What is a full stack developer?
Developers are typically classified by which “end” of the software process they work in. The front end is also known as client-side, and it’s the “on stage” portion of the software, app, or website; the interface that the end user sees and interacts with. The back end, or server-side, is what happens “backstage”; all the business logic, data storage, and invisible processes that make the front end work as expected. You’ll see job listings for both front end and back end web developers and engineers.
But you also see the job title of full stack web developer. A full stack developer is somebody who can do it all, back end and front end, and make them work together. If you know somebody who has built an entire app or website by themselves, that person is a full stack developer.
As you can imagine, full stack development is more challenging than specializing in one end or the other. You’ll have to be a jack of all trades, but here’s the catch: you also have to be a master of those trades. Full stack developers are the generalists with the knowledge and skill who can come in at any point in the development process and understand what needs to be done and how to do it.
Full stack engineers are in high demand and can command six-figure salaries, with employers often citing the difficulty in finding good ones. Startups, in particular, need the expertise of “rockstar” full stack developers on their teams early on. The best full stack engineers are hard to find because it’s a job that can be difficult to do well, so employers often spend significant time hunting for the right fit, and will compensate the developers they hire well in order to keep them.
Skills needed for full stack developers
The good news is you can be one of these in-demand full stack developers, and you won't need a four-year degree in Computer Science to do it. Coding bootcamps offer everything you need to learn coding and full stack web development on an accelerated timeline, for less money than a traditional degree.
Before you enter a coding boot camp for full stack web development, you should have an understanding of what will be expected of you as a student and how best to succeed in one of these rigorous programs.
A good web development bootcamp can give you all the coding skills you need, but the truth is only a certain kind of person is truly suited to this challenging work. There are many soft skills and personality traits that make success in this role more likely. A good full stack developer will have most of the following characteristics:
- Curiosity and resourcefulness; a growth mindset. A desire to learn new skills, new languages, and new concepts, and the ability to seek out and utilize the resources to learn them-not just during your coding boot camp tenure, but throughout your career. Maintaining your continuing education will be key in your software development career.
- Communication. Having a hand in the full stack means communicating clearly and often with everybody else working on an application. You’ll need to understand what’s happening at every stage of the project, asking the right questions of the right people. And when you have something to add, you’ll need to know how to express yourself clearly and succinctly so the people who need that information can grasp it easily and move forward.
- Time management and organization. Few jobs are as varied and demanding as full stack web development. You’ll need to understand how to prioritize your tasks and manage your time accordingly, with little oversight. There will be nobody holding your hand and pointing you to your next responsibility. It’s on you to know what needs to be done and ensure you have time to accomplish it all. Not everybody has this skill, and you need to be honest with yourself about whether you do.
- Teamwork. Most apps and websites are not going to be built by a single full stack developer. Rather, there will be front and back-end developers working alongside you, doing their parts, and you’ll need to be adept at working with others towards a common goal. Efficiency is the name of the game in software development, so you’ll need to be the kind of person who can understand the big picture and ensure that work isn’t being duplicated or missed.
- Attention to detail. Responsibility for the full stack means you’ll need to have an eye out at all times for discrepancies, errors, and gaps. You’ll be dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s across the entire stack.
- Multi-tasking. Your attention will likely be pulled in multiple directions at once. While time management and organization should mean you’ve segmented your day into focused blocks, you’re still going to field inquiries and problems from the team, and need to context-switch quickly from what you’re working on in the back end, for example, to help with the front end.
- Problem-solving. In many instances, you’ll be the final stop for problems, and it’ll be up to you to ultimately solve them.
Most coding boot camps offer full-stack paths, promising to teach you everything you need to know about the front and back ends of software and web development. They’ll teach you all the coding skills you need to know, across the full stack. Not only do you need to know technologies across the full stack, you’ll likely need to know, or be willing and able to learn, multiple languages and frameworks in each area. These will include:
- Front end frameworks (React, Angular, Vue.js)
- Back end languages (PHP, NodeJS, Python, Ruby, Java)
- Databases and web storage (SQL, noSQL)
- Git and GitHub
- HTTP and REST
- Basic design skills
So, yes, most coding boot camps offer full stack development tracks. The question is, which do you choose? Which in-person or online coding boot camp will give you the best foundation to launch a successful career as a full stack developer?
There are a few things to look at when evaluating a coding boot camp. First, understand and accept that this is a difficult and rigorous field of study, and expect high standards from the boot camp you ultimately choose. You’ll want one you know is comprehensive and doesn't’ cut corners. And you’ll want one that expects your full dedication, because if you can’t work hard through boot camp, you’re not cut out to be a full stack developer. In order to prepare you for this challenging career, your education must challenge you as well.
A good web development boot camp will also be transparent in terms of results and job placement after graduation. Choose one with a track record of student success and a strong career services arm. You should get solid and complete answers to your questions about employment opportunities and the assistance students can expect from the coding boot camp in building a network and securing a job. Look for verified data and third-party evaluations for the most trustworthy information, remembering that unlike four-year colleges, boot camps are not subject to accreditation standards and requirements. The best boot camps are proactive about evaluating and sharing their outcomes, holding themselves accountable for student success.
Reputation is an important consideration. Look into what third party auditors publish about the boot camps you consider. Remember that coding bootcamps are not accredited the way colleges are, so there’s a lot more room for shady dealers and sketchy programs. Do your homework (like you’re doing here with us. Good job!).
Find out about student services and support. Will the boot camp offer extra help if you struggle? Is there a real sense of community? How comprehensive is their website in terms of guiding you to student services like tutoring or individual career coaching? You should feel confident that you’ll come out of this program fully prepared to be a no-brainer hire at your target companies. Services should include things like interview prep and resume review, portfolio building, and networking events. Flatiron School, for instance, has a Career Services center with a promise of 180 days of one-on-one career coaching alongside the technical courses you’ll take, including a “Get Hired Game Plan” with weekly action items to help drive your career development and job search.
Check student reviews or reach out to recent graduates on social media or via email, if you can. Try to find real, unvarnished student opinions about the quality of the program and instructors. And speaking of instructors, it doesn't hurt to do a little research there, too. Are the classes taught by reputable members of the development community? What are their reputations?
Look into the schedule and structure of the curriculum. Is it full time, on site, and 12 weeks long? Or part time, online, and 24 weeks long? Will it require travel or relocation, or can you do it in your hometown? You no doubt have a preference, so ensure the coding boot camp you choose can accommodate your needs.
Finally, ask if the boot camp has a job guarantee. Even if they seem supportive of helping you find a job, do they actually guarantee it? If so, what exactly does that guarantee entail? Read the fine print. What is required of you to access this guarantee? Will they take on some of the financial risk and be your partner in finding the right role after graduation? Will they require you to take the first job you’re offered, even if it’s not exactly what you want? Do they guarantee a full-time job with benefits, or do freelance and part-time work meet their guarantee?
The best full stack coding boot camps
With all of the above in mind, we’ve chosen five boot camps we think offer the best value, the most rigorous and real-world curriculum, and the best job placement services. These boot camps will prepare you for a successful career as a full stack developer, and include options that are full time, part time, online, and on site.
Available as an online program or on-site in New York City, Fullstack Academy enjoys a solid reputation and boasts a 100% completion rate, according to the self-reported data on their website. The average length of the program is 13 weeks and the average starting salary of graduates is $70,000. Fullstack Academy publishes third-party reporting of their outcomes and results.
Flatiron School offers a variety of programs and locations, both in-person at their various campus locations and as an online coding bootcamp. The intensive schedule is 15 weeks, but they also offer flexible online options that will last 20, 40, or 60 weeks depending on your preference. Their graduates go on to jobs at Google, Microsoft, Spotify, Intel, and Apple with an average starting salary of $70,000. They also offer a 100% completion rate, according to the self-reported data on their website.
The self-proclaimed “engineering school for gender equality,” Hackbright is open to all but focused in particular on providing women, gender diverse people, and their allies with a personalized path to software development. They offer full time and part time programs online or on site at their San Francisco campus, and they stress community and career prep activities, with each student being matched to two software engineer mentors at leading tech companies including Slack, Reddit, Google, and Twitter. Hackbright’s programs are an average of 24 weeks and the average starting salary of graduates is $88,000. Their website boasts a 99% completion rate.
General Assembly is a well-known and highly respected corporate education provider, offering technical training and employee development since 2011. Their immersive software engineering bootcamp offers programs in San Jose or online, full time or part time. They’ve placed more than 12,000 students in tech careers and count as hiring partners of companies such as Samsung, Bloomberg, Apple, Amazon, and Adobe.
Offering both full and part time programs, online and in person in various cities, Tech Elevator stresses its instructor network that offers students unlimited tutoring during the program to ensure you are keeping up. They also have career coaches and boast 90% job placement (verified by CIRR) and an average salary increase of $24,000. Their success stories focus on people making career changes, featuring a librarian, a carpenter, and a billing specialist who are all now successful software engineers-emphasizing that no coding experience is required to succeed in their programs.
Your new career
Hiring managers are actively seeking talented and skilled full stack developers, and you could be just a few months away from claiming one of those high-paying jobs. It’s incredibly difficult to find qualified software engineers with full stack skills, so this is definitely a worthwhile goal that’s achievable through many leading boot camps. Choosing one whose curriculum gives you a solid foundation is the first step towards some of the most rewarding careers in the country.
Whatever boot camp you choose, take advantage of every service offered. Pay as much attention to career development as you do to the technical curriculum, because the promise of a quality boot camp isn’t just that you’ll learn hard skills-it’s that you’ll be prepared to land a high-paying job. Things like portfolio development, resume writing, and interview prep are just as critical in the job-hunting process, so allow your bootcamp to teach you how to present yourself in the best light.
Often, hiring managers aren’t even sure what they need in a full stack developer. If you’re the candidate who can correct their assumptions and tell them exactly what a qualified full stack engineer like yourself can and should offer, you’re well on your way to your dream job. We truly believe coding boot camps are one of the best ways to achieve this, because they combine intensive, immersive study with networking, career development, and job placement just when you need them. The job outlook for web developer roles is growing at 13% through the rest of this decade, well above the average growth rate of 8%. The iron is hot, and it’s time to strike. Get matched to the right bootcamp for you.