According to the 2020 Stack Overflow survey of 65,000 developers worldwide, nearly 55% of respondents identified as “full stack”.
Full-stack developers are consistently in-demand by companies of all sizes. Described by some as “the Swiss army knives of the development world”, these employees are highly versatile, with a range of technical and soft skills that makes them an asset to every team. Companies that hire full-stack developers can take advantage of their front-end and back-end skills, collaboration, and leadership. But, before you can hire a full-stack developer, it’s important to know what to expect from someone fulfilling this role.
What is a full-stack developer?
You may have heard of front-end and back-end developers, so let’s start there.
Back-end developers are primarily concerned with how the website or app functions. Back-end development requires the creation, editing and collection of data using scripting languages such as PHP, Ruby, and Python. The back-end developer writes code to receive information from the user and save it in a database.
Full-stack developers combine both skillsets of front and back-end developers. This role can take on a wide range of activities related to building and maintaining a webpage or app: reviewing code for errors, providing UX/UI input, and even client management.
Here are some examples of responsibilities that a full-stack developer might be asked to perform, according to Indeed:
- Test changes made to previously developed programs
- Manage the lifecycle of software and applications, from conception to launch
- Upgrade software or applications post-deployment
- Provide feedback for site managers during the development process.
Full-stack developers are often seen as the entrepreneurs of the development community. They’re versatile, collaborative, and have experience in a range of different programming languages and tools. As AI and other new technologies become more integrated, full-stack developers are often tasked with overseeing these types of management projects, too.
Difference Between Full-Stack Developer & Software Engineer
For some, the description of a full-stack developer might sound similar to that of a software engineer. A software engineer is a role with a broad job description, one that actually encompasses full-stack web development.
“Full-stack web development is a subset of software engineering – a job that involves handling all the work of databases, servers, systems engineering, and clients – and requires someone who is at home with front-end and back-end technologies,” wrote Randstad.
Both software engineers and full stack developers are generalists, in the sense that they have expertise in a lot of different engineering and development tasks. Full-stack developers, as mentioned, know HTML, CSS, Ruby, Python, and PHP as well as web architecture and the ability to structure code, categorize files, structure data in databases.
Software engineers tend to have knowledge in at least two languages, including C++, Java, C#, Python or Ruby. Engineers may have more design skills than full-stack engineers, but be less well-versed in project management.
The key difference in these roles comes down to career advancement. Full-stack developers tend to hold leadership roles, while software engineers work under their supervision. Full-stack developers are seen as good collaborators who can possess soft skills such as time management, attention to detail, and strong communication. Software engineers work both independently and as part of teams, making it less necessary for them to have strong leadership experience.
[Read more: Full-Stack Developers or Specialized Developers?]
11 Full-Stack Developer Skills
We’ve briefly highlighted a lot of skills that full-stack developers need to be successful. Today’s job market is competitive, with each candidate bringing different coding and design expertise to the table. Nevertheless, here’s a list of the front-end, back-end, and specialized skills that you should look for when hiring a full-stack developer.
Front end development skills
HTML is another basic building block for full-stack developers. HTML determines how web pages are linked and informs the browser how the page should be displayed. Page tags help with everything from the style elements to the SEO power of the website.
FInally, CSS is consistently one of the most-used languages in front-end development. Developers use CSS for the aesthetics of a page, adding color and style-based code to HTML structural elements.
Back-end development skills
Python was rated as the most desirable coding language in Stack Overflow’s 2020 Developer Survey. It’s a versatile, simple coding language that makes data visualization more efficient. Likewise, it supports many different coding styles and can help back end developers collaborate more efficiently.
Java and Python often go head-to-head when it comes to popularity. Both of them are high-level programming languages that offer great opportunities for developers. Being highly efficient, they are widely used in building an internet of things, including web, APIs, app development, data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and many more. But, each language can be used for different things, which is why a full-stack developer needs familiarity in both Java and Python.
SQL (Structured Query Language) is a language used in databases and backend development. “Since nearly every website makes use of back end data storage, SQL provides a solid foundation in database-oriented literacy needed in full stack development — especially regarding software built to house sensitive data,” wrote Columbia Engineering.
SQL belies an understanding of different database tools, such as MySQL, MongoDB, Redis, Oracle, SQLServer, and others. An overview of what these tools do and how to manipulate them is essential for full-stack engineers who may be overseeing advanced backend projects.
Rust is a programming language used in web development that’s becoming more popular year over year. “Rust is commonly used to improve a web page’s speed, parallelism, and inherent memory safety, and it too is valued for its wide range of uses. These include game engine design, operating system construction, and browser component implementation,” wrote Columbia Engineering.
- Web Architecture
Web architecture refers to planning and designing the technical, functional, and visual components of a website before it is deployed. Website architects work with backend and frontend developers to make the page or app come to life, creating the structure necessary to build a strong, cohesive product. As a result, full-stack developers need some experience in web architecture to manage the overall process.
Development requires not only technical knowledge but also a little creativity. Full-stack developers tend to be good critical thinkers, with the ability to address and solve backend bugs, mitigate design limitations, and bring a project to fruition. The range of skills that a software developer possesses should help them come up with out-of-the-box solutions that fulfill the business need.
Patience and strong teamwork can help full-stack developers advance in their careers. Since development teams tend to be distributed, communication and cultural differences can arise easily; full-stack developers need to be both detail-oriented and collaborative, delegating effectively and keeping track of all the moving parts and team members contributing to the finished product. Patience, in this scenario, is a virtue.
Good communication is essential for every developer, but especially for those who are bridging the gap between multiple teams and skillsets. In addition to navigating their own projects, full-stack developers frequently interface with clients, coders, domain managers, and other internal departments. Communication is what makes these employees so in-demand.
How Index Can Help Provide the Best Full-Stack Developers
Index combines in-country sourcing, a rigorous vetting process and easy to hire business model to help businesses bring on full-stack engineers — and other engineers with a range of different skills.
Our process is simple, but powerful. Index handles your hiring challenges by matching your company with senior-level full-stack developers. We focus only on interviewing and testing top-caliber remote candidates with excellent qualifications, verified skills, good English proficiency, and availability in your time zone.
We have access to a global network of exceptional full-stack developers. We tap into local markets with lower salary indicators without affecting the quality. This enables our clients to reduce the hiring budget by offering a well-paid job above their local average.
Before we send the full-stack engineer to your company for review, we test their expertise in the skills outlined above (and then some). When you decide to hire with us, you’ll be able to source the best possible talent matched with your industry, company culture, and project type.