How to Become a Back-End Engineer: Salary, Jobs, & Education

Learn what it takes to become a back-end engineer. Here's what you need to know to prepare for a career in this in-demand role.
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If you're a lifelong learner who can teach yourself skills independently, you'll excel at being a back-end engineer.

Back-end engineers maintain and upgrade a company's digital projects. While employers value your skill and hands-on experience most, a college degree can help you earn back-end engineer jobs. Read on to learn more about how to become a back-end engineer.

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What Is a Back-End Engineer?

A back-end engineer is responsible for maintaining a company's websites and databases. They may implement new features, update existing features, and write clean, tested code. They also might oversee projects and manage a team of developers.

What Are Key Back-End Engineer Skills?

  • Coding languages like Javascript, SQL, Ruby, and Python
  • Microservices
  • Database management systems like MySQL
  • Cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud
  • Frameworks
  • Project management and communication skills
  • Problem-solving and a willingness to learn more

Back-End Engineer vs. Back-End Developer

People often use back-end engineer and back-end developer interchangeably, though a back-end engineer might sometimes be considered a higher position than a back-end developer.

A back-end developer might be responsible for debugging code while a back-end engineer oversees the project and its developers in addition to their other responsibilities.

How to Become a Back-End Engineer

Key steps to becoming a back-end engineer include earning your degree, learning coding languages, and getting hands-on experience in back-end development.

Step 1: Learn Coding Languages

The first step to becoming a back-end engineer is to learn coding languages and become familiar with the major elements of software engineering. There are many great options for back-end development bootcamps and self-paced learning that can help you build your knowledge.

Some coding languages for back-end engineers include:

If you're interested in specializing in cybersecurity, there are also Capture the Flag competitions available online. Commonly referred to as CTFs, these competitions task you with finding "flags," or hidden pieces of data that tell the system you've completed a given task.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Even the best software engineering programs will not teach you everything you need to know to be a back-end engineer. While employers will look more closely at your skills than your education, a bachelor's degree can still be a useful credential and can open up networking and mentoring opportunities that can pay off when it's time to join the workforce.

Majors that can prepare you for back-end engineer jobs include:

Aspiring back-end engineers should choose coursework that focuses on the most widely used coding languages, cloud services, and database management systems.

Step 3: Get Hands-on Experience in Back-End Engineering

To work as a back-end engineer, you need to gain hands-on experience. You can do this by completing an internship; taking part in coding bootcamps, hackathons, and CTF competitions; and working on personal coding projects that will help you build a portfolio.

By continuing to master different topics, you can begin to find areas to specialize in and help your application stand out to employers once it's time to look for jobs.

Step 4: Start Applying for Back-End Engineer Jobs

Now that you've begun to master important subjects in software engineering, completed a degree, and gained initial experience in the field, it's time to apply for back-end engineer jobs. Start by creating a portfolio to display any individual or open-source projects.

Your college's alumni network and career development center can pair you with a career counselor who can help you identify jobs and networking opportunities. They can also help you create a winning resume and cover letter or help you prepare for the interview process.

How to Find Back-End Engineer Jobs

The need for workers in tech and software development is only expected to increase. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment in the software development field to grow 25% by 2031 — much faster than average.

You'll find the most back-end engineer jobs in computer systems design services, but the highest-paying field is information services — industries like banking, software, and data processing.

What's the Average Back-End Engineer Salary?

As of 2021, the annual median salary for software developers was $120,730, according to the BLS. The highest-paying state for software developers is California, where the average annual salary was $146,770 as of 2021.

While education can increase earnings in this role, back-end engineers will continue to learn new coding languages and technical systems as they emerge and evolve during the course of their careers.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Back-End Engineer

Is back-end engineering a good career?

Back-end engineering is a good career with a strong job outlook and high salaries. As the world continues to technologically advance, the demand for back-end developers and engineers continues to grow. And the median annual salary for this career is also over $100,000.

This job requires engineers to continually expand their expertise throughout their careers, which makes it a great position for someone interested in lifelong learning.

What does a back-end engineer do?

A back-end engineer updates and maintains a company's digital products from the server side or the "back end." They may manage databases, write code for API development, and embed third-party services like AWS.

Day-to-day responsibilities include optimizing servers for speed and stability, ensuring best cybersecurity practices, and generating reusable code libraries. They will also oversee projects and collaborate with front-end developers to ensure the usability of front-side applications. They will also implement solutions for data storage.

How do I become a back-end engineer?

To become a back-end engineer, you'll need to be proficient in different programming languages as well as a variety of other important parts of software development, including hosting environments and front-end technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. You'll also need to understand algorithms, data structures, and logic.

After that, build a portfolio to demonstrate your skills and gain experience. You can get samples for your portfolio by working on an open-source project.

How much can I earn as a back-end developer?

Back-end developers earn a median salary of $120,730, with top earners making as much as $168,570, according to the BLS. However, your potential earnings can vary depending on what industry you enter.

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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