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Full-stack Engineer

How to Become a Full-Stack Engineer: 5 Soft Skills to Develop to Excel

If you’re ready for a career within a skyrocketing industry, becoming a full-stack engineer is a great choice. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a growing demand for software developers. In the US, demand is set to grow by a whopping 23% between 2021 and 20301. This offers a great opportunity for any aspiring full-stack engineers to get into the market. And why wouldn’t you want to? Full-stack engineers enjoy great pay, flexible working arrangements, diverse roles, and career advancement opportunities2. This guide will explain what a full stack engineer does, the practical skills they need, and their career options. We'll also delve into the importance of soft (or human) skills. At F4S, we've over two decades of research in this area. We can help you master the required soft skills so you can gain a significant advantage over other full-stack engineers.

Illustration a man showing how to become a full stack engineer by developing a complex web application for better user experience

What do full-stack engineers do?

Software development involves two main aspects: front-end development and back-end development. Some developers specialize in one aspect, while some become full-stack developers. This means they are capable of both aspects. A recent study by Stack Overflow found that 49.4% of developers consider themselves to be full-stack developers2.

Full-stack engineers have a deep understanding of complex web applications. At the back end, they build the application architecture and create source code. At the front end, they design and streamline the user interface. Due to their wide range of skills, they can handle every aspect of the design, build, and optimization stages of development. Managing the whole development process can often lead to creating better user experiences.

Full-stack development is a complex skill. The versatility of these tech professionals ensures they're in high demand worldwide. Full-stack developer jobs in the US will rise to 853,000 in 2024; global demand is estimated to be in the millions4. This makes it a great career choice — regardless of where you live in the world.

As a full-stack developer, you'll have the choice to specialize in a variety of programming languages and frameworks. These include HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, and PHP.

The ones you end up specializing in will often be determined by the jobs you get. The more specialized skills you have, the more you can earn. To be successful, you don’t have to master all of them, but you will need to have a broad working knowledge. You will likely specialize in the tools and languages of the “stack” businesses use internally.  

Both public and private sector organizations require the services of full-stack engineers. You also have the option to work as a freelance developer and take on different development projects to broaden your professional experience.

What soft (human) skills are needed to become a full-stack engineer?

Now that you know about the technical skills required to be a full-stack engineer, let’s discuss some of the soft (or human) skills that you can develop. When you master these skills, you can take your career to the next level.


Full-stack engineers must have excellent verbal and written communication skills. This is because you will need to communicate with clients, colleagues, and stakeholders. When working with non-technical people, you will need to explain complex technical information in simple terms.

This means translating information such as programming languages into something they understand. You will also have to communicate well with others in your technical team. This may involve writing and explaining your work. Great communication skills can be developed over time.

Systems thinking

Systems thinking is a way of understanding complexity by viewing a system as a whole rather than as individual parts. It acknowledges that all aspects of a system are interconnected. Changes in one part cause changes in other areas. Full-stack engineers need to have or develop a solid understanding of how systems are designed and built. They need to be able to view the system holistically.

When building a web application you need to understand the underlying architecture of the application. This is so you can ensure each aspect of the application functions effectively by ''speaking'' to each other. The system should be designed and implemented correctly. 


Successful full-stack engineers need to have initiative. You may be required to work on your own or as part of a team. This means you need to be able to manage your time and be self-motivated. Learning how to prioritize your time and create a productive workflow will allow you to improve your job performance.

When working on a project you will need to find solutions to problems you encounter. Doing so yourself, and not requiring help from other team members, will make the team more productive. While some people naturally have a lot of initiative, others view this as an area they want to develop. Initiative, like most soft skills, can be improved with time and commitment to personal development.


Problem-solving is an important soft skill to develop. Full-stack web development means working on several elements of an application at one time. This means having to make lots of decisions during your workday. The better you are at thinking through a problem, the quicker you will be able to find the best solution. There are many tools available to developers to help them track problems, but you still have to be able to choose the best solutions. Problem-solving will be a skill you continue to improve as you gain experience in your career. You can also actively develop your skills through F4S (free) AI coaching.

Focus on the details

When developing web and mobile applications, the devil is in the details. Full-stack engineers must be meticulous. This is so that the application achieves the business objectives for the client. When the end-user is unable to use the application for their intended purpose, it can create significant negative outcomes.

For example, an application that isn't secure can result in financial losses or reputational impact. Even one small code change can cause the whole application to fail. This means you need to understand your source code and track every change that you make. Developing the ability to pay attention to details is a skill you can and should improve.

Develop these important full-stack engineer soft skills

Developing soft skills such as communication and problem-solving are important. They help you to become a better full-stack engineer. Soft skills are just as important as hard skills such as programming. When you master the right soft skills, you can boost your career prospects immensely.

At Fingerprint for Success, we have more than 20 years of experience studying the soft skills of the world's top performers. We use these insights to help people develop the skills they need to succeed in their careers.

Take our free assessment to get started. Our system is designed to keep you motivated throughout the whole journey.


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How long does it take to become a full-stack engineer?

There are many ways to become a full-stack engineer. Thus it's important to consider what path to take when planning your new developer career. Let’s discuss the most important factors.

What higher education is required to become a full-stack engineer?

Completing a computer science degree is a great way to boost your chances of getting a well-paid full-stack engineer job. College degrees can take up to four years to complete. A higher-level degree takes additional study time. Approximately 41% of web developers worldwide have a bachelor’s degree, and 21% have a master’s degree5. This shows it’s the most popular way to get into the industry.

Looking for another way in? Instead of a bachelor’s degree or even an associate degree, you can learn all of the skills required through free and paid online courses. There are also coding boot camps that offer certificate programs. A recent Stack Overflow survey of over 80,000 developers found 59.4% used online resources to learn how to code6.

Many companies will employ full-stack engineers if they can prove they have the right skills for the job. And this is becoming more common as there is a global shortage of full-stack developers. So formal education isn't always necessary. But it may put you ahead of the competition. Some companies even offer their own boot camps. During the boot camp, you will learn what it takes to become a successful full-stack developer. Boot camp graduates will have the skills to create complete web applications.

What licenses, certifications, and registrations are needed?

Full-stack engineers don’t require licenses, certifications, or registrations to work. But they do need to prove their skills to prospective employers. If they don't have a formal degree, certifications may provide that evidence. Certification in web development and various programming languages is important for many full-stack roles.

There are a number of accredited training providers that offer certification courses. Some large technology companies such as Adobe, Microsoft, and Google also offer courses. By passing a test, and proving your competency, you are awarded a certificate. You can then use these professional certifications to prove your skills to your employer. For example, Microsoft offers a course in using an application programming interface. Other courses include how to build software applications and database system management.

What on-job internships are typically undertaken?

There are many full-stack developer internships available to aspiring developers. They can be found at large companies, start-ups, SMEs, and government departments, just to name a few. Most internships last between six and twelve months. They are either paid or unpaid.

Internships are an excellent option for getting started in the industry. At the end of the program, you might be offered a full-time position at the company, or you can use your newfound knowledge to apply for different jobs. They are a great way to gain practical experience. After an internship, job opportunities should be easier to acquire. You should definitely highlight them on your resume.

What advancement or specialization opportunities are there?

Full-stack developers have many opportunities to work their way up to senior positions. They can become senior full-stack developers or enter management roles, such as development manager. The higher you go, the more you can expect to be paid. You can also choose to specialize in one area of development. These include database management, back-end web development, and UX design.

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What are the career opportunities and job outlook for full-stack engineers?

Full-stack engineers are sought after by employers due to their range of skills. Hiring a separate front-end developer and a back-end developer can be expensive. Businesses can get both sets of expertise by hiring a full-stack engineer. Because they help organizations save money and speed up the development process, full-stack developers have a great employment outlook. 

There is a high demand for full-stack engineers at every experience level. This includes junior developers, intermediate developers, senior developers, as well as development managers. Many organizations are even taking on junior full-stack developers that don’t have a bachelor’s or associate's degree.

Large technology companies are offering their own learning programs to help people get started in the industry. Once you get a foot in the door, you will find numerous tech career opportunities. If you’re already in the industry and have experience, there are substantial opportunities to apply for more senior or specialized roles.

Where can full-stack engineers work?

Full-stack developers are hired by organizations of all sizes and types. Major employers include private companies, government departments, and nonprofits. One of the largest employers of full-stack developers is large technology companies such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and IBM8. But they are also required in many other companies and organizations across a wide range of industries, from law firms to banks.

The full-stack developer role is crucial for building, maintaining, and optimizing websites and other applications. Full-stack developers can also choose to stay self-employed and take on projects on a freelance basis. 

If you choose to work for an organization, there are two main career pathways. One is to work for a website development agency and work on different projects for clients. The other pathway is to work as part of an in-house development team. The opportunity to learn from experienced developers is the benefit of being part of a wider team. Either way, once you get your first full-stack developer job, you will have options to advance your skills and knowledge. 

If you want to work as a freelancer, you can find full-stack web development projects on platforms such as Upwork. Since most businesses are online nowadays, full-stack engineering is always in demand. Over time, you can create your own website development agency and hire other web or app developers to work for you. If you have good communication skills and don’t mind doing sales, this could be an excellent goal to work towards.

How much can full-stack engineers earn?

Full-stack developers earn great annual salaries. The average salary for a full-stack engineer is US$118,329 per year7. Junior full-stack developers can expect to earn about US $76,887 per year. Full-stack developers with 5-7 years of experience can expect to earn about US$124,559 per year8. As you can see, it can be a very lucrative career to go into with a great career path.

The amount you earn also depends on where you work and live. Tech hubs such as San Francisco, New York City, and Chicago have the highest salaries. This is due to the high demand for developers from both established and start-up companies. You also have the option to work remotely for top companies and live in an area where living costs are lower.

Your education level can impact your salary. The higher your education level, the more you can expect to earn. However, many organizations now offer good starting salaries for self-taught full-stack developers. These developers are able to showcase their software development skills. Do you have a good developer portfolio? What about hands-on experience with development frameworks and development languages? If you answered yes, you should be able to find paid work.

Frequently asked questions

How to become a full-stack developer with no experience?

Learning how to become a full-stack software developer isn’t as difficult as you might think. There are free and paid self-guided courses and tutorials you can do. These will teach you the necessary skills to become a full-stack web developer. There are also coding boot camps you can sign up for. These often include certificate programs. Alternatively, you can undertake a qualification in computer science or another relevant degree. Education and certification courses will help you gain entry-level positions that can lead to full-stack roles after you've gained experience. Internships also offer a similar route.

How to become a full-stack developer in three months?

The best way to become a full-stack developer in three months is to do a coding boot camp. This will give you everything you need to get started. Once you have the skills, build a portfolio of real-world projects. You can do this via freelance job sites, such as Upwork. Once you have some skills and experience you can apply for entry-level developer jobs.

What to learn to become a full-stack developer?

A full-stack web developer needs to learn both front-end and back-end technologies. HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are important front-end languages and frameworks to learn. There are many important back-end technologies and frameworks. These include NodeJS, ExpressJS, Django, Flask, C++, MySQL, MongoDB, and Oracle Database.

How to become a full-stack developer for free?

The best way to learn how to become a full-stack developer for free is to access free online courses and tutorials. You can then use your knowledge to start building applications. Once you’ve mastered your skills, you can apply for paid developer roles and projects. Some companies offer internships or apprenticeships that can help you develop your skills for free.

Who can become a full-stack developer?

Anybody. All you have to do is learn the required skills, and you can become a full-stack developer. To learn the right skills to build modern web applications you may start with a relevant qualification, such as a degree in computer science. You can also teach yourself using online tools and courses. Doing a coding boot camp is another popular way to learn skills.

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1. BLS. (2022) Occupational Outlook Handbook: Web Developers and Digital Designers. Available at:

2. Stack Overflow. (2021) Developer Survey: 2021. Available at:

3. Ibid

4. BLS. (2022) Occupational Outlook Handbook: Web Developers and Digital Designers. Available at:

5. Statista. (2022) Levels of formal education for web developers, worldwide. Available at:

6. Stack Overflow. (2021) Developer Survey: 2021. Available at:

7. ZipRecruiter. (2023) Full Stack Engineer Salaries. Available at:

8. Coursera. (2023) Full Stack Developer Salary. Available at:

9. ZipRecruiter. (2023) Full Stack Engineer Salaries. Available at:

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