A front-end engineer is a software engineer who focuses on what users see and interact with. If you’re interested in a tech career that involves both coding and creativity, becoming a front-end engineer may be the right fit for you. So, what exactly do these engineers do, how much do they make, and how can you become one?
Front-End Engineer Defined
A front-end engineer works on the part of the software that users and clients see. “Front-end” refers to the user-facing side of an application, which means they’re focused on things like functionality, layout, speed, and user experience. They want to create platforms that are visually appealing, easy to use, and fit their client or company’s needs.
>>MORE: What Is Front-End Engineering?
Front-end engineers can work in various industries — any industry that uses software in their daily work. For example, they can work in the travel industry to create software that helps people find and book flights. They could also work in the finance industry, working on applications for people to manage and keep their finances safe. They may have a job in health care developing software that makes it easier for patients to access their medical records.
Build a calendar in a basic web app to help people find the travel arrangements they need.
Avg. Time: 1-1.5 hours
Front-End Engineer vs. Other Types of Engineers
What makes a front-end engineer different from other software engineers? The main difference is what part of the software these engineers work on.
- Back-end engineer: works on the server side of the software, aka the software’s infrastructure (parts that aren’t visible to the average user)
- Fullstack engineer: responsible for both the back end and front end of the software
- Security engineer: primarily concerned with the software’s security and preventing cyberattacks
- QA (Quality Assurance) engineer: tests software to ensure it’s working as intended without any errors
- DevOps engineer: middleperson between the engineering and operations teams to ensure iterative software development and deployment
>>MORE: Learn about different types of software engineers (and how to know which one’s right for you.)
What Does a Front-End Engineer Do?
A front-end engineer focuses on the “user side” of software, meaning everything a user sees and interacts with while using an application. They often act as the middlepeople between the product team — which focuses on an application’s design and visual elements — and the rest of the engineering team, which focuses on the technical aspects of building the software.
On a day-to-day basis, these professionals might:
- Meet with the product team to discuss a new design and how the engineering team can implement it
- Code a new part of a website’s software per product and client needs
- Optimize and improve a site’s loading speed
- Remap a website’s navigation to make it easier for users to find the information they need
- Run tests to identify bugs and test functionality before implementing it
- Work with back-end engineers to integrate their work with the front-end
- After deploying software, monitor its performance and address any functionality issues
A Typical Day in the Life of a Front-End Engineer
Andrew Wu, front-end software engineer at Forage, describes a typical day working at an education technology start-up.
The day begins with a short meeting with the team to look at all of its tasks and discuss progress on each of them.
“We discuss issues and blockers encountered the previous day, and look at any new issues and bugs found as well,” Wu says.
Work on Daily Tasks
After the standup, Wu will continue working on unfinished tasks from the previous day or look to start a new task. This may involve writing new code or testing something he’s already worked on.
Collaborate with the Product Team
This collaboration ensures that he can efficiently deliver what the product team is looking for.
Digital Design and UX
Interested in the design part of front-end engineering? Explore UX design in this job simulation by helping design a mobile app.
Avg. Time: 4-5.5 hours
Skills you’ll build: User research, wireframing, mobile design, app design, prototyping, product design
One crucial part of the software process is testing new applications.
When implementing new software, Wu ensures it’s visually appealing, responsive, error-free, and working as intended. “We’ll also need to add different tests for the task we’re working on,” he says. “This includes basic unit tests, integration tests, and end-to-end tests.”
Testing early and often is key to catching errors in the development process.
At the end of the work day, Wu will wrap up any tasks he’s working on. Then, he’ll prepare to share any blockers or issues in the next workday’s standup.
>>MORE: Read more about other software engineers and their daily tasks in Day in the Life: Software Engineer.
Do Front-End Engineers Get Paid Well?
These professionals can expect a lucrative salary, even as they’re just starting out. According to Glassdoor, the average front-end engineer earns about $129,000 a year.
|Years of Experience||Estimated Average Salary|
|0 to 1 year||$101,000|
|4 to 6 years||$130,000|
So, if you’re looking to find a tech career that pays in the six figures early on, front-end engineering might be right for you.
The job security for this career path is strong, too. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for software developers (which includes front-end engineers) is much stronger than average. From 2022 to 2032 software developer jobs are expected to grow by 25%, significantly higher than the average job growth of 5%.
How to Become a Front-End Engineer
To become a front-end software engineer, you need the right mix of technical skills, like front-end programming languages, as well as an eye for user experience.
Build Your Technical Skills …
First, you’ll need to get the hard skills you need to be a front-end software engineer, including:
- Frameworks and libraries, like React, Angular, and Vue.js
- Testing and debugging
- Version control
- Responsive design
- Basic design principles, like color theory, typography, and layout
Train to work at a Y Combinator startup
Help update the front end of a new productivity tool for a startup.
Avg. Time: 5-6 hours
Skills you’ll build: Front-end engineering, React, web applications
Studying software engineering in school can help you gain coding and software experience; however, formal education isn’t necessary to get into the career path. While most software engineers have a bachelor’s degree or higher — over 70%, according to Statista — that still means about a third have learned their skills from alternative programs.
So, how can you build your technical front-end software engineer skills if you don’t have a degree?
“There are many different paths to getting into front-end engineering,” says Shri Ganeshram, founder and CEO of Awning, a tech platform that helps individuals buy and own rental properties. “Some people start with a degree in computer science or a related field, while others learn through online courses or bootcamps. It’s important to have a strong foundation in the core technologies and a willingness to continuously learn and grow.”
Build software engineering skills
Practice your technical skills and apply them in a real-world context with Forage software engineering job simulations.
Olivier Andre, Forage content consultant and software engineer at Point72, a financial services firm, says it’s all about jumping in and trying the process out — which you can do on almost any computer.
… But Don’t Forget Soft Skills
>>MORE: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills
Soft skills you need for this field include:.
- Attention to detail: “You’ll need to quickly identify any tiny issues within a page/component, such as incorrect font and text size,” Wu says.
- Adaptability: The tech field is constantly changing, which means front-end engineers need to be willing to learn and adapt to new technologies on top of their everyday work.
- Communication skills: “A good software engineer needs to collaborate with different people from different teams, this includes product managers, designers, and QA engineers,” Wu says. “Good communication skills help both the individual and the team work more efficiently.”
Ready to explore a career as a front-end engineer? Learn dozens of key software engineering skills and build real-world experience with top companies in Forage’s software engineer career path programs.
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