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Career Path: How to Become a Front-End Engineer

It’s a good time to be a front-end Engineer. You get to work in almost any industry, building websites for different business on a variety of interesting projects. And because most of their work occurs online, Frontend engineers have a lot more workplace flexibility. They can telecommute even while working in full-time positions or forge out a successful career as freelancers. Even better, the job outlook for frontend engineers is bright. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 15 percent growth in employment of web developers by 2026—faster than the national average.

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Career-building content for Frontend Engineers

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How to Build an Effective Product Design Portfolio

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We are designers. We are Those Who Solve Problems with Interfaces. We are the ones who would take a solid flowchart, wireframe, or screen over any amount of explanation with… words (no, the irony of that sentiment in an article for designers is not lost on me)! So let me present a new problem statement for […]

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Designers

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Engineering

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Many of us know how tough it can be to miss out on a promotion—particularly when your colleagues are celebrating their own successes from a recent round of performance reviews. So when you manage a team or an individual for the first time, it can be tough to break the news that they didn’t get […]

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Career Path: How to Become a Front-End Engineer

It’s a good time to be a front-end Engineer. You get to work in almost any industry, building websites for different business on a variety of interesting projects. And because most of their work occurs online, Frontend engineers have a lot more workplace flexibility. They can telecommute even while working in full-time positions or forge out a successful career as freelancers. Even better, the job outlook for frontend engineers is bright. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 15 percent growth in employment of web developers by 2026—faster than the national average.

Getting through the Door

To work as a frontend engineer, you’ll need to have a thorough understanding of building blocks of the web, namely HTML and CSS. Frontend engineering jobs also require good technical skills in scripting languages like JavaScript, especially if they plan to build web applications. Before applying for a job, you’ll need to know how to effectively structure a website, style it with CSS and control some of its features with scripting. Some of the other minimum requirements that you’ll need to be effective at your job include:

  • Having good creative skills
  • Having a good eye for detail
  • An ability to write and code for long periods
  • Education

Although a degree isn’t required to become a Front-end engineer, having one can be a strong bonus, especially if you’re looking to expand your career in other directions or move into higher-paying positions. Most employers prefer candidates with a degree in computer science, software engineering or a related IT program.

Look for programs that offer coursework in areas like programming and web development. Alternatively, you could complete a degree in media or graphic design, if you plan to transition into UX design, gaming or animation.

If you are unable to enroll for a college program, take advantage of online courses. Sites like Udemy, UdaCity, EdX, Coursera and Lynda offers immersive foundation programs that cover important concepts like web accessibility, JavaScript programming and front-end applications. You can also improve your skill by signing up with design blogs, reading books and watching online tutorial videos.

Create a Portfolio

Even though there is a lot of demand for front-end engineers, entry-level positions are still highly competitive. Recruiters prefer to hire candidates with an impressive portfolio of completed projects. If you don’t already have a portfolio, try volunteering for small assignments. Another way of building your portfolio is to take up smaller jobs on freelancing sites like Guru or Upwork. It’s also a good idea to build your own website, where you can showcase your skill.

Working as a Front End Engineer

Landing your first job as a frontend engineer will come with many responsibilities. Depending on the size of the company, you may be responsible for creating interactive elements on the site like scrolling panels, integrating videos and images as well as determining how elements are displayed. As your skill and experience improve, your duties may be expanded to include monitoring the site performance and collaborating with the design team.

Advance Your Career: How to Become a Senior Frontend Engineer

To become a senior frontend engineer, you’ll need to display a solid balance of design and programming skills. Candidates for this position must also be updated on industry trends and familiar with most of the major content management systems, including WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.

Working as a senior frontend engineer, you’ll be tasked with assisting backend developers and ensuring usability best practices. You’ll collaborate with the design team and may mentor younger developers. You’ll be expected to supervise the creation of mockups and prototypes as well as appealing mobile-based or web-based applications.

Improving your skill

Advancing from an entry-level engineer to a senior frontend engineer takes anywhere from three to five years. Experts recommend that beginners take the period to master using semantic codes during their design as well as learning more about HTTP verbs and command line skills. You’ll also need to master modular CSS or perfect your use of CSS preprocessors.

Other important areas that you need a solid grasp of include, understanding how the frontend engine in browsers work, improving your skill in JavaScript and jQuery, mastering the method of DOM traversal and learning more about client-server architecture.

Take advantage of automation/build tools such as GRUNT to simplify your development process. You can also boost your profile by using GitHub, even if you still have mid-level GIT skills. Other useful tips that can help boost your skills and accelerate your progress include, working with virtual development environments and learning how to deploy projects on cloud platforms.

Degrees, Course and Certifications

If you don’t already have a degree, consider signing up for a Bachelor’s degree program in related fields like software engineering or computer science. You can also expand your knowledge and skill by enrolling for advanced online courses or bootstrap programs. Although certifications aren’t vital to working as a frontend engineer, having some on your resume will improve your profile when you’re negotiating for more pay or a promotion. Choose certifications that complement the industry you’re working in

Get Involved with Open Source Projects

Working on open source projects gives you an effective way of improving your skills while expanding your connection to other developers and coders. You get to sharpen your habits while learning from others.

Learn more about Backend

Although the focus of frontend engineering is on building and executing designs, understanding the entire process of web development will help you become more efficient at your job. Knowledge of backend engineering is also crucial if you’re looking to advance your career even further towards becoming a full-stack engineer. That said, it’s not all about coding and design. Work on vital soft skills, such as your communication, creativity and ability to work under pressure.

Front-End Engineer Job Description

We’ve done the research for you. After evaluating numerous job descriptions, we’ve written our own representative job description for a mid-level Front-End Engineer with between 2 and 5 years of relevant experience.

As a front-end engineer, you’ll be responsible for implementing the interactive and visual elements of web and mobile applications. You’ll collaborate with the team of UX designers and back-end engineers in delivering intuitive layouts. You’ll also be responsible for translating the needs of our company and clients into appealing applications. If you enjoy writing code and creating user-friendly layouts, this job is a good fit for you. We value a diversity of perspectives and encourage healthy discussion and debate, but unite behind our decisions.

What We Need Your Help With

  • Creating clean code
  • Ensuring cross-browser compatibility
  • Building a library for future use
  • Optimizing applications for scalability and speed
  • Acting as a mentor to junior developers, through code reviews and design document critiques
  • Creating prototypes and quality mockups

What We Look For

  • 3+ years’ experience in front-end development
  • 2+ years of recent experience building pages in Javascript (ES6), HTML, and CSS
  • Experience working with a javascript framework such as React.js or equivalent
  • Solid understanding of JavaScript frameworks
  • Exemplary communication skills; able to map problem-solution space and explain possible solutions to non-technical team members
  • Good skill with Adobe suite, including Illustrator and Photoshop
  • Familiarity with content management systems, including WordPress, Drupal and Joomla
  • Understand of layout aesthetics
  • Solid understanding of SEO principles
  • Passion for learning new technologies fast
  • B.S. degree in Computer science, Software Engineering or a related field, or equivalent experience

These Would Also Be Nice

  • Experience with backend development
  • Experience with analytics tools like Google Analytics or Mixpanel
  • Experience with various database systems, both in production and warehousing capacities, such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Redshift
  • Experience with server-side languages such as Ruby on Rails

Senior Front-End Engineer Career Paths: Where to Go from Here

After working for more than 10 years, most front-end engineers expand their skills to fit with other roles. For instance, many front-end engineers evolve into full-stack engineers, capable of performing front-end tasks as well as the technical details that accompany back-end (data access) development work. Becoming a full-stack engineer offers a faster career path because it means developers aren’t limited to working on front end duties alone.

You could also rise up the ranks to become a web architect (or webmaster). Webmasters maintain one or multiple websites, ensuring that they operate effectively. Their duties may also include managing traffic, replying comments and maintaining the physical hardware, including web servers.

If you already have a degree in computer science and you’re interested in management, you could consider a career as an information systems manager, where your duties will be expanded from managing web applications to overseeing the installation of computer hardware as well as introducing new technology. You’ll have a better chance of becoming an information systems manager with an MBA, especially if you have long-term goals of becoming a Chief Information Officer (CIO) in another decade.

Front-end engineers with good graphic design skills or candidates who specialize in flash may branch into the multimedia industry working as digital artists or go on to become UX designers, who collaborate with developers and researchers to create attractive designs and intuitive layouts. Alternatively, if you have an affinity for working with code, you could evolve into a programmer, responsible for turning designs and concepts from the developer into actual code.

Working as a programmer gives you wider exposure and even more flexible options. You could evolve into a computer system analyst or go on to become a software developer, where you’ll oversee the development of applications from the whiteboard stage tot release. You could also learn channel your coding skills into gaming engineering, joining a team of developers at a gaming studio; or take a forward-looking approach by expanding your focus from web-based applications to mobile engineering.

Most of these fields require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field. But you can complement your degree with certification courses. Employers appreciate certifications because it shows that the employee is staying updated with technology. Regardless of what you choose, you’re bound to get even further with the right soft skills. Most IT positions call for sharp detail orientation, strong problem-solving skills and good communication.

PHP

PHP is a widely-used open-source scripting language that has seen wide use in web application development. PHP code must be processed by an interpreter like the Zend Engine. With a strong open-source community and large adoption world-wide, PHP ...

JavaScript is a scripting language, originally implemented in web browsers, but now widely used server-side via the Node.js platform. It supports a runtime system based on numerical, Boolean and string values, with built-in, first-class support f...

HTML, or HyperText Markup Language, is a markup language derived from SGML, used to describe web sites and applications to be run in a common web browser. Invented in 1993 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, HTML documents are broken up into HTML elements, w...

CSS

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) describes how HTML elements are displayed. Along with JavaScript and HTML, CSS is one of the cornerstones of front-end web development. CSS separates presentation and content, allowing styles to be defined and used t...

Java is a statically-typed, cross-platform language. It is concurrent, class-based, and object-oriented. It has minimal implementation dependencies and compiled Java code can run on all platforms that support Java without the need for recompilat...

C++

C++ is an object-oriented language derived from C, and invented by Bjarne Stroustrup, while working at AT&T's Bell Labs. It is widely used for systems-level programming, and building applications on Windows and various Unix operating systems (Lin...

C

C is a widely used low-level, static-typed, compiled computer language known for its efficiency. Developed in the late sixties, C has become one of the most widely used languages of all time. It provides direct access to memory and due to its de...

.NET is a framework created by Microsoft that consists of common language runtime and its own class library. Its key benefits are managing code at execution in the form of memory management, thread management and remoting. It also has added safet...

Python is an object-oriented programming language notable for its clarity, power and flexibility. Python is an interpreted language, meaning that an interpreter reads and runs the code directly, rather than compiling down into static lower level c...

Top industries hiring Frontend Engineers

eCommerce

The retail landscape has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Retail was once a brick-and-mortar industry, comprised of small, independently owned-and-operated businesses and large chain stores with multiple outposts throughout the c...

Analytics

Analytics and Business Intelligence roles are often confused but are also directly linked. Data that is collected when a user interacts with a system is then cleaned and stored. That data is then accessed using reports and graphical dashboards. Th...

Education

The education industry involves working in an environment that implements and teaches various skills and applicable material. Formal education typically involves various levels of education, including preschool, primary, secondary, tertiary, vo...

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