Front-End vs. Back-End Development

Back- and front-end developers are behind everything on the web. Read more about these in-demand careers.

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by Shauna Blackmon

Updated August 17, 2022

Reviewed by Monali Mirel Chuatico

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Every business, organization, or person trying to advertise themselves needs a website. Without a website, your group or company might as well not exist in the digital world. Having an unflattering or difficult-to-navigate website is not much better. If you already have a website, it should be updated at least every two years. All of this work means employing a steady stream of web developers.

Web developers are responsible for designing and creating every website you interact with daily. Because website development is essential everywhere, these well-paid tech jobs exist worldwide, from small teams to giant tech companies. While front- and back-end programming share common themes and skill sets, there are also significant differences. Read more to see which might be the best fit for you.

What Is Web Development?

Web development consists of everything needed to build a website and put it online. Generally, these tasks are divided into two groups, front-end and back-end — two sides of the same coin. Some full-stack developers can navigate both front-end and back-end tasks.

Numerous elements go into the process of having a website go live. Back-end developers set up the site's infrastructure and work with databases and frameworks. Front-end developers come in and set up the visual aspects of the site, including things like text, videos, or online payment systems.

Both front and back-end development have more straightforward and more challenging aspects, though both have ample online material to help students learn or answer questions.

Types of Web Development

Full-Stack Development

Full-stack developers are the unicorns of the developer world because they can do both front and back-end roles. Full-stack developers may work as the only developer on the team, or they can be valuable additions to a larger team as they can bridge the knowledge gap.

Front-End Development

These professionals are concerned with everything the user interacts with. This includes design, graphics, forms, buttons, menus, and pages. They primarily use HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

Back-End Development

Back-end developers are concerned with everything behind the curtain, including the server or databases. There are numerous back-end languages, including Python, Java, C/C++/C#, and PHP.

What Is a Front-End Developer?

Front-end developers are responsible for creating everything users might interact with on a website or an application. This can include the design, buttons, forms, menus, graphics, and pages. Front-end developers are often more concerned with the design, making things beautiful and easy for the user to navigate.

There are three primary languages used for front-end development, all of which are relatively easy to learn: HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. HTML provides the overall structure and functionality and is often considered the core of front-end development. JavaScript is responsible for any dynamic elements that add interactivity to a page. CSS is used to style the different elements on a page.

Front-end development is a popular career choice because it is in demand and generally well-paid. It is a rapidly developing industry, so front-end developers should be interested in lifelong learning. For many, this means working on new and interesting projects and exciting new challenges.

What Languages Do Front-End Developers Use?
Language Name Definition Examples
JavaScript Any element that is not static on the page is probably done using JavaScript. Graphics, animations, videos, and interactive maps are all features of this language. PayPal, Netflix, Uber, and Groupon all use JavaScript.
HTML HTML is a markup language that creates the skeleton of a webpage. HTML creates the static pieces of a website, including text and headlines. Almost every company uses HTML for at least a part of its website. This includes YouTube, Google, Facebook, and Amazon.
CSS After HTML creates the text, CSS is used to stylize it. This includes changing the color or size of text, altering paragraphs or adding emphasis such as bold or italics. Coursera, PwC, FitBit, AT&T, and Twitter all use CSS.

What Skills Do Front-End Developers Need?

What Are Some Front-End Developer Jobs?

For those looking to step out of developer jobs, user experience (UX) design is another similar job. UX designers are primarily concerned with ensuring users can easily navigate a particular app or website. Since front-end developers deal primarily with the same issue, it is often an easy transition. The average salary for UX designers was $76,260 as of July 2022, according to Payscale.

Digital marketing might be another potential option for developers looking to change careers. The two jobs often share similar goals, such as improving page rankings, SEO optimization, and client outreach. The average salary for digital marketing specialists, according to Payscale, was $51,060 as of July 2022.

What Is a Back-End Developer?

Back-end developers handle all aspects of what the user does not see or interact with. This includes anything to do with the server, data security, and storage. Instead of being focused on design, back-end developers are more concerned with creating clean and efficient code. Writing code is similar to writing a story — you can tell it directly and succinctly, or you can bumble and stumble around.

Depending on the size and scale of a project, back-end developers may work within a team of other developers. They will also work with front-end developers, testers, product managers, or other similar roles within a company. The pieces all must work together, but everyone has their part.

In general, back-end programming is not difficult to learn. However, numerous factors influence the job's difficulty, including the project's language and the complexity of the goals.

What Languages Do Back-End Developers Use?
Language Name Definition Examples
Ruby One of the best beginner languages to learn, Ruby is used across all platforms and can easily be expanded upon with different libraries. Shopify, Airbnb, GitHub, and Bloomberg all use Ruby.
PHP An easy-to-learn and very useful language, PHP works on almost every operating system and has a vast number of features. WordPress, Flickr, and MailChimp all use PHP.
Python A relatively easy-to-use language often used with high-level tech. One of the main perks is that it has a number of standard libraries, which help developers work faster and easier. While often used in data science, AI, or IoT (Internet of Things), Python has more range than ever. It is one of the three languages Google uses.
JavaScript Used for both front- and back-end programming, JavaScript is a lightweight scripting language that has come to be very popular. Facebook, eBay, and Google all use JavaScript. It is one of the most common programming languages in use.

What Skills Do Back-End Developers Need?

What Are Some Back-End Developer Jobs?

As back-end developers already work with databases, they should have many of the required skills to design, develop, implement and maintain databases that data architects or data engineers need. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median database architect's salary was $98,860 in May 2021.

If you have already built websites or applications, there is a good chance you will have good insight into how to protect them. Cybersecurity professionals work to protect everything from simple websites to large-scale networks from malicious intruders or attacks. According to Payscale, the average cybersecurity engineer's salary was $98,500 as of July 2022.

If you are familiar with Python and databases, you can transfer those skills into a cutting-edge technology career, such as an Internet of Things (IoT) design engineer. While not an impossible switch, it would require learning additional skills. According to Indeed, IoT engineers made an average salary of $131,940 a year as of August 2022.

How to Choose Between Front-End or Back-End

Front and back-end developers are equally important in the process of web development. Which is the best fit for you primarily depends on your goals and interests. Front-end developers tend to be more creative, while back-end developers tend to focus more on the aspect of puzzles and logic.

Both are in-demand and decently well-paid professions, but if a high salary is important to you, there is a decent difference between pay rates. According to the BLS, the top 10% of web developers made a median salary of $146,430 in May 2021, while the top 10% of software developers made a median salary of $170,100.

Front-End and Back-End Development Bootcamps

Whether you are at the beginning of the learning process or looking to expand your skill set, joining online classes or a coding bootcamp is one of the best ways to grow your skill set. There are all varieties of learning environments, everything from the quick and easy to the more meticulous and in-depth. Read more about our favorite front-end development bootcamps and general web development bootcamps.

Frequently Asked Questions About Front-End vs. Back-End Development

Is it better to start with learning front-end or back-end development?

There is no correct answer to this question. While some people learn both front- and back-end development over time, many are drawn to one and stick with it. The main thing is finding something you are interested in.

If you are completely new to web development, quick intro courses can give you a feeling of what you might expect from each career. There are also numerous online forums where users can discuss different aspects of the profession that they do or do not enjoy.

Is front-end or back-end development easier?

There are aspects that are easier, as well as aspects that are more challenging for both front and back-end development.

Front-end development changes much more rapidly than back-end, so developers must constantly learn new frameworks and tools. Because there is a visual aspect to it, though, it is at least easier to notice when something is wrong and identify what the problem may be.

Back-end development tends to involve slightly more complex concepts that can be difficult to grasp at first. Since there is not much variation, however, once you understand how back-end works, it becomes much easier.

How much do full-stack developers earn?

Full-stack developers are some of the highest-paid in the industry since they cover the skill-sets of two positions. According to Payscale, the average base salary for a full-stack developer is $75,060 a year.

If you already know one side of development or if you are particularly ambitious, learning both front and back-end development is one of the quickest ways to significantly increase your earning potential over time.

Feature Image: Maskot / DigitalVision / Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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