At the end of the day, whichever educational route you take is less important than the technical and non-technical skills you acquire to build a career in back end development. Let’s now look at the 9 back end development skills in more depth.
If you’re going to be a back end developer, you need to develop your Python skills. While it has nothing to do with the snake that inspired its name, Python is one of the premier languages used in development today. In 2019, a study conducted by Stack Overflow deemed Python the “fastest-growing major programming language” in the world above Java, and second only to Rust in likeability rankings. A full 41.7 percent of the report’s 90,000 respondents said that they used Python in 2018.
The language’s popularity is well-earned. It handles simple and complex web projects with equal ease and has been deployed across a variety of fields, from healthcare to finance to travel. Well-known industry giants such as Spotify, Instagram, Disqus, and Dropbox have all built their applications using Python’s syntax.
The reason behind Python’s popularity is simple: It supports multiple programming styles and provides excellent data visualizations. With Python, developers can use procedural, functional, and object-oriented programming approaches with equal ease. The language’s support for expansive data libraries makes visualization easy and development speedy. Plus, Python is relatively easy to learn.
As a tech writer for Django Stars noted on the subject: “The simplicity of the syntax allows you to deal with intricate systems and ensure that all the elements have a clear relationship with each other. Thanks to this, more newbie coders can learn the language.”
Of all the skills that back end developers must have, Python tops the list.
Java is an incredibly useful skill for back end developers; it’s a high-performance language that supports object-oriented programming and can run in any system that supports a Java Virtual machine.
PHP, or Hypertext Preprocessor, is one of the most common and usable server-side languages in the development sector. Unlike Python or Java, PHP is a scripting language, which means that it interprets scripts — i.e., programming instructions — at runtime to automate routine processes or improve performance for an application.
According to statistics shared by Guru99, over 20 million websites and applications have been developed via PHP. This is for good reason: PHP is open-source, has a gentle learning curve, and is cost-effective because most web hosting servers already support the language by default. As a bonus, it also offers built-in support for the popular relational database MySQL (see below).
While PHP might not be a critical skill for back end developers if they know other major programming languages, having familiarity with it would certainly make an aspiring programmer more marketable.
Technology might get outmoded quickly, but SQL seems to be an exception to the rule. Since being ruled an industry-standard language by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in 1986, SQL, or Structured Query Language, has empowered back end developers to access and manipulate relational databases as needed. SQL allows programmers to insert and delete records easily, file queries against a database, create new tables and store procedures in a database, and even establish permissions on those tables and procedures. If you ever need to deal with relational databases — and if you’re a back end developer, there’s little doubt that you will — you need to know SQL.
If you want to familiarize yourself with the language, try an open-source platform like MySQL. Named for creator Mondy Widenius’s daughter My and offered by Oracle, MySQL provides free access to SQL database source code. It’s also reasonably easy to use, as it can be installed on desktops and servers. It also runs on platforms including but not limited to Linux, Windows, and UNIX.
That said, SQL isn’t the only type of language used to manipulate databases. In 1998, developer Carl Strozz introduced the concept of a NoSQL language. NoSQL’s name is a point of contention for programmers. While some believe that the term stands for non-SQL, others insist that it means not only SQL. In any case, a NoSQL language communicates with databases that store information through means other than a relational table.
The decision to use SQL or NoSQL depends entirely on a developer’s needs. Both work well; as programmers for MongoDB explain in an overview on the subject, “A common misconception is that NoSQL databases or non-relational databases don’t store relationship data well. NoSQL databases can store relationship data — they just store it differently than relational databases do.”
As such, back end developers would do well to have both skills in their repertoire.
If you’re looking for a widely used modern version control system to fit your needs, Git is a great option. It is actively maintained and open-sourced, created by the same founder of the Linux operating system. Each developer with a working copy of the code can easily access the full history of what changes have been made, making it easy to edit and restore the code. Among any back end developer skills list, Git is one of the most high-performing, flexible, and secure.
6, 7, 8: The Front End Trifecta
So, what are these languages?
- HTML: HTML is the most fundamental building block of the Internet. It determines the structure of web pages when working in conjunction with the other two languages.
- CSS: This language determines how elements will be rendered on a webpage and standardizes display across all browsers.
The three languages work together for front end development and form the design of a website from the front end perspective. They provide direction and information on the style and content of a website, as well as how users interact with it.
You may be wondering why these front end skills are essential for a back end developer. The truth is, there isn’t a clear distinction between the two career paths. Even when developers focus on front or back end development exclusively, there will be some overlap in the skills required for both specialties. Moreover, companies like to hire developers who have multidisciplinary skills; that versatility is the major reason that cross-functional “full stack” developers can be so attractive in the hiring pool.
That said, not all companies will need multi-specialty programmers. While full stack developers can be useful for companies who have thin resources and can’t justify separate back and front end teams, many larger companies do have separate divisions for their developers and have a need for back end-specific professionals.
While there are many technical skills a back end developer needs, there are some useful non-technical ones as well, and communication ranks high on that list. Establishing well-honed communication skills means you’ll find it easier to collaborate, whether with other back end developers or with the front end developers who are working on the same projects. Being able to communicate clearly also helps when working with business leaders and other professionals who do not have the same background in development and programming.
A Final Note on Becoming a Back End Developer
A career in back end development is an excellent option for those who are interested in programming and are passionate about technology. As you work toward deciding what career path you want to take, you’ll also be deciding what your educational path looks like.
Remember, there are a variety of ways you can gain the back end developer skills you need to be successful. You can choose a formal degree program or opt for a coding boot camp to learn web development. The best educational path depends on what your needs are, whether you’re looking for a variety of topics or want more specialized training that you can complete in a shorter period.