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Part of Western Governors University

February 8, 2022

Information Technology

What is Full Stack? & How to Become a Full Stack Developer

There are two major components to every single website: the front end and the back end. The front end is the visible part of the application, which includes everything the user sees. The back end is the server-side of the web application, which is made up of code and focuses on the functionality of the site.

A full stack developer is a programmer who can develop both the front and the back end and build apps that run on the client side and on the server side. In other words, they can do all the coding for a web application, from building the foundation and programming the functionality to optimizing the user interface. There are also full stack engineers, who take on a slightly different role within the same scope. A full stack engineer oversees the system as a whole from a strategic perspective, while a full stack developer focuses on the functionality of applications.

The breadth and depth of knowledge of a full stack developer makes them desirable and agile in every area of tech and the job market. In December 2021, Careerfoundry reported that there were almost 13,000 positions available for full stack developers in America alone. And the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 8% growth in job outlook for web developers and 22% for software engineers from 2021 to 2029. This is no surprise as our world continues to become more digital. The future for full stack developers is extremely bright.

 Glassdoor salary averages for full stack developers and engineers:

  • Junior full-stack developer: $72,372
  • Junior full-stack engineer: $80,437
  • Senior full-stack developer: $114,389
  • Senior full-stack engineer: $140,892

Responsibilities of a Full Stack Developer

Full stack developers have a wide spectrum of skills and responsibilities, which include:

  • Designing and developing software.
  • Monitoring and testing software to optimize functionality and debug aberrant software.
  • Writing code for the front and back end of web sites.
  • Designing user experience on web applications.
  • Optimizing cross-platform compatibility.
  • Implementing responsive design of applications for mobile devices.
  • Working collaboratively with graphic designers to curate an effective interface.
  • Developing APIs for integrations.
  • Keeping up to date with innovative technology to optimize software.
  • Accounting for security, maintenance, and scalability while developing.

In order to complete your job responsibilities as a full stack developer, you must be very well versed in front and back end programming languages. Both the front and back ends of a web application are created using libraries, frameworks, and languages. These “languages” are basically human-generated instructions for the computer to complete certain tasks.

“Full stack developer” is a blanket name for a number of different workplace roles. There are several different paths you can take with this career. Some include:

  • Full Stack Web Developers focus on front and back end development of web applications.

  • Full Stack Software Developers work on the front and back end development of software and native applications.

  • Full Stack Engineers do a very similar job to full stack developers but there are distinct differences. While developers focus on building web applications, full stack engineers oversee the system as a whole from a strategic perspective.

  • Full Stack Mobile App Developers are much like web app developers. The difference is that this kind of developer builds apps specifically for smartphones and tablets.

How to Become a Full Stack Developer

If you want to become a full stack developer, you need a set of both hard and soft skills, as well as an education in software development or a related field, such as data analytics and management.

Here are some steps to take on your path to becoming a full stack developer:

  • Identify the type of developer you want to be.
  • Gain a background in computer science that includes front end, back end, database, dev-ops, and mobile app development knowledge.
  • Make sure you’re comfortable with the challenge of producing endless lines of code.
  • Find a way to fill your coding portfolio with a variety of development projects in different programming languages.
  • Gain development skills in front end and back end coding languages, including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP Python, and Ruby.
  • Explore Github, which is an open source data warehouse where you will likely store all your code and MySQL.

Developers also need certain soft skills. Check out this list of common soft skills of developers so you know whether this is right for you.

  • A problem-solving attitude is necessary for avoiding stressful situations and overcoming challenges.
  • Detail-orientedness will help eliminate small problems, even if you’re focused on the bigger picture.
  • Creativity is needed when developing websites, managing records, and structuring code
  • Being a good communicator will help you collaborate with peers and keep superiors up-to-date on project progress

Career Path for a Full Stack Developer

There are many different directions you can take your full stack development career, but there’s a pretty clear path that ensures you’re as prepared and skilled as possible as you navigate your career.

  1. Learn developing skills: As a full stack developer, you need to learn the programming languages of both a front end and back end developer. On top of that, you’ll hugely benefit from a foundational knowledge of information technology, which can be achieved by earning an IT degree. In addition to self-led learning and formal education, many developers participate in bootcamps, which are short-term, intensive, skill-based classes that help developers learn new tech and languages quickly. Employers love to see these on your résumé.
  2. Practice, practice, practice: Once you have a solid education under your belt, you’ll next build your portfolio so that you have a book of work to dazzle future employers. Your portfolio should include the coding projects you’re most proud of, many of which might come from work completed in school. If you’re freshly graduated, some volunteer work can help give you a boost in your job hunt.
  3. Find a full stack development job: Once you have a foundational set of skills, an IT education, and some solid examples of your work, you can confidently put yourself out there for potential employers. As an entry-level full stack developer, you’ll be responsible for building front and back end structures, collaborating with other members of the business to optimize web applications, and learning. It’s important that you’re open-minded and tenaciously seeking new information so that you can increase your market value and advance your career.
  4. Advance your role as a full stack developer: After three to five years in an entry-level position and after many successful projects, you have the opportunity to advance to a senior-level role. Several years later, you can move up to a directorial role. Success in that role can open you up to a chief technology officer position, which is generally considered the highest role and salary you can achieve in a full stack developer career path.

While this is a typical career path for many developers, it should be noted that there are a variety of routes instead of working in a company.

Some alternative career paths include:

  • Work as a freelance developer: If you’re interested in working with clients , finding jobs that interest you, and making your own hours, perhaps this is a desirable career path for you.
  • Become a consultant for companies: If you like the sound of having variety in the type of coding work you do and feel that you’re better suited for short-term projects, this could be a promising route to explore.
  • Start your own business: Maybe you want to develop and market your own applications. If you have a vision you’re passionate about and want to bring into the world, consider doing your own thing with your full stack developing education.

A developer is an incredibly important role in any business. Think of the full stack developer as the architect and building maintenance of your company’s digital home. They can also be a strong leader during turbulent times, for example, as so many of these developers were during the global shift to working from home. If you want to learn more about the career path of a professional working in information technology, view more info here.

Start Your Full Stack Career with an IT Degree

A career as a full stack developer is a really smart professional move: It’s interesting and often cutting-edge work. It pays well, with junior developers making more than $70k on average. It provides many career options. And, as far as developer positions go, it’s in very high demand.

In order to gain the web development skill set needed to become a full stack developer, you should explore getting an IT degree. While it’s possible to learn the languages and skills of a full stack developer without a formal education, it’s significantly more difficult due to the sheer volume of information. Also, résumés that include a degree in software development are considerably more attractive to employers. If you’re ready to get started, follow this link to learn more about the software development degree at WGU.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

What is full stack?

Full stack refers to the front end (user interface) and back end (framework) of a web application.

What is a full stack developer?

A full stack developer is a software developer who combines the responsibilities of a front end developer and a back end developer in building web applications..

How much does a full stack developer make?

The average salary for a full stack developer is $105,000. Those who are within their first year of professional experience earn $87,000 on average while those at the CTO-level can make $300,000 and beyond, so there is massive room for growth in this career path.

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