What does it take to be a full-stack developer?


Web applications and software are built in stacks, or in layers if you prefer to look at it this way. These layers include the front end which is basically the user interface and deals with design languages like HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, access and usability, graphics and images, as well as browser compatibility issues. The backend layer which is fundamentally the code that runs the program features data and operating syntax; programming and scripting languages like Python and PHP; databases, servers, and networks; test frameworks; as well as caching and security issues. The middle layer deals with application scalability, API integrations, and deployments.

Ever heard of front or back-end developers?

These are developers who specialize in either designing the user interface of an application or building the server-side code to handle user requests on websites, web pages, or applications respectively. There is yet another caliber of software developers known as full-stack developers. These are well-rounded developers who can handle both the server-side and the client-side of a website application or software. They are known as full-stack developers. have undertaken a full-stack developer course and had some experience working on all the phases of the software development cycle of a product.

While there are advantages associated with specializing, there are challenges that come with multiple specialists being involved in a single development project. Communication and collaboration are sometimes slow and broken which in turn compromises efficiency. Other times, priorities differ for the frontend and backend software engineers which creates a disconnect in the entire process. Owing to this, companies now prefer to hire full-stack developers in place of front-end and back-end developers.

What is a full-stack developer?

A full-stack developer is a professional who possesses the full set of skills required to handle an entire application project from concept, design, to deployment single-handedly. They possess programming skills for servers, databases, and clients. In other words, full-stack developers assume the roles of both the front-end and back-end developers. They can work with most current languages including CSS, HTML, Python, Java, JavaScript, Ruby, PHP, and others.

Being a full-stack developer means that you have full control over all the project’s deliverables. This helps you plan your work efficiently as you do not have to wait on another developer with different priorities to complete certain tasks for you to act.

What it takes to be a full-stack developer

As an aspiring full-stack developer, your roles will include:

  • Developing the backend and front end of a website or application
  • Designing and building user interfaces
  • Writing code for applications
  • Programming browser, server, and databases
  • Developing APIs
  • Solving application issues
  • Debugging and updating

What does it take to become a full-stack developer? Here are guidelines that you can follow to become one.

  1. What is your starting point? 

It is important to evaluate your educational background and experience to know where you should start from. Are you a beginner, intermediate, or experienced front or backend developer? Do you have some programming experience?

For those who are coming from the front-end or backend developer backgrounds, it shouldn’t be hard becoming a full-stack developer since you will already have some website or application development experience. For beginners, however, if you are new to software development, you will have a different challenge in developing the skills and learning processes but it is certainly achievable.

  • Determine the skills that you need

Core skills and knowledge that a full-stack developer should have include: 

  • An understanding of application infrastructure
  • Knowledge of communication protocols like HTTP, TCP/IP, and RESET
  • Front-end programming languages like CSS, HTML, and JavaScript
  • Backend programming languages like PHP, Ruby, Python, and Java  
  • Knowledge of data storage, data structures, and relational databases like MongoDB, Cassandra, SQL, and SQLite.
  • Developing APIs
  • Knowledge of version control systems (VCS) like GitHub
  • UI/UX design
  • Security and cache

Don’t be overwhelmed with all the skills you will need to learn. A full-stack developer doesn’t have to master every skill in this list. Expertise in some skills and basic knowledge of the others will go along.

  • Can’t do without coding

Coding skills are a must-have for those aspiring to be developers, full-stack or otherwise.

A good place to learn how to code is by taking the 100 days of code challenge whereby you dedicate an hour a day to coding. Alternatively, register with Code Academy for free coding classes in Python, Java, JavaScript, Go, Ruby, SQL, C++, C#, Swift, Sass, HTML, and CSS; 12 languages in total. To put your skills into practice, select a simple project on a website or application and develop its code.

  • Your training

With all, there is to master, from the front-end frameworks, backend technologies, programming languages, processes, and platforms, navigating the content available online can be overwhelming. This is why enrolling in a training program that provides a structured curriculum may be the best option that you’ll have. Some courses available that you can consider include:

Some popular stacks you will stumble upon as a full-stack developer are

  • MEAN Stack: JavaScript – MongoDB-Express – AngularJS – Node.js
  • LAMP stack: JavaScript – Linux – Apache – MySQL – PHP
  • LEMP stack: JavaScript – Linux-Nginx – MySQL – PHP
  • Django stack: JavaScript – Python – Django – MySQL
  • Ruby on Rails: JavaScript –  Ruby – SQLite – PHP
  • Go hands-on; practice practice

Once you have some knowledge of the basic software development and design tools, you should be in a position to test your theory by designing simple web forms or application features. Create goals for yourself first mastering tools and then working on front-end or backend projects. Afterward, you should try your hand in building an application end-to-end. Consider mastering the following tools:

Front-end (client-side) tools

  • Bootstrap framework for developing responsive web pages with HTML, CSS, and JS
  • Angular.js that uses HTML to manage dynamic web or application view

Backend (server-side) tools

  • Django, the Python-based web framework for server scripting
  • NodeJS, a JavaScript runtime environment used for creating dynamic web pages.

Databases tools

  • MYSQL, an open-source relational database management system. 
  • MongoDB, a NoSQL database system that is document-oriented, using JSON-like document schema.


  • React, a JavaScript library for developing user interfaces for single page and mobile applications
  • jQuery, a JavaScript library for front-end web design.
  • D3.js, a JavaScript library for developing dynamic and interactive data visualizations for web browsers using CSS, SVG, and HTML languages. 

Text editors

  • CodePen, front-end code editor for creating and testing code snippets
  • Atom, a cross-platform text editor packaged with a built-in platform.

UI/UX design tools

  • Mockplus, a product design platform for designing, prototyping, and developing design systems
  • Sketch, a design tool for creating high-fidelity design pages.

Speed site tester

  • Google PageSpeed Insights for testing and reporting web page performance on various devices. 
  • Package your portfolio

You have learned the basic skills required for a full-stack developer, undertaken a training course, are well versed with coding, done a few projects here and there, and even volunteered and collaborated on open-source projects. How about rounding these up in a portfolio to showcase your skills, knowledge, and competence. It’s about time you started seeking entry-level full stack developer roles to gain further experience.


Web and mobile applications are necessary for this digital age. Seasoned full-stack developers add value to technology companies while also helping cut project costs by working on projects end-to-end without the involvement of too many specialists in between. According to Glassdoor, a full-stack developer in the U.S.A commands an average annual salary of $105,813. Going forward, the demand for full-stack developers will continue to rise.

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