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.
So, what is front-end engineering like in terms of a career path? If you’re interested in a job that’s technical and creative, here’s everything you need to know about front-end engineering.
Front-End Engineering Defined
What is 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.
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.
Become a part of Skyscanner’s front-end engineering team and customize a web app to help people research and book travel plans.
Avg. Time: 1-1.5 hours
What do professionals in front-end engineering do? 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 ensures the software is secure.
Explore another side of software engineering and develop your back-end skills.
Avg. Time: 4-5 hours
Skills you’ll build: Software architecture, Python, Unit testing
How to Land a Career in Front-End Engineering
Whether you learn these skills in a bachelor’s degree program, bootcamp, Forage job simulation, or independently generally doesn’t matter. What matters most is that you have the technical expertise to do the job, you can learn quickly, and you demonstrate these skills in a technical interview.
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Practice coding questions you'll likely see in a front-end engineering interview and learn what hiring managers are looking for.
Avg. Time: 5-6 hours
Skills you’ll build: Dynamic programming, whiteboard interviews, software engineering, hiring criteria
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
What is front-end engineering like as a career path? Here are some pros and cons, according to experts in the field.
Pros of Front-End Engineering Careers
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, which covers the scope of front-end engineering work.
According to the BLS, software developers have a projected job growth rate of 25% through 2032, much higher than the average of 5%. This means there will likely be many open software engineering roles within the next decade.
Front-end engineering jobs pay well, too. According to Glassdoor, front-end engineers make an average of about $129,000 a year. And the career path is lucrative from the start; entry-level professionals with 0-1 year of experience earn an average of about $101,000.
Front-end engineering 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.
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Avg. Time: 5-6 hours
Skills you’ll build: React, front-end engineering, web applications
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 of Front-End Engineering Careers
“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.
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,” says Olivier Andre, Forage content consultant and software engineer at Point72, a financial services firm. “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.”
Ready to launch your career in front-end engineering? Check out Forage’s software engineering career path, where you can build dozens of essential skills and learn what it’s like to work in tech at top employers.
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