4 Different Types of Programmers Explain What They Actually Do All Day

4 Different Types of Programmers Explain What They Actually Do All Day

01/04/2023
5 minutes

There’s no such thing as a “typical day” in any profession, but especially for people with careers in programming. A day in the life of a programmer often involves more than just staring at a screen and writing code — you might be reviewing someone else’s code, planning upcoming projects and sprints, fixing bugs, or collaborating with other teams. And depending on what type of programmer you are, your responsibilities and job duties can be vastly different.

Programmer” is a broad term for someone who writes code, and the title can be divided into a couple of categories: Software Engineers and Data Scientists. A Software Engineer designs and creates software that addresses real-world problems, while a Data Scientist translates large amounts of information into something actionable. Each of these categories can be broken down into further careers and specializations that all utilize coding in different ways.

In the new Codecademy course Choosing a Career in Tech, we’ll walk you through the different types of programmers, what they actually do, and how you can become one. If you’re interested in having a career as a programmer, but don’t know which path is right for you, this free course is a great way to get acquainted with the industry. As you’ll learn, programmers do very different things depending on their specific role. Here’s an overview of four types of careers within software engineering and data science, and insight from people in these positions about what they actually do all day.

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Front-End Developer

Software Engineers typically focus on a specific area of development: front-end, back-end, or full-stack. A Front-End Developer is someone who codes the user-facing parts of a website or application ​​so that they’re aesthetically pleasing and engaging to use. Codecademy’s Front-End Engineer career path is designed to teach you how to use all of the technologies that make websites beautiful, functional, and fast.

What a Front-End Developer does: The tools that a Front-End Developer uses can include HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (plus frameworks like React). Sarah O’Keefe, a Front-End Engineer at iHeartRadio and Codecademy’s Nashville Chapter lead, spends most of her time building components for the web application using React. She collaborates closely with the UX (user experience) design and product team to ensure that the solutions she codes are both attractive and intuitive for users to navigate.

Back-End Developer

A Back-End Developer builds the parts of a website that a user doesn’t see, like its servers, databases, and programs. Without a Back-End Developer to code everything on the server-side of a website or app, the front end would not be able to shine.

What a Back-End Developer does: Back-End Developers are in charge of building and maintaining the servers, databases, APIs (Application Program Interfaces) and other systems that exist behind the scenes so a web application can run. They use back-end programming languages like SQL, Java, and PHP, as well as tools like JavaScript and Node.js.

For example, as a Senior Back-End Engineer at Spotify, Mindy Seto builds APIs, which are essentially contracts for data interaction, in Java. “A lot of my days are like the usual Kanban, Agile kind of approach,” she says. “We try to discuss and figure out things before we build it.” You can learn how to build web APIs in our course Create REST APIs with Spring and React, and master key back-end technologies in the Back-End Engineer career path.

Full-Stack Developer

A Full-Stack Developer can code web applications from soup to nuts, because they understand front-end and back-end technologies, plus they know how these systems communicate with one another.

What a Full-Stack Developer does: A better question might be, what doesn’t a Full-Stack Developer do? Full-Stack Developers are often referred to as jacks-of-all-trades, because they’re adept at so many aspects of software development.

“A Full-Stack Developer is writing code not only for the user’s front-end web applications or mobile applications, but they’re also writing API code that sits in the middle, they’re writing server code that sits in the back, and they’re also connecting and communicating with databases,” Taylor, a Full-Stack Software Developer, tells Codecademy. You can learn all of these skills and get job-ready by taking our Full-Stack Software Engineer career path.

Data Scientist

Data science is an interdisciplinary field that combines math, statistics, computer science, and domain expertise. A Data Scientist is someone who helps organizations transform data into meaningful insights that inform business decisions.

What a Data Scientist does: Depending on a Data Scientist’s specialization, they might be writing reports and creating data visualizations that forecast trends, cleaning and validating raw data, or building machine-learning models that help an organization streamline its systems and processes. You can read this blog to learn about the different types of careers you can have as a Data Scientist, and begin learning the skills you need for a job with our data science career paths.

Organizations leverage data science in lots of different ways. For example, Ivan Sheng, a Data Scientist for the competitive esports organization Evil Geniuses, mainly spends his day coding in Python. The exact project that he’s coding on can vary depending on the business need; sometimes he’ll be working with marketing data, and other times he’ll focus on analyzing gameplay data from esports pros. “I’ve done work all the way from creating automated data pipelines to creating models in the deterministic and non deterministic side of things,” he says.

Want to learn more about the rewarding programming careers you can have in tech? Take the free Codecademy course Choosing a Career in Tech to dive deeper into these specialities, so you can see what it’s really like to be a professional programmer. No matter which tech career you decide to pursue, Codecademy has the courses, tutorials, and career paths that you need in order to succeed.

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