A backend engineer is a software engineer who specializes in developing and maintaining the server-side logic of web applications or software. They focus on behind-the-scenes components that power the functionality and data management of a website, an application, or a service.

You can thus think of a backend engineer as a human traffic light operator. While a backend engineer develops and maintains web applications or software without their users’ knowledge, a traffic light operator manages and controls traffic signals at intersections or road junctions without drivers knowing. Both are crucial to enable things that make our daily lives easy, even if we may never see them at work.

Read More about a Backend Engineer

Backend engineers contribute to the functionality, efficiency, and reliability of web applications or software. None of the mobile or computer apps that make our lives convenient won’t work without them.

What Are a Backend Engineer’s Responsibilities?

The responsibilities of backend engineers typically include:

  • Server-side development: They work on writing code and building the server-side infrastructure that handles requests from the front end, processes data, and interacts with databases or other external services.
  • Application programming interface (API) development: Backend engineers design and implement APIs that let different software communicate and exchange data effectively.
  • Database management: They are responsible for designing and maintaining database schemas, optimizing queries, and ensuring data integrity and security.
  • Performance optimization: Backend engineers optimize the performance of server-side code and database queries to enhance applications’ overall efficiency and scalability.
  • Security: They implement security measures to protect against unauthorized access, data breaches, and other potential vulnerabilities in backend systems.
  • Collaboration: Backend engineers often collaborate with front-end developers, product managers, and other stakeholders to understand requirements, plan system architectures, and ensure smooth integration between front- and back-end components.

Watch this video to get a glimpse of a backend engineer’s day.

What Skills Should a Backend Engineer Have?

Backend engineers should be an expert in programming languages, frameworks, databases, and server infrastructures. As such, becoming one requires the following skills:

  • Strong programming skills
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Knowledge of databases
  • Familiarity with web technologies

The common technologies and programming languages backend engineers use include:

  • Programming languages: Python, Java, Ruby, PHP, Go, Node.js, and others.
  • Web frameworks: Django, Ruby on Rails, Laravel, Spring, Express.js, and more.
  • Databases: MySQL, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, Redis, Oracle, and others.
  • API development tools: RESTful APIs, GraphQL, Swagger, Postman, and similar tools.
  • Version control systems: Git, Mercurial, SVN, and more.

What Do Employers Look for in a Backend Engineer?

Prospective employers typically look for the following qualities and skills in a backend engineer:

  • Strong programming skills: Employers seek candidates proficient in programming languages commonly used in backend development. They should be capable of writing clean, efficient, and scalable code.
  • Server-side development expertise: A solid understanding of server-side development principles, frameworks, and technologies is crucial. Familiarity with web frameworks is often desirable.
  • Database knowledge: Backend engineers should have experience working with databases and understanding how to design efficient schemas.
  • API design and development experience: The ability to design and develop APIs is essential for backend engineers. Employers look for experience with API frameworks and knowledge of tools for API documentation and testing.
  • Problem-solving and analytical thinking skills: Backend engineers should be adept at problem-solving and possess strong analytical skills. They should be able to analyze complex systems, identify bottlenecks, and propose effective solutions.
  • Knowledge of software development best practices: Employers value candidates who follow best practices in software development, including code versioning and adhering to coding standards.
  • Performance optimization skills: Backend engineers should have experience optimizing code, database queries, and system performance to ensure efficient and scalable applications. Employers appreciate candidates who understand caching, load balancing, and other performance improvement techniques.
  • Security awareness: Given the importance of data security, employers look for backend engineers who understand common security vulnerabilities and know how to implement security measures in backend systems, such as authentication, authorization, and data encryption.
  • Collaboration and communication skills: Backend engineers often work as part of a team, so strong collaboration and communication skills are essential. Employers value individuals who communicate effectively with cross-functional teams, understand project requirements, and actively contribute to discussions and problem-solving.
  • Continuous learning and adaptability: Employers seek candidates passionate about learning and staying updated with new technologies and trends in backend development. Demonstrating a willingness to learn and adapt to evolving technologies is thus highly valued.

How Much Does a Backend Engineer Typically Earn?

As of June 2023, ZipRecruiter says a U.S.-based backend engineer earns an average of US$119,704 a year.

Backend engineers are critical in software development. And while the specific employer requirements may vary depending on the company and job position, they must have the skills we identified in this post.

Key Takeaways

  • A backend engineer specializes in developing and maintaining the server-side logic of web applications or software.
  • The responsibilities of backend engineers typically include server-side development, API development, database management, performance optimization, security, and collaboration.
  • Prospective employers typically look for backend engineers who have strong programming skills, server-side development expertise, database knowledge, API design and development abilities, problem-solving and analytical thinking skills, knowledge of software development best practices, performance optimization skills, security awareness, and collaboration and communication skills. They must also learn and continuously adapt to rapidly changing technologies and requirements.