What Is a Full-Stack Developer?

Written by Coursera • Updated on Dec 8, 2021

A full-stack developer helps build and maintain both the front-end and the back-end of a website. Learn about full-stack developer skills, salary, and how you can become one.

[Featured image] A full-stack developer wearing a blue and red-striped sweater sits at a wooden desk in a home office working on a desktop computer.

A full-stack developer is a developer or engineer who can build both the front end and the back end of a website. The front end (the parts of a website a user sees and interacts with) and the back end (the behind-the-scenes data storage and processing) require different skill sets. A full-stack developer will have some expertise in both of these components.

A full-stack developer can work in-house or at a computer development company that engineers websites, software, and other components for other businesses.

What does a full-stack developer do?

Full-stack developers create websites and applications for various platforms like e-commerce or publishing. A full-stack developer’s job description might include the following:

  • Develop and maintain web services and interfaces

  • Build new product features or APIs

  • Perform tests, troubleshoot, and fix bugs

  • Collaborate with other team members on projects

The world of full-stack development is large, and many new and evolving technologies continually push the limits to what a full-stack developer can create. Staying on top of cutting-edge technology and techniques in the full-stack development field is one of the many exciting aspects of working in this role.

According to LinkedIn's 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, the industries with the most full-stack developer jobs are:

  • Computer software

  • Information technology and services

  • Internet

  • Financial services

  • Higher education

Full-stack developer skills

Full-stack developers may be creative, graphically inclined, internet- and tech-savvy, and have excellent attention to detail. You’ll want to learn the following skills to have a career in full-stack development:

  • Front-end web development, the process of creating the interface of a website, entails coding details like drop-down menus, fonts, colors, and page layouts.  Full-stack developers should know HTML, CSS, and scripting languages such as JavaScript to make websites and applications visually viable and appealing.

  • Back-end web development skills entail using back-end programming languages like Python, PHP, Ruby on Rails, and CakePHP and understanding how algorithms and business logic work.

  • Web design includes using software such as Photoshop to create and design graphics and themes. It’ll be helpful to familiarize yourself with basic UI (user interface) design principles to help you create navigational elements, backgrounds, and audio and video elements.

  • Database management skills are required for full-stack developers, though it is part of the skills needed for back-end web development. A full-stack developer should be able to design, understand, and manipulate database queries and web storage.

As a full-stack developer, you may need to know your way around some of the following programming languages and tools:

  • Angular JS

  • Apache HTTP Server

  • AWS

  • CSS

  • Ember.js

  • JavaScript

  • jQuery

  • Laravel

  • Microsoft SQL Server

  • MySQL

  • Nginx

  • Node.js

  • PHP

  • Polymer

  • React

  • Ruby on Rails

  • Vue.js

Why pursue a career in full-stack development?

A career in full-stack development combines creativity with analysis. As a full-stack developer, you’ll likely have plenty of opportunities to learn and implement innovative principles in your work.

Salary and job outlook

The average base annual salary of a full-stack developer was $99,274 in December 2021, according to Glassdoor. This figure does not include potential cash bonuses that may be offered to a full-stack developer.

The job outlook for full-stack developers is bright. According to LinkedIn's 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, rapid changes in technology have made full-stack developers valuable assets in companies. The profession has grown 35 percent a year since 2015 and appears to continue on that trend into the near future, LinkedIn reports [1].

How to become a full-stack developer

Consider a bachelor’s degree. Though it’s not a strict requirement, a full-stack developer often holds a bachelor's degree in computer science, computer engineering, or a related field. A degree can hone the technical and workplace skills necessary to be an effective full-stack engineer.

Research entry-level roles. There are various levels of full-stack development jobs. Search for junior or entry-level positions on job sites to understand what skills employers are looking for in applicants. 

Develop your skills. To be an effective full-stack developer, you should acquire and continue upgrading your knowledge of applicable programming language skills. Consider taking courses in relevant languages—like Python, HTML, CSS, and Javascript

Build a portfolio. A portfolio shows potential employers what you’re capable of by highlighting your best work. Gather projects you’ve completed through coursework or previous jobs. Include screenshots, and describe the technologies you used and your role in each. 

Practice technical interview questions. Interviews for tech-related roles often include a technical portion. During this part of the interview, you may be asked to complete a live coding exercise, design challenge, or take-home assessment.

Get started as a full-stack developer

A career as a full-stack developer can use your creativity and technical skills to create websites, applications, and software for companies of all sizes. See if the field is for you by taking a course in full-stack web development—or explore a myriad of other opportunities in web development.

Glossary of full-stack developer terms

Full-stack development is full of unique terms. Below you will find a few of the frequent ones:

Angular JS: An open-source web application framework that Google maintains

API: Software that allows two applications to exchange information, short for Application Programming Interface

Bootstrap: An open-source collection of front-end tools to create websites and apps

Flask: A micro-web application framework, written in Python

Framework: A layered structure that provides a foundation for developing software applications

MEAN stack: A free, open-source JavaScript software stack to build websites and apps

Open-source software (OSS): Software that has a source code that can be modified, distributed, or integrated into other projects freely

PHP: Short for Hypertext Preprocessor, a server-side (back-end) scripting language for web development

Python: A general-purpose, high-level programming language 

Stack: A set of tools and technologies that developers use to do their jobs

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Article sources

1. LinkedIn. "2020 Emerging Jobs Report, https://business.linkedin.com/content/dam/me/business/en-us/talent-solutions/emerging-jobs-report/Emerging_Jobs_Report_U.S._FINAL.pdf." Accessed December 8, 2021.

Written by Coursera • Updated on Dec 8, 2021

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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