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What does a back end developer do?

Hi, I’m Patrick, I write about the job search. After graduating from Cornell, I became a content lead at UBS where I helped professionals at Fortune 500 companies understand their stock options, salary, and benefits. When I’m not writing about the hiring process, I write novels for teens.

Websites have two sides: the “front-end” that includes everything users see on their screens and the “back-end” that includes the invisible elements that make a page function such as the server, application, and database. Back-end web developers handle this invisible “server side” of web development. They focus on databases, scripting, and website architecture so that pages load and run correctly. While front-end developers code a page’s fonts and visuals, back-end developers write web services and APIs used by front-end developers. Basically, back-end web developers are responsible for the part of the website users don’t see.

While the fonts and visuals of a website come from a front-end web developer’s code (learn more about what front end developers do [will link] in our article), all the site’s content is rendered from a server and fetched from a database. This is the “back-end” of the web application and it’s the back-end web developer’s responsibility. However, since front-end web development is so closely linked to back-end web development, the two roles often overlap. Many different skills fall under the back-end web developer umbrella and their work often veers into other tech disciplines, making it difficult to know what back-end web developers do on a daily basis. 

To help you understand what back-end web developers do, we’ve broken down the backgrounds and skills that hiring managers look for in candidates. Use this article to identify which back-end web developer roles are right for your skill set and career goals.

What educational background do you need to land a job as a back end developer? 

Back-end web developers often have degrees in computer science, internet technology, data science, and similar fields. In fact, most back-end web developers have associate’s, bachelor’s, or graduate degrees. However, plenty of back-end web developers only have high school diplomas. If formal education is not an option, aspiring back-end web developers can consider enrolling in a coding bootcamp to learn the skills they need to land an entry level web development job

Aspiring back-end web developers can also take steps to launch their careers on their own through self-study. Affordable online learning tools like Codecademy and Udacity offer self-paced courses on key back-end web dev skills, including back-end programming languages like Java and Python. Their hands-on coding challenges can be great practice for technical interviews as well. Aspiring back-end web developers don’t need to be in classes to build portfolio projects, either. Consider contributing to existing GitHub projects to hone your back-end web development skills on your own.

Even with a university or bootcamp certificate, breaking into the tech industry can be a struggle without job experience. Many recent grads choose to strike out on their own as freelance back-end web developers. Freelance work will not only sharpen your skill set, but also give you experience that will help you shine both on the job and in interviews. When you do start applying and getting technical interviews, check out our list of 93 web developer technical interview questions so that you can go into interviews fully prepared.

What is back end development and what does a back end developer do on a team?

Back-end web development deals with the server side of an application as well as the communication between the database and the browser. Back-end web developers work closely with the 3 fundamental elements of this back-end process: the server, application, and database. Web developers integrate user-facing elements developed by front-end developers with server side logic. They build reusable code libraries, code applications for maximum speed, and optimize these apps for scalability. In addition to security and data protection, many back-end web developers also work with data storage. Since back-end web developers are responsible for integrating front-end elements into the application, back-end web developers should have a basic understanding of front-end tech and be prepared to work closely with front-end web developers.

What skills does a back end developer need?

Back-end web developers should know at least one server-side or back-end programming language like Java, Python, or Ruby. Since we often find shared duties when comparing front end vs back end developers, back-end web developers should be at least a little familiar with the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript front-end developers use in order to communicate. While different back-end developer roles may require different skills, aspiring web developers will almost certainly be expected to master the following:

  • A back-end programming language like Python/Java/Ruby
  • PHP
  • SQL
  • MySQL
  • MongoDB
  • API (REST and SOAP)
  • Git
  • Some HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
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What types of roles fall under the back end development umbrella? 

Back-end web developer responsibilities often overlap with software engineers, front-end developers, data scientists, and others. Back-end web developers focus on the server side of a website so all materials and content load and appear on users’ screens. Front-end web developers and engineers actually build the content that appears. If you are looking for back-end web development roles, keep an eye out for job listings with the following titles: 

  • Back end developer (junior, apprentice, entry-level, mid-level, lead, principal, or senior)
  • Back end web developer
  • Java back-end developer
  • PHP web developer
  • Back end engineer (web)
  • API back end developer
  • Node.js back end developer

Whenever we click on a web page, a back-end web developer is responsible for making all of the content appear on our screen. The server, application, and database are a back-end developer’s bread and butter. However, understanding what a back-end web developer does is not enough to become one. While back-end knowledge and skill are important, recruiters can only judge a candidates’ skill based on their technical interview and job application materials. For aspiring back-end web developers, learning to navigate the job search can be the most important skill of all.

Pathrise is a career accelerator that helps students and professionals 1-on-1 at each phase of the job search. Our experienced mentors have already helped 1,000+ people land great jobs, usually in only 3-5 months. If you are interested in optimizing your back-end web developer job search to land a great job sooner, become a Pathrise fellow. 

Apply today.

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Patrick Bohan

Hi, I'm Patrick, I write about the job search. After graduating from Cornell, I became a content lead at UBS where I helped professionals at Fortune 500 companies understand their stock options, salary, and benefits. When I'm not writing about the hiring process, I write novels for teens.

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