The ultimate guide to become a full stack developer

Have you ever asked yourself how some developers get to become Full Stack developers, while the rest of them get stuck with a single frontend language? Maybe you didn’t even know it is a thing, but a lot of development jobs require this kind of mastery. Learn how to become a full-stack developer that builds beautiful, user-friendly applications with the whirlwind of web development trends.

Quick facts:

  • Full-stack developers are compensated well. The national average salary of an international Full Stack Developer in the US is $106,409 /year or $51 /hour (Ziprecruiter)
  •  Full stack developers are in demand because of their high value to their employers (Stack Overflow)
  • Many people are making a career switch to become Full Stack Developers and we strongly believe your decision to do so too, is smart!

Standing between you and your dream of becoming a Full Stack Developer is just one thing: the lack of (technical) knowledge.

This blog post will help you to fill in the gaps of your knowledge, get ready for interviews and start building a career as a Full Stack Developer.

Let’s get started!

What is a full-stack developer?

Full-stack developers are software engineers who have expertise in all layers of web application development. By layers, we mean front-end, back-end, and the database. The term “stack” is descriptive of these layers – so “full” + “stack” is just an emphasis that this software engineer has expertise in all of these layers.

 Diving deeper:

  • Front-end: This is the part of your web application where the user interacts with it. This can be through a browser, but also increasingly mobile applications to interact with their favorite apps.
  • Back-end: This is the part of your web application that takes care of all of its logic and functionality. It enables users to do things like login, save their preferences for the next time they want to interact with your application, and so on.
  • Database: This is where all of this information is stored and retrieved from.

Remember: all of these layers need to work together in order for your application to do anything useful!

What kind of responsibilities do they have?

Full-stack developers can be involved in all stages of a web application’s lifecycle. They may work closely with a product manager to understand the requirements of an application, architect and design it accordingly. In addition, they can be involved in testing their code along the way and deploy it when the product manager is ready.

What are the prerequisites to become a full-stack developer?

Front-end development skills

It is recommended that you have a solid knowledge of front-end development in order to become a Full Stack Developer.  Before you can even go about learning the back-end and database, you should be familiar with HTML and CSS.

HTML & CSS: You should know the basics of HTML and be able to write your own basic templates. Since more and more applications are being written as Single Page Applications, you should also be familiar with JavaScript and its frameworks like jQuery.

What do you need to learn next? 

Back-end development skills

You need to learn the back-end of your web application – this is where all its logic lies and it’s usually in the form of a programming language that you need to learn. You can do this by learning either one or more back-end languages – for example, Python or Ruby (these are popular programming languages for this kind of development).

Database management systems

You also need to understand how databases work and what kind of database you are using.  This is important because it will enable you to have a better understanding of how your application is being stored, what kind of information it holds, and so on.

MySQL is the most popular open-source database at this point in time. You can also consider learning MongoDB, PostgreSQL, or Cassandra if you are interested in NoSQL databases.

In addition to that, caching is important in web application development – this is where you can store some information that you will need frequently (like user data) and then fetch it when you need to (instead of your application having to go through the process again) so learn how to work with both server-side and client-side caching using technologies like Memcached or Redis.

UI /UX design principles

A basic understanding of UI (User Interface) and UX (User Experience) design principles will enable you to be more aware of how your application is being used by the user.

It is important to design a good UI for your application. Remember that you are not only designing the visual part (like buttons, colors, etc.) but also designing the application’s architecture.  All of these need to be taken into account at the same time so that you can create good interactions between the user and your application.

Adding this skill set to your toolbox will make you a more valuable candidate.

Knowledge of version control

One of the most popular and in-demand tools that a Full Stack Developer needs to be familiar with is Git. Git is a version control tool that helps you keep track of all changes in your code. This can help you collaborate on projects with other developers and also keep track of code changes over time.

Git is just one of the Version control systems you can use, there are many others like Mercurial (Hg) or Subversion (SVN). 

Other tools and technologies Full Stack developers should know include:

  • IDEs (Integrated Development Environments) – this is where you can write code, test it and deploy it.  Examples of popular IDEs a Full Stack developer needs to be familiar with include Eclipse, IntelliJ IDEA, and Atom.
  •  Continuous Integration – this is where you can run tests on your code continuously, prevent bugs from being pushed to production and so on. Examples of popular Continuous Integration tools include Jenkins, TravisCI and CircleCI.
  •  DevOps – this is where you can manage code deployments, automate tasks, etc.  Examples of popular DevOps tools include Docker, Vagrant, and Puppet.
  •  API development skill – An API (Architecture Platform Interface) is a set of requirements that allows your application to communicate with third-party applications. As a Full Stack developer, knowledge of how APIs work, how to define them and create your own is very useful. REST and SOAP are two popular API models.
  • Cloud hosting – A Full Stack developer also needs to know how cloud hosting works and what options are available (e.g. AWS, Azure, etc.)

In addition to the above tools – it is important for a Full Stack Developer to have some knowledge of how to work with the following:

  • Slack – This is a tool that allows you to chat with your team and send files (and much more)
  • Automation tools – An example of an automation tool is Gulp which enables you to automate tasks in your development process.

What else do you need to know? 

Full Stack developer soft skills

There are a number of soft skills that you will need to have in order to become a Full Stack Developer.

In addition to being able to work with different technologies and tools, a Full Stack Developer needs to:

Be able to work in small teams

The good news is that as a Full Stack Developer you will probably work in a team. This means that even if your main focus is front-end or back-end development, you can still use your knowledge of other areas to help you out.

Work well under pressure

Full Stack Developers need to be able to work on multiple projects at once. This can take its toll so you need to be able to work well under pressure and not get overwhelmed by everything that is happening around you.

Be a good communicator

Full Stack Developers need to be able to communicate. This means that you will need to: write well, speak clearly and be able to listen.

Problem solving skills

As a Full Stack Developer, you will need to be able to solve problems. This means that having good analytical and critical thinking skills is very important.

Project management skills

A Full Stack Developer will need to be able to plan and manage different projects/tasks. This means that knowing how to set up tasks, milestones, deadlines, etc. is very important as well as being able to prioritize tasks depending on the situation.

Time management skills

You will need to be able to manage your own time. This means that having good time management skills is very important and will allow you to get more done in a shorter amount of time.

Software Stack – what are they and why should a Full Stack Developer know them?

We won’t lie to you: learning the entire technologies and tools needed to become a Full Stack Developer can (and will) take time.

The good news is that you don’t need to know every single one – just the ones that are in your area of focus.

And this is where “Software Stacks” come in.

What is a Software Stack?

A Software Stack is a collection of different tools and technologies that can be used to create an application or website.  Consider it a group of “building blocks” that can be used in a specific context.

Examples of Software Stacks include:

  • MEAN – MongoDB, ExpressJS, Angular JS and Node Js are the components that are used to create Single Page Applications.
  • LAMP – Linux, Apache web server, MySQL database, and PHP are the components that are used to build web applications.
  • MERN –  MongoDB, ExpressJS, React Js, and Node Js are the components that can be used to build web applications.
  •  MEVN –  MongoDB, ExpressJS, Vue Js, and Node Js are the components that can be used to build web applications.

The above examples show how different combinations of tools and technologies can be used to create a web application.

If you know all (or at least some) the components in the stack you will be in a great position to create anything.

This is because different types of applications (websites, mobile apps, etc.) can be built using different combinations of tools and technologies.

As an example, let’s take the MEAN stack which is very popular among Full Stack Developers:

MongoDB – this is a NoSQL database that is very popular with Full Stack Developers

ExpressJS – this is an API development framework that allows you to build APIs.

Angular JS – this is an MVW (Model-View-Whatever) framework that allows you to build Single Page Applications

Node Js – this is a server-side JavaScript framework that allows you to run code on the webserver.

As you can see, knowing about these different stacks is very important for a Full Stack Developer to be able to pick and choose the tools they need for a specific project.

How can you become a Full Stack developer? 

You can become a Full Stack Developer by studying one of several online courses available today. This will give you the technical knowledge you need to start working as a programmer.  Once this is done, it’s important that you keep up with new technologies and techniques to always stay up-to-date and relevant in the job market.

How to find your first job as a Full Stack developer?

Now that you know what Full Stack Development is and how to become one, it’s time for some final words about finding your first job as a Full Stack Developer.

There are a number of things that you can do to find your first job as a Full Stack Developer:

  •  Start looking for job opportunities online at websites that are specific to the area you want to work in.  A good example is Stack Overflow Jobs which lists various jobs in the IT industry or you can also register on freelancing platforms like Hiremotely which is a dedicated platform for developers.
  •  Join local or online communities and meetups where people who work as Full Stack Developers share job opportunities with each other. 
  • Start your own blog or portfolio website where you can share your work with the world. Having this online presence will allow you to show potential employers different projects that you have worked on in the past and the skills that you have.

What is the future of Full Stack development?

As more and more companies move towards becoming digital, having Full Stack Developers will become even more important. They will be needed to help with most stages of the development cycle, from testing and deploying new applications all the way up to scaling them for larger audiences.

Arjun Kohli
Arjun Kohli
Arjun Kohli is a Freelance Inbound Marketing consultant. He has a thorough understanding of automation tools, marketing funnels, content marketing, customer engagement, and community building strategies.
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