Full stack technology describes the entire depth of a computer system application, and a full stack developer is a programmer who can develop both client and server software.
In addition to mastering HTML and CSS, a full stack developer must know how to program a browser, a server, and a database. Different programming languages and technologies are used for each of these functions.
We’ll discuss what a full stack developer is, what they do, and some of the requirements an aspiring developer needs to meet.
What is a Full Stack Developer?
A full stack developer is someone who develops software at multiple stages of development. This role requires versatility and the time management skills to support all levels of the development team.
The full stack developer works with both the back end (server side) of the application as well as the front end (client side).
The front-end of an application is the display that end users see, while the back-end of an application is hidden from view.
The database is where permanent information is stored, while the server is a place where information is prepared for service to the end user.
Full Stack Developer Skills
Full stack developers will need proficiency in front-end programming languages to customize web pages and the ability to program for different browsers and devices. Additionally, it’s important for full stack developers to have an eye for design. Finally, developers should have a strong understanding of how to program back-end applications. Currently, developers need proficiency in these skills and technologies:
- HTML and CSS
- Git and GitHub
- Web architecture
- Database management systems
- Application Program Interfaces (APIs) like REST and SOAP
- Technology stacks
Having good communication skills can lead to better collaboration and team cohesiveness. Being able to solve problems, learn concepts quickly, name issues well, and deal with people often leads to a much greater level of success in the long run than specializing in any particular technology. Therefore, developers should keep these soft skills in mind:
- Attention to detail
- Creative mindset
- Effective leadership
- Team player
- Time management
What Does a Full Stack Developer Do?
The role of the full stack developer is to support both back-end and front-end programming of a computer application. Responsibilities include:
- Development and debugging: Full stack developers design, develop, and debug software code by writing clean code for the both front-end and back-end of the software.
- Testing and quality assurance: Developers test and debug software to optimize applications, ensuring cross-platform compatibility and responsive design.
- Documentation: A program is only valuable to users if they know how to use it. A developer communicates the effectiveness of emerging technologies to decision-makers by writing documentation, including code comments, wikis, and user guides.
- Maintenance and updates: While release day is a big date for a developer, their responsibility for the software doesn’t end there. A developer is likely also responsible for maintaining the software, including creating, testing, and deploying updates to provide additional features or fix functionality or security issues in the code.
- APIs and RESTful services: An API is an Application Programming Interface, which is a software intermediary that allows two applications to communicate with each other. Full stack developers may be responsible for developing Representational State Transfer (REST) Web Services. REST APIs are useful in cloud applications and services because their calls are stateless, which allows data, content, algorithms, media, and other digital resources to be available through web URLs. REST APIs are the most common APIs used online today.
The role of the full stack developer may work on standalone desktop applications or write operating systems.
A small independent game group making a standalone simulator may have one back-end developer and one front-end developer with no need for a full stack developer.
Alternatively, one competent full stack developer may be able to handle the entire application. However, a large web application with high scaling potential will require all three roles: back-end, front-end, and full stack developers. Different project sizes may require similar skill sets but have very different stakeholders and scopes of work.
Knowledge of both client software and server software is essential to being a full stack developer.
Full Stack Developer Education
Full stack developers typically have a background in computer science that includes front end, back end, database, dev-ops, and mobile app development knowledge.
The candidate should be comfortable producing many lines of code, with a coding portfolio demonstrating a variety of development projects in different programming languages.
The typical foundational knowledge comes from a mix of self-led learning, formal education, and bootcamps, which are short-term, intensive, skill-based classes that help developers learn new technologies and languages quickly.
Past Development Experience
Employers will want to see a full stack developer demonstrate both front-end and back-end experience in a coding portfolio. Options for building an entry-level portfolio include participating in hackathons or similar events, attending a coding bootcamp, doing an internship while in school, or having a portfolio of past projects available on Github.
Knowledge of Programming Languages
Full stack developers are expected to know how to code in multiple programming languages. The most popular languages for full stack developers are Node, Python, C#, ASP, and PHP. Industry trends suggest that the most common languages for full stack developers in the future will be HTML, CSS, Angular, and Node.
Many different types of certificates are available for developers. Some programming languages have certification programs that demonstrate knowledge of that specific language.
Certificates are also available to show experience with certain platforms or tools, such as cloud environments or DevOps automation tools. Earning these certifications can help with landing a role or pursuing a specialization.
Full Stack Developer Career Path
Once the full stack developer candidate has a foundational set of skills, an IT education, and a coding portfolio, entry-level full stack developer positions are available on the labor market.
The traditional career path starts with an entry-level full stack developer position. Entry-level developers are responsible for building front-end and back-end structures, collaborating with other members of the business to optimize web applications, and learning more to improve their skills.
After three to five years in an entry-level position and many successful projects, full stack developers may advance to a senior-level role. A few years after that, directorial roles are available. Success in a directorial role allows the candidate to move up to a chief technology officer (CTO) position, which is typically the highest role and salary achievable in a traditional full stack developer career path.
Although this is the traditional path, there are alternatives that developers can pursue instead of working for a large company.
Alternative career paths include working as a freelance developer, becoming a consultant for companies, and starting a business with independent applications on the market.
Developers who follow alternative career paths often have the benefit of time and location flexibility, as well as the ability to choose their own clients and negotiate their own scopes of work. Regardless of where they work, developers are essential to modern businesses.
Career Outlook and Salary
The career outlook for full stack developers is strong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field’s projected growth between 2019 and 2029 is 22 percent, much faster than the average field. With so many devices, browsers, and applications on the market, it’s easy to see why full stack developers will remain in demand.
Full stack developers and technology workers command some of the highest salaries available on the market. Glassdoor reports that the estimated total pay for a full stack developer is $107,970 per year, including bonuses of $18,000. Indeed suggests $100,380, with the top companies hiring developers being eBay, Cisco, PwC, Walmart, and Booz Allen Hamilton.
PayScale suggests $79,870 per year, but this is listed as the average base salary before including bonuses. These salaries can vary based on location, experience, and any specializations, certificates, or other differentiators that a developer may have.