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Understanding Tech Roles: What do frontend, backend, full-stack, and cloud engineering mean?

By Oluchukwu Ikemefuna

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When people think of “tech workers” (like cloud engineers, frontend engineers, backend engineers…), they often think of roles like software engineering, which involves coding.

Software engineering roles are popular for a few reasons. Firstly, over the past decade, these roles have consistently ranked among the most sought-after in the tech industry. Additionally, many engineering positions offer high salaries. According to Glassdoor, which analyzed over 123,000 salaries, experienced engineers in the field earn an average annual salary of $86,000.

So why do these roles command such high salaries? It’s because tech products and services rely heavily on the work of engineers, who spend significant time developing these applications using programming languages. Whether it’s companies like Fawry, Autochek, Jumia, Chipper Cash, or Uber, creating engaging products requires hiring skilled frontend, backend, cloud, DevOps, and full-stack developers.

But what exactly do these terms mean? Are front-end and back-end engineers performing similar tasks? And what role do cloud engineers play?

Introduction

In the fast-paced world of technology, the term “tech workers” often conjures images of software engineers diligently coding away. These individuals play a crucial role in shaping the digital landscape, building the apps and platforms that define our modern way of life. But what exactly do software engineering roles entail, and why are they so highly coveted?

In this article, we delve into the intricacies of software engineering, exploring the reasons behind its popularity, the lucrative salaries it commands, and the diverse array of roles encompassed within this dynamic field.

From frontend and backend developers to cloud engineers and DevOps specialists, we unravel the complexities of these roles, shedding light on the vital contributions each makes to the tech ecosystem. So join us as we unravel the mysteries of software engineering and gain insight into the fascinating world of tech roles.

Who is a Frontend Engineer?

A front-end engineer actively engages in crafting the user-facing side of software applications, emphasizing functionality, layout, speed, and user experience. Interested in a tech career combining coding and creativity? Consider becoming a front-end engineer. But what exactly do these professionals do, what’s their earning potential, and how can one join their ranks?

Frontend Engineer
Program code Javascript, PHP, HTML, CSS of site. Web development. Source code script.

Defining Front-End Engineering


Front-end engineers shape the parts of software applications visible to users and clients. Their focus lies on creating visually appealing, easy-to-use platforms tailored to their client’s or company’s requirements.

Transitioning to Front-End Engineering


Front-end engineers operate across various industries, where software plays a pivotal role. For instance, they might contribute to the travel sector by developing software that facilitates flight searches and bookings.

Alternatively, they could lend their expertise to the finance industry, refining applications for financial management and security. In healthcare, they may design software simplifying patient access to medical records.

A front-end engineer actively engages in shaping the user experience of software applications, focusing on all elements visible and interactive to users.

Positioned as intermediaries between the product team, responsible for design and visual aspects, and the engineering team, tasked with technical development, they play a crucial role in software creation.

In their day-to-day operations, these professionals typically:

  • Collaborate with the product team to conceptualize and implement new designs.
  • Code and develop specific components of a website according to client and product requirements.
  • Enhance site loading speed and overall optimization.
  • Refine website navigation to enhance user accessibility and information retrieval.
  • Conduct comprehensive testing to identify and rectify bugs and ensure functionality.
  • Coordinate with back-end engineers to seamlessly integrate front-end and back-end functionalities.
  • Post-deployment, monitor software performance and promptly address any functional issues that arise.

Are Front-End Engineers Well-Paid?

Front-end engineers typically enjoy substantial salaries, even at the onset of their careers. Glassdoor reports that the average annual income for a front-end engineer is approximately $129,000.

Years of ExperienceEstimated Average Salary
0 to 1 year$101,000
4 to 6 years$130,000
15+ years$170,000
(Source: Glassdoor, “Front End Engineer”)

If you’re aiming for a tech career with six-figure earnings early on, front-end engineering could be the ideal path for you.

Additionally, job security in this field is robust. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for software developers, which encompasses front-end engineers, is significantly above average.

Over the period from 2022 to 2032, software developer positions are projected to grow by 25%, far exceeding the average job growth rate of 5%.

Becoming a Front-End Engineer

To embark on a career as a front-end software engineer, you’ll need a blend of technical expertise and a keen eye for user experience.

Develop Your Technical Skills…

First and foremost, you’ll require the following technical proficiencies to thrive as a front-end software engineer:

  • Programming skills, particularly in front-end languages such as HTML/CSS and JavaScript.
  • Familiarity with frameworks and libraries like React, Angular, and Vue.js.
  • Proficiency in testing and debugging.
  • Understanding of version control systems.
  • Ability to implement responsive design principles.
  • Basic comprehension of design fundamentals including color theory, typography, and layout.

While formal education, such as studying software engineering in school, can provide valuable experience, it’s not mandatory for entering this career path.

Despite the fact that a majority of software engineers hold at least a bachelor’s degree, with over 70% according to Statista, a significant portion have acquired their skills through alternative means.

So, if you lack a degree, how can you develop your technical front-end software engineering skills?

What is a Backend Engineer?

A backend engineer assumes the responsibility of conceptualizing, constructing, and upholding the server-side infrastructure of web applications. Essentially, their core duty revolves around erecting the framework of a software application.

Backend Engineer
A large hallway with supercomputers inside a server room data center. Technology used for cloud computing and network security.

They lay down the groundwork for the software team, outlining the necessary steps to achieve overarching objectives. Among the primary tasks of a backend engineer within a software development team is crafting business logic, server scripts, and APIs for subsequent utilization by other developers and team members.

The day-to-day responsibilities of backend engineering entail fine-tuning servers to enhance speed and stability, fortifying the infrastructure’s security, and devising reusable code libraries and storage solutions.

In addition to these tasks, backend engineers are tasked with:

  • Enhancing server performance for optimal speed and stability.
  • Erecting robust security measures.
  • Developing reusable code libraries.
  • Implementing data storage solutions.

What Does a Back-end Engineer Do?

Backend engineers possess a distinct skill set vital for executing their roles efficiently. As previously mentioned, they chart the course for the software team, spearheading the creation of a software application’s architecture. Backend engineers invest time in scripting server-side operations and APIs, which front-end engineers and UX designers will subsequently leverage.

They specialize in crafting the server components of multi-tier web applications, with a focus on web services and data repositories. Moreover, they may engage in implementing business logic and rule enforcement.

Backend Engineer Skills

  • Proficiency in languages such as PHP, Python, Ruby, Java, .NET, and JavaScript.
  • Familiarity with Java, HTML5, and CSS3.
  • Experience with server-side technologies like SASS and Less.
  • Understanding of accessibility standards and server compliance.
  • Strong grasp of object-oriented programming (OOP) principles and software design.
  • Knowledgeable in database systems.

Backend Engineer Responsibilities

In addition to the aforementioned tasks, backend engineers also shoulder the following responsibilities:

  • Conducting regular audits of server code to identify opportunities for speed optimization.
  • Conceptualizing and implementing solutions for efficient data storage.
  • Elevating code quality within the team by authoring unit tests and implementing automation.
  • Collaborating closely with product and design teams to gain a comprehensive understanding of end-user requirements.
  • Configuring backend functionality to enhance the usability of front-end applications.

Back-end Engineer Salary

What is the typical remuneration for backend engineers? Below are average salaries for backend developers worldwide, sourced from Talent.com and Glassdoor:

CountrySalary per yearSalary per monthSalary per hour
USA$113,622.00$9,469.00$59.00
Mexico$24,202.00$2,017.00$13.00
Argentina$7,328.00$611.00$4.00
Brazil$17,497.00$1,458.00$9.00
Poland$27,495.00$2,291.00$14.00

These figures provide insights into the average annual, monthly, and hourly earnings for backend developers across various countries.

To fulfill their roles effectively, engineers and developers require distinct skill sets:

Back-end engineers must possess a robust comprehension of software design and architecture. Additionally, they require fundamental software development skills to swiftly assess the feasibility of their designs and determine which technologies to employ.

What is a Full-stack Engineer?

A full-stack engineer is proficient in both front-end and back-end development, encompassing the entire spectrum of software application creation. They are seasoned software engineers responsible for designing, testing, and deploying a range of software applications.

Full-stack engineers not only develop software and scalable web services but also provide leadership to coding teams.

Their extensive skill set enables them to contribute to every phase of software development, from completing data structures and designing architecture to conducting code reviews, evaluating performance, managing internal tools, and implementing updates.

Full-stack engineer

A full-stack engineer possesses the capability to handle both front-end and back-end development of applications. Serving as high-level software engineers, they are responsible for designing, testing, and implementing various software applications, including software, applications, and scalable web services.

In addition to their technical expertise, full-stack engineers also provide leadership for coding teams. They are typically involved in every stage of software development, from completing data structures and designing architecture to conducting code reviews, evaluating performance, managing internal tools, and implementing updates.

Front-end development

Front-end development pertains to the visible elements of an application, known as the client side, and focuses on crafting the user interface (UI) as we have established earlier in the article. This includes elements of design, usability, navigation tools, and graphical components like images.

Back-end development

The back end of an application encompasses elements hidden from users, referred to as the server side, and concentrates on functionality. This includes tasks such as data storage, security implementation, and optimizing overall performance.

What does a full-stack engineer do?

Full-stack engineers kickstart projects by collaborating with software development team members to delineate the project’s scope and scale.

Subsequently, they engage in designing and constructing software, writing both high-level and low-level code, troubleshooting errors, contributing to user experience (UX) design, resolving bugs, and enhancing software efficiency.

Effective collaboration skills are essential for full-stack engineers as they work closely with both front-end and back-end development team members.

Full-stack engineer tools and skills

Full-stack engineers are proficient in various programming languages, including Python, JavaScript, C, Node, HTML/CSS, SQL, and PHP. While many full-stack engineers hold a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science or a related field, some employers may value certifications or relevant work experience in lieu of a formal degree.

Full-stack Engineer Salary and Job Outlook

The demand for computer and information technology professionals, including full-stack engineers, is projected to increase by 25 percent between 2022 and 2032.

This surge in demand translates into abundant job opportunities for full-stack engineers in the coming decade, reflecting an above-average growth rate. Due to their advanced skill set, full-stack engineers typically command higher-than-average salaries.

In the United States, the average annual pay for a full-stack developer is $137,000. However, individual salaries may vary based on factors such as experience, skills, and the employing company. For instance, the average salary for a full-stack engineer with 0-1 year of experience is $99,000, while someone with 4-6 years of experience in full-stack development earns an average annual salary of $117,000.

How to Become a Full-stack Engineer

Embarking on a career in full-stack engineering typically begins with obtaining a Bachelor’s degree or a Master of Computer Science. A degree in computer science or a related field equips individuals with the necessary skills to excel in the role of a full-stack engineer.

Additionally, aspiring full-stack engineers can acquire practical experience and professional qualifications through Professional Certificates in full-stack engineering. For example, individuals can earn a certificate in Full Stack Software Development through IBM’s online program.

Role of a Cloud Engineer

A cloud engineer is an IT professional tasked with various responsibilities associated with cloud computing, including design, planning, management, maintenance, and support.

This role encompasses several specific positions, such as cloud architect, cloud software engineer, cloud security engineer, cloud systems engineer, and cloud network engineer, each focusing on distinct aspects of cloud computing.

Cloud engineer

Skills Required for a Cloud Engineer

Cloud engineers, regardless of their specific role, need proficiency in several key areas:

  1. Linux: A strong understanding of the Linux operating system is essential, as it is commonly used for cloud development. Cloud engineers should be familiar with Linux server architecture, maintenance, and administration.
  2. Database Management: Proficiency in cloud database management, including knowledge of MySQL and Hadoop, is crucial for cloud engineers.
  3. Programming: Strong programming skills are necessary, along with expertise in languages such as SQL, Java, Python, Ruby, Golang, PHP, and .NET.
  4. Networking: Understanding virtual networks and general network management functions is important for cloud engineers.
  5. DevOps: Hands-on knowledge of DevOps practices, particularly AWS DevOps, is valuable in cloud engineering.
  6. Containerization: Proficiency in containerization tools like Docker and Kubernetes is essential for managing cloud environments effectively.
  7. Virtualization: Cloud engineers should be able to deploy and run application software on virtual machines.
  8. Understanding of Cloud Providers: Familiarity with different cloud service providers and their offerings enhances a cloud engineer’s knowledge and marketability.
  9. Security and Recovery: Knowledge of cybersecurity in the context of cloud computing is vital, given the growing emphasis on cloud security.
  10. Web Services and APIs: Cloud engineers should understand open standards like XML, SOAP, WSDL, and UDDI, as well as how APIs are engineered.

By possessing these skills, cloud engineers can effectively contribute to the design, implementation, and maintenance of cloud computing solutions for organizations.

Becoming a Cloud Engineer

Becoming a competitive cloud engineer typically involves acquiring the following education, certifications, and experience:

Education: A minimum of a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science, engineering, or a related field is preferred. Some companies may value a Master of Science degree for higher-level positions.

Certifications: Many employers prefer candidates with additional certifications to demonstrate technical proficiency. Popular certifications include vendor-specific ones for major providers like AWS and Microsoft, as well as certifications for specific skill sets like cloud security.

With the high demand for cloud engineer skills, there is a wide range of relevant certifications available.

Experience: Most employers look for cloud engineers with at least three to five years of experience working with cloud services.

This experience should encompass various areas such as Open Source technology, software development, system engineering, scripting languages, and familiarity with multiple cloud provider environments. Additionally, candidates should have a background in building or designing web services in the cloud.

Cloud engineers should be proficient in programming languages such as Java, Python, and Ruby. Experience with technologies like OpenStack, Linux, AWS, Rackspace, Google Compute Engine, Microsoft Azure, and Docker is highly valued. Additionally, knowledge and experience with APIs, orchestration, automation, DevOps practices, and databases, including NoSQL, are essential for success in this role.

Types of Cloud Engineering Roles and Responsibilities

The role of a cloud engineer encompasses several specialized positions, each focusing on different aspects of cloud computing:

  1. Cloud Architects: These professionals manage the infrastructure of the cloud, overseeing the architecture, configuration, and deployment of applications in cloud environments.
  2. Cloud Software Developers: Responsible for building and maintaining software features, databases, and applications tailored for cloud technologies.
  3. Cloud Security Engineers: Tasked with building and maintaining security features to protect cloud-based platforms and applications from threats.
  4. Cloud Administrators: Manage the software and hardware associated with the use of cloud-based services, ensuring smooth operation and performance.
  5. Cloud Network Engineers: Responsible for managing and supporting network infrastructures and connections between clients and service providers in cloud environments.
  6. Cloud Automation Engineers: Similar to cloud developers, these professionals focus on automation, orchestration, and integration to streamline cloud processes.

Cloud Engineer Salary and Career Outlook

In the United States, the average salary for a cloud engineer ranges from $100,000 to $130,000 annually, according to sources such as ZipRecruiter, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Salary.com. However, these figures can vary based on factors such as skills, education, certifications, remote work opportunities, and location.

According to Northeastern University, earning a graduate certificate can boost a person’s earnings by an average of 25%. This highlights the potential for career advancement and increased earning potential in the field of cloud engineering.

FAQ: Decoding Tech Roles: Understanding the Landscape of Software Engineering

What is software engineering, and why is it important in the tech industry?

  • Software engineering involves designing, building, and maintaining software applications and systems. It is crucial in the tech industry as it enables the creation of innovative digital solutions that drive business growth and enhance user experiences.

Why are software engineering roles highly sought after?

  • Software engineering roles are in high demand due to several factors. Firstly, these roles consistently rank among the most sought-after in the tech industry, offering competitive salaries and career advancement opportunities. Additionally, the rapid growth of the digital economy has increased the need for skilled software engineers to develop and maintain digital products and services.

What are the key responsibilities of software engineers?

  • Software engineers are responsible for various tasks, including coding, testing, debugging, and maintaining software applications. They collaborate with cross-functional teams to design and implement software solutions that meet user needs and business requirements.

Are there different types of software engineering roles? What are they?

  • Software engineering encompasses various roles, including frontend and backend developers, cloud engineers, DevOps specialists, and full-stack developers. Each role has its own set of responsibilities and skills, contributing to the development and deployment of software applications.

What skills are required to succeed in software engineering roles?

  • Successful software engineers possess a combination of technical and soft skills. Technical skills include proficiency in programming languages, knowledge of software development frameworks, and familiarity with cloud computing and DevOps tools. Soft skills such as problem-solving, communication, and teamwork are also essential for effective collaboration and project management.

How can individuals pursue a career in software engineering?

  • Individuals interested in software engineering can pursue formal education in computer science or related fields, obtain relevant certifications, and gain practical experience through internships or freelance projects. Continuous learning and staying updated on emerging technologies are also important for career advancement in software engineering.

What are the future prospects for software engineering roles?

  • The demand for software engineering roles is expected to continue growing as organizations increasingly rely on technology to drive innovation and efficiency. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain are likely to create new opportunities for software engineers in various industries.

Conclusion

As we conclude our exploration into the landscape of software engineering, it becomes evident that this dynamic field plays a pivotal role in driving technological innovation and shaping the digital future. From frontend developers crafting intuitive user interfaces to cloud engineers optimizing scalable solutions, each role contributes uniquely to the development and deployment of software applications.

Aspiring software engineers are encouraged to embrace continuous learning and stay abreast of emerging technologies, as the field continues to evolve rapidly. By honing their technical skills and cultivating strong collaboration and problem-solving abilities, individuals can position themselves for success in this thriving industry.

Ultimately, software engineering offers a rewarding career path filled with opportunities for growth, innovation, and impact. By understanding the intricacies of software engineering roles and embracing the challenges and opportunities they present, aspiring engineers can embark on a fulfilling journey of exploration and discovery in the ever-evolving world of technology.

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Christian Maximilian
Christian Maximilian

I am a Software Engineer, technical writer, and overall tech enthusiast. For me, utilizing my skills as a Software Engineer to perform Technical Search Engine Optimization is not just a job, but something I gladly incorporate into my pastimes as well, and I have been doing this for over 3 years.

When I'm not coding or writing technical documentation, I enjoy listening to music and exploring new genres.

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