Front End vs. Back End Development: What’s the Difference?

Front End vs. Back End Development: What’s the Difference?

Modis Posted 05 March 2020

Have you ever wondered what is the difference between front and back end development? Or how to get hired as a web developer?

When you're looking for a job in web development, it's daunting enough learning the craft – never mind getting a job as a web developer.

Well, there's good news: Getting the scoop on front end vs back end developer doesn't have to be a difficult process. With the right guidance you could easily learn all you need to know to get started in a new career -- all without waiting years, or spending an inordinate amount of money.

In this post, you'll learn what the difference is between front and back end development. You'll also learn how to land a developer job.

Ready? Let's dive in.

What is front end development?

So, “What is front end development?"

Front-end web development -- also known as client-side development -- involves using tools like HTML, CSS and JavaScript to convert data to a graphical interface for a website or Web Application so that a user can see and interact with that data.

In other words, front-end development involves everything the user, or client, sees. Sometimes, this is called "web design."

Front-end developers use the following tools to do their work:

  • Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) -- This is the standard markup language that lets a web browser or web app know how to display text, images, and other forms of multimedia.
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) -- This is a style sheet language used to format the layout of pages written in a markup language like HTML.
  • JavaScript -- This is a scripting or programming language that creates dynamically updating content, controls multimedia, animates images, and more. JavaScript can update and change HTML and CSS as well as calculate, manipulate, and validate data.
  • WebAssembly -- WebAssembly, abbreviated Wasm is a binary instruction format for stack-based virtual machines. This is the fourth language to run natively in browsers (along with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript).

Front-end devs need more than fluency in these languages to succeed. It also helps to be familiar with frameworks like Bootstrap, Foundation, Backbone, AngularJS, and EmberJS, and libraries like jQuery, LESS, and Ajax.

Once you're armed with the essential skills for front end developer, you may wonder what kind of jobs are out there? Here are a few examples of other names for a front end developer:

  • Web designer
  • User Interface (UI) Designer
  • User Experience (UX) designer
  • Front-End Developer or Designer

Because front-end development roles vary so much there is no one-size-fits-all front end developer job description. You may find yourself creating websites using HTML and CSS (and sometimes even JavaScript) or researching how users interact with sites and making changes based on testing. One thing is certain: each day will offer a new opportunity to use your newfound front end developer skills and you'll never be bored!

Image credit: Frontend Masters

Landing a developer role may require a bachelor's degree in a related area and 0-5 years of relevant experience. Some employers will want you to have a working knowledge of C++ language programming, XMotif programming interfaces, GUI API packages and other GUI principles.

As reported in our 2020 IT & Engineering Salary Guide, the median base salary for a front-end developer is $95,424. A Web Application Developer earns $82,040 per year. Of course, salary is affected by many factors including experience, education, and location.

developers working
What is back end development?

What is back end development?

In short, the back-end of the web industry is the server-side. That means a back-end developer builds and maintains the technology that powers the components that enable the user-facing side of the website.

When we talk about how a website works, updates, and changes, we're talking about the "server-side", or back-end. This refers to everything a user can't see in the browser, like databases and servers.

Some common tools back-end devs use to make servers, applications, and databases communicate with each other include server-side languages like PHP, Ruby, Python, Java, and .Net to build an application. They also use tools like MySQL, Oracle, and SQL Server to find, save, or change data and serve it back to the user in front-end code.

Basically, back-end developers write code that communicates with the server and then tells the browser what to use from the database.

Hiring managers looking for back-end developers may want experience with PHP frameworks like Zend, Symfony, and CakePHP; experience with version control software like SVN, CVS, or Git; and experience with Linux as a development and deployment system.

People who work on the back-end are usually called back-end programmers or back-end developers. They are worried about things like security, structure, and content management. Although back-end devs usually know and use HTML and CSS, it's not their main focus.

A back-end developer's objective is to ensure the server, application, and database communicate with each other.

They use languages like PHP, Ruby, Python, Java, and .Net to build an application. When it's time to find, save, or change data and serve it to the user in front end code, they use tools like MySQL, Oracle, and SQL Server.

When you look at back-end developer job descriptions, you may see hiring managers looking for a BA degree in Computer Science or similar relevant field; understanding of web development; experience with programming languages like Java, Ruby, PHP and Python; experience with CMS framework; and working knowledge of front-end languages such as HTML, JavaScript, and CSS.

As with front-end development, there are many roles within back-end development. Here are a few common roles along with their median base salaries according to our 2020 IT & Engineering Salary Guide:

  • Java Developer: $105,016 per year
  • .NET Developer: $100,024 per year

For even more details on salaries and workforce trends, request a free copy of our complete 2020 Workforce Trends & Salary Guide.

How to Find Your First Development Job

Now, let's answer the million-dollar-question: How do you get a job in development?

Here is a brief guide to landing your next development job.

  1. Learn the technical skills -- The first step in landing a development job is learning how to be a developer. That means you'll have to learn code. The good news is learning basic coding should take you months, not years. You have your choice of coding bootcamps, online coding tutorials, online coding courses, and more depending on your budget and preferred learning style. For example, there's freeCodeCamp. It's a site that teaches you web development using small programming challenges.
  2. Show off your skills -- Once you have some technical chops, you'll want to make sure you share that with potential employers. Here are a few ways to get noticed:
    1. Portfolio -- Perhaps the most important marketing material you'll share with potential employers is your portfolio of development projects. This is how you can show and prove that you have what it takes to get the job done. There are lots of resources online for creating and hosting portfolios.
    2. Resume -- If you're looking for a development job, you'll need a well-crafted and up-to-date resume to share with recruiters and hiring managers. Make sure it is optimized so you don't get rejected by an applicant tracking system — or ATS.
    3. Volunteer your programming skills -- There are many nonprofit and small business organizations that would be happy to have you use your development skills to solve their tech challenges. For example, CodeDoesGood is a volunteer-run group of developers.
    4. Pick up freelance work -- You can use marketplaces like Upwork to connect with people who will pay you to work on freelance development projects. Not only can you beef up your portfolio, you can earn some money too!
    5. Get involved in open source projects -- Don't just gain web development knowledge; put your newfound skills to use and get real-world experience. There are loads of open source projects on GitHub.
  3. Find a job -- Although there is no formula for landing a job, here are a few tips to get you started:
    1. Useful web development job portals -- You can use online portals like LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, StackOverflow, Authentic Jobs, Codeity, CyberCoders, and Smashing Jobs to further your job search.
    2. Recruiters -- Many job seekers try to do everything on their own not knowing the right recruiter brings a wealth of resources to the table. For example, you can partner with a Modis recruiter to advance your career and start your new job as a developer.
    3. Start building a network -- Try reaching out to potential employers through social contacts and networking events. You can also try to find a mentor to guide you on your journey. Find a hackathon or code meetup near you. Then, find someone who does what you want to do at the event and introduce yourself. Eventually, once you establish a relationship they may be open to mentoring you.
  4. Prepare for the interview -- Finally, be ready to impress any interviewers.
    1. You can practice your interviewing skills with friends or use online platforms to work with a stranger. Use websites like Pramp and Leetcode to find another developer. Together, you'll help each other explore the technical interview environment.
    2. Keep learning more about your industry. Subscribe to relevant blogs, newsletters, and podcasts to keep up with trends and the latest developments.

Key Takeaways

Both front and back end developers play a crucial role in building effective apps and programs. If you're looking to start a career in development you couldn't have picked a better time.

The current demand for developers is real: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, employment of web developers is expected to grow 15% from 2016 to 2024, a significantly higher projection than most other occupations.

Here's what that means: If you want to get a job in web development, it is entirely possible.

With a little studying and focused effort you can easily land the perfect position.

If you would like some help finding your next front-end or back-end development role, check out our job search page.

Opportunities are waiting.

With new jobs added daily, Modis is the number one location to take your career to the next level.

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