on track with the current trends in role requirements. Have a play in both front- and back-end to get a feel for what you like,” says Dai.
Before deciding on a niche in either front-end or back-end dev, give both a go. Seek out some short courses. Build your own project where you need to do it all. Try out a full-stack bootcamp such as this one on Udemy. If you’re going to do a degree course, pay attention to which units interest you most.
Many developers fresh out of university simply fall into whatever area they’re thrown into in their first role post-studies. If you’ve landed a gig at a great company or in a rotational grad program, then it’ll probably work out just fine — you can find your niche after starting out in the role you’re given.
But if you’re tactical in job applications, you can start out in the niche/focus are that appeals to you most.
For the most viable career trajectory, align yourself with either front-end or back-end first, then once you gain a deeper knowledge in practice, you can think about trying out full-stack. If you move into full-stack too soon, you can spread yourself thin in your knowledge of all relevant techs.
Think you have what it takes to start out your career as front-end, back-end or full-stack developer?
Check out our job search page for junior developer and graduate roles, and get set to put those fresh tech skills into action.