The 7 Skills Every Full-Stack Developer Needs

August 8, 2023 | Reskill Your Workforce | 6 min read

Given how broad full-stack development is, IT pros and leaders can find it hard to pinpoint the most important skills they need to succeed. The following seven competencies are essential.

Full-stack web developers are some of the most agile tech pros around. Skilled in both front- and back-end development, full-stack devs are as comfortable creating eye-catching websites as they are securing databases and working with application programming interfaces (APIs).

That versatility makes full-stack devs highly valuable to IT organizations, as evidenced by the average full-stack developer’s salary. A mid-level full-stack developer earns close to $120,000 a year, while more seasoned devs pull in upwards of $150,000.

But the broad base of skills and knowledge that makes full-stack devs such hot commodities can also make it hard for employers to find the right developers — and for IT pros to break into the field in the first place.

In other IT career paths, like cybersecurity and cloud computing, people can earn certifications to showcase their skills, and IT leaders can rely on those same certifications to find or build the skills their organizations need. Full-stack development doesn’t have the same kind of certification-based career progression. It’s much more flexible, with full-stack web devs specializing in different tools and technologies based on the projects they work on.

The downside to this flexibility is that employers don’t necessarily have an objective standard to measure every dev against. At the same time, current and aspiring full-stack devs may struggle to pinpoint the skills they should invest in.

But there are some core competencies that every full-stack developer needs, even if there are no universally recognized full-stack developer certifications. IT pros who want to thrive in the world of full-stack web development — and IT leaders aiming to cultivate full-stack dev skills among their teams — should take note.

What Skills Do Full-Stack Developers Need?

The Skills Every Full-Stack Developer Needs

The “full” in “full-stack developer” refers to the fact that these devs know both front- and back-end development. The front end encompasses all the user-facing parts of apps and websites, while the back end deals with the behind-the-scenes code powering those apps and sites.

In practice, full-stack developers do everything from tweaking website visuals to building complex databases and ensuring the front and back ends work smoothly together.

But what specific skills do they need to achieve all of this? Let’s take a look.

Tech Skills for Full-Stack Developers

1. Front-End Programming Languages and Frameworks

When building stylized, responsive front-end interfaces, most full-stack devs rely on the fundamentals of HyperText Markup Language (HTML), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and JavaScript. Devs may also use more specialized languages for some types of projects, like Swift for Apple apps.

Full-stack devs must also be familiar with more complex frameworks for managing front-end apps. Two of the most common frameworks include React, a JavaScript library for building user interfaces, and Redux, a JavaScript library that helps manage application states.

2. Back-End Programming Languages and Frameworks

As with front-end development, the back end offers an array of languages to choose from. Some of the most common include Java, Python, and C languages like C, C++, and C#. Many full-stack developers also use frameworks like Node.js and Express.js, which allow them to write and run server-side code using JavaScript.

Back-end development often involves creating, managing, securing, and connecting databases. To that end, full-stack developers need expertise with database management systems like PostgreSQL. Full-stack developers should also be familiar with writing and using APIs to connect disparate services and databases.

3. Cybersecurity Skills

Like other software developers, full-stack devs must build security into their websites and apps. Unsecured services are almost guaranteed to be hacked, which can lead to stolen data, angry users, and even legal action.

In terms of cybersecurity skills, full-stack devs must at least understand web security basics like authentication and authorization, system logging and monitoring, and protection against code injection attacks. On the back end, full-stack developers should have a strong command of data security concepts like encryption, role-based access control, and transport layer security (TLS) protocols.

4. User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX)

Full-stack web developers don’t build interfaces in a vacuum — they build them for real people. With knowledge of UI and UX best practices, full-stack devs can build interfaces that are intuitive, enjoyable, and appropriate for the task at hand.

Perhaps the most important thing for full-stack devs to know, from a UI/UX standpoint, is how to conduct user needs assessments and use the results to inform design decisions. Front-end development tends to go more smoothly when it’s done with the stakeholders’ needs in mind.

Power Skills for Full-Stack Developers

5. A Big-Picture Understanding of Development

Being able to design a clean web page and write streamlined server-side code are only part of what it means to be a full-stack developer. The other, equally important part is understanding the “why” of it all, the fundamental principles behind building websites and web apps.

Put another way, full-stack devs need a deep understanding of what makes a front end “work,” what makes a back end “work,” and how the two can be connected in a seamless whole. This knowledge allows full-stack devs to sort through all the tools and best practices available to find the ones that are right for their projects.

6. Ability to Adapt Quickly

Speaking of sorting through new tools and tactics to make the best choices, full-stack developers need a certain amount of adaptability and agility.

Technology advances rapidly in every field but moves especially fast for full-stack devs. New frameworks and languages arise almost constantly, and the costs of adopting these new tools are relatively low. That means full-stack web developers have more motivation and freedom to try new things.

7. Problem-Solving and Communication

Ultimately, a developer’s job is solving problems, and you can’t solve a problem you don’t understand. Skills that matter in most professional contexts — like communication, empathy, and critical thinking — are especially important for full-stack developers, who must work with multiple groups of stakeholders to build apps and websites that achieve specific goals.

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How to Build Critical Full-Stack Developer Skills

As the preceding list of skills highlights, becoming a full-stack dev — or cultivating full-stack developer skills in your team — isn’t exactly a straightforward journey. To succeed, a full-stack web developer needs deep knowledge of a broad array of skills while staying updated on the latest tools and techniques.

But the task of building full-stack dev skills doesn’t have to be overwhelming. In fact, IT pros and IT organizations can find guidance in training programs designed explicitly for full-stack developers. A robust, structured program can help learners zero in on critical skills and find a clear path to full-stack expertise. Plus, ongoing training makes it easier for devs to keep up with evolving technologies.

The new Web Development Career Journey by Codecademy from Skillsoft delivers a curated learning path for full-stack developers. By combining on-demand video content, instructor-led training, and hands-on labs, the Web Development Career Journey offers a single source of full-stack dev knowledge across various learning modalities. Learners build both the hard and soft skills they need to succeed in the fast-paced world of full-stack development.