Learning Path To Become A Backend Developer in 2020

Are you looking for a career in Backend Development? To build complete applications beyond the user-interface companies need rockstar back-end developers.

All the app data is stored and processed on the back-end. Back-end development is everything that happens behind the scenes. It is a variety of things like the databases, the business logic, the API layer and pretty much everything other than the user-interface.

The average salary for a back-end developer is $123,689 per year in the United States as of 2019. In this post, let’s learn about what it means to be a Backend Developer.

Before you begin architecting your backend, you need to decide which programming language you plan to use for your application. Depending on the programming language, there are a whole bunch of skills that you need to acquire to become a successful back-end developer.

The top tech stacks to pick as a backend developer are:

  • JavaScript Stack
  • Python Stack
  • C# Stack
  • Java Stack

Let’s explore the four most popular back-end programming languages and the tech stack that comes with it in detail.

JavaScript ranks as the most popular programming language for the seventh year in a row, in survey conducted by StackOverflow. Many progressive fortune 500 companies like Facebook, Netflix and PayPal use JavaScript to build their applications. As a JavaScript back-end developer, you need to have in-depth knowledge of JavaScript as a programming language. Once you master JavaScript, you need the following skills to complete the stack.

Skill 1: Node.js

Node.js is the powerful open-source server environment to execute JavaScript code at the backend. Before you start learning node, you will have to be proficient in JavaScript. Node.js is your number one choice if you are building back-end applications using JavaScript. It is extremely popular and has a huge community support.

Node is built to handle asynchronous code in JavaScript. It can be used to perform asynchronous activities such as reading and writing to the file system, handling connections to database servers, or handling requests as a web server. Node.js can execute server-side logic and interact with databases and files.

Skill 2: Node.js Frameworks

If you are using Node.js, you will need to pick a web framework to build and run your web applications. There are plenty of options in this regard.
There are many popular Node.js frameworks that are available today. Here are some options to consider.

Option 1: Express

Express is a fast, flexible, and minimalistic web-framework for Node.js. Express is known to be a highly performant web-framework. It has a lot of utilities and features, making development easier.

Option 2: Meteor

Meteor is a popular and simple full stack Node.js framework for building modern web and mobile applications. It is compatible across several devices. You can use it to build web, iOS, Android and desktop apps.

Option 3: Koa

Koa is a relatively new web framework designed by the team behind Express. It aims to be a smaller, more expressive, and robust foundation for web applications and APIs. By leveraging async functions, Koa allows you to forget about callbacks and greatly increase error-handling.

Python has been a beloved language for developers for many years now. Today, many schools are now teaching Python as the first programming language to students, because of its easy syntax. Generally, Python is a perfect choice if you have a calculation heavy API.

If you decide to pick Python to build your backend, here are the skills that you need, to complete learning it.

Pick a Python Framework

There are several Python frameworks and each framework has its own pros and cons.
Python has two types of frameworks: Full-stack frameworks and micro-frameworks.

When considering which framework to use, step back and look at the size and complexity of your project.

If it is a large application with lots of complexities and features, you will benefit from picking a full-stack framework. If your app is going to be small and simple you can consider a micro-framework.

Let’s look at some of the top Python frameworks and you can pick one of them for your backend development.

Option 1: Full-stack Framework – Django

Django is a high-level Python Web framework that encourages rapid development and clean, pragmatic design. It comes with utilities and features that enable you to focus on writing your app without needing to reinvent the wheel. It’s free and open source. This is the most popular choice of python web framework today.

The popular databases that Django works with are PostgreSQL, MySQL, SQLite, and Oracle, but third-party drivers allow you to use others as well.

Option 2: Full-stack Framework – Pyramid

If you want to try an alternative to Django, Pyramid might be a good choice. Pyramid is an open-source Python web application framework. It aims to be simple, and works well with both large and small applications.

Option 3: Micro-framework – Flask

Let’s say that you are going to build a simple application and it may not require a full-stack framework. You can opt for micro-frameworks instead.  Flask is a Python micro-framework available under the BSD license. Flask is lightweight and easy to pick up by developers.

C# is the programming language used by companies that utilize Microsoft technologies. As a C# back-end developer, you need to have an in-depth understanding of C# as a programming language. Once you master C#, there are other skills that you need to attain to build a web application.

Mosh has the ultimate full-stack .NET developer bundle which will help you gain the skills you need to master all the .NET skills you need.

Skill 1: ASP.NET Core

ASP.NET Core is a popular, robust, and feature-rich framework that provides developers a way to build super-fast APIs for their web applications. The good thing about the new ASP.NET Core framework is that it provides built-in templates for two most popular JavaScript frameworks, Angular and React.

ASP.NET Core framework has the capacity to build & run web applications cross-platform on Windows, Linux, or Mac OS. This gives the developers a flexible environment to work on.

Skill 2: Entity Framework

Entity Framework is an object-relational mapper (O/RM) that enables .NET developers to work with a database using .NET objects. It eliminates the need for most of the data-access code that developers usually need to write.

Java is a popular programming language that is used by companies like Google and Amazon for several backend development projects. Do you enjoy Object Oriented Programming? If the answer is yes, then you can pick Java as the programming language for your backend stack.

Skill 1: Framework

As a backend Java developer, you will need to pick a framework for your development ecosystem. You could pick Play, Struts or Spring framework for your backend development needs. These frameworks help you create and develop modern Java applications with a lot of inbuilt features and support.

Here is a comprehensive list of Java frameworks to pick from.

Skill 2: Build Tools

Java developers use build tools that automate some of the build process, provide documentation, coding best practices and much more. The popular build tools that are used in the Java ecosystem are Maven and Gradle. As a backend Java developer, you need to educate yourself about these tools and use them on a daily basis.

Note: In addition to these, you will need to be proficient at Java as a programming language, design patterns, Object Oriented architecture, and also be able to write good tests for your Java code.

Irrespective of the programming language that you choose to use for your back-end, it will always need a database. Any app that you build will need a database. This is where the data is stored. There are two major types of databases: SQL and NoSQL.

SQL databases are more popular. Facebook, Netflix, Uber, Airbnb use SQL-driven databases – to name just a few. So, to be a successful back-end developer you need to know SQL inside-out.

There are several options to pick from, and I am listing the most popular databases here.

Option 1: MongoDB

MongoDB is the most popular document database and is very commonly used as the default database for Node.js. It is a NoSQL database, that is way more flexible than a SQL database.

Option 2: MySQL

MySQL is another common relational database that is used popularly in the tech industry.

Option 3: PostgreSQL
PostgreSQL is another powerful, relational database system that is used widely.

Alright, you have picked the programming language and the framework for your back-end. You have decided on the database. What about the API layer? The API layer is necessary for the front-end client applications to interact with the back-end services and database. This communication is initiated by the client in the form of a request for certain data, and the server responds with the data in response.

Today there are two powerful ways to build your APIs.

Option 1: REST Architecture

REST is an architectural style for providing standards between computer systems on the web, making it easier for systems to communicate with each other. REST has been around for several years and you can find that most companies have their web services using REST.

Option 2: GraphQL Approach

The new kid on the block is GraphQL. GraphQL is a powerful alternative to REST APIs. Today GraphQL is adopted by several popular companies like Facebook, PayPal, Twitter, just to name a few. GraphQL has several advantages over REST. It makes sure that clients can ask for exactly what they need without many round-trips to the server.

GraphQL is a query language and is agnostic of the language you use. It is just a specification. The client can query for the data they need from the server. And the server responds back with a JSON response to the query. The interesting thing to note here is that, the client can ask for exactly what they need, and they receive only that. Yes!

To learn more about REST vs. GraphQL, checkout our blog post.!

That’s Not All!

In this article, we have covered the major learning paths that are required to become a Backend Developer. But, that’s not all! There are other responsibilities that are taken care off by the backend developer.

Here are some other things that Backend Developers need to be skilled at:

  • Write good unit tests for their code.
  • Good understanding of Algorithms and Data Structures.
  • Knowledge on security vulnerabilities and know how to fix them.
  • Cloud experience in platforms like AWS or Azure.
  • Configuration, maintenance and testing of server.

Further Learning and Resources

I hope you enjoyed this post! If you liked it please share it and leave a comment below. You can follow me on twitter @AdhithiRavi for more articles and updates.

Adhithi Ravichandran is a Software Consultant based in Kansas City. She is currently working on building apps with React, React Native and GraphQL. She is a Conference Speaker, Pluralsight Author, Blogger and Software Consultant. She is passionate about teaching and thrives to contribute to the tech community with her courses, blog posts and speaking engagements.

Tags: backend, Backend Developer, c#, DJANGO, GRAPHQL, java, javascript, Node, REST