Back-end developers are responsible for the development of server-side web environments. They build and maintain the systems and databases that power websites, and ensure that data is secure and accessible.
Also known as:
Software Engineer-Backend, Server-side Engineer
Typical years of experience
What is back-end development?
When you load a website or application, the front end is everything that a user sees and interacts with in their browser. The front end includes buttons, text, links, design, and user experience.
The back end is everything you don’t see that underpins the digital experience, including databases, applications, and servers.
Back-end development is a branch of computer programming dealing with the server-side infrastructure of websites. Back-end developers use programming languages such as Python, Java, and SQL to build the servers, databases, and security of websites and web-based applications.
What does a back-end developer do?
A back-end developer is responsible for creating and maintaining the server-side components of web applications or software systems. They work behind the scenes to ensure that the application’s logic, databases, and infrastructure function correctly, efficiently, and securely.
On a more technical level, the core job responsibilities of back-end developers include:
- Creating high-quality code
- Building server-side systems and applications
- Supporting the full application lifecycle
- Troubleshooting, debugging, and optimizing performance
- Building automation tools
- API integration
- Working in an agile environment
- Keeping up-to-date with advancements in technology
What kinds of companies hire back-end developers?
Any company that’s building its own website or online application will likely need to hire back-end developers. The largest employers of developers with this skill set are, perhaps unsurprisingly, the world’s largest technology companies, including Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, Meta (Facebook), and Google.
But it’s not just Silicon Valley and fledgling startups driving the demand for back-end talent. Financial services, fintech, manufacturing, telecommunications, entertainment, retail, healthcare, pharmaceuticals — the demand (and opportunity) for back-end talent is vast.
Back-end developer salary and job outlook
On average, back-end developers receive highly competitive compensation packages. However, sources on tech salaries often present different and at times conflicting numbers. Estimates for the average base salary for back-end developers in the U.S. range from $119,000 to $158,000. Salaries will vary depending on experience, skills, industry, location, and company size.
The job outlook for back-end developers is equally promising. While we don’t have data on the growth rate of back-end developers specifically, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does include this job role in its overall data for software developers. From 2020 to 2030, the number of employed software developers in the U.S. is projected to grow by 22% — almost triple the 8% average growth rate for all occupations.
Back-end developer skills & qualifications
Back-end developers use a range of programming languages to build applications. These include:
Back-end developers also work with database languages and tools to manage user data. These include relational databases (SQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, MySQL) and non-relational databases (MongoDB, Cassandra, Redis, Couchbase).
Technical competency alone isn’t enough to succeed in a back-end development role. Mathematical, analytical, and problem-solving skills are also essential. Employers often look for engineers with strong soft skills, such as:
Experience & education
After competency, the most important qualification for back-end developers is experience. On-the-job experience and training is a critical requirement for many employers.
Then there’s education. About 75% of developers worldwide have a bachelor’s degree or higher. If you’re recruiting, screening, or hiring engineers, there’s a high likelihood that many of them will have a degree. And many companies still require engineers to hold four-year degrees.
However, experience and training outside of higher education can equally prepare a candidate to succeed in a back-end development role. Research has shown that 86.7% of developers have taught themselves a language, framework or tool outside of a classroom or course. And bootcamps and online training are popular ways to learn new technical skills.
Back-end development trends
Back-end developers have endless options for developing, deploying, and managing server-side applications. The landscape is constantly evolving, with new technologies and methodologies redefining the way they approach development.
Backend as a Service
Backend as a Service (BaaS) is a cloud-based model where technical teams outsource back-end services of a website or application to an external service provider. These services can include hosting, cloud storage, database management, push notifications, and authentication. In this model, developers manage these back-end services using APIs and SDKs. BaaS providers include Microsoft Azure, AWS Amplify, Firebase, and Heroku.
Elixir is a programming language for building and maintaining applications using simple syntax. Created in 2011, Elixir is one of the most loved languages by developers according to Stack Overflow’s 2021 Developer Survey. Its popularity can be attributed to being fault-tolerant and easy to use. Popular companies in a wide range of industries use Elixir, including PepsiCo, Discord, and Mozilla.
Go is an object-oriented programming language created by Google in 2009. Go is now a general-purpose language used in a wide range of applications. Despite the language being over a decade old, interest in Go continues to grow. From 2018 to 2020, Go was the number one language developers wanted to learn. Companies such as Uber, Twitch, Dropbox — and yes, Google — use Go in their tech stacks.
GraphQL is an open source data query and manipulation language developed by Meta (then Facebook) in 2012. Neither a front-end or back-end language, GraphQL can be thought of as a language between the two environments that facilitates the exchange of information. Despite being over a decade old, global interest in GraphQL has been trending for the last three years. While GraphQL is widely used by front-end developers, GraphQL is also a powerful language back-end developers can use to stitch together functionality and deliver more intuitive APIs.
Nest.js is an open source Node.js framework for building server-side applications. This framework uses TypeScript and supports several databases, including MongoDB and Redis. Surpassing one million downloads in 2021, Nest.js has increased in popularity over the years due to how easy it is to test, scale, and maintain. Popular sites using Nest.js include Autodesk, Roche, Shipt, and SitePen.
A serverless applications model allows back-end developers to run applications on cloud-based servers. Since the application is cloud-native, developers don’t have to worry about server availability, infrastructure management, or idle capacity. Serverless computing providers include AWS Lambda, Microsoft Azure Functions, and Google Cloud Functions.
Static Site Generators
Static site generators simplify content delivery by creating static HTML websites based on raw data received from a template. For back-end developers, a key benefit is that the website doesn’t need databases or server-side processes to run, resulting in a faster web experience. Aside from speed, websites built with static site generators are highly customizable. Developers use a number of static site generators, including Hugo, Pelican, Eleventy, and Gatsby.