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Learn About Being a Back-End Developer

April 17, 2020

A back-end developer is someone who works on development on the server-side of a business's technology infrastructure. Large businesses often require front-end and back-end developers to create robust applications that their customers and employees can use daily. For this reason, being a back-end developer is a high-demand career. In this article, we explain what it means to be a back-end developer and show how to become one.

Related: Front End vs. Back End: Definitions and Differences

What is a back-end developer?

A back-end developer is a software professional who develops applications by implementing code on a company's server. While front-end developers work with customer-facing application content, like user interfaces, back-end developers are responsible for connecting data channels or functions on a company's server to actions that allow the application to run successfully. Sometimes, back-end developers work with databases to ensure that applications can retrieve information. Other times, they build components that are essential for the basic functioning of a piece of software.

What does a back-end developer do?

Here's a list of duties that a back-end developer usually performs:

  • Creating, integrating and managing databases
  • Implementing frameworks on the server-side that are a part of customer-facing features
  • Assisting with web-server technology
  • Integrating servers with the cloud
  • Being well-versed in server-side programming languages like Java
  • Keeping up with current knowledge of operating systems
  • Developing, deploying and maintaining content management systems and updates
  • Integrating APIs with server-side components
  • Updating security settings to prevent hacking
  • Generating robust reports and analytics
  • Backing up files and assisting with restorations

Back-end developer salary

The average salary for a back-end developer in the U.S. is $124,303 per year. Common benefits include commuter assistance, a health savings account, stock options and paid time off. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

Related: Learn About Being a Front-End Developer

Back-end developer vs. front-end and full-stack developer

Back-end development is one path developers can take in their careers. Here's how back-end development is different from front-end and full-stack development:

Front-end developer roles and responsibilities

Front-end developers perform these duties, which are different from back-end developers:

  • Create and implement the visual elements of a website's interface
  • Implement responsive user interfaces
  • Test the usability of a website or web application
  • Troubleshoot broken code
  • Make improvements to the architecture of a website or application

Full-stack developer roles and responsibilities

A full-stack developer performs the entire list of duties that belong to both front-end and back-end developers. These technology professionals are highly trained and specialize in all areas of development. They understand many coding languages and frameworks and perform a wide range of duties that belong to both front-end and back-end developers.

Related: Full-Stack Developer: Definition and Necessary Skills

How to become a back-end developer

Follow these steps to become a back-end developer.

Consider if an education program is right for you.

To start in a technology job, experience with coding and frameworks is usually a requirement, but a formal education may not be. Enrolling in an education program, such as a two- or four-year degree or certification program, can improve your chances of securing a job, higher salary or senior position.

Consider where you'd like to start your career in back-end development, at the junior-level or mid-career level, and what training you need to get there. If you are not familiar with the basics of coding, it may make sense to choose an education program that exposes you to the fundamentals of back-end development.

Learn a programming language.

Regardless of whether you choose formal education or not, an important step in the process of becoming a back-end developer is to learn a server-side programming language like Java or C++. Some other examples of server-side languages are:

  • Ruby
  • Python
  • C#

Understand algorithms and data structures.

A basic understanding of data structures and algorithms makes it easier to learn the frameworks necessary for the job. Core concepts like revising algorithm stacks and data structures, searching and sorting algorithms and creating link trees and graphs are all part of the required foundational duties.

Learn a framework.

Different learning frameworks are available, but for back-end developers just starting out, the best idea is to pick one and start practicing with it. Two common frameworks are Django and Ruby on Rails. The server-side programming languages you know will help you determine which one you should start with.

Most frameworks are a model-view-controller (MVC) resource that makes it easier to code an entire program. While some back-end developers may hand-code a program just using their knowledge of programming languages and not a framework, adjusting to using a framework makes your programming faster and more consistent, which is desirable in most workplaces. For this reason, it's generally expected that back-end developers understand how to work within common learning frameworks.

Get current on database knowledge.

Working with databases is another important skill for back-end developers. These professionals are required to not only required to link applications to databases to retrieve information, but they must also know how to create databases and manage the data lifecycle.

Practice regularly.

Practicing is essential if you want to become a back-end developer. It sharpens your skills and offers experiences you can talk about in an interview. Hone key skills, like coding in a server-side language and building databases, to perform them competently. By practicing, you can make yourself more comfortable with the foundational concepts you need to know to perform the role of a back-end developer.

Consider security.

By understanding security best practices, you can help companies avoid security breaches to their servers. Since back-end developers are responsible for developing server-side, they must understand how to protect it. Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) issues security guidelines that you should be familiar with.

Decide on practical training methods.

Practical training methods are important to learning. These include creating your own server-side applications, practicing security enhancements, creating databases and more. You must have a portfolio if you want to work as a back-end developer. To do that, you need to start working on projects. Choose projects that interest you and see them through to completion. This way, you have practical experience that you can show in an interview, in addition to any education that you choose.

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