A Guide to Becoming a Full-Stack Developer in 2017

Daniel Borowski
Apr 1, 2017 · 10 min read
  1. My own personal experiences from interviewing at companies for developer positions in the past and also interviewing potential candidates for current Full-Stack Developer positions at my current company.
  2. Stories and feedback from people on Coderbyte who have been accepted to coding bootcamps and then proceeded to get programming jobs (see below).

The Definitive Guide

A Full-Stack Web Developer is someone who is able to work on both the front-end and back-end portions of an application. Front-end generally refers to the portion of an application the user will see or interact with, and the back-end is the part of the application that handles the logic, database interactions, user authentication, server configuration, etc. Being a Full-Stack Developer doesn’t mean that you have necessarily mastered everything required to work with the front-end or back-end, but it means that you are able to work on both sides and understand what is going on when building an application.

1. HTML/CSS

  • Be able to explain the CSS Box Model.
  • Benefits of CSS preprocessors (you don’t necessarily need to understand how to use one on a deep level, but you should to understand what they are for and how they help with development).
  • CSS Media Queries to target different devices and write responsive CSS.
  • Bootstrap (a framework for helping design and layout content on a page and while many online programs or schools focus heavily on teaching Bootstrap, in reality it’s more important to have a deep knowledge of fundamental CSS than specific Bootstrap features and methods).

2. JavaScript

  • Important language features such as functional composition, prototypal inheritance, closures, event delegation, scope, higher-order functions.
  • Asynchronous control flow, promises, and callbacks.
  • Learn how to properly structure your code and modularize parts of it, things like webpack, browserify, or build tools like gulp will definitely be helpful to know.
  • Know how to use at least one popular framework (many programs will focus heavily on teaching you a library or framework like React or AngularJS, but in reality it’s much more important to have a deep understanding of the JavaScript language and not focus so much on framework-specific features. Once you have a good understanding of JavaScript, picking up a framework that sits on top of it won’t be too hard anyway).
  • Although some may argue that you should be using this less or that it’s slowly dying, jQuery code still exists in most applications and a solid understanding of it will be helpful.
  • Some knowledge on testing frameworks and why they’re important (some may even claim that this topic should be optional).
  • Learn about some important new ES6 features (optional).

3. Back-End Language

Once you feel you’ve gotten a good grasp on HTML/CSS and JavaScript, you’ll want to move on to a back-end language that will handle things like database operations, user authentication, and application logic. All online programs and bootcamps usually focus on a specific back-end language, and in reality in doesn’t matter which one you learn so much as long as you understand what is going on and you learn the nuances of your chosen language. You’ll get a ton of different responses if you ask someone which back-end language is the best to learn, so below I’ve listed a few popular combinations. An important note: whichever you decide to learn, just stick with it and learn as much as you can about it — there are jobs out there for all the languages listed below.

  • Ruby: Some popular frameworks for developing in Ruby are Rails and Sinatra. Plenty of programs teach Ruby as a first back-end language.
  • Python: Some popular frameworks for developing in Python are Django and Flask.
  • Java: The Java language isn’t taught so much these days when it comes to Full-Stack Web Development, but some companies do use Java as their back-end and it is still a very in-demand language (see image above).
  • PHP: PHP is rarely taught in programs these days, but just like with Java, it is still very in-demand and it is a cornerstone of the web today.

4. Databases & Web Storage

5. HTTP & REST

6. Web Application Architecture

  • Performance optimization for applications and modern browsers.
  • Some opinions on what a web application architecture should include.
  • Designing Web Applications by Microsoft.
  • MVC.
  • Most importantly though you should try to work on projects with people, look at codebases of popular projects on GitHub, and learn as much as you can from senior developers.

7. Git

  • Here’s a tutorial on using Git and GitHub for beginners.

8. Basic Algorithms & Data Structures


Tech x Talent

Insights at the intersection of tech and talent.

Daniel Borowski

Written by

Tech x Talent

Insights at the intersection of tech and talent.