Hottest of the Hot Jobs: Full Stack Developers

  • career advice
  • February 21, 2017
One of Randstad Technologies’ hot jobs for 2017 is full stack developer. A full stack developer helps companies manage both their front-end and back-end technologies. Not too many years ago, before this term was coined, the person who filled this role was expected to understand the exacting details of both front-end and back-end systems. As the number and complexity of technologies have grown, this title emerged, usually to describe someone who is knowledgeable about both the front-end and back-end but not expected to be an expert in each of the technologies involved. A quick review of the number of different technologies involved in each explains why an in-depth knowledge of all would be nearly impossible.

So what is a full stack developer expected to know?

Front-end developers should know languages such as HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS and the frameworks such as Foundation, Angular JS, Ember JS, Backbone and Bootstrap. Back-end developers should be able to work in .Net, Python, Java, Ruby, PHP and database programs such as MySQL, Oracle, MongoDB, SQL server and others. As the title implies, full stack developers are expected to know the whole stack so that they are better able to manage and communicate with the specialists who are immersed in the details of the various technologies. It does help if the full stack developer is an expert in at least one of the pieces of the stack.

Because the expectations of the title “full stack developer” can vary significantly from employer to employer, generalizations about experience requirements or education are imprecise. A larger organization with more IT resources might think of the role as one that is more of a generalist who is a strategist and supervises and coordinates the output of the specialists. Smaller firms and startups would likely want someone who understands the full stack but is more of a specialist, and they would expect them to write code at some layer(s) of the stack.

Does getting a job as a full stack developer require a college degree?

According to research by CEB, a best-practice insight and technology company, nearly 80 percent of the current job openings for full stack developers require a bachelor’s degree. Their research also indicates that the most prominent majors among the supply of graduates are in computer science and information technology.

It does appear that having a college degree, while not a deal breaker for every employer, is advantageous to landing a job as a full stack developer. To our knowledge, there’s no college degree specifically designed to prepare full stack developers, but there are a number of training organizations that offer programs claiming to teach the full stack. For example, Udacity offers what it has labelled a “Full Stack Web Developer Nanodegree” co-created with Amazon Web Services, GitHub, AT&T and Google. According to its website, the program takes six months to complete (and apparently costs $200 per month). The course is not for novices, as students are expected to have some development experience. We don’t have enough evidence as to whether training programs such as this really help job candidates land slots as full stack developers.

A demand that outpaces supply drives salaries up

The demand for full stack developers has taken off in the past couple of years as organizations’ use of the internet continues to grow and mature. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for web developers is going to grow 27 percent until 2024. The demand for supporting technologies around e-commerce and mobile devices nearly guarantees that developers knowledgeable in these domains will remain in high demand. A cursory search for the job title “full stack developer” on returns more than 1,000 results.

As one might expect, the prospect of higher earnings will drive some people to become full stack developers. As noted earlier, as there is variability in what employers anticipate their full stack developers to be capable of, there is also variability in salaries for people holding this title. CEB’s salary statistics peg the 10th percentile annual salary at $90,000 and the 90th percentile at $154,750, with the median at $122,650. According to the BLS, software developers (no mention of full stack) commanded a median salary of $100,690 in 2015. It’s not much of a stretch to think that a full stack developer would earn more.

Plenty of opportunities nationwide

So where are the full stack developer jobs and which firms hire them? Many of the jobs are in the big cities where the big companies are located – but certainly not all of them. Although the list of employers includes the usual cast of characters — Amazon, Apple, Oracle, etc. ­— just about any firm with a website that incorporates e-commerce or accesses a database needs some front-end and back-end skills. Smaller firms and many start-ups that are unable to afford a number of developers with different skills might offer more interesting opportunities and, ironically, higher salaries as they dedicate a higher percentage of their limited resources to fewer people.

As the full stack of technologies continues to evolve, the specific knowledge required of full stack developers will likely change but what won’t change is the need for developers who are able to meld their knowledge of both front-end and back-end technologies to build platforms that help companies more fully leverage their use of the web.
Looking for a new career opportunity as a full stack developer? Search our website today for full stack developer jobs in your area.