Should you become a front-end or back-end developer?

By Robert Half on 23rd June 2022

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in web development, you may have heard the terms front-end, back-end and full-stack developers. So, what’s the difference? Which career path is better suited to you? What is the average front-end vs back-end developer salary in 2022?

There are many similarities, but in essence, front-end and back-end developers create websites. Both use different programming languages in order to do so, and both need to have a strong understanding of design principals, especially in user experience, when they’re building the site.

While both are necessary for the creation of a fully-functioning, well-designed websites, front-end and back-end developers work on different parts of the website, whereas a full-stack developer is someone who can do some or all of the above.

What is a front-end developer?

So, which part of the website is a front-end developer responsible for?

As the name implies, a front-end developer builds the ‘front-end’ or the ‘client-side’ of the website, the part that users interact with. Everything that you see on a website—from the way it looks to the way it functions—is built by front-end developers using programming languages like HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

Front-end development is an excellent role for the creative and analytically minded; websites need to not only run well, they need to look good too. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in web design, a good combination of hard and soft skills is essential, including:

  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Design and creative thinking
  • Understanding of User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI)
  • Optimising websites
  • Mobile-responsive design
  • Knowledge of testing and debugging
  • Experience with front-end development tools, like content management systems, version control systems, APIs, frameworks, and automation

Read more: 5 reasons to become a front-end developer

What is a back-end developer?

In contrast, back-end developers build the ‘back-end’ of the website; the part of the website users don’t see. They build and maintain the systems that process data, manage security and other server-side functions.

To do this, back-end developers use a combination of programming languages like Java, Python, Ruby, and .Net, and their associated frameworks. They also debug code, build and maintain databases, and ensure the regular backing-up of data.

Creativity is also an important soft skill for back-end developers, as are problem solving, critical thinking, and analytical skills. Back-end development also requires:

  • Experience using back-end development tools, like frameworks, APIs, databases, web servers, and cloud computing
  • Understanding UX and UI
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • The ability to work both in a team and independently

Full-stack developers, on the other hand, are able to perform as both a front-end and back-end developer, with some or all of the knowledge of both roles.

Read more: Average back-end developer salaries in the UK

What is the average front-end vs back-end developer salary in 2022?

The average front-end vs back-end developer salary is currently on the rise in the UK.

According to our research, the median salary for a front-end developer is £55,250 as of March 2022, up from £46,000 in September 2021. That’s an increase of just over 20 per cent. The most in-demand front-end developers in the UK are candidates with mid-level to senior experience.

Back-end developers also saw a rise in their median salary, from £46,000 in September 2021 to £52,250 in March 2022. That’s a raise of nearly 14 per cent. Just like front-end developers, the most demand in the UK is for back-end developers with mid-level to senior experience.

According to our 2022 Salary Guide, both back-end and front-end developers are in huge demand this year, and that trend is likely to continue as our dependence on the internet and connected devices continues to grow. And with increasing confidence in the state of the workplace post-pandemic, IT budgets are growing and teams are expanding once again. There’s never been a better time to begin a career in web design and development.

Are you considering a career in front-end or back-end development? Discover the current job prospects for both roles in our 2022 Salary Guide.

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