What's the Difference Between Full Stack and Backend Development?
May 21, 2021
web development books

Full stack development, backend development, frontend, software engineering, programming...there’s a lot of options to sort through when you’re looking into a career in web development. But which one is the right path for you?

Two compelling options for someone interested in coding and programming are full stack web dev and backend web dev. Both full stack and backend development are rewarding career paths for coders who like to work behind the scenes. While there’s a lot of overlap in what these developers do, there are distinct differences that are important to know when making your choice. 

What is full stack development? 

Full stack development is the creation and maintenance of all aspects of a website. Full stack developers keep a site functional, responsive, engaging, and aesthetically pleasing to the user. They work with everything from the colors, behaviors, visuals, and fonts on the client-facing side to the tech powering a site from below. 

Full stack developers are the jacks-of-all-trades when it comes to web development, because they are skilled in a wide collection of languages and tasks, like HTML, JavaScript, CSS, React, Python, and SQL. 

Full stack is particularly enjoyable for developers who like building both the technical and creative portions of websites and applications.

What is backend development? 

Backend development is more focused on a website’s behind-the-scenes infrastructure, including servers, applications, and databases, which keep it fully operational and running smoothly. Website visitors don’t see backend developers’ work, but that work is pivotal to a site’s functionality.

One example of backend development in action is found in a simple product search on a website. Let’s say you’re looking for a grocery item on Walmart.com. Backend development uses server-side language to pull all of the information on that item from a database, and that information is then processed in an application and returned to you, the user. This work on the backend is critical for e-commerce sites like Walmart and Amazon to stay functional.

Backend development is a great option for prospective coders who enjoy the more technical aspects of web development.

Full stack vs. backend web development

Full stack development incorporates both backend and frontend web dev. That said, there are some key differences between full stack and backend. 

While backend development is a component of full stack development, full stack focuses on functional knowledge and isn’t as specialized. In contrast, backend development is a narrowly focused and specialized study that requires strong programming skills, like scripting, core logic, and databases, as well as in-depth knowledge of specific languages, like Python, Ruby, or PHP. Backend is far more technical than full stack, and therefore attracts a different kind of coder.

If you like the idea of dabbling in both the technical and visual elements of a website, then full stack web dev is a great path for you. If you like something more technical and challenging, however, consider backend development.

Why you should consider a career in backend development

Backend web developers are in increasingly high demand because of the focused skill set they bring to the table. Here at Lambda School, we rub shoulders with tech giants like Amazon and Google every day who all tell us they’re hungry for new hires with backend development skills. 

The numbers don’t lie, either. The average starting salary for a back end developer or engineer in the United States is $81,000—for scale, that’s 54% more than the median income in the U.S.

Backend development can be quite challenging, as it requires a hefty amount of experience and knowledge, but the rewards of a backend web dev career speak for themselves.

Learn backend web development at Lambda School

Lambda School is very excited to be launching our first full-time backend course this summer, designed especially for learners in search of an accessible route to an exciting career as a backend developer. 

In this 9-month course, we’ll give you an extensive and rigorous dive into Java programming, data structures and algorithms, and software engineering, all taught by experts in the field. We’ll also give you a team of mentors that will help you find your dream job upon graduation. And the best part? You don’t have to pay one cent of tuition until you’ve been hired in a qualifying job upon completion of the course.

This course is designed for people with some previous coding experience, and the curriculum was co-designed by Amazon to teach you how to take your tech career to the next level. 

Sign up to learn more about our soon-to-launch Backend Development program and to get updates when we begin accepting applications this summer, or check out our popular Full Stack Web Development course!

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