2 October 2023

What Is A Backend Developer?

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Backend developers are literal heroes. They focus on how a website works (as opposed to how it looks) and make sure everything runs smoothly behind the scenes. They write code and APIs, fix bugs, create libraries and work on data architecture. All the cool stuff. 

You’ll need to be a tech whizz if you want to become a backend developer. So knowledge of programming languages like Java, PHP and Python are essential. But don’t worry, an apprenticeship will teach you all that. And set you up for success in the biz.

Ears pricked? Ready for more? 

Read on to learn what a career as a backend developer is all about.

What is a backend developer?

Simply put, a backend developer is someone who builds, tests and maintains the backend of a website or application. From writing programmes for servers to understanding how servers store data, backend developers are vital in getting a web project off the ground.

Difference between frontend and backend developers

Before you understand what a backend developer really does, you’ll need to know how the frontend works. Frontend developers deal with all the visual aspects of a website. The things that users actually see, like design, layout and drop-down menus.

When you browse ASOS looking for a pair of jeans, you’re interacting with the frontend.

Backend developers do the exact opposite. They interact with bits of software that users can’t see. Put it this way, they create the infrastructure that helps frontend developers achieve their vision. In other words, a backend developer is the support system. The crutch to a frontend. 

What does a backend developer do on a daily basis?

A backend developer has lots of responsibility. Essentially, they need to understand a website’s goals and come up with effective solutions to meet them. If a website goes down, it’s the job of the backend developer to work out what the issue is and fix it. No pressure there, right?

What else do they do on a day-to-day basis? Here are some examples…

  • Analysing data, code and troubleshooting problems to identify areas of improvement
  • Monitoring industry trends and developing new programmes to match them
  • Collaborating with frontend developers to ensure user-facing elements align with server-side logic
  • Maintaining databases, including data storage and retrieval
  • Assessing the speed of current applications
  • Training and supporting internal team members
  • Performing UI tests to optimise performance
  • Building reusable code and libraries
  • Securing applications from cyber attacks
  • Debugging applications.

Hear what one apprentice had to say about their time working as a software developer for CGI.

“I have learned an extremely wide set of skills as CGI has provided me with many different opportunities on various projects. They include backend projects such as Java, front end projects using Angular/React, and also cloud technologies with Azure, AWS and Google Cloud platform. I would have never been able to experience and learn so many technologies by myself in such a short time span.”

(Apprentice Software Developer, CGI)

What skills does a backend developer need?

To become a backend developer, you’ll need a range of soft and hard skills. But what exactly are these? Well, soft skills are linked to your personality and how you deal with others in the workplace. Hard skills are industry-specific skills that you’ll need for a particular role.

Employers love a good mix as it shows that a candidate has the technical know-how to do their job while also being a kind and respectful member of the team.

Backend developer soft skills

  • Excellent communication
  • Strong analytical thinking
  • High attention to detail
  • Good problem solving skills
  • Ability to work as a team.

Backend developer hard skills

  • Web development languages – you should be familiar with at least one programming language like Java, Python or Ruby on Rails. However the more languages you know, the higher your chances of securing a role as a backend developer
  • Database and cache – cached data refers to files, images and any other multimedia that are stored on a device when an application is opened. Knowledge of tools such as Redis, SQLServer, Oracle, MySQL, Memcached and Varnish Cache all help
  • API – stands for Application Programming Interface and allows for two or more computer programmes to interact with one another. It’s good to know about SOAP and REST too – which are different API designs. SOAP uses XML format, while REST is more flexible, allowing applications to exchange information in multiple formats.

Want to know what a career in backend development is really like? Read over 40,000 student reviews to find the right company and role for you.

What qualifications does a backend developer need?

Great question. Well, you’ve got two options. The first is going to university. The second (and a firm favourite here) is doing an apprenticeship. Let’s compare the two.

Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or Software EngineeringDegree apprenticeship in Computer Science or Software Engineering
No on-the-job training, as the majority of your course is based on academic studiesInvaluable on-the-job training that lets you build key workplace skills and boost your employability. Employers love apprentices
Move away from home and experience campus life + independenceOption to move away from home 
No salaryPaid a proper employee salary of up to £30,000 a year
Pay £9,250 a year in tuition feesNo tuition fees as the government and your employer cover all your costs
Graduate with £50,000 student debtGraduate with no student debt + have lots of savings 

Who can do an apprenticeship?

Anyone aged 16 or over. Apprenticeships come in levels 2-7. The level you do depends on your age and experience. If you’re 16 and just starting out, you’ll be on a level 2 apprenticeship. If you’ve finished your A-Levels, you can start a level 4/5 or 6 apprenticeship

Can I do a degree apprenticeship in Computer Science/Software Engineering?

You sure can! At RateMyApprenticeship, we have tons of roles available in Computer Science and Software engineering. With some of the UK’s Best Student Employers too – including:

Give them a browse – and who knows – you may just find your perfect match.