What are the different types of developers?

by | Jul 9, 2018

So you’re interested in understanding more about the development industry, and maybe you’re considering hiring a developer. That’s great! The only problem? It’s a confusing, constantly evolving space — and with 23 million developers worldwide there’s huge variety in what a “developer” does. It can be challenging to know what type of developer you’re even looking for.

We feel your pain, so we broke down the various types of developers you’ll see most often, and a bit about what they do. Here we go:

Front-end developer:

A front-end developer, sometimes called a client-side developer, builds what the user sees and interacts with. It’s a job that requires creativity and understanding of human-computer interaction as well as technical skills. Your interactions with a site, like when you scroll down on this page and the navigation bar at the top moves with you, is the work of a front-end developer. Front-end developers have to consider “responsive web design,” or how elements of web pages function across different devices and screen sizes.

Commonly used languages: JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and frameworks such as React, Vue Angular, and Webpack

Back-end developer:

Think of making an app like building a house. The front-end developer is the interior designer, in charge of everything you see. The back-end developer does the construction— the wood, the pipes, the electrical system. Back-end developers create the system architecture, server configurations, databases, data structures, APIs, and any complex algorithms. What the user sees may be simple but require complex back-end code, so it’s important for back-end developers to work with the business team to understand a company’s goals and needs, and then lay the programming architecture accordingly.

Commonly used languages: Java, C/C++, Ruby, Python, Scala, Go

Full-stack developer

A full-stack developer combines the roles of the front-end and back-end developers. They work across the “full stack” of code and can therefore create a fully functional application themselves.

A full-stack developer uses a variety of languages, including those used by both front-end and back-end developers.

Data Scientist

Data science developers design systems to compute and analyze large sets of data, usually to achieve a client’s specific goals. It’s a job that requires strong analytic skills, and they are often in charge of performing statistical analysis and creating data visualizations. A data scientist at a healthcare company for example might use big data to understand risk factors for certain diseases. Data scientists may also work on machine learning, AI, and predictive modeling.

Commonly used languages: C/C++, MATLAB, Python

Mobile developers

This one is pretty much what it sounds like – mobile developers build applications for mobile devices. Mobile developers need a deep understanding of the various operating systems used by mobile devices (iOS and Android are the big ones), and they tend to specialize in a particular system, as each one has a different core language. One team, for example, might have both iOS and Android developers who each have their own expertise.

Commonly used languages: Java (for Android), Swift and Objective-C (for iOS)

Information security developer

These developers specialize in the safety of software. They have two primary jobs: to create security measures for software and to improve these measures by looking for vulnerabilities. The latter often involves attempting to hack a system to find weaknesses.

Commonly used languages: Python, Ruby, C/C++

Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer

QA engineers are in charge of monitoring the development process to ensure that the product adheres to company standards, government regulations, and consumer expectations. They track quality metrics, evaluate performance, and resolve bugs to confirm the product works properly before being deployed to the public.

Commonly used languages: Java, C#, JavaScript, Python

In addition to those above, here’s a small sample of some other developers you may encounter:

  • Embedded systems developers build software for non-computer devices, like medical devices or drones.
  • Cloud computing engineers manage how a company’s product or service is stored and accessed online, often using Amazon Web Services (AWS).
  • Game developers specialize in designing games, often having advanced knowledge of engagement and interaction tools.
  • Application programming interface (API) developers build back-end software (servers, data structures, etc.) that can be used by other developers.
  • DevOps developers focus on deployment and delivery of software, bridging engineering and developer operations teams.

Understanding the many roles in the tech world can be tough, but using sources like this list is a big step in your tech journey. If you’re interested in diving deeper into the development world, check out our How to Talk Tech flashcards for helpful terminology to communicate and collaborate with developers.

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