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Learn back-end software engineering with online courses

When users interact with software, what they see on screen is the program’s front- end. But, it’s the back- end that powers everything from databases to security. Learn back-end software engineering with online courses delivered through edX.

What is back-end software engineering?

Software development is a subset of engineering that involves the programming of applications and operating systems. If you’ve ever wondered what happens behind the scenes of your computer’s programs, back-end software development is responsible for what you see on your screen.

The back- end is sometimes referred to as a program’s server side. It focuses on everything the user cannot see, including parts of a computer application or system’s code that allow it to operate. Although users don’t directly interact with the back- end of a website, they indirectly interact with elements back-end software engineers work on. 

When you log in to your computer, you may be doing so on a device that you share with others. Before accessing the desktop, you may be prompted to enter a username and password. While the screen loads, your operating system’s back- end parses the information you enter, granting or denying your entry. This invisible work is just one example of how back-end software engineering powers the systems we use every day.

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Back-end software engineering course curriculum

A back-end developer course can provide opportunities for hands-on learning. These classes may cover topics such as user authentication and template engines. You may also learn how to program using the MERN stack, which includes the programming tools and libraries MongoDB, Express.js, React.js, and Node.js. These four tools are essential to any back-end development career.

More advanced back-end developer courses might teach how to build and manage databases and servers, implement APIs, and securely store data. You may also learn programming languages, such as Python, PHP, Ruby, and JavaScript. If you’re interested in a course that culminates in a portfolio of work that you can show to employers, look for curricula that include project-based work.

For learners interested in advancing their knowledge in a variety of subjects, edX offers a variety of educational pathways, including specialized boot camps, as well as full bachelor's degree and even master’s degree programs in topics like computer science. Find the right course for you.

Explore back-end software engineering jobs

Back-end software engineers are responsible for applying engineering principles to the overall structures related to software development, such as design, development, maintenance, testing, and evaluation.Footnote 1 They’re involved in every stage of the development lifecycle and need to be familiar with many tools, frameworks, and programming languages to make sure the back-end performs quickly and responsively to front-end user requests.

Back-end software engineers focus on unseen functions like server scripts, data management, and APIs on a bigger scale.Footnote 2 This role requires regular interaction and communication with major stakeholders, front-end developers, product managers, and website testers. 

Back-end software engineers can be found across many industries, working for both large corporations and small or midsize companies. They can also work as freelancers, independent consultants, or contractors. When pursuing careers in this field, job titles that may require back-end software engineering skills include:

  • Back-end engineers: responsible for building the structure of a software application or website. Additional responsibilities include managing server security and creating solutions for data storage.Footnote 3

  • Full-stack developers: responsible for both web development and web design. In addition to using back-end development, they must also have knowledge of front-end development languages and practices.Footnote 4

  • Software architects: responsible for developing software programs, and primarily making high-level design choices and framing technical standards.Footnote 5

Keep in mind that learning back-end software engineering on its own doesn't mean you have all the qualifications needed for the roles listed above. Some employers may require additional experience or technical knowledge as well as a specific degree level. With educational opportunities that range from full degree programs in computer science to specialized coding boot camps, you can develop the skills you need to achieve your career goals with edX. 

How to use back-end programming as a software engineer 

Back-end software engineering is an important part of the development process. While front-end engineers work on the appearance and functionality of the program, back-end engineers make sure that the information users see is accurate and secure. Some of the responsibilities a back-end developer may have include:

  • Working with databases

  • Using programming languages to write back-end code

  • Writing and developing application programming interfaces (APIs)

In addition to these technical skills, software developers need a variety of soft skills in order to succeed in their roles. Strong communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking are important to sustaining a long-term back-end development career.Footnote 6

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