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Fullstack developer is a scam term

Fullstack developer is a scam term

You person one, were hired as a backend developer. You specialize in PHP, Python, C#, C++ and more of them. None of which are related to frontend. You rock in your position. But one day you are asked to do the frontend too. So you learned jQuery a bit. Did the frontend in the crappiest manner because that's not your field. Several years later, you are a fullstack developer.

You person two, were hired as a frontend developer. You specialize in your stuff. Turning PSD and design concepts into awesome html and css, making everything interactive, all are your job, where you shine. But recently the backend developer quit and they are suddenly in need of someone to patch things a little bit. Since you are their only developer who is known to be expert, you end up learning a bit of the backend and patching things up. Several years later, you are a fullstack developer.

Be it person one or person two, the story ends up same way. The company expects you to fill up the missing stuff. You are no longer specializing in your creative part, you are doing two separate tasks. And we did not even mention the horror about managing the server, testing and deployment.

Back to main point. Full stack developer is a scam term. If you compare the salaries and the tasks you have to deal with, you will end up earning same or even less than you are currently earning.

According to paysa, a backend developer makes $90k, a frontend developer makes $88k, fullstack developer makes $76k. That's the average, but the data for 75th percentile is even more horrific. $104k, $106k and $90k for backend, frontend and fullstack.

This will vary on salary database sites like glassdoor, but the end result will be same.

That is horrible. You are a jack of all trades right now. You deal with react, express, redux, docker, ci/cl, aws, and thousand of other stuff. You know more than others yet you are paid even less than all.

This is scam, this is a myth, that's everyone agrees upon. The greatest scam where you are paid less for doing more. Even if it's the same hour you work, even if its same 8 hours job. You are expected to solve all of their problems while getting less and less amount of salary.

If they want you to do frontend and backend, then they should at least pay 1.5x current amount. If they want you to do frontend, backend, servers and testing, then you can expect at least 2x your current salary, since you are handling 4 part at once. But no, you are getting paid 0.75x.

They use code words like, "be more flexible", which means you must do more, stay up late night, and ofc will get less payment because you were meant to be flexible.

They also use code words as seen on Developer recruitment: how to read job adverts post, "Full-stack developer required", "A work-hard, play-hard ethos", "Salary is competitive", "A company driven by results", "Ability to multi-task". Seriously, what's wrong with the world?

They say things like,

  • Well, the error logs doesn't matter much.
  • We can test it afterwards.
  • Customers will test it for us.
  • This is just an mvp. ...and so on.

Do you see what the end products look like? It doesn't have any unit tests, it is bad, broken, and volatile. The code is really messy because you are to focus on multiple things at same time and you are just one person.

If you are a backend developer, and do not want to dive into frontend, it's best to remain clear about it rather than being turned into such slave. Same with frontend. You can see how these guys are scamming best out of everyone for sake of their own profit. They are scamming the clients by taking huge amount of money and providing a broken service, they are scamming developers by paying less than what they deserve, they are toxic, they are ruining the web industry.

Answer me this, did you start programming as hobby so that you can become a slave to such people?

I'm not the only one to talk about it, this issue has been addressed many times on past like,


Full stack developers have their existence and need. They can be the bridge between frontend and backend developers of the team. It means the team must have backend and frontend devs and to have a better understanding they should hire full stack developer. They exist by many names, better names, one of them are called project manager.

A typical Web Developer Project Manager earns $60k on avg, Senior Web Development Project Manager earns $137k, a normal Project Manager earns $105k. It is to be said, the junior web developer project managers are treated worse than full stack developers. However, it is also true that the senior ones earn more than senior front end and back end developers. So the seniors learn the hard way and make their way to top, while juniors are still treated like garbage well, until they realize their true worth.

Every coin has three sides. Head, tails and an almost non-existent thin side. The era of full stack has done it's job. Time for something else, something more shiny...maybe machine learning?

EDIT NOTE: I am a full stack developer myself, I love programming, and I like both frontend, backend, I like devops too. Considering all that this post might seem contradictory to many. It lacks lot of details but I am pretty sure there are many who will agree with me as to how the terms are abused for sake of some third rated peoples. The top tier might be in very good shape and getting really great salary, but the other tiers are the ones who is being tricked.

Top comments (27)

bgadrian profile image
Adrian B.G. • Edited

"You are an X developer and the employee asked you to learn Y" - You can say no at anytime, you have a choice! So it is not a scam, you just accepted to fill a more general role.

"You have to know 2-3 times more technologies", true, but you know them at a basic-intermediate level, it's understandable and accepted by the employer to not be great at either jobs (back/front) if you are full stack.

Your salary research may need some tweaks, you compared only 2 terms, there are many synonyms for those positions (web developer for front end, full stack web developer ...) and different names for US/EU.

You do not have to earn twice as much because the amount of knowledge and expertise is not double, instead of learning all SCSS commands by heart you can learn some AWS basic commands (and look the rest up whenever you needed), instead of learning 5-10 types of embedding an imagine in HTML you learn how docker works, it is always a trade off.

To add salt to the wound, some employers requires you to be "full stack developer" as in to do mobile apps as well (front end is web AND mobile), beside the back end.

So no, it is not a scam, it is just a different type of developer, generalist, when you will build a startup you will understand the need of general specific roles.

Most of all the positions are not exclusive, when the project gets bigger you can afford to get specialist (back end, front end, architects, dev-ops) and still keeping the full stack devs for their unique view and expertise (from a more abstract level, that bridges all those specialists).

PS: we, the "full stack devs" are not a myth, we exists, we build all rounded apps alone, from bottom up in record time ๐Ÿ˜Ž and all these new technologies like cloud, kubernetes, serverless, Flutter and managed services just feed our job and allow us to tackle even bigger projects without specialists (ofc in the small-medium ranged projects scope).

entrptaher profile image
Md. Abu Taher ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ’ป

Thank you for your in depth reply. Really appreciate it.

My post of course requires more research, my points are almost invalid in front of such strong replies.

That being said, Full stack developers exist for sure, I myself a proof of that and I am proud of being one, however, I worry for those who know more, do more, but being paid absolutely less than others just for being generalist. As if they are expected to do more.

The overall value is getting lower in many cases, the quality is dropping. Later it will affect on other web dev positions and then all web development sector is gonna fall for that. The internet will show us in meantime. The shady faces of slavery management companies.

bgadrian profile image
Adrian B.G. • Edited

All that is true, but our jobs "exists" to solve business problems so it comes down to money

If the company wants 1 developer instead of 2 they will get mostly:

  • lower costs (let's say 40-50% smaller salary)
  • lower quality (around about 30-60%, depends a lot on the developer expertise) then they form a market that will be filled by workers that needs a job.

As for the quality you can see it best in the security field, almost no business owner cares about it until something happen, and then they forget after a few months, and I keep saying we reached a state in that a good "ML bot written by hackers scientists" can easily hack into 50% of the current running websites.

I think the word "slavery" doesn't fit in our line of work that is described by:

  • staying at a computer all day
  • having all kind of perks
  • not having to even apply to jobs because we are assaulted by offers and HR hunters
  • 9-17 job
  • job security (I haven't heard of a fired developer)
  • high salaries

Most of the industries only dreams at such a job, be respectful and appreciate what you have.

I for one am ashamed to disclose my salary (and I am not a top earner in my peers) to people that are not in our industry, they often have 2 jobs and only get half of my salary. Sure I "work" too but the really work with physical related jobs. Even the fact that we have the time to chat on this website is a proof that we have:

  • free time ( so we don't over work)
  • care about higher more abstract concepts
  • so we solved our basic primary needs like food, electricity and so on
Thread Thread
entrptaher profile image
Md. Abu Taher ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ’ป

These are really common now a days. The seniors can take care of it, and don't see the bad side, the juniors learn the hard way.

I must also mention that everyone will have a different perspective. For some it is a heavenly job, for some it's a nightmare.

Looking down on workers

Few days ago I was in a call with some client meetup. All of their talk was like honey, the budget seemed really healthy, their attitude was respectable. Except they seemed to look down on many things that a developer cares about.

They said things like Well, the error logs doesn't matter much, And then continued recently it stops working frequently and we don't know the exact reason.

From the look of the code, it seemed they did not pay the previous developer that much, was giving really tight schedule and the developer ended up with very poor code, no unit tests and then left the project because he couldn't take it anymore.

Outsourced works

Most outsourced web development works are done for very low rate, thus the quality also decreases thousandfold. The web is polluted with such low quality stuff where everyone is just trying to trick each other.

Client X has $100k budget for app, his project manager starts outsourcing it for $10k to a different team, keeps the rest of money, the team then starts paying the developer $1k. It is indeed a field where some shines, and some gets scammed.

I like how those developers don't get the benefit the other developers are having being on the good developed country.

This is altogether a different issue, but is related to the full stack since the overall web is build by the developers hard work.

damirtomic profile image

The issue is when you are better then the expert in tech X, and worse than the average expert in Y, yet you get a lower salary than both of them.

bgadrian profile image
Adrian B.G. • Edited

True, there may be some cases, but I don't think the technologies were the root of the problem here, or the company, I suspect a mix of:

  • he/she didn't evaluated properly his/her value on the market (get a job similar with the "expert in tech X" or get a raise). Usually happens because devs don't go to interviews until it's too late.
  • he/she is stubborn, too attached (or from other reasons); knows that it's underpaid and still remain there
  • "tech X" has too few specialized positions left (Cobol or jQuery?! :)) ), so it cannot move to a better paying jobs (they are all taken) and she/he doesn't want to move to a new technology

It is an issue, but it's the developers issue that can be easily solved (in most of the cases). Even if the geographic or other conditions don't allow an easy fix (too few jobs in the area), maybe he/she can work remote or go freelancing. Being the devils advocate here, but (most of us) live in capitalism, it's not the company fault (that wants to make more profit) it's the ppl that accept the conditions (and losing money by not doing anything).

I have former colleagues that have this issue, they know it but don't do anything to fix it. In the end I blame it on the human side of us, we are too reluctant to change, and the industry is changing too fast, faster than we can change ... and some of us got tired of learning new ways every 6 months (damn you web).

PS: I'm all in in creation of syndicates, that would fight in our benefit on these matters with the companies.

leob profile image
leob • Edited

Exactly! Just what I was thinking ... couldn't have said it better.

Also, if you're a freelancer/contractor (not an employee), it can be very beneficial if you can work in both areas (frontend and backend) - you can take on complete projects where both a frontend and a backend need to be built.

Finally, the article starts with:

"You specialize in PHP, ... none of which are related to frontend"

What's funny here is, of course, that PHP started out as a language to build frontends - just cranking out HTML. Nowadays separating frontend and backend is in vogue (using SPAs and APIs) but it's not always the case that the backend and the frontend duties are so clearly separated.

One thing I'll grant the author though, the term "full stack dev" is overused, you're seeing it way too often. By the way, is this article irony maybe? i noticed just now that the author is labeling himself as "full stack developer" ...

entrptaher profile image
Md. Abu Taher ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ’ป • Edited

@mudasobwa and @leob , Absolutely valid points.

I don't have anything against frontend, backend, full stack or programming itself. I enjoy programming and solving problems. I probably should've said server-side and client-side to make it more credible.

My main point is, companies (or clients) uses these terms to fool all parties. They are treating the developers as slaves and tricking however they can. That's all.

Thread Thread
leob profile image

Yes, I understand and appreciate your points!

In fact this is really a good analysis, and I've never looked at it this way. I just saw "full stack" as a trendy, over-hyped, over-used and rather annoying "cliche" term which is nowadays being tacked onto everything ... everybody and their brother is calling themselves a "full stack dev".

I never realized that it's being used by companies or employers to take advantage of employees, but I get your point.

(in the same vein, I also notice the annoying over-use of the term "lightweight" that's being slapped onto every new framework or tool, no matter how light or heavy it really is ...)

phlash profile image
Phil Ashby

Wow! I detect a little frustration with current salary here :)

It's a shame that job titles get pinned to pay, because they are usually completely unrelated (those survey sites may be lying too!), that CEO running a one man ice cream company probably doesn't have the same responsibilties as the CEO of Ford, but the same title. Maybe ask: how much financial impact does this job have here (eg: if I made a really bad decision, we could lose a few million), that's probably a better indicator of expected reward.

I try to take a different, more personal view: Am I enjoying this work? Would I feel like a fraud if I was paid more (or would I work 24/7 to reduce the guilt)? Am I supporting those people who depend on me well enough? Am I making progress in my life goals (I happen to have a couple, YMMV)? If some of those are negative, then what can I do to fix it - change of job, start selling snake oil (joke!), move somewhere more suited to achieving my goals... you get the idea I hope.

It's cathartic to shout at the man (and I applaud your bravery!), it's effective to act knowlingly. Enjoy your passions!

erhankilic profile image
Erhan Kฤฑlฤฑรง

I don't think FullStack is a scam term but Companies tries to use them like slaves and thinks 2 person with one pays.

I love coding with php and javascript. I can code backend with php and nodejs also I can create frontend apps with my javascript and angularjs knowlegde. I never design or write css stuffs.

If a company wants to use my fullstack skill, I want higher payments because coding at backend and frontend at the same time is tiring and payment must be worth for it.

You can be fullstack but you mustn't work backend and frontend at the same time. If company wants that, raise your payment.

g3nark0 profile image
Joel Rivera-Pintado

I too, understand your point on how the term "full stack developer" is being abused by some companies. In a former job, I was the only web developer, and I did mostly back end but also had to do simple front end (and database and server management on different environments). I remember telling my boss at that time: "You know that you're getting a bargain with me with what you're paying me right now, cause if you paid me for all the stuff that I do here, it would almost be double of my salary".

But I understand what you're trying to say, is that a lot of companies use the term to justify a mediocre salary, when you could be gaining more of all the efforts and knowledge that you're giving to the company. I'm kind of that situation right now. I've done many different things here where I work right now, and feel underpaid. Yes I love doing my job, but I also feel being ripped off.

vinceomega profile image
Larry Stanfield

Eh, I wouldn't call a project manager a full stack dev. I've work with project managers that aren't technical at all. I do agree that if you're going to be placed in a role where you do both front and back end jobs then you need to be paid at 1.5 to 2x the amount to do so.

papaponmx profile image
Jaime Rios

Thanks for sharing!

zvovu profile image • Edited

Absolutely! I think it's just a sly way of saying "we want two developers for the price of one". That's all I take it as. I'm strong at backend and can whip up a bootstrap with javascript but I would not consider myself "full stack" in the sense most are looking for. Most are expecting a designer with that package, which I am not.

leob profile image

Scam is too harsh, people (including me) enjoy being able to work across the stack. The term is a bit overused but it does get across the idea that you're able to work both in backend and frontend. Regarding the salaries, I don't really have an educated opinion on how that would work out.

technomad profile image
Tech Nomad • Edited

I consider myself as a fullstack dev, too. But I've never worked as employee (as a web dev) and see it a bit different than the author. Going fullstack is the only effective and sustainable way to get rid of the dependency on agencies or other big web dev companies and to sign contracts with the end clients directly and to get the full (market oriented) price for your work. If you consider yourself as a fullstack dev and you think your salary does not comply to you skills then you probably should start your own company or go freelance.

lfsmith profile image

Interesting read I wouldn't consider this a scam, the wider somebody tried to spread their CORE area of competence the harder it becomes to develop the kind of mastery of any one area this might explain salary gap. Also we think about weather or not better paying be jobs can be found at companies that require more then one or to Devs and thus are more likely to hire at least one developing for each area of expertise rather than having there one or to computer guys do everything.

ricmrodrigues profile image
Ricardo Rodrigues

Liked your article but there's one thing that bothered me, DevOps isn't a role - this one isn't a scam though, it's a common misconception. DevOps is a methodology.

entrptaher profile image
Md. Abu Taher ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ’ป

Sorry for using wrong terms, will go thru and proofread with proper terms and more research data. Thanks for reading.

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