What does a full stack developer do?

Hi, I’m Brian, a former senior software engineer and now industry mentor at Pathrise. I have worked with hundreds of web developers and software engineers to help them land their dream jobs in tech. Check out my article where I answer the question – what does a full stack developer do?

When you go online and open a website, you are almost certainly seeing the work of a web developer. The website on your screen has two sides: front end vs back end. The “front-end” of the website includes everything you see while the “back-end” includes the invisible elements that make the page function such as the server, application, and database. Full stack web developers handle both front-end and the back-end. They manage databases, servers, systems engineering, and the code that you see on screen. In fact, the “full” in the job title refers to the complete collection of software, called a “stack”, that they use in the web development process. Full stack developers do it all.

Unfortunately, the wide range of skills involved in full stack web development can make it difficult to know exactly what full stack developers do on a daily basis. To help you understand what full stack developers do, we’ve broken down the backgrounds and skills that hiring managers look for in candidates. Use this post to identify which full stack web developer positions are right for your skill set and career goals.

What educational background do you need to land a job as a full stack developer?

Full stack web developers often have degrees in computer science, internet technology, and related fields. However, university education is not the only path. While most full stack web developers do have associate’s, bachelor’s, or graduate degrees, plenty only have high school diplomas. If college education is not possible, aspiring full stack web developers can join a coding bootcamp to learn the skills they need to land an entry level web development job.

Tips for success

Complete online courses

Since full stack web developers have to learn a full “stack” of technologies, an intensive course with a comprehensive curriculum is probably the best fit. However, aspiring full stack web developers can still sharpen their skills and master individual technologies with self-paced courses. Self-study with online learning tools like Codecademy or Udacity is a popular way to learn what a front-end web developer does to code the visible parts of the web using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. In addition to client side coding, these platforms also teach users what a back-end web developer does to ensure web pages function on screen, including advanced database skills that veer into data analytics territory. The hands-on coding challenges on these self-paced online platforms can also be great practice for technical interviews. Because full stack web developers have to learn so many different skills, one of their most common weaknesses is a lack of in-depth knowledge of specific technologies. Self-paced online learning is an invaluable resource for filling in the gaps.

Build a portfolio

A polished portfolio is crucial for full stack web developers. Not only do portfolio projects impress recruiters, but full stack developers build their skills as they build portfolio projects. It’s also completely free. Aspiring full stack web developers don’t need a course or professor to build portfolio projects. Although full stack web developers should be able to craft striking websites themselves from scratch, solo projects are not usually enough. Aspiring full stack web developers should also contribute to open source projects and include those in their GitHub portfolios.

Master your interview skills

Even with a polished portfolio and a university/bootcamp certificate, breaking into the tech industry is a challenge. Hiring managers and recruiters tend to prioritize candidates with at least some prior experience, meaning plenty of aspiring full stack web developers will struggle to even get an interview. Many recent grads choose to bypass the rigid corporate interview process and launch their full stack web developer careers as freelancers first. Freelance work will not only build up your portfolio, but also give you valuable work experience that will help you land and ace interviews. As you prepare for technical interviews, check out our list of 93 web developer technical interview questions so that you can go into interviews with full confidence.

a photo of a web developer hard at work building a website dedicated to reptiles

What is front-end web development and what does a full stack developer do on a team?

A full stack web developer is a jack of all trades. Since they can code websites all by themselves, full stack web developers will often be the only developers on the team. However, when full stack developers are part of a larger development team, they take on the generalist role as they build the website from scratch. Their teammates tend to play the role of specialists, ensuring the full stack web developer is coding a site aligned with the team’s vision.

What skills does a full stack web developer need?

Since full stack web developers handle both the front-end and back-end development, they have to master a fairly wide range of skills, including the following:

  • HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • jQuery
  • Software languages like JAVA, C #, Python, Ruby, Perl
  • PHP
  • SQL
  • MySQL
  • MongoDB
  • API (REST and SOAP)
  • Git
  • Responsive design
  • Testing/debugging
  • Basic UX/UI knowledge

What types of roles fall under the front-end web development umbrella?

The responsibilities of full stack web developers often overlap with product designers, UX/UI designers, and nearly every technical role on a development team. Full stack developers may also have some background in design since UX/UI and graphic design are so important to building visually striking websites. They may be familiar with product design as well, which comes in equally handy when dealing with a company’s product team or a freelance client’s product vision without supervision.

If you are looking for full stack web development roles, keep an eye out for job listings with the following titles:

  • Full stack developer (junior, apprentice, entry-level, mid-level, lead, principal, or senior)
  • Software developer
  • Full stack web developer
  • Java full stack developer
  • Python full stack developer
  • Web developer

When a web page appears on screen, thousands of intricate lines of code run in the background. Full stack developers manage the entire process, mastering both front-end and back-end development to code websites from scratch. These developers don’t just code the page users see and handle the invisible components that make the page appear; they connect the two, bridging the gap between front-end and back-end development and developing websites from start to finish.

How can you land a job as a full stack developer?

Knowing what a full stack web developer does is not enough to launch a career — not even web development talent is enough. While skill is important, recruiters can only judge a candidates’ ability based on their interviews and job application materials. The most important “stack” for aspiring full stack developers? Job search navigation.

Pathrise is a career accelerator that helps students and professionals land their dream job by helping with each phase of the job search. Our experienced mentors have already helped 1,000+ people land great jobs, usually in only 3-5 months. We offer an income share agreement (ISA) so fellows pay nothing until they land a great job. If you are interested in optimizing your full-stack developer job search to land a great job faster, become a Pathrise fellow.

Apply today.

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