What Is a Full-Stack Engineer? Job Description

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This article explains what all of the duties of a full-stack engineer are from software development to team leadership. We'll also explain what skills full-stack engineers need, some of the challenges you may face, and how to get started. 

[Featured image) Full Stack Engineer smiles in front of two computer screens

If you are technically inclined, a career as a full-stack engineer could be a fulfilling path for your future. In this article, we break down the duties and responsibilities of a full-stack engineer to give you a better idea of the role.

Among the duties of a full-stack engineer is designing software system architecture, as well as completing data structures and design patterns. They create applications and scalable web services, while also providing leadership for coding teams.   

What is a full-stack engineer?

A full-stack engineer is a high-level software engineer that works to design, test, and implement various software applications. Full-stack engineers usually possess prodigious skills and are involved in every single stage of software development. This can include architecture design, code review, performance evaluation, internal tool management, and updates. The term “full-stack” refers to the engineer’s versatility and ability to help at any stage of the software creation, including both front-end and back-end development.

What does a full-stack engineer do?

Full-stack engineers have many duties. At the beginning of a project, they will typically meet with members of the software development team in order to lay out the scale and scope of the software project. After that, they will work on designing the software system architecture—also completing data structures and design patterns.

Upon the completion of the project’s planning and design, they will create the actual scalable web services, applications, and APIs. They will also create the internal software tools that go along with them.

Additionally, full-stack engineers write various high-level and low-level code, troubleshoot errors, fix bugs, identify bottlenecks, and improve the efficiency of the software. Finally, they have to be able to collaborate with the design team in order to create microservices, as well as write technical documents.

Full-stack engineer tools and skills

Full-stack engineers need to be master coders and should be highly skilled with all of the following computer programming languages:

  • HTML5

  • CSS

  • C++

  • JQuery

  • Java

  • Python

  • Rails

  • Ruby

  • Net

  • PHP 

Knowledge of SQL and database systems is also crucial to any full-stack engineer. Most of them obtain bachelor’s degrees in computer engineering or computer science in order to obtain the skills that they need to succeed in their careers, but some are self-taught. Because full-stack engineers frequently manage teams or are required to work with others on development projects, they also need to have good communication and project management skills.

Work environment

A wide variety of companies hire full-stack developers. For example, software companies commonly hire them, as well as social media companies, cybersecurity companies, and others. Considering the fact that companies in a wide variety of niches have software applications, there are jobs available in many different industries. However, it is most common for full-stack developers to work in the tech industry.

Coworkers and team structure

It is common for full-stack engineers to work with a variety of other coders, engineers, and designers on a software development project, and often they will be responsible for running the entire software development team. However, there are instances where a separate project manager will be in charge of that part. The exact team structure can vary significantly from company to company, but it is common for there to be at least a few engineers and designers on a software project team.

Full-stack engineer salary and job outlook

The demand for web developers such as full-stack engineers is expected to increase 13 percent between 2020 and 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [1]. This means that there should be a]higher than average job opportunities for full-stack engineers in the coming decade.

Because full-stack engineers are extremely skilled, the pay for this position tends to be on the higher side. In fact, in 2021, the average pay for a full-stack developer was $115,092 according to ZipRecruiter. The salary range for full-stack engineers is around $47,500 to $160,000 [2].

The exact salary that you can earn will depend on your experience, your skills, and the company that you are working for. If you are at the beginning of your career as a full-stack engineer, you can expect to get a salary that is on the lower side. If you are more experienced and are highly skilled, then you can expect to obtain a salary on the higher side.

How to become a full-stack engineer

The first step to starting a career as a full-stack engineer is typically to obtain a bachelor’s degree from a reputable institution in computer science or computer engineering. Doing this should give you the skills that you need in order to handle the responsibilities of a full-stack engineer.

However, you should also make sure that you gain some practical experience outside of school in order to truly master all of the programming skills that are needed to get a job as a full-stack engineer.

Once you obtain your degree, you should start applying to jobs. Hopefully, your degree will be enough to obtain an engineering job, and for many people, it is. However, if you struggle to get a job with just a degree, try gaining experience in other ways to add to your resume. This could mean building your own app, working freelance, or doing some free work for a friend. The more experience that you can get, the better.

You should also strengthen your interviewing skills and communication skills in order to optimize your chances of landing a job.

Next steps

Build the skills you need for a high-demand career in application development with the IBM Full Stack Cloud Developer Professional Certificate. Complete hands-on projects with HTML, JavaScript, Node.js, Python, Containers, and Kubernetes, all while developing your GitHub portfolio for your next interview.

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Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Web Developers and Digital Designers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/web-developers.htm." Accessed February 21, 2022.

2. ZipRecruiter. “Full Stack Software Engineer Salary, https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Full-Stack-Software-Engineer-Salary." Accessed February 21, 2022.

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