How to: Become a Back-End Developer

If you're interested in the inner workings of the web, the field of back-end development could offer the challenging career you're looking for.

Written by Nology Team - 16.01.20

In this how to, we’ll give you a brief introduction into the role of a Back-end developer, and what you need to learn if you want to become one!

Back-End Developer

A Back-End Developer is a programmer who writes the logic of websites, applications or software programs. From their knowledge of databases, servers and the architecture of websites, they are responsible for the back-end data essential for delivering the software’s desired functionality.

Traits of a good Back-end Developer

Logical Thinking – You’ll be comfortable with logic and reasoning to build effective software.

Data-driven – You’ll need to understand the importance of data and analysis of it in software engineering.

Problem-solver – To have the motivation to investigate issues and implement fixes.

Attention-to-detail – You’ll need to careful and precise, and comfortable taking your time over the finer details.

Collaborate in a team – You’ll work with front-end developers and other members of the development teams.

What does a Back-End Developer do?

An experienced Back-end Developer has a deep understanding of how software programs work, so they can solve problems and create solutions for the software to achieve the desired functionality.

The back-end of a website or server refers to the webserver and database. To provide the visuals, content and experience, software programs fetch data from their database and render information from their servers to deliver the desired user experience. The responsibilities of a Back-end developer include:

What do I need to learn?

If you’ve been exploring what roles are available to you in development, it’s hard to ignore the journey into back-end development is less clear-cut than the journey into front-end. However, there are agreed steps and knowledge you’ll need to gain to secure your first role in back-end development.

1 – Learn a Language

Knowing which language to learn for back-end development can be confusing, there are lots out there vying for your attention. Patience and practice will be necessary companions in your learning, and paying particular attention to the logic and best practices in coding from the beginning will also aid you in the many hours you will spend over the next few weeks.

 If you’re new to development, the most popular languages are Python and PHP. Python has been around for nearly a couple of decades now, and is a particularly beginner-friendly programming language with wide-reaching applications: it’s favoured by data analysts, scientists and network engineers, as well as software engineers. PHP is another popular scripting language which is especially applicable to web development, so it’s a great choice for those who want to learn languages which will be relevant experience when it comes to securing a job. 

If you’ve already been learning to code in a front-end context, Node.js 8 uses JavaScript outside of a browser environment, so will be easier to grasp if you’ve already been spending time practicing your programming in Javascript.

2 – Learn a Package Manager

Once you’ve grasped the fundamental knowledge needed to program basic projects and applications in your chosen language, it’s time to tackle the relevant package manager. Each language has its own package manager: Pip is Python’s, Composer is PHP’s and NPM or Yarn both work with Node.js.

This step will give you the capability to use external libraries when writing your applications. Whichever language you’ve chosen, go and pick up and practice using the related package manager. 

3 – Get acquainted with databases

It’s time to familiarise yourself with a NoSQL database, understand how it stores your data which will be central to your applications functionality. NoSQL databases are great for large data processing and storage, although knowing why this structured storage is different from relational databases will aid you in gaining a deeper understanding of the capabilities and limitations of each. Free and popular NoSQL databases include MongoDB, Redic, CouchDB and Raven DB. 

4 –  Authentication

As a full-stack or back-end developer, management of user and process authentication and authorisation will be your responsibility. Knowledge of data security and how authentication technology access control systems by checking to see if a user’s match those stored in a database or server.

5 – Create APIs

An API (Application Programming Interface) details how your software components communicate with each other. APIs are responsible for the level of software interactivity we’re familiar with today, giving databases, servers and software the lines of communication they need to perform the tasks they’ve been programmed to carry out. For example, often you will work with front-end developers to create and manage API calls to render data on an application from the server-side and receive data to be stored server-side.

There’s no hiding from the fact that back-end development demands a penchant for logical thinking, problem-solving and a real appetite for attention-to-detail. We might have covered the main things you’ll need to know here, but each new concept, program or language you learn will require practice, practice and more practice. Spending time on each concept before you move onto the next will aid you in the long term.

Not sure where in a development team you might feel most at home? In our how to guides, we explore the essential traits and skills of the main roles in a software development team. If you’re just learning to code, learn what the first steps are to become a Junior Developer, the entry-level role where most tech careers begin. Less interested in servers and more interested in design? Take a look at how to become a Front-end Developer.


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