What is a full stack developer? Here’s everything you need to know

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Believe it or not, behind every successful website is the hard work of developers. They have likely spent anywhere from a few hours to multiple months creating seamless user experiences—and it’s only getting more complicated.  

Whereas websites historically focused heavily on functionality, there continues to be a shift toward visual design, engagement, and an attention economy. As a result, the demand for web experts continues to increase. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, web developers and digital designers are growing much faster than the national average—at a rate of 16%.


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For those that are intrigued by website development and design, learning more about full stack developers is the topic for you. Fortune with the basics of what you need to know.

What is full stack development?

Full stack development is an umbrella term for both frontend and backend aspects of a website. 

The former deals with the implementation of user experience (UX) and user interaction (UI) designs, says Ashish Aggarwal, a computer science professor at the University of Florida. The latter, backend development, focuses on business logic and data processing, which take the form of working with databases and APIs that truly power the website.

“On any typical day, a developer is working on a part of these applications, and implementing that, making it robust, looking at if there are any errors, or if there are any bugs, then rectifying them,” Aggarwal says.

What are the skills required for a full stack developer?

Because full stack developers work with both sides of a website, they are generally pretty well versed in various tech skills.

Aggarwal says front-end developers are familiar with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as well as upcoming frameworks like React and Angular. On the back-end, developers may know Python, Ruby, and Django to connect APIs as well as SQL, Postgres, and MongoDB. Developers also are familiar with cloud services like AWS and Azure for deployment. 

Full-stack developers at least have some foundation in all of these areas—but keep in mind that things are constantly changing, and the exact skills may differ based on the role, project,  and company. In a similar vein, generative AI skills are now also table stakes, notes Dennis Perpetua, global CTO digital workplace services & experience officer at Kyndryl.

With all these changes and uncertainty, one of the most important softer skills for any developer to have is flexibility and a willingness to adapt to change—and quickly.

On top of being comfortable with being uncomfortable, Aggarwal adds, that if you truly want to succeed as a fullstack developer you need to be able to:

  • Communicate
  • Collaborate with a team
  • Do your part with a growth mindset

How much do full-stack developers get paid?

Full stack developers earned $113,000 in annual salary last year, according to Dice’s most recent Tech Salary Trends report. Salary estimates from Glassdoor are similar, with the field earning average salaries of about $95,000 per year but with total pay averaging to just over $121,000.

Where can you learn full stack developer skills?

Luckily, there are only a growing number of ways to learn the necessary hard and soft skills to become a successful full stack engineer—and with a six-figure salary. You cannot go wrong with a traditional route—with a bachelor’s in computer science or even a master’s in computer science. 

Students of electrical and mechanical engineering are also typical candidates for full stack roles, Perpetua explains—adding while a master’s degree is useful, it is not necessary.

“The benefits from the master’s degree help in further career development by bringing in more business context to the work.  This includes the economic goals of the development, but are not necessary to get into the career,” he says.

With there being an abundance of content online to learn how to code, the ultimate route depends on where a student can thrive and focus on learning the most.

“If somebody has the opportunity to go through school and university, then they should go through that program because it is structured, and you have a mentor, there is an environment, there is a culture that facilitates that learning,” Aggarwal says.

YouTube, as one example, has a seemingly endless collection of videos focused on teaching computer science skills, and there are also an increasing number of bootcamps and certification programs for individuals to learn on their own time.

Above all, for those wanting to become a full stack developer, it is important to start gradually building your skills through hands-on projects. That way, when it comes time to start applying for internships, apprenticeships, and even jobs, you have something to truly prove your capabilities.

“Focus on the basics, once you have them down, and see yourself as a forever learner, you will adapt to new technology,” Perpetua says. “Once you have that foundation, you will always have the ability to adapt to new technology.  Even with new revolutions like genAI, the foundations can be understood and quickly picked up if you have the right experience.”

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