Full-stack engineering roles have been growing in popularity over the last decade and are among the most sought-after positions in the tech job market.
But what exactly are full-stack engineers? What do they do on a day-to-day basis? And how can you become a full-stack engineer yourself?
In this article, I will go over the definition of full-stack engineering and cover some of the tasks that full-stack engineers work on. I will also mention some of the skills you will need to learn to become a software engineer.
What Is A Full Stack Engineer? Definition of Full-Stack Engineering
Modern web applications consist of two layers: the front-end and the back-end.
The front-end, also known as the client side, consists of the content, the presentation and layout of that content, and elements of interactivity. It includes all the visible parts a user views on a screen and can interact with.
The back-end, also known as the server side, consists of a server running the code with the necessary logic to receive, handle, and process requests, as well as a database for storing user data securely. It includes all the behind-the-scenes processes a user is not directly aware of.
A stack is a collection of technologies and refers to the combination of software, tools, programming languages, frameworks, and data storage technologies that work together to build and run web applications.
There are many technology stacks, and each stack uses the same programming language throughout.
A full-stack engineer is an engineer that knows how to build a web application from start to finish, including the front-end parts, the back-end parts, and the infrastructure it lives on. They work across the entire stack and understand each part of it.
What Does A Full Stack Engineer Do? Tasks and Responsibilities of Full Stack Engineers
Full-stack engineers work on a broad set of problems and typically have end-to-end ownership of projects – from conceptualization to deployment.
Some of the everyday responsibilities may include:
- Gather project requirements by communicating with clients and stakeholders to understand the vision of the software product.
- Brainstorm and collaborate with the design team and review design prototypes before coding them into a product.
- Ensure the web application is responsive for end-users and works on most devices.
- Follow accessibility best practices.
- Manage and maintain databases and servers to ensure the client-side works efficiently and optimally.
- Ensure application security, maintenance, performance, uptime, and scalability.
- Monitor software and write tests to ensure the code is working as intended. Find and fix bugs in the code to keep the software optimized.
- Write clean, well-designed, and efficient code that adheres to industry best practices.
- Keep up to date with new technological advances to improve business needs.
- Create a Minimal Viable Product to showcase to stakeholders and communicate with decision-makers.
- Implement new features after gathering feedback.
- Review code written by other engineers and provide constructive feedback.
- Read and write documentation that outlines the software development process.
With that said, the tasks and responsibilities will depend on the size of the company.
For example, a small company may have only one full-stack developer who handles the entire application. A larger company may have front-end and back-end developers to work on specific tasks within their domain and expertise.
What Is the Average Salary for Full Stack Engineers?
Software engineers, including full-stack engineers, generally command comfortable salaries.
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for software engineers is $109,020 per year.
Specifically for full-stack engineers, Glassdoor lists the average salary at around $120,300 per year.
Indeed lists the average salary as $120,749. And the Stack Overflow developer survey lists that the average salary for full-stack developers is $140,000.
Note that these salaries are for full-stack engineers based in the USA. The compensation will depend on your location and years of experience.
Google the average salary for software engineers in your location with the same experience as you to help you get a better idea.
How To Become A Software Engineer – Skills Required for Full Stack Engineers
In the following sections, I will go over just a few of the technologies you would need to learn to become a full-stack engineer.
Becoming a full-stack engineer takes time, and you can't be an expert in all the tools and technologies available – it is more about having well-rounded knowledge of technology in general and knowing enough to solve problems using code.
Learn Internet and Web Fundamentals
As a full-stack engineer, you will benefit from understanding how the internet works and being familiar with some web terms, such as DNS and IP addresses.
To learn more about DNS, IP addresses, and how the internet works, check out the following resources:
- How the Web Works: A Primer for Newcomers to Web Development (or anyone, really)
- How the Web Works Part II: Client-Server Model & the Structure of a Web Application
- What is DNS? Domain Name System, DNS Server, and IP Address Concepts Explained
You will also need to know HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol), the foundation of the World Wide Web, as it manages the communication between clients (such as web browsers) and servers on the web.
Specifically, you need to know about HTTP request methods (such as GET, POST, PUT, PATCH, and DELETE) and HTTP response codes (such as 200, 404, and 500).
To learn more about HTTP, check out the following resources:
- What is HTTP? Protocol Overview for Beginners
- How HTTP Works and Why it's Important – Explained in Plain English
- Master the HTTP Networking Protocol
- HTTP Request Methods – Get vs Put vs Post Explained with Code Examples
Learn Front-end Web Development Fundamentals
HTML (short for HyperText Markup Language) defines the structure and content on a web page, such as text, links, forms, images, videos, and so on.
To learn HTML, check out this course.
CSS (short for Cascading Style Sheets) styles the HTML content and makes it aesthetically pleasing – it determines the look and feel of a web page.
CSS is responsible for sizing, displaying, laying out, and presenting elements on a page. CSS is also responsible for web pages being usable on all screen sizes.
To learn more about CSS, check out this course, which covers Flexbox and Grid – two important CSS topics. Once you understand the basics, you could learn a CSS framework, like Tailwind CSS.
It is the only programming language you can use for front-end web development, making it an essential part of web development. It is used together with HTML and CSS to create interactive web pages.
Learn Git and GitHub
Git and GitHub are a core part of the development workflow and are tools used in every software development job.
Git is a distributed version control system that offers a way to make changes to your projects, back up those changes, keep track of them, and even go back to them if needed. It also lets you collaborate with other team members at the same time.
GitHub is an online hosting service that makes it easier to use Git and is a place for you and your team to upload and review code.
To learn more about Git and GitHub, check out this course.
Learn A Front-end Library and Framework
To learn more about ReactJS, check out this course.
With that said, there are other frameworks to work with and consider learning, such as Vue, Angular and Svelte. Each has its way of organizing and writing code, as well as its own benefits and limitations.
Learn Back-end Web Development
As a full-stack web developer, you need to know front-end technologies and back-end tools, so you will also need to be able to work with server-side scripting programming languages.
There are many to choose from, such as Python, Ruby, and Java, to name a few.
To learn the basics of NodeJS, check out this course.
You can pair NodeJS with the ExpressJS server-side web framework to create full-stack web applications. To learn back-end development with NodeJS and ExpressJS, check out this course.
Learn Database Management Systems and SQL
As a full-stack engineer, you will be working with databases as most web applications you will be working with will have a database. A lot of your time will be spent writing database queries to fetch the data you need.
A database is a storage container – a place to store all the data used in your project, such as user data.
There are two main types of databases:
- SQL or Relational databases, also referred to as SQL databases, which store data in a structured, organized, tabular format.
- Non-relational or NoSQL databases, which don't store data in tables.
A database has a program called a database management system (DBMS), which serves as an interface between the database, allowing users or programs to
retrieve, update, and manage the data.
To learn about Relational Databases, check out freeCodeCamp's Relational Database Course.
To communicate with relational databases and manipulate stored data, you query them using a query language such as SQL (short for Structured Query Language). To learn more about SQL, check out this resource
And if you want to get started with a NoSQL database management system, MongoDB is a great place to start. To get started with MongoDB, check out these courses.
Hopefully, you found this article helpful and have a better understanding of what full-stack engineers do.
In this article, we went over the definition of full-stack engineering and covered some of the tasks full-stack engineers work on.
We also covered some of the tools and languages you would need to know to become a full-stack engineer yourself.
Thank you for reading!