Full Stack Software Engineer Job Description and Career Paths

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Anyone interested in the tech industry may have heard the buzz around full stack software engineers and the career opportunities open to them. “Full stack” refers to the entirety of a computer system’s application, including both the front end (client facing) and the back end (server side).

Software engineers play a critical role in creating applications for platforms such as desktop computers, mobile devices, gaming consoles, and more. Their blend of technical, design, and soft skills makes them uniquely qualified to collaborate with a team working toward a common goal.

However, the role of full stack software engineer is often confused with another popular role in tech — full stack software developers. Individuals exploring a career in tech should examine what a full stack software engineer is, their typical job duties, and the role they play on a team.

What Is a Full Stack Software Engineer?

What differentiates a full stack software engineer from other disciplines in tech is their extensive knowledge of programming languages and computer operating systems. Using engineering principles, software engineers create systems, computer programs, and data management tools that are customized to their clients’ needs. Some software engineers focus only on the front end, while others focus exclusively on the back end. Full stack software engineers, however, can do both, which is what makes them so valued.

Full stack software engineers are sometimes confused with full stack developers. The two roles often work side by side on a team and may even share overlapping responsibilities. The key difference is that full stack web developers focus on developing and maintaining websites, applications, and other digital products. Software engineers focus on designing and creating system architectures.

What Does a Full Stack Software Engineer Do?

The day-to-day tasks of a full stack software engineer vary depending on the project. However, they consistently apply principles of computer science and mathematical analysis to design and develop software for a specific platform.

Each system has limitations, such as memory, processing power, and the capabilities of the operating system. The software engineer chooses the correct algorithm within those limitations to make a piece of software accomplish a task or to solve a specific problem. To do this, software engineers must know multiple programming languages and understand how different systems interact. They also need to be able to translate mathematics into software.

Full stack software engineers may perform any of the following on a given project:

  • Oversee the development of software documentation
  • Perform software testing (integration testing, system testing, unit testing, acceptance testing) to ensure an application works correctly
  • Identify areas for improvement and create updates to implement those improvements
  • Provide status updates and communicate proposals to clients and team members
  • Evaluate the overall functionality of the software throughout different stages and environments

How to Become a Full Stack Software Engineer

There are a number of ways to go about becoming a full stack software engineer. One way to begin on this career path is to earn a relevant undergraduate degree. Some employers prefer candidates with a degree in computer science, software engineering, computer and information systems, or information technology. After earning a degree, individuals typically need several years of work experience in a technical environment to be hired as a full stack software engineer.

Some full stack software engineers develop their knowledge base through certificate programs and bootcamps. As opposed to spending four years in a traditional university program, these intensive programs are designed to provide a specialized education on a much shorter timeline. However, these programs still come at an expense to individuals seeking to build their skills, and students will need to seek out hands-on experience following program completion. Additionally, bootcamp and certificate programs can be limited in their focus on specific skills.

Another route allows aspiring engineers to earn while they learn by enrolling in hire-train-deploy programs. For instance, unlike a university program or bootcamp, Revature’s programs offer 10 to 14 weeks of paid training, followed by placement in an employment contract with partners such as Salesforce and Bank of America. These innovative programs can save time and avoid costs associated with more traditional paths.

Key Skills of a Full Stack Software Engineer

Full stack software engineers require a core group of skills to be successful in their roles. First, they need to have a mastery of programming languages such as Java, Python, and C++. Depending on their specialization, they may also need to learn SQL, PERL, or Ruby. Fluency in programming languages is the primary skill of a software engineer.

Other skills full stack software engineers should have include:

  • Proficiency in computer and database architecture and data structures
  • Ability to devise and apply optimization strategies
  • Understanding of web design principles and aesthetics
  • Time management and organization
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Communication and interpersonal skills

Full Stack Software Engineer Career Paths

Experienced software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers made a median annual salary of $110,100 in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Salaries vary depending on factors such as experience, education, region, and the company hiring.

The BLS projects positions to grow 22% between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than the national average. A full stack engineer’s career path can lead to many exciting places in a wide array of industries, including technology, gaming, healthcare, aviation, and telecommunications, to name a few.

Launch a New Career in Tech

What if you could train for a career in tech and get paid to do it? At Revature, we accelerate the careers of our associates by paying them to learn the most in-demand skills today’s top businesses need.

Revature provides 10 to 14 weeks of paid training that will help you develop your tech skills plus soft skills such as teamwork and communication. After training completion, associates are placed in employment positions with our partner organizations, typically on a two-year contract. Our success rate is strong, with 97% of Revature associates gaining employment following training.

Kick-start your career and learn more about Revature today.

Related Reading

Technology Career Paths: Outlook, Path, and FAQ
Software Developer Careers: Outlook, Definition, Paths
Computer Programmer Career Path: Outlook, Definition, Paths
Web Developer Career Path: Outlook, Definitions and How to Get There

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Sources:

CIO Insight, “Full-Stack Developer vs Software Engineer”
Guru99, “What Is Software Engineering? Definition, Basics, Characteristics”
IEEE Computer Society, “What Algorithms and Data Structures Should Any Software Engineer Know?”
Indeed, “Full Stack Developer vs. Software Engineer: What’s the Difference?”
Payscale, Average Software Engineer Salary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers
ZDNet, “How to Become a Software Engineer: A Complete Guide”