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29 July 2021

What is a Full-Stack Developer?

Looking to enter the world of web development but not sure which role is right for you? We’re here to help. 

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In an industry like technology where everything evolves at a dizzying pace, the roles and profiles demanded by companies are constantly quickly changing to adapt to new circumstances. For this very reason, the responsibilities once separated between the front-end developer and the back-end developer have merged over time, creating what we now know to be a full-stack developer. While both front and back-end developer roles still exist and are in high demand, this combination is the perfect choice for those who like both responsibilities and want to work with both. 

However, being a full stack developer comes with new duties and tasks; before you decide if that’s the right job for you, let’s cover the profile of a full-stack developer, what you’ll need to know, and our tips to choosing the right role for you. 

Is full-stack web development for me? 

Not sure if full-stack development is the right path for you? No worries; we’re going to cover exactly what makes it a good fit so you can make the best possible choice: 

  • If you’re interested in aspects of both the front and back end and can’t seem to make up your mind, full-stack might be for you.

  • If you like working with the full lifespan of a project, overseeing it as a whole instead of working on just one part, full-stack could be perfect. 

  • If you like handling team dynamics and APIs, in addition to programming languages, full-stack development is probably the best choice. 

The Full-Stack Developer Profile

This role is much newer than others in the field of development and its exact profile is still being curated, it’s already a popular role within the industry. And although many think that a full stack developer has to know how to do all the work required of front and back-end developers, that’s not entirely true. After all, if this were true, then those separate roles wouldn’t exist. 

What differentiates this role from the rest of the profiles that exist in the technology industry? Here’s the key: it’s not that they know how to do everything, but that they know how to understand everything, both what happens on the client side (what users see) and on the server side (the areas internet users can’t access, such as databases). And not only that, but every full-stack developer worth their salt must have the communication skills necessary to work closely with the rest of the developers on the team. 

To acquire the skills of this role and those demanded by the market, a developer must study the following: 

  • Diverse programming languages that cover both front and back-end responsibilities

  • Different environments that are needed by both the front and back end

  • Certain technologies and frameworks both in the front and back end

Front-End Programming Languages and Frameworks

One of the most common tasks in the tech industry today is taking great care of what customers see and offering them a user experience that is as refined as possible so that they feel comfortable interacting with the web or the application they are using at all times. Thankfully, there are lots of tools that exist to help front-end developers excel in this area:

  • Technologies such as HTML and CSS, although sometimes seen as basic, are essential knowledge for any skilled full-stack developer, and are joined by many other frameworks and libraries whose use is increasingly widespread.

  • Frameworks such as React, Angular, or Vue.js have gained prominence in the development world in recent years.

  • Given JavaScript’s front and back-end capabilities, experts strongly believe that it’s the language that will end up dominating in the near future, making it essential knowledge for all aspiring full-stack developers.

Back-End Programming Languages and Frameworks

We see something similar happening on the back-end. JavaScript is trumping all competitors (even Java!);  although Java is still being used by several companies, it’s facing a new challenge: adapting to the new industry model. To ensure that they’re not left behind, aspiring full-stack developers should learn how to use Node.js, which allows a programming language such as JavaScript to be executed on the back-end. More and more developers are supporting its use as it becomes increasingly widespread, and even more so with the development of other tools such as Express on the server side.

Database management is another area of the back-end of which a full-stack web developer must have advanced knowledge. Let’s discuss:

  • Practice adding new elements to a database and interacting with them

  • Learn how to perform certain queries and show the user the result (a frequent responsibility of full-stack developers!)

  • Review both relational and non-relational groups (the two different databases on the market) such as MongoDB, MySQL, or SQLServer.

Learning How to Use Git

We know we’ve placed it towards the bottom, but Git is one of the requirements that companies value most when hiring a new developer. Nowadays, every full stack developer must know how to work with a version control software and the most widespread is Git and its cloud counterpart, GitHub. 

These allow development teams to keep track of their progress and functionalities and, in addition, let each of its members complete their work without interrupting the rest of the team. Everything is then put in a common area so that the product as a whole works properly when it goes into production. 

Developers are responsible for lots of tasks, but sometimes the simplest are the most important; there are many actions that involve greater risks and that require more knowledge, but creating a repository, uploading it to the Internet, and being able to work with it is one of the simplest and most essential tasks that a developer faces. If you are serious about becoming a developer, and a full-stack developer specifically, consider taking the steps to learn about Git and start practicing. 

We hope that we’ve summed up full-stack development, what it is, and if it’s the right choice for you. Now it’s up to you: find which area is best for you and get started on your web development journey. If you’re still unsure, no worries; this decision comes later in your career and you can start learning web development and see what you’re drawn to with Ironhack’s Web Development Bootcamp to take the next step on your journey to becoming a full-stack developer.

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