What Does a Back-End Developer Do?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

A back-end developer writes code that forms the backbone of a website or app. Learn more about this career field and how to get started.

[Featured Image] A back-end developer in a blue shirt and blazer works on a laptop in an open office space.

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes of a website? How, exactly, does clicking on a button take you to a different page? And where does your personal information go when you sign up for a free trial? 

Back-end developers are the experts who build and maintain the mechanisms that process data and perform actions on websites. Unlike front-end developers, who control everything you can see on a website, back-end developers are involved in data storage, security, and other server-side functions you cannot see.

Since the late 1980s and 90s, the internet has transformed how we access information, and web development has continued to evolve. Its central importance to our digital world means web developers are in high demand. Fortunately, anyone can learn the technical skills needed to be front-end, back-end, or full-stack (front- and back-end) developers.

What is back-end development?

Back-end development means working on server-side software, which focuses on everything you can’t see on a website. Back-end developers ensure the website performs correctly, focusing on databases, back-end logic, application programming interface (APIs), architecture, and servers. They use code that helps browsers communicate with databases and store, understand, and delete data.

On a team, back-end developers collaborate with front-end developers, product managers, principal architects, and website testers to build the structure of a website or mobile app. Back-end developers must be familiar with many tools and frameworks, including programming languages such as Python, Java, and Ruby. They ensure the back end performs quickly and responsively to front-end user requests.

Back-end developer vs. back-end engineer

Back-end developers and engineers have similar technical skills but different responsibilities. A back-end developer is like a teacher, whereas a back-end engineer is like a school principal who creates the big-picture strategy. Back-end developers focus on smaller parts of the whole, such as applications and programs, working with teams to prove their design methods are viable. 


Back-end developer tasks and responsibilities

Back-end developers must have technical expertise, analytical thinking, and excellent collaboration skills. As a back-end web developer, you should be able to work independently to design the web infrastructure. 

Here’s what many back-end developers do daily:

  • Build and maintain websites: A back-end developer’s primary responsibility is to use various tools, frameworks, and languages to determine how best to develop intuitive, user-friendly prototypes and turn them into websites. This requires an understanding of cross-platform functionality and compatibility.

  • Write high-quality code: To produce sustainable web applications, developers must write clean and easily maintainable code.

  • Perform quality assurance (QA) testing: Create and oversee testing schedules to optimise user interface and experience and ensure optimal display on various browsers and devices.

  • Assess efficiency and speed: Once a website is up and running, and during updates and edits, developers must assess its performance and scalability, adjusting code as necessary.

  • Troubleshoot and debug: You must be able to troubleshoot and resolve issues while communicating them to project managers, stakeholders, and QA teams.

  • Train and support: Maintain workflows with client teams to ensure ongoing support and lead training and mentorship for junior developers.

Is back-end development for me?

If you enjoy learning programming languages and using technological tools to build high-quality back-end applications, a career in web development might be a good fit for you. Learn the basics with an Introduction to Web Development class offered by the University of California Irvine on Coursera.

What tools do back-end developers use?

Web developers use various tools to develop, test, and maintain web applications. Some standard tools for back-end developers include:

  • Programming languages:

    • Python

    • PHP

    • JavaScript

    • Ruby

    • Java

    • C#

  • Frameworks:

    • Laravel

    • Django

    • Spring

    • Ruby on Rails

    • Meteor

    • Node.js

  • Databases:

    • MongoDB

    • MySQL

    • Oracle

  • Servers:

    • Apache

    • NGINX

    • Lighttpd

    • Microsoft IIS

Expert tip from an engineer

Although these tools can be helpful, finding the right tools for your specific job tasks is more important. "Debugging is one of the things I have to do in my job regularly, and one tool I cannot live without for such tasks is the browser Developer Tools," says Murtadha Al-Tameemi, a software engineer at Meta. "Getting familiar with these tools and knowing how to wield them have saved me countless hours and helped me get more efficient at my job."


Back-end developer salary and job outlook

According to Payscale, the average base pay for a back-end web developer in India is ₹5,21,686 [1], while Indeed reports an average base salary of ₹8,05,498 [2]. A back-end developer’s compensation may vary depending on location, seniority, and other factors.

How to become a back-end developer?

There are many paths to becoming a web developer. Whether you are a recent graduate or hoping to switch careers, assessing what transferable skills you already have and building the new skills needed to pursue a back-end developer role is essential. 

Back-end developer technical skills

As a back-end developer, you’ll need to learn specific technical skills to develop the back-end of a web or mobile application.  

  • Programming languages: Any back-end developer must be well-versed in back-end programming languages such as Python, Java, and PHP. These make the website function alongside databases, frameworks, and servers. Python is one of the most popular programming languages because it’s compatible with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) and is ideal for writing clear and logical code. Basic knowledge of front-end languages HTML, CSS, and JavaScript is a bonus.

  • Frameworks: These are libraries of back-end programming languages that help build the server configuration. They are often linked to programming languages, so if you are familiar with Python, you’ll also know Flask, Django, another Python-based framework, etc.

  • Databases and servers: You’ll need to understand how to stack and recover data from databases, as back-end programming controls access to this information, including storage and recovery. MongoDB and MySQL are popular database programs. The database stores and organises the client’s data to arrange and recover quickly, just like using cloud storage for your photos. This database then runs on a server that provides data upon request.

  • Application Program Interface (API): An API is a series of definitions and rules for developing application software. In addition to internet browser websites, companies often want a mobile app for iOS or Android. Knowledge of application-building languages like JavaScript will expand your job opportunities. 

  • Accessibility and security clearance: Develop network protocols and web security knowledge. Securing databases and servers will be critical to your success as a back-end developer.

If you are interested in the cloud, consider enrolling in IBM’s Full-Stack Cloud Developer Professional Certificate for cloud-specific technologies. Guided by IBM experts, you will learn how to build cloud-based applications and understand front-end languages like HTML and CSS, back-end languages, and frameworks like Express, Node.js, Python, Django, and more. These are foundational tools if you decide to apply for cloud-related jobs.

Back-end developer workplace skills

Alongside technical skills, these workplace skills will enable you to work more efficiently, effectively, and seamlessly with team members.

  • Communication: A back-end web developer must thoroughly understand the engineer’s vision to execute it. Strong written and conversation skills will help you communicate ideas and troubleshoot with team members and stakeholders. 

  • Problem-solving and analytical thinking: You will need creative solutions when developing a web or mobile app, such as debugging code and revising it without crashing the entire site. As a developer, you should be able to analyse why some code does or does not work and anticipate and prevent errors.

  • Industry knowledge: A holistic understanding of the tech industry is always helpful in keeping up with overall economic trends and updates to languages and platforms. To brush up, look into blogs, forums, news, and books related to web and app development.

Do I need a degree to become a back-end developer?

While you do not necessarily need a degree to pursue a back-end developer career, a B.Tech degree or college diploma in computer science can help.


Develop with Coursera.

Build job-ready back-end development skills with the Meta Back-End Developer Professional Certificate and earn a credential from Meta.

Another good option is the Responsive Website Development and Design Specialisation from the University of London. You'll learn the basics of modern full-stack web development and how to create the best user experience on multiple devices. 

If you are more interested in brushing up on a specific skill, consider the Python for Everybody Specialisation offered by the University of Michigan. 

Article sources


Payscale. “Average Back End Developer/ Engineer Salary in India, https://www.payscale.com/research/IN/Job=Back_End_Developer%2F_Engineer/Salary.” Accessed April 5, 2024.

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