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What is a Backend Engineer?

Reviewed By Engineering Expert and Coach
Bill Coloe
February 9, 2023
Also commonly known as a backend developer, backend engineers work in various coding languages to build infrastructures for websites and applications. While the work of a backend engineer isn't usually user facing, it's absolutely crucial for all products to function effectively.

A Backend engineer is a software developer who specializes in building and maintaining the server-side of web applications and systems. Backend engineers are responsible for the implementation and management of the servers, databases, and APIs that drive the functionality of web applications. They work closely with frontend engineers and product managers to ensure that the front-end and back-end of a web application work together efficiently and seamlessly.

Curious what we mean when we say "product?" Read This.
View Frontend Engineer Job GuideView Fullstack Engineer Job Guide

What does a Backend Engineer do?

At the very basic level, backend engineers are responsible for maintaining product data and ensuring scalability for a website or application.

At companies of all sizes, backend engineers will often work in a pod structure led by a product manager to decide what order to prioritize development tasks. It’s the product managers’ role to decide prioritization of development work based on a function of importance, function and visibility. 

An engineer is usually responsible for completing a certain number of tasks– often referred to as “tickets” or “user stories” within a set timeframe (often referred to as a “sprint”).

Difference between Frontend, Backend, and Fullstack Engineers

Frontend engineers differ from backend engineers in that frontend only focuses on parts of the site actively seen by users (front meaning “visible” in this instance).

The term and title of “Fullstack” engineer showcases the ability to work on either the front or back end of the product (hence, full stack engineers are capable of managing the company’s FULL tech stack).
View Fullstack Engineer Job GuideView Backend Engineer Job Guide

Do I need a degree to be a Backend Engineer?

Contrary to popular belief, you do NOT need a CS or otherwise technical degree to be any sort of engineer. In fact, no degree is required for an associate/entry level backend engineering position. Hiring managers focus primarily on previous things built-- in this case, APIs written or logic coded, which is usually on display in a portfolio like Github. Job applications will often require a link space for a Github for a recruiter to review. Engineers can be self-taught, as long as they have a decent number of projects featured and can pass a coding interview. Job descriptions will often mention a requirement of something STEM related, but more often than not these roles are filled by bootcamp graduates or those with impressive portfolios.

HOWEVER, if you're looking to enter tech in a coding field, we recommend checking out frontend engineering instead. It is simpler to learn, easier to show off, and usually more fun for beginners.

We've seen these people become incredibly successful backend engineers:

  • Any sort of college STEM background like mathematics, statistics, or computer science
  • Data entry and receptionist professionals
  • Accounting and budgeting roles
  • Truck drivers (truly!)

If you're new here to bridged, we're glad to meet you! We are huge fans of alternate forms of education, and recommend specific certifications to target skills. Learn more here.

Our Favorite Backend Engineering Programs and Certifications

Engineering certifications and bootcamps are a dime a dozen, because it's an alternative form of education. Many of the reviewer sites recommending programs get significant kickbacks for the $3,000+ certifications they're reviewing, and while we respect their hustle and also love money-- that's a little shady.

Our criteria for these programs were that they costed under $300 for completion. Some dev programs come with a job guarantee after placement, which is pretty neat, but also can be expensive down the line with income sharing. For developers, the absolute best thing you can have is a snazzy portfolio of impressive projects. This can absolutely be self-taught if you're motivated enough.

Backend engineering is admittedly more a university-forward field-- usually they are computer science graduates that wind up in big tech-- but we really enjoyed the portfolio aspects of the Meta and IBM programs. If you're serious about backend engineering and have a propensity towards logic problems, we recommend auditing a course to see if it's a good fit for you.

Career Path of a Backend Engineer

Backend engineers have tons of options-- they can go on to be fullstack engineers, managers, or even product managers. So while this path is common, the #1 thing to keep in mind is this is a fabulous path to get your foot in the door at a tech company.

Backend Engineer
2-3 Years
*Or Jr. Backend Engineer
Senior Backend Engineer /
Fullstack Engineer
3-5 Years
Engineering Manager /
Senior Fullstack Eng
5-10 Years
Senior Engineering Manager /
Product Manager
4-6 Years

What is an Backend Engineer's salary?

Engineers are some of the highest paid roles in the tech community. A high-level senior engineer can make an upwards of $500k+ at a bit tech company. We've aggregated thousands of salaries across glassdoor and linkedin, and entry-level backend engineers can make anywhere between 115k - 145k, depending on their location and skillsets.

Top Skills of a Backend Engineer

We've compiled thousands of job descriptions for backend engineers to record the most common requirements to save you time. While preparing for interviews, keep in mind specific times you've demonstrated these skills.

Remember: there are not many soft-skills required for backend engineering, and these skills reflect that. Familiarity with programming and language frameworks is key, which can be shown off through a portfolio on Github or Bitbucket.

  • Design and develop the server-side of web applications using programming languages such as Java, Python, Ruby, or PHP.
  • Implement and maintain APIs that allow the front-end of the application to interact with the back-end.
  • Create and maintain databases, and design and implement data models.
  • Optimize web application performance and scalability.
  • Implement security measures to protect web applications and user data.
  • Participate in code reviews and contribute to the development of best practices.
  • Collaborate with other developers and stakeholders to understand and implement functional requirements.

Top Tools of a Backend Engineer

We've also compiled the most common tools listed in backend engineering job descriptions, which are primarily coding languages and frameworks. If you're serious about becoming a backend engineer, get familiar with these and be ready to talk about them.

Programming Languages

  • Python
  • Ruby
  • JavaScript
  • Java
  • C#
  • PHP

Programming Frameworks

  • express.js
  • ruby on rails
  • spring
  • dijango
  • fiber
  • laravel


  • MySQL
  • MongoDB
  • PostgreSQL
  • Oracle


  • Postman
  • cURL
  • Swagger

Key Traits of a Successful Backend Engineer


Duh. Backend engineers need to understand various coding languages and frameworks to complete their work.


Coding takes a lot of problem solving to make sure products are run as effectively as possible.


Backend engineers will complete things called "spikes" to research the best solutions to product problems.


Backend engineers need to be able to consume designs and translate them to applications and features.


Often backend engineers will have to make logic calculations within their APIs. It's extremely helpful to have an analytical mindset.


Coding can sometimes be incredibly frustrating, and patience is an extremely undervalued competency.

Backend Engineers will work closely with:

Frontend Engineers
Learn more
Product Managers
Learn more
Project Managers
Learn more
Backend Engineers
Learn more


Backend engineering is a more difficult career path for users trying to break into tech because it's less fun and usually a lot of logic work. If that sounds like a challenge you're willing to take on, that's fabulous! The roles are usually less competitive than the other types of engineers.

Here at Bridged we are huge fans of stacking micro-certifications to achieve desired career results. We're building a product to make your career planning fun and affordable, and we'd love to talk to YOU! Was this article helpful? Did you land an interview for a backend engineering role?

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