What Back-End Software Engineers Do
Software, applications, and even websites are put together by a variety of professionals, each contributing to a specific area of expertise. Most often, the jobs are broken up by front-end specialists and back-end specialists.
Those who deal with building the front end of software handle the things users see when they use it. Back-end engineers, on the other hand, take care of the things users don’t see, such as the database and servers. Their main concern is handling the structure of the back end, so that it is orderly and the program runs efficiently, without issues as the user base or storage demands increase and as coding is changed or adapted over time.
They also set up how data is stored and called for. For example, if software hosts images, the back-end engineer will determine where images are stored when they’re uploaded, and make sure that browsers understand where to look for the information. They may also handle invisible things like security and encryption.
Who would enjoy a career in Software Engineering (Back end Development)?
Back-end engineers must coordinate with teams which may include front-end engineers, UX/ UI specialists, product managers, company heads, and clients, so top-notch communication skills are essential. Because much of back-end engineering revolves around the structure of data, analytical people and technical problem-solvers tend to enjoy the field most. Naturally, a love of technology, deep understanding of how systems work, multiple coding languages, and a desire for lifelong learning is also essential.
Who mightn't like the career?
The career is not generally a good fit for people who need constantly-changing environments, as creating solid structure and consistency are hallmarks of the position.
The exact coding skills required for a role in backend engineering will vary based on the needs of the employer and particular project. However, unlike other career paths, backend software engineers aren’t always required to have a formal degree. Coding language-specific certifications and experience are often accepted in place of traditional schooling. At a very basic level, back-end engineers should understand one or more of the following:
Having certifications related to back-end engineering or development or a degree in a computer-science related field is also beneficial.
Those applying for positions in large companies should learn in advance about which languages their applications are built in and be experts in those particular languages. It’s also important to bring a strong portfolio of backend work to the table when applying for these kinds of roles.
Employees in larger companies, such as Google, often get a fair amount of leeway, so the hiring process can be particularly grueling as they work to find someone who is a good fit for their culture. Those hoping to work for a large enterprise should spend time learning about the company, itself, as well as about the company culture.
- Backend Engineer Interview Questions (Glassdoor)
- How do I prepare for a backend software engineer interview? (Quora)
Moving into Software Engineering (Back end Development) from another career
Virtually anyone can transition into a career as a back-end software engineer, provided they learn the essential skills and languages. Typically, backend engineers have previous coding, database or software engineering experience before contemplating a transition into the field.
Role: There is no standard hierarchy of titles in software engineering, as each company will have its own titles and requirements to ascend to the next level. For example, Google presently uses the scheme Software Engineer 2, followed by Software Engineer 3, Senior Engineer, Staff Engineer, Senior Staff Engineer, Principal Engineer, Distinguished Engineer, and lastly Google Fellow.
Microsoft uses the titles Software Development Engineer, Software Development Engineer II, Senior Software Development Engineer, and Principal Software Development Engineer.
Generally speaking, duties of software engineers all involve coding and development tasks. Individuals move up the ranks as they demonstrate an ability to perform proficiently, work without direction, innovate, and manage others.
The paths for a software engineer typically involve progressing in a technical individual coding capacity, or moving into a people management role such as Engineering Manager where the responsibilities extend to resource planning, hiring and ensuring the career success of engineers within an organisation, rather than coding tasks.
Software engineers generally have no need to travel. However, coding languages are universal, which makes it possible to work virtually anywhere in the world once skills are obtained.
Average: According to data from PayScale, back-end software engineers have salaries of approximately USD $69,000 in the United States, £31,000 in the United Kingdom, CAD$54,000 in Canada, and AU$70,000 in Australia.
Because the profession is in high demand, strong software engineers across the world are able to attract high compensation packages well into the six-figure ranges.
Bonuses and profit sharing are not always a big part of a software engineer’s pay, but can sometimes add a few thousand dollars annually.
If working in a startup or technology company, it is common for equity or stock options to form part of the total package to compensate for lower salaries and the risk involved in working at an early stage venture.
Why Back-End Software Engineers move on
Most back-end developers enjoy their jobs and make a lifelong career out of it. However, some companies have the tendency to hire engineers as contractors and only keep them on for a specific project. Startups also have trouble staying in business, and the economy often determines how many engineers a company can have or if it will be developing more at all.
Because of this, the future can be uncertain, even for a skilled back-end software engineer.