Front-end, Back-end, DevOps vs Full-stack: A Developers’ Guide for Founders and CEOs

The market demand for developers is growing. Plenty of companies are looking to hire a new developer for a project or their team. At the same time, the technology industry is becoming increasingly complex and developers are getting specialized in many disparate areas.
Małgorzata Galińska

Małgorzata Galińska

Nov 25, 2020 | 10 min read

Front-end, Back-end, DevOps vs Full-stack: A Developers’ Guide for Founders and CEOs

The market demand for developers is growing. Plenty of companies are looking to hire a new developer for a project or their team. At the same time, the technology industry is becoming increasingly complex and developers are getting specialized in many disparate areas.

Choosing the right people for your company is not an easy task and might be slightly confusing. As a CEO assembling a team of IT specialists for your project, there are four basic roles you should definitely be aware of when discussing a project:

  • Front-end
  • Back-end
  • Full-stack
  • DevOps

How do they differ, what are these specialists responsible for and does your team really need all of them to successfully implement your project? Take this article as a cheat sheet with a rundown of the responsibilities of each developer role and their average salaries.

Who is a front-end developer?

When creating a website or application, the presentation layer is what your users will interact with. Naturally, your designers will be the ones responsible for how the site looks. But at the end of the day, it will be the front-end developer’s job to implement the design through HTML, CSS, and JavaScript coding skills and get everything to work flawlessly. Or, at times, to identify the things that are inefficient to implement, and send the design team back to the drawing board if needed.

From the site’s navigation, responsive design, all the way to animations – front-end developers take care of everything that you see and can interact with. In their job, front-end developers most use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and its various frameworks and libraries.

Front-end technologies

  • HTML
  • CSS (and associated technologies, like Sass and Less)
  • JavaScript

What are the responsibilities of a front-end developer?

  • Determining the design and architecture of web pages
  • Improving user experience on the website or app
  • Developing new features to enhance the user experience
  • Keeping a balance between aesthetic design and functionality
  • Ensuring sites are optimized for mobile devices
  • Optimizing websites for speed and scalability


What is the typical paycheck of a front-end developer?

The average salary for a front-end developer is $110,490 per year in the United States. On top of that, developers can count on an extra $2,500 annual cash bonus. The more lucrative jobs pay as much as $180k yearly. The spread is significant, but specialization definitely pays off – knowledge of niche, in-demand technologies can be a plus. For example, expertise in XSLT is rewarded by over 50% higher salaries.

Who is a back-end developer?

While front-end developers are responsible for the visible part of the website or app, back-end developers are responsible for the server-side of things: databases, server scripts and APIs.

Just like the very name suggests, back-end developers work “behind the scenes” to make sure everything is running smoothly. Their main focus is on the interactions between the server and the browser/app, and making sure that the server gives the right information for a given request.

Back-end technologies and skill areas:

  • NodeJS
  • Python
  • PHP
  • Ruby on Rails
  • Server-side languages (Java, Ruby, or Python, .NET)
  • API communication protocols (REST, SOAP, RPC)
  • Databases (MySQL, MongoDB, Oracle, SQLServer)
  • Servers (Apache, Nginx, IIS servers, Microsoft IIS)

What are the responsibilities of a back-end developer?

  • Coming up with ways to meet website/app goals (together with front-ends)
  • Storing data and also displaying it to users
  • Developing payment processing systems
  • Managing APIs resources
  • Creating architecture of a system or website

What is the typical paycheck of a back-end developer?

According to the employment website Indeed, the salaries for US-based back-end related jobs average around $128k per year, depending on seniority and location. California and Washington are the highest paying states, and salaries there range up to $151k per year.

Who is a full-stack developer?

In a nutshell, full-stack developers are the software industry’s jacks-of-all-trades. Typical full-stack developers combine the skills of front-end and back-end developers.

They can work both on projects that involve databases and algorithms but are also well-versed with user-facing technologies. Full-stack developers are typically familiar with HTML, CSS, JavaScript languages but also specialize in one or more back-end programming languages like Ruby or PHP, or Python. Some of them also are experienced in project management, visual design, web design, or user experience skills.

That doesn’t, of course, mean that they are masters at all these technologies and are able to write the whole code all by themselves. In reality, most of them spend the majority of their time as either the Front or back-end developer – but if the need arises, they can also take a look at the other side. This skillset can be very useful for specific jobs.

Full-stack technologies and skills

  • Front-end technologies (HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript)
  • Back-end technologies (one or more programming languages, e.g. Python, PHP, Ruby, .Net etc.)
  • Databases, cache and message brokers (MySQL, MongoDB, Oracle, SQLServer, Redis)
  • Basic design skills as a plus (ideally basic prototype design and UI /UX design skills)
  • Version control systems like Git
  • APIs (REST & SOAP). Ability to create REST and SOAP services is desirable

What are the responsibilities of a full-stack developer?

  • Creating website architecture and user interactions on a website
  • Working together with graphics designers
  • Developing back-end website applications
  • Creating databases
  • Building websites with a focus on cross-platform and responsiveness
  • Designing and developing APIs

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What is the typical paycheck of a full-stack engineer?

According to data, full-stack developers who are experienced in modern cloud technologies and React are in high demand and also some of the best-paid in their field. Salaries average around $111,468 per year in the United States and $4,100 cash bonus per year.

Who is a DevOps engineer?

A DevOps engineer is a bit different from the above IT specialists. They don’t work with the code itself, and bridge the software development teams (Dev) and the IT Operations team (Ops) and oversee their daily work. By integrating and collaborating between those two groups, a company can work on their products and release updates much faster and in a more consistent way than in a regular model.

FunFact: Who coined the term DevOps and what does it really mean?

Patrick Debois, a software engineer from Belgium, first used the term DevOps as a name for a conference on agile system administration he organized. He basically came up with the name by combining the words development and operations into a single portmanteau, hence DevOps. The name quickly caught on in the industry and evolved into a whole new area of software development.

What are the responsibilities of DevOps?

  • Managing and streamlining projects
  • Performance testing and evaluation. DevOps engineers are knowledgeable about the capacity of the software (product) and accommodate it as users save data to it
  • Designing and improving infrastructure and team collaboration
  • Designing a setup environment for users, making the experience better, more automated and intuitive
  • Creating CI/CD (continuous integration and deployment) workflow processes
  • Automating processes for increased efficiency and productivity
  • Keeping all code changes within a single system so that it can be modified and tested
  • Optimizing product or update release cycles

What is the typical paycheck of a DevOps engineer?

Skilled DevOps engineers are in high demand and, depending on the specific responsibilities of the role, US salaries for the jobs hover around $125k per year but can go up to over $170k per year in certain states.

DevOps in the Silicon Valley

Big Silicon Valley startups like Facebook, Uber and Spotify very quickly identified the benefits of DevOps and contributed to making the movement popular. Because these organizations were created with DevOps culture in mind, their organizational structure evolved to match this mindset.

These startups became successful because they don’t necessarily see IT as a cost center but as part of the value chain for delivering customer value – which is the core of DevOps.


The misconception about DevOps

Quite against the common understanding, DevOps isn’t only about development or operations teams. It should be understood more broadly as a way to deliver better customer value in any way possible. DevOps engineers are meant to facilitate full ownership of the customer journeys the teams build and operate.

Conway's law, introduced in 1967, nicely reflects this concept, stating that organizations design systems that mirror, or mimic their internal communication structure.

"Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization's communication structure." Melvin E. Conway



Hopefully you can use this short guide to gain a better understanding of full-stack, front-end, back-end and DevOps roles in the project along with their estimated salaries. The general conclusion is clear – there are many facets of software development and the industry is changing as we speak. As new technologies emerge and evolve, so grows the demand for specific expertise and skill sets.

This being said, there has never been a better time to make your foray into the IT industry, be it as a developer or a founder. Employment of web developers is projected to grow 27 percent between 2014 to 2024, way above the average for all other occupations.

In the US, as the above estimates provided by suggest, the paychecks for these jobs never go under $100k per year and yet can soar dangerously high for certain specializations.

Pro Tip for Founders and CEOs

Startup founders can always look for alternative, cost-efficient options, especially when assembling bigger development teams for their projects. Many smart CEOs seek opportunities in offshoring to European countries such as Poland, where median salaries are on average 50% lower for respective developer roles.

Whether you are a company with a healthy bottom line and dozens of paying clients or only making your first steps in the industry, outsourcing is always a smart move. Against common belief, outsourcing should not be seen as a way to pay as little as possible, but as a smart cost-optimization strategy to get a great bang for your buck without compromising on quality.

Poland always springs to mind in this context – it’s an economically stable country with a rich resource of highly motivated and skilled tech professionals. And because Poland is an EU member state, it simplifies or eliminates many barriers and challenges in establishing a successful partnership – think paperwork, taxes, international regulations etc – while these factors can still be a problem in non-EU outsourcing countries like Ukraine or India. In general, European Union fosters doing business internationally, which has a significant effect on outsourcing opportunities.


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