How to Become a

How to Become a Back End Engineer: Skills, Requirements, and Career Guide

Reviewed By Engineering Expert and Coach
Bill Coloe
April 16, 2024

Back end engineering is a critical aspect of modern web development, and back end engineers play a key role in building the server-side components of websites and applications. If you're interested in pursuing a career in back end engineering, you'll need to develop a strong set of technical skills and stay up-to-date with the latest backend technologies and best practices.

In this guide, we'll explore the skills and requirements needed to become a successful back end engineer, and provide valuable insights and tips to help you start your journey to a fulfilling career in web development. We'll cover the various technologies and frameworks used in back end development, as well as the importance of data modeling, security, and performance optimization. Whether you're just starting out in web development or looking to advance your career as a back end engineer, this guide will provide you with the knowledge and resources you need to succeed.

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What is a Back End Engineer?

Also commonly known as a back end developer, back end engineers work in various coding languages to build infrastructures for websites and applications. While the work of a back end engineer isn't usually user-facing, it's absolutely crucial for all products to function effectively.

A back end engineer is a software developer who specializes in building and maintaining the server-side of web applications and systems. Back end 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 front end engineers and product managers to ensure that the front and back end of a web application work together efficiently and seamlessly.

Curious what we mean when we say "product?" Read this.

Responsibilities of a Back End Engineer

What does a Back End Engineer do?

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

At companies of all sizes, back end 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 Front End, Back End, and Full Stack Engineers

Back end engineers differ from front end engineers in that the back end engineers are responsible for building and maintaining the parts of a website or application that are not directly visible to the users but are essential for its functionality. This includes tasks such as server-side programming, database management, and integration with external services.
The term and title of “Full Stack” 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 Full Stack Engineer Job Guide | View Front End Engineer Job Guide

Education Requirements

Do I need a degree to be a Back End 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 back end 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 front end 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 back end 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.

Our Favorite Back End 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 cost 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.

Back end 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 back end engineering and have a propensity towards logic problems, we recommend auditing a course to see if it's a good fit for you.

Meta Logo

Back end Developer Professional Program

Meta sponsors this Python-forward course that specializes in using code to solve complex problems.
While usually we're skeptical of programs taught by companies (instead of universities or specialists), we loved that you'll end the program with a portfolio-ready web application (most important) and sharable certificate for your resume.

Learn more

duke university logo

Java Programming and Software Engineering Fundamentals

Duke was one of the only universities that had a program that touched on back end engineering. Duke is a premium university, and the certificate from completion will shine on resumes.

Luckily, all of these programs are hosted on Coursera so you can audit if needed. We recommend seeing which program resonates most with you before committing and paying the monthly fee.

Learn more

ibm logo

IBM DevOps and Software Engineering Professional Program

IBM teaches a highly-specialized devops program and promises a portfolio of back end applications upon completion. This course also heavily utilizes Python.

We share the same skepticism on IBM that we do about Meta, but there are not many programs for back end engineering because it's less sexy than front end.

Learn More

Salary and Career Potential

Entry Level Back End Engineer 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 back end engineers can make anywhere between 115k - 145k, depending on their location and skillsets.

Career Path of a Back End Engineer

Back end 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.

  • Back End Engineer, or Jr Back End Engineer: Spend about 2-4 years at either level here.
  • Senior Back End Engineer / Full Stack Engineer: Spend about 3-5 years here.
  • Engineering Manager / Senior Full Stack Engineer: Spend about 5-10 years here.
  • Senior Engineering Manager / Senior Product Manager: This one is tricky, and there are lots of options, but most folks spend roughly 4-6 years here.

Job Requirements and Skills

Popular Job Description of a Back End Engineer

We've used AI to aggregate the top job descriptions used by hiring managers looking for back end engineers. When putting your resume together, try to mimic these listings. To learn more about this process, check out our partner Jobscan for a comprehensive resume review.

  • Design, develop, and maintain server-side components using languages such as Python, Ruby, or Java
  • Develop and implement REST APIs to support front end functionality
  • Work with databases and data modeling to store and retrieve application data
  • Implement and maintain server security and data protection measures
  • Optimize server-side applications for maximum speed and scalability
  • Write clean, efficient, and well-documented code
  • Debug and troubleshoot back end issues
  • Keep up-to-date with emerging trends and technologies in back end development

Top Skills of a Back End Engineer

We've compiled thousands of job descriptions for back end 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 back end 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 Back End Engineer

We've also compiled the most common tools listed in job description. If you're serious about becoming a back end engineer, get familiar with these and be ready to talk about them.

Back End Programming Languages

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

Back End Programming Frameworks

  • Express
  • ruby on rails
  • spring
  • dijango
  • fiber
  • laravel

Database Management Tools

  • MySQL
  • MongoDB
  • PostgreSQL
  • Oracle

API Management

  • Postman
  • cURL
  • Swagger

Key Traits of a Successful Back End Engineer

Problem Solving - A successful back end engineer needs to have strong problem-solving skills to ensure that the server-side components of the web application run as effectively as possible. This requires not only identifying problems but also being able to break them down into manageable pieces and come up with solutions that are efficient, maintainable, and scalable. Back end engineers should also be able to debug and troubleshoot issues when they arise.
Research - Back end engineers will often need to conduct research to determine the best solutions to product problems. They may need to complete things called "spikes" to explore different approaches to solving problems. This requires a strong understanding of web technologies, tools, and frameworks, as well as a willingness to experiment with different approaches to find the best solution. Back end engineers should also keep up-to-date with the latest backend technologies and best practices.
Programming - Back end engineers need to understand various coding languages and frameworks to complete their work. They should have a solid foundation in at least one back end programming language, such as Python, Ruby, or Java, as well as experience working with back end frameworks such as Flask, Django, or Rails. They should also be familiar with databases and data modeling, and be able to write clean, efficient, and well-documented code.
Attention to Detail - Back end engineers need to be able to consume designs and translate them into applications and features. This requires a keen eye for detail, as even the smallest mistake can impact the performance of the web application. They should be able to ensure that the design is implemented accurately, and that the final product is secure, scalable, and meets the needs of the client.
Patience - Coding can sometimes be incredibly frustrating, and patience is an extremely undervalued competency. Back end engineers may encounter bugs, unexpected errors, and challenges that require them to go back to the drawing board. They should be able to stay calm under pressure, take a step back, and find a solution that works. This also involves being able to collaborate effectively with other members of the team, including front end engineers, designers, and product managers, and to be open to feedback and suggestions for improvement.
Mathematics & Logic - Back end engineers often need to make logic calculations within their APIs. It's extremely helpful to have an analytical mindset and strong mathematical and logical skills to ensure that the web application performs as expected. This involves understanding algorithms, data structures, and other concepts related to back end development.

Bridged Recommendations

Hey, it's Billy! If you're feeling intimidated by the technical aspects of a career in software development, don't worry. I've worked with many successful developers who don't have a traditional background in the field. What's surprising is that soft abilities are highly valued in this industry.

While programming abilities can be learned through experience, it's much more difficult to teach people how to communicate effectively with stakeholders and coworkers. In my view, problem-solving and the ability to convey technical concepts in simple terms are the most essential qualities for success in this field. If you have these attributes, you'll likely excel in a career in software development.

Get Started with a Bridged Recommendation

University of Michigan Presents

Review: Applied Data Science with Python Specialization by Michigan

The University of Michigan also boasts an impressive data program. This certification is a little dated, but a lot of the concepts ring true.
Read Full Guide


Breaking into tech as a back end engineer can be a challenging career path because it typically involves a lot of logic work and is considered more complex than other engineering roles. However, it is less competitive than some of the snazzier front end roles out there. If you're a quick learned inspired by hard things, we recommend learning more about this role!

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 back end engineering role?

Let us know at

Check out our sources!

Glassdoor Team. “Salary: Back End Engineer (March, 2023) | Glassdoor.” Glassdoor, Glassdoor, 1 Feb. 2023,,15.htm

Bill Coloe
Bridged co-founder Billy is the resident engineering brainpower behind our site and application. He enjoys long walks on the beach.


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explore careers

Find information on career paths for high-paying roles that align with your strengths and goals. Try our easy quiz to help you get started.

Help Me Pick
target skill gaps

View the skills you need to learn and develop with our state-of-the-art gap identifier. This is your next stop once you've found a role!

Get Tracking
review certifications

Learn about affordable and reputable certifications that won't break your bank. No expensive bootcamps or schooling required.

Review Certs
identify dream roles

We've vetted jobs at top companies that need talent! Easily match with companies that work with your job preferences.

Explore Roles

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