The Skills You Need to Be a Backend Developer

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Thinking about moving into the flourishing field of web development? 

As you may already know, there are three types of web developers: 

  • Front end
  • Backend
  • And full stack (which combines both)

Below I will focus solely on backend developers by looking at what they do, the skills required to become a backend developer, and how you can get ultimately become one.

What Does a Backend Developer Do?

Backend developers are responsible for building out the "server side" in web applications.

AKA everything that happens before hitting your browser—which is known as the "client side." (Typically front end developers are responsible for creating the experience on the client side.) 

While backend developers focus on the inner workings of web applications, they still work hand-in-hand with front-end developers by giving the outward facing web application elements server side logic.

Backend developer adds this logic by using a server side scripting language like Ruby or PHP.

Aside from making web applications functional, backend developers are also responsible for optimizing the application for speed and efficiency.

Moreover, backend developers often create a data storage solution with a database. 

The database is a crucial component for all web applications for it stores information (like users, comments, posts, etc. ). Common databases include MySQL,  MongoDB, and PostgreSQL.

Who Does a Backend Developer Work With?

Backend developers typically work in teams with others.

Even within a larger team, there is generally a design, front end (engineers, UX architects, etc.), and then a backend team.   

As far as backend teams go, back-end developers work alongside software engineers. One could do just REST API development or related. Another could be a quality assurance (QA), engineer.

As you see, even within the backend there are different duties. 

What Skills/Technologies Must I Know to Become a Backend Developer? 

Using the Toptal backend job description template as a reference, below are some of the core skills and technologies a backend developer must know.  

  • Proficient knowledge of the back-end programming language/framework that the given company relies upon
  • Understanding of front-end web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (to communicate with team members on the front end) 
  • Ability to manage a hosting environment, including database administration as well as scaling applications to handle load changes
  • Knowledge of accessibility and security compliance 
  • Experience with version control, such as Git

Where Can I Learn These Backend Skills?

Most backend developers and those working on the backend team have formal training in one way or another. AKA a computer science (CS) degree. 

Compared to front-end developers, back-end developers may have to do more abstraction. They could be data mining, writing abstract algorithms, and so forth. That's why a formal CS degree comes in handy. 

Nevertheless, if you're beyond your college years, there are both in-person courses (or boot camps) and online options available to prepare you for a career in backend development.

In-person Backend Development Courses

Of course, when doing a face-to-face course location is everything.

The best way to find an in-person backend development course near you is through online research.

However, here are two suggestions to get the ball rolling:

  • General Assembly has a 10-week backend development course 
  • Betamore has a 12-week backend course (which is part-time)  

In-person boot camps/courses aren't cheap. But they are more affordable than a formal CS degree. (Plus, unlike online classes, you have the luxury of being able to interact with peers and an instructor.) 

Online Backend (Or Full Stack) Learning Options

It is not as easy to find backend-only online courses. Most teach full stack -- so both the front and backend. Nonetheless, here are some online course options to consider: 

  • Udacity has a full stack nano degree, with backend development emphasis 
  • Bloc.io has a full stack online course, too, with one-on-one mentorship
  • Udemy has a variety of online course options, including backend development (make sure to read the reviews on Udemy before signing up)

Conclusion

In the end, backend developers play a critical role in web development teams. They are responsible for handling data storage and ensuring content gets delivered to the front end. 

If you know someone thinking about transitioning into web development, make sure to share this article to them.