Full stack web development encompasses both the front and back ends of a client’s online web presence. Your focus isn’t just on the design site visitors see or even the user experience (UX) and user interface (UI). Instead, you work on every aspect, from concept to wireframing to publishing to testing the page. 

Your work might include developing a client dashboard or debugging a web application. How much can you make? According to Payscale, the average salary for full stack web development is about $67,174 per year, with some earning more than six figures. 

Many designers focus on niche areas of design and may not offer a top-to-bottom solution, so you’ll have less competition for bigger jobs. At the same time, you can always provide individualized services for smaller projects. 

How Full Stack Web Development Is Used

Full stack web development focuses on designing a complete application or website. You will create and maintain databases, and work on the frontend, backend and debugging of sites. Some of the different programs and languages developers tend to be familiar with include CSS, C++, HTML, PHP and MySQL. 

Job listing might include:

  • Project manager: This includes working one-on-one with clients to plan and complete a project. You’ll need to gather the right information to complete the appointed task and be a good people manager to bring together all the aspects of the project, including graphic design and marketing.
  • Frontend developer: You’ll need knowledge of languages such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript. It’s sometimes called client-side development. Although you’ll also need to know backend coding, this is a big part of full stack web development.
  • Backend development: This requires the ability to work with databases and languages such as Python, Ruby, SQL and Java. This work is the behind-the-scenes, inner workings of a website, making it function the way the client wants. It can also include the creation of a client dashboard. You’ll need much more coding knowledge for backend.
  • Installing operating systems: Full stack web development includes the ability to install operating systems. You may need to work with the IT department to install cPanel, Ruby and other system components. 

Full stack works for larger projects, rather than one-off adjustments. Imagine starting off consulting with the client and scoping out the project, and then moving to planning and wireframing. You’ll work on applications allowing the client to access the backend of the site, such as ordering or inventory systems. Ensure the frontend of the site functions perfectly for site visitors. You’ll do testing, perfect SEO and debug databases. 

Being a full stack web developer requires wearing many different hats and juggling moving parts of a project. 

How to Become a Full Stack Web Developer

Full stack web development isn’t something you learn overnight. It requires years of learning, practice and knowledge. Many different factors and personal traits come together to create the perfect project manager for a complete website design or redesign. You should also familiarize yourself with some of the popular content management systems (CMS) out there, such as WordPress and Drupal. 

Education

You don’t necessarily need formal education for this career path, but there are some particular skills you must have. Whether you learn those via a program at your local community college, through one-off certifications or by taking online courses is up to you. 

  • Coursera: Used by universities and employers, Coursera offers in-depth knowledge about how to use programs such as Python and gives students an online environment to practice new skills. Pay for courses as you go.
  • Web Developer Bootcamp: Available through Udemy, this course’s teacher is Colt Steel. For under $100, you’ll learn everything about making real web applications with the latest technology. Create static HTML and CSS portfolio and landing page sites.
  • Web Design for Everybody: The University of Michigan offers a certification course where you can learn the basics of web design and coding. The focus is more on the frontend, but it is an excellent place to start developing skills. 

You don’t have to take all your courses at once to get into web development. It’s perfectly acceptable to learn as you go and add skills along the way.

Skills You’ll Need

You may find you already have many of the capabilities needed. Exactly what skills does a full stack developer need?

  • Understanding of user experience (UX)
  • Ability to communicate well 
  • Markup languages, such as HTML and CSS
  • JavaScript 
  • Photoshop 
  • WordPress
  • Ability to create and test applications for websites 
  • Knowledge of frameworks 
  • Database management 
  • Debugging capability 

In addition to learning coding languages, you’ll need an understanding of technology. For example, smart speakers and other voice searches impact the SEO of websites. You’ll also need the ability to step back and look at the big picture.

Experience

If you interview with an outside company, one thing they’ll want to know is what experience you have working in full stack web development. Unfortunately, if you’re starting, you may not have a lot of jobs under your belt.

You can develop some wisdom in a couple of ways. First, volunteer to help a local nonprofit get their website going or improve their processes. Document each step for an online portfolio, so you can highlight your work with them. Not only will you donate your time to a good cause, but you’ll also gain valuable career lessons you can show to potential employers or clients. 

You could also take on work from small businesses. They may not be able to pay you as much as a bigger corporation, but you’ll pick up valuable knowledge.

Another idea is creating your own websites or applications. Secure web hosting and a domain name and work on different aspects of development. Showcase the skills you’ve learned, so you can talk about the project in interviews. Intentionally add features as you perfect them. 

Tips for Web Developers

Here are some tips to keep your sanity as a full stack web developer and stand out from the competition. 

  • Stay updated on the latest technological advances.
  • Develop a list of graphic designers and developers with specialized abilities.
  • Try out different mockup platforms and types of coding until you find your favorites. Most clients don’t care what you use as long as it gets the results they want.
  • Master one of two technologies. It’s good to know multiple coding languages, but there should be just one or two you are an expert in.
  • Establish yourself as an expert in your field. Take on speaking engagements, answer questions in forums and add your portfolio to multiple websites, such as Behance and Dribbble. 
  • Find a mentor with years of experience in full stack web development. Observe the way the person does their work and ask questions as you go along. You’ll avoid some of the pitfalls they experienced. 

The Future of Full Stack

With millions of websites and more businesses getting online every day, there is plenty of work for web developers. Not only do new sites need creating, but current ones require regular updates and maintenance. Begin developing as many frontend, backend and coding skills as you can. Before you know it, businesses will seek you as an expert in the field. 

About the author

Lexie Lu

Hello! My name is Lexie and I have a fervor for design, writing, and coffee. I graduated with a dual major in Creative Writing and Commercial Design, and through those grueling study hours (facilitated by coffee, of course) I always found time to write for myself.

My posts feature design trends throughout all industries and show how the field is always changing. There’s never a dull moment in the design world!

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