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Back-end development determines how a website functions. Back-end developers control website performance and operations, ensuring visitors get what they came for and return in the future.

According to a 2018 study from UX testing software company, Eggplant, 73% of online visitors will consider abandoning an organization because of a slow and ineffective website.

We examine the value of back-end development and explore the various training pathways available to the field.

Understanding Web Development

Web development refers to the construction of websites and online applications. The field can also encompass web design, programming, website maintenance, security, and database management. The discipline brings together front-end and back-end development, which deal with client-facing and server-side development.

Front-end developers manage a website's interface or surface-level components, giving it the desired look and feel. Back-end developers work behind the scenes, handling the technical features of the site and its functionality. In general, back-end development takes care of information storage and retrieval.

Imagine web development as a car. Front-end development is the body, the interior, and the paint job, while back-end development is the frame, the engine, and the transmission system. The car needs both components to perform its best.

Goals of Back-End Development

The back end of a website includes three primary components: server, application, and database. The server is the computer or system that receives and sends data, the application processes requests and responses, and the database organizes and secures data.

Back-end developers ensure that these components communicate with each other smoothly and responsively. They develop a system that delivers accurate and secure responses to users in a format they can read.

Accomplishing this requires back-end developers to plan, code, and test website frameworks and applications. They create user authentication protocols, configure networks, and implement strong security standards. After the website goes live, back-end developers maintain and upgrade the system and its components as needed.

Skills Required for Back-End Development

Back-end developers use many skills and competencies in their work. They need the ability to code, troubleshoot, debug, and run tests. They should be comfortable using the main back-end programming languages, such as Ruby, PHP, Java, JavaScript, and Python.

They should also have a solid grasp of their frameworks, such as Spring, Django, or Express.js. Other useful tools and technologies include the runtime environment Node.js and the Oracle Database or MySQL database management systems.

A large portion of back-end development involves working with servers and databases, so understanding how these technologies work will prove helpful. Furthermore, familiarity with application programming interfaces (APIs) and control systems should also come in handy.

Learning Back-End Development

Back-end developers can access the profession in several ways, including self-taught, bootcamp, and bachelor's degree pathways. Each route has its pros and cons.

Self-Guided Pathway

You can learn back-end development on your own if you have a passion for the field and the drive necessary to see the training all the way through. Depending on your experience and skill level, this pathway could take months or years. Self-guided pathways provide freedom and flexibility but lack the guidance and support some individuals need.

You might want to learn a widely applicable programming language — like Python — when starting from scratch. Next, learn about servers, version control systems, frameworks, databases, and deployment. Self-guided learning requires time, practice, and patience.

Helpful learning resources for this process include:

  • Udacity
  • Udemy
  • Code Academy
  • freeCodeCamp
  • YouTube Tutorials
  • Web Development Communities

Bootcamp Pathway

Bootcamps provide guided and accelerated training in a focused field, such as coding or web development. According to a 2019 RTI International report, the average bootcamp runs for 13 weeks for full-time students and 24 weeks for part-time students.

The scope, approach, and focus of web development bootcamps vary by organization. They typically provide hands-on, project-based training and cover programming fundamentals, single-page applications, interactive web applications, and deployment. Advanced bootcamps delve into more complex coding languages, practices, and applications.

For new learners, bootcamps offer valuable structured learning and focus only on the most applicable skills, tools, and technologies. Compared to the self-taught pathway, however, the training can be expensive. Bootcamps also lack a third-party accreditation system.

Bachelor's Degree Pathway

Many back-end developers start their careers with a bachelor's degree, majoring in web development or a broader field like computer science. These four-year programs often allow learners to specialize via formal concentrations or a combination of electives and internships.

The amount of back-end development courses available in a bachelor's program varies. In addition to general computer science courses, degree-seekers may study scripting languages, database design and programming, networking fundamentals, web architecture, and operating systems.

Bachelor's degrees provide graduates with a solid foundation for entry-level employment in many computer and information technology fields. Graduates can also advance their education with master's degrees or specialize via graduate certificates or self-taught and bootcamp pathways. Bachelor's programs have higher costs and longer study times than bootcamps, however, and graduates may still need specialized training for certain professions.

Careers in Back-End Development

Tech professionals with back-end development skills are in demand as strong growth in online shopping and mobile devices creates more job opportunities. We spotlight some of the most popular back-end development positions available:

Web Developer

Web developers create and maintain websites for individuals and organizations. These professionals specialize in back-end, front-end, or full-stack development. They work in many industries, including computer systems design services, publishing, consulting, and advertising. With experience or continued education, web developers can advance into computer systems management positions.

  • Required Education: High school diploma to a bachelor's degree
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): 13%
  • Median Annual Salary: $77,200

Software Engineer

Software engineers oversee much of the software development lifecycle, including the planning, delegations, design, and implementation. They may code the software requested by organizations or identify problems and develop solutions. These professionals work in many major industries, including computer systems design, manufacturing, publishing, management, and insurance.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): 22%
  • Median Annual Salary: $110,140

Common Questions About Back-End Development

What are the three parts of back-end development?

The three main parts of back-end development include the server, application, and database. Back-end developers need to ensure that these three components function and work together.

Which programming languages are used for back-end development?

Back-end developers may use different programming languages depending on their tasks and preferences, but the major back-end languages include Python, Ruby, PHP, and Java.

Do back-end developers use SQL?

Yes. Back-end developers use Structured Query Language or SQL to work with data in a relational database. For example, developers use SQL for queries and data retrieval.

Is back-end development easy?

The difficulty of back-end development varies for every individual and task. With no training or experience, back-end development will be very difficult, but those who understand the field can perform many jobs relatively easily.


Featured Image: Aja Koska / E+ / Getty Images

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