A full stack developer is a web developer or engineer who works with both the front and back ends of a website or application—meaning they can tackle projects that involve databases, building user-facing websites, or even work with clients during the planning phase of projects.
Full stack web developers:
- Most full stack developers specialize in a particular back end programming language, like Ruby or PHP or Python, although some, especially if they’ve been working as a developer for a while, work with more than one. In job listings, you’ll generally see openings for “full stack Ruby developer” or the like.
- Some full stack developers especially in 2019 also learn either project management, visual design, web design, or user experience skills—to complete their “stack” if you will
As the line between what can be done on the front end versus back end increasingly blurs, more developers are becoming what we call “full stack.” A lot of employers (especially agencies who work on different kinds of sites) are looking for developers who know how to work on all the parts of a site, so they can use the best tools for the job regardless of whether it’s technically “front end” or “back end.” Hence the rise in companies listing full stack development on job requirements.
Now, contrary to what a lot of people think, “full stack” doesn’t necessarily mean a developer is writing all of a site’s code themselves. Many full stack web developers spend the majority of their time in either the front or back end code of a site.
But the point is that they know enough about the code across the entire stack that they can dive in anywhere if needed. And some full stack developers do code entire websites, including both the front and back ends, but usually only if they are working freelance or are the only developer working on a project.