Ultimate Guide

Front End Development vs Back End Development: Where to Start?

Written By Lauren Stewart

Edited By Jess Feldman

Last updated on August 22, 2023

Do you want to be a front end developer or a back end developer? Understanding your career goals at the end of a coding bootcamp can make it easier to narrow down which school is best for you. This can be a tricky task if you aren’t familiar with these terms – but no need to worry now that you have this guide. Let’s dig into the difference between front end web development and back end development: which programming languages you’ll learn, which coding schools teach them, and what to expect from a career as a back end or front end web developer!

Get matched with bootcamps that teach front end and back end programming!

Front End Web Development

What is Front End Development?

Definition: Front end development manages everything that users visually see first in their browser or application. Front end developers are responsible for the look and feel of a site. 

Front end development is mostly focused on what some may coin the "client side" of development. Front end developers will be engaged in analyzing code, design, and debugging applications along with ensuring a seamless user experience. You manage what people first see in their browser. As a front end developer you are responsible for the look, feel and ultimately design of the site.

Front End Programming Languages

Front end languages include HTML, CSS, and Javascript. While JQuery is going out of style (modern browsers can now do the same work, but much more quickly than jQuery), many legacy projects still use JavaScript library, so don't be surprised to see it on a bootcamp's curriculum. You’ll also learn tons about responsive design along with typography, layouts, grid system, and color theory. When anticipating types of projects you’ll work on as a front end developer, think creating and redesigning websites. In order to be a front end developer (sometimes even called a Javascript developer) you do not need back end development skills. Sites created by front end developers won’t interact with information stored on a database in order to be functional. The content will be “fixed,” meaning that large pieces of new data will not be constantly uploaded. Small business owners and restaurants usually have great examples of static sites.

Front End Programming Jobs

There are various job positions for front end developers. It’s important to remember that while one title may require specific duties at one company; it may mean something completely different at another, so it is always best to have a clear understanding of what that specific role entails. Search for the following job titles during your job hunt:

  • Front End Developer
  • Web Designer is another common title.
  • UI/UX designers are front end developers who focus on User Interface and User Experience respectively. UI designers hone in on the visual aspects of the design of the site while UX designers conduct multiple user testing to ensure the site is working well with preferred users. (Check out one GA alumni’s UX design experience.)

According to PayScale, the national average starting salary for front end developers is about $67k. The salary ranges from about $42k-$108k based on experience, location, and industry. In NYC, starting salary is about $78k with an approximate range to $115k.  Not too shabby.

Front End Programming Courses

Thinking about front end development for a career? Check out these schools (there are over 100 in our directory that teach front-end development!) that have great reviews on their front end development courses:

Back End Development

What is Back End Development?

Definition: Back end development refers to the server side of an application and everything that communicates between the database and the browser.

Back end Development refers to the server side of development where you are primarily focused on how the site works. Making updates and changes in addition to monitoring functionality of the site will be your primary responsibility. This type of web development usually consists of three parts: a server, an application, and a database. Code written by back end developers is what communicates the database information to the browser. Anything you can’t see easily with the eye such as databases and servers is the work of a back end developer.  Back end developer positions are often called programmers or web developers.

Back End Programming Languages

Many back end developers know front end languages such as HTML and CSS but need to use languages such as Java, PHP, Ruby on Rails, Python, and .Net to get the back end job done.  Back end developers are most focused on a site’s responsiveness and speed. These languages are used to create dynamic sites which are different from static sites in that these types of websites store database information. Content on the site is constantly changing and updating. Examples of dynamic sites include Facebook, Twitter, and Google Maps.

Back End Programming Jobs

According to PayScale, the national average starting salary for back end developers is about $70k. The salary ranges from about $38k-$117k based on experience, location, and industry. According to SimplyHired, in NYC, starting salary is about $87k with an approximate range to $120k. Again, not too shabby.

We hope this guide to front end development and guide to back end development was helpful!

Next Steps: Ever wondered about full stack development?

A full stack developer is a bit of a generalist. They are familiar with both front and back end development but may not have the same depth of knowledge as someone who specializes in either front end or back end. Check out these bootcamp offerings for full stack development.

And use our Bootcamp Matching Tool to find the best school for you!

More Reading:

About The Author

Lauren Stewart

Lauren is a communications and operations strategist who loves to help others find their idea of success.

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