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What Is Front-End Engineering?

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Front-end engineering is a type of software engineering that involves what users see and how they interact with an application. This type of engineering requires technical expertise to plan, build, develop, and test software, and collaboration and creativity to work with the product team and ensure the software looks and functions as it should. In this guide, we’ll cover:

Overview of Front-End Engineering 

Front-end engineering focuses on software that clients, customers, and users see and interact with. This part of engineering focuses on the user experience and interface, including how fast a site loads, how easy it is to navigate, and whether it’s visually appealing. 

Because this work involves clients, customers, or users, front-end engineers often are the bridge between engineering and product teams. For example, they may work with back-end or security engineers on software development while collaborating with product managers on design and user experience. 

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Examples of tasks in this career path include:

  • Planning and building software for an application interface
  • Testing parts of the software on different platforms to ensure it functions across devices
  • Clarifying design ideas with the product team
  • Optimizing for website loading speed
  • Making adjustments to the software to make the site easier to navigate
  • Monitoring the website for errors or bugs and addressing them

Front-End vs. Other Types of Engineering

While front-end engineering focuses on what users see, other types of engineering involve different aspects of the software development process. 

  • Back-end engineering: focuses on the software’s server side, or the structure of the software
  • Full-stack engineering: encompasses both front-end and back-end work
  • DevOps engineering: focuses on making the software development process more iterative through constant development, testing, and deployment
  • Security engineering: ensuring the software is secure

>>MORE: Lyft Back-End Engineering Virtual Experience Program

Front-End Engineering Industries

This career path isn’t limited to a specific industry but instead applies to various sectors, from education to health care to fashion. Any industry or company that uses website applications may use front-end engineering to help it develop and refine its site.

For example, front-end engineering can be used in the travel industry to help develop applications for people who want to research and book travel plans. Say someone is trying to figure out when to take their trip and wants to pursue different travel dates and prices. They’ll need to use a page with calendar dates that they can toggle to compare their options.

Front-end engineering comes into play here by developing that page’s functionality and ensuring it’s easy for the potential traveler to use. 

Want to develop a similar application for a popular travel agency? Check out Skyscanner’s Front-End Software Engineering Virtual Experience Program

How to Land a Career in Front-End Engineering

You don’t necessarily need formal education or training to get a job in this field. Instead, what’s most important are your technical hard skills. To start, you’ll want to focus on your programming skills and master a couple of languages. According to Statista, the most common languages software engineers use are JavaScript, HTML/CSS, Python, SQL, and TypeScript.

Whether you learn these skills in a bachelor’s degree program, bootcamp, virtual experience program, or through your own experimentation generally doesn’t matter. What matters most is that you can demonstrate these skills in a technical interview.

Because this career path focuses on the user side of software, it can also be helpful to have experience with the visual elements of software (although not required). For example, experience with UX design or graphic design can show you know what makes a site easy to use and visually appealing.

>>MORE: Learn how to become a front-end engineer.

Pros and Cons of Working in Front-End Engineering

Why choose this career path? Here are some pros and cons, according to experts in the field.

Pros

Promising and Lucrative Career Path

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t have specific data on just front-end engineers, they do have data for software developers that covers the scope of front-end engineering work.  

According to the BLS, software developers have a projected job growth rate of 25% through 2031, much higher than the average of 5%. This means there will likely be many open software engineering roles within the next decade. These jobs will pay well, too. According to Glassdoor, front-end engineers make an average of about $128,000 a year. Entry-level professionals with 0-1 year of experience earn an average of about $95,000. 

Impact

This career path is unique in its ability to directly impact what users see and experience while using the application. “Unlike other positions in software engineering, everyone on the internet can see your work and have a direct impact on the end user,” Andrew Wu, front-end engineer at Forage, says. 

Low Barrier to Start

“As software engineers are still in high demand, you don’t really need a degree to start your career as a developer,” Wu says. “You can learn the skills required for front-end engineering from various online resources, and most of them are free.”

Blend of Creativity and Technology

Front-end engineers get the best of both worlds. They work on both the technical side to build software and the design side in collaboration with the product team.

“I decided to go into the field because I have always been interested in the intersection of design and technology,” says Shri Ganeshram, founder and CEO of Awning, a tech platform that helps individuals buy and own rental properties. “I love the idea of creating visually appealing and intuitive interfaces that make it easy for people to interact with digital products.”

Cons

Constant Changes

“The field is constantly evolving, which means that you need to be committed to staying up-to-date on new technologies and techniques,” Ganeshram says. While these changes can be innovative and exciting, it’s work on top of your typical job to keep up.

Getting Stuck

As with many engineering jobs, coding can be a frustrating part of the software development process. You’re not always going to get something to function the way you want at the start, or you may run up against errors or bugs. 

“Don’t get discouraged if your code doesn’t work at first, or doesn’t render as it should,” Olivier Andre, Forage content consultant and software engineer at Point72, a financial services firm, says. “We have all been there, it is always a learning experience, and it will only make you a better developer if you keep at it.”

Develop your engineering skills with Forage’s tech virtual experience programs.

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