March 20, 2020

Backend vs. Frontend Development: Which Is Best?

If you're confused by backend vs frontend as it applies to career options, this guide will clear things up.

If you've decided to study programming, but are still unclear about the industry lingo, you've come to the right place. Backend, frontend, and full stack development are three separate career paths that can sometimes feel muddied in the technology space.

Put plainly, back end developers are focused on data, modeling, and the backend of a website. Front end developers help build what customers and users interact with and see. A fullstack developer does some or all of the above.

Have you asked yourself, "Do I enjoy making mock-ups come to life?" and answered yes? You probably want to pursue a front end career. If you find yourself asking "How can I use this algorithm to make an informed decision," you're likely a backend brain. There are many career path similarities between frontend and backend development including similar salaries, career longevity and job growth over the past five years. In this guide, we help to break down the more intricate details of both back end and front end paths to help you decide what makes the most sense.

Back End Development Explained

Back end development is aptly named for developers who deal with the back end of programs. In contrast to frontend developers who focus on customer-facing products and programs, backend developers deal with the functionality of sites. A typical backend developer day includes updating and ensuring that a website or program works properly. Professionals in this industry have a deep understanding of servers, applications, and databases, whereas a backend developer is writing the code to help a database and application communicate. If you cannot see how something works on a web page but know that it is working, you would have a backend developer to thank.

Back End Development Defined

Techopedia defines a back end developer as a "type of computer programmer that codes and creates the visual front-end elements of a software, application or website. He or she creates computing components/features that are directly viewable and accessible by the end user or client. A front-end developer is also known as a client end developer, HTMLer, and front-end coder."

Essentially, back end developers are responsible for everything we do not see.

Back End Development Jobs

Back end developers are responsible for making web pages and applications work. This could be through Java, Ruby on Rails or a similar program. Back end coding covers the basic design of a website including images, buttons, navigation and overall usability. The focus of a front end developer job is to make sure the visual side of a site runs seamlessly, so users are able to interact with the site freely and comfortably.

Back End job titles can include:

  • Back End Developer/ Engineer
  • Web Developer
  • Wordpress Developer
  • Junior Full Stack Developer
  • Java Developer
  • Python Developer
  • Fullstack Web Developer
  • Full Stack Developer
  • Dev Ops
  • Software Engineer
  • Mobile Developer
  • iOS Developer

Back End Development Salaries

According to Glassdoor, the national base pay average for back end developers is about $65k. The salary ranges anywhere from $60k-$140k based on experience and location. In San Francisco, back end developers start out making around $100k annually.

Back End Development Languages

HTML and CSS may be the ticket to front end coding, but the back end requires more advanced programs including Java, PHP, Ruby on Rails, Python and .NET. Have you heard of full stack developer programs? This would be where to learn the languages need for a back end development career.

Coding LanguageDictionary DefinitionUses
JavaJava is a high-level programming language. The Java syntax is similar to C++, but is strictly an object-oriented programming language.Most often used to create applications for computers. Java helps to run the scripts for apps on computers.
PHPPHP is a general-purpose scripting language. Any PHP code in a requested file is executed by the PHP runtime, usually to create dynamic web page content or dynamic images used on websites or elsewhere.Server-side web development.
Ruby on RailsA web-application framework that includes everything needed to create database-backed web applications according to Model-View-Controller (MVC).JavaScript is most commonly used as a client side scripting language. This means that JavaScript code is written into an HTML page.
PythonPython is an interpreted, object-oriented, high-level programming language with dynamic semantics.General purpose language that can be used for virtually anything on a web application page.
.NETThe .NET framework is a software development framework from Microsoft. It provides a controlled programming environment where software can be developed, installed and executed on Windows-based operating systems.It is Microsoft's direct competitor to Java.

Back End Development

If you are interested in pursuing Back End development as a career, the table below offers highly-rated programs. To view our comprehensive list, check out our full-stack development list of over seventy five schools.

BootcampCostLocationRating on SwitchUpCommitmentFormal Job Guarantee
Ironhack$6500Madrid, Mexico City, Paris, Barcelona, Miami, Amsterdam, Berlin, São Paulo4.91 stars60 hours in class a weekNo
App Academy$17000San Francisco, NYC, Online4.75 stars80 hours in class a weekYes
HackerYou$9000Toronto4.98 stars35 hours in class a weekNo
Le Wagon$6000Paris, Sydney, Melbourne, Casablanca, Buenos Aires, Brussels, Milan, Chengdu, Mexico City, Amsterdam, São Paulo, Barcelona, Bordeaux, Copenhagen, Lille, Lisbon, London, Bali, Nantes, Rio de Janeiro , Marseille, Montreal, Shanghai, Belo Horizonte, Berlin, Tokyo, Lyon, Tel Aviv4.99 stars40 hours in class a weekNo
The Tech Academy$6980Portland, Denver, Seattle, Online4.84 stars40 hours in class a weekNo
Bloc$9500Online4.84 stars25 hours in class a weekYes
Thinkful$9500Washington DC, Philadelphia, Houston, Portland, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, Online, Atlanta4.75 stars20 hours a weekNo
Flatiron School$15000NYC, Houston, Online, Washington DC, London4.89 stars40 hours in class a weekYes
General Assembly$14950Dallas, Providence, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, NYC, Washington DC, Austin, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Denver, Chicago, London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne, Online, Boston, Santa Monica4.24 stars50 hours in class a weekNo
Fullstack Academy$17610NYC, Chicago, Online4.92 stars50 hours a weekYes

Front End Coding Explained

Skillful front end developers and back end developers are constantly in demand in the world of technology. Front end and back end developers that are highly trained, with a large portfolio of projects, can land high-paying positions at startups, large organizations and even nonprofits. Mastering front end coding or back end coding can mean a very bright and secure future, but where do you begin? Understanding front end coding and front end web development will help you decide which side of the machine you would like to focus on, and which side best fits your skills, goals and passions.

Front End Coding Defined

Techopedia defines a front end developer as a "type of computer programmer that codes and creates the visual front-end elements of a software, application or website. He or she creates computing components/features that are directly viewable and accessible by the end user or client. A front-end developer is also known as a client end developer, HTMLer and front-end coder."

Essentially, frontend developers are responsible for everything we see.

Front End Coding Jobs

Front end developers are responsible for converting website files into raw code. This could be HTML, Javascript or CSS. Frontend coding covers the basic design of a website including images, buttons, navigation and overall usability. The focus of a frontend developer job is to make sure the visual side of a site runs seamlessly, so users are able to interact with the site freely and comfortably.

Front end job titles can include:

  • Front-End Developer/Engineer
  • CSS/HTML Developer
  • Web/Front-End User Interface (aka UI) Developer/Engineer
  • Front-End Web Designer
  • Front-End SEO Expert
  • Front-End Accessibility Expert
  • Front-End Testing/QA
  • Full Stack Developer
  • Front-End Dev. Ops
  • Front-End Web Designer
  • Front-End JavaScript Application Developer

Front End Coding Salaries

According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for front end developers is about $63k. This ranges anywhere from $50k-$100k based on level of experience and industry. In San Francisco, starting salary is about $90K and can land top earners around $118k annually.

Front End Programming Languages

The main front end coding languages can include HTML, CSS and Javascript among others. Expect to learn grid systems and color theory as well as study typography and layout. Remember, front end coding does not require back end coding knowledge.

Coding LanguageDictionary DefinitionUses
HTMLHypertext Markup Language, a standardized system for tagging text files to achieve font, color, graphic, and hyperlink effects on World Wide Web pages.HTML code ensures the proper formatting of text and images so that your Internet browser may display them as they are intended to look.
CSSCSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. CSS describes how HTML elements are to be displayed on screen, paper, or in other media.CSS allows one to adapt the presentation to different types of devices, such as large screens, small screens, or printers.
JavascriptAn object-oriented computer programming language commonly used to create interactive effects within web browsers.JavaScript is most commonly used as a client side scripting language. This means that JavaScript code is written into an HTML page.

Front End Courses

If you are interested in pursuing Front End coding as a career, these programs offer highly-rated programs. To view our comprehensive list, check out our front-end development guide of over fifty schools.

BootcampCostLocationRating on SwitchUpCommitmentFormal Job Guarantee
Ironhack$6500Madrid, Mexico City, Paris, Barcelona, Miami, Amsterdam, Berlin, São Paulo4.91 stars60 hours in class a weekNo
Bloc$9500Online4.84 stars25 hours in class a weekYes
Thinkful$10450Washington DC, Philadelphia, Houston, Portland, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, Online, Atlanta4.75 stars20 hours a weekNo
Flatiron School$12000Online4.89 stars10 hours in class a weekNo
Startup Institute$9500Boston4.73 stars15 hours in class a weekNo
Lambda SchoolDeferred TuitionOnline4.97 stars10 hours in class a weekYes
General Assembly$3950Dallas, Providence, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, NYC, Washington DC, Austin, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Denver, Chicago, London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne, Online, Boston, Santa Monica4.24 stars6 hours in class a weekNo
Wyncode$4000Miami4.97 stars9 hours in class a weekNo
Skillcrush$499Online4.62 starsFlexibleNo
Dev Mountain$10900Provo, Dallas4.66 stars40 hours in class a weekNo
Fullstack Academy$17610NYC, Chicago, Online4.92 stars50 hours a weekYes
CareerFoundry$1999Online, Berlin4.35 stars15 hours in class a weekYes
LearningFuze$12995Orange County4.98 stars70 hours in class a weekNo

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