Java’s Still in Demand, But the Landscape’s Changing

Java LogoJava may not be ready for retirement, but a lot of people are looking for alternatives. Does that mean Java development is a dead-end skill? No. While its use is narrowing, Java is so widely used, no one believes it’s going to be replaced any time soon.

In January, Java/J2EE developers were at the top of the wish list for 1,200 tech hiring managers and recruiters polled by Dice. Postings on Dice for Java skills have grown for each of past two years.

Are you a Java developer considering your next step? Tell us what you’re thinking in the comments below.

It’s the second-highest-growth language on software-development project hosting site GitHub, behind CoffeeScript. It’s the No. 2 language by number of associated tags on Q&A site Stack Overflow. On the other hand, it’s slipped behind C to the No. 2 spot on the TIOBE Programming Community Index.

Paul Jansen, managing director of TIOBE Software, doesn’t believe companies are moving away from Java, he just thinks they’re looking at alternatives. Major corporations, such as banks and insurance companies, rely on Java’s stability for back-end systems. In that sense he agrees with the idea that Java is the new COBOL, used for legacy maintenance. Where companies are looking for new tools is in the area of new development.

Forrester analyst Mike Gualtieri, who in November 2010 urged moving on in enterprise application development, isn’t ready to equate Java with COBOL. However, he sees companies more likely to use multiple languages, such as Python, while still relying on Java for services. He argues that business process management and business rules systems can offer faster, more agile results.

However, RedMonk co-founder and analyst Stephen O’Grady believes that like last year’s styles, Java has merely fallen out of fashion. He doesn’t buy the idea that while it was great five or 10 years ago, it has no relevance today. “People want to write Java off, but it’s still hugely important to projects like Hadoop, Cassandra, Hudson and Jenkins,  HBase.” he says. “Java certainly has been an enterprise-heavy language, it’s been used to write a lot of business applications, which don’t necessarily get developers excited, but it’s still being used to write a lot of projects that do get developers excited.”

Options for Developers

O’Grady sees two potential paths for Java developers: Leverage their skills and experience with these high-profile projects, or freshen their skills with new languages like Android.

Android is seen as a key to Java longevity, though its security record isn’t stellar either. And should Oracle prevail in its lawsuit with Google, Gualtieri can foresee Google moving away from Java.

Still, Jansen says Java development remains a stable career option, even if it’s not as sexy a language as Scala, Clojure, Groovy, JRuby or Jython, which also run on the Java virtual machine. “Once you master Java there are lots of other languages you can relatively easily jump to,” he says. “However, if you want to work in specific IT fields such as Web front ends and Web applications, gaming or embedded software, Java is not the right choice (anymore).”

Gualtieri agrees that Java development can keep you employed if you want to work in enterprise IT, but it’s not the go-to-language of startups or for non-Android mobile development.

Having Java on your resume, says Gualtieri, won’t differentiate you enough from other candidates who also know languages such as HTML5, JavaScript, Ruby or Python. “You want to augment it with something that’s kind of hot,” he says.

17 Responses to “Java’s Still in Demand, But the Landscape’s Changing”

    • Alvin

      Cobol IS dead.

      Those jobs you see advertised are for Cobol Zombies, i.e., legacy programs for which a replacement in ANY other language is too expensive. You can’t bury them, because they’ll just crawl back up out of their graves the next time a new feature is needed.

      Hide your brains.

      Where you measure the life or death of a programming system is in the new projects, where development teams are starting from an absolutely clean slate, so they have the freedom to choose whatever they want.

  1. Dice User

    Sexy language Scala. 🙂 Funny:) Scala is computer science not a science fiction.
    I am kind of tired of people who never written a single line of code like to talk about the future of Java.

  2. As a long time Java/J2EE developer, its hard to imagine Java falling out of fashion (maybe that is denial, I don’t know). But it does seem to me that a Java developer should add other skills to their arsenal.

    Some random thoughts…
    It seems that some Java developers are moving to other languages but that will only increase demand for Java skills.

    There are huge investments in Java Enterprise software (Oracle, IBM, SAP, VMWare, insert favorite integration technology vendor here)

    I don’t lose sleep at night wondering if Java will go away. If you are a Java developer, what you need to consider is: Do I stay the course? Do I move to cloud? Do I move to mobile? Do I move to web development? These are the questions I ask myself everyday.

    Be interested to know what others think…

  3. someone

    One trend that I have seen over last 12 years is that non IT companies do not want to develop in house projects. They want to buy Off the shelf software production. That makes demand for software developers limited to the area where actual development happens like a product based company.

  4. Some of the above comments and the article about Java provides evidence of the confusion among complete languages, like Java, or C#, and scripting languages such as JavaScript, or spin-offs of scripting languages, like Perl. The Model View Controller provides independence among the components of a system that Java works well with. To merely discount Java and concentrate on the view displays an ignorance of the model or application, and the controller, which responds to the client requests. No other language runs on so many different systems by the Java Virtual Machine, as Java. However, other languages that concentrate on the view have been integrated with Java. So don’t through out the baby with the dish water!

  5. Why do the job boards list so many more Senior and junior level java programmers needed for big companies than entry level java programmers? Is it that most entry level java programming is being off-shored or given to HB1 canidates? Does anyone know?

  6. Java’s strengths are the JVM itself and the ecosystem that has grown up around the Java language. Any language that wants to replace Java will have to offer features comparable to the Java EE stack, application servers, TerraCotta, Java Swing / JavaFX.

    Python faces a couple of problems. The language is fragmented with version 3.x being incompatible with older version 2.x applications, and convergence (converting 2.x application to 3.x) has been very slow. When you distribute your Python application you are also distributing your source code. That’s a deal killer for a lot of commercial software. (Java binaries are only slightly more secure – it’s easy to reverse engineer them – but you don’t have to distribute your source code.)

    Google Go might be the language that displaces Java at at some point, but right now it lacks those additional libraries that are necessary. There are no compatible graphics libraries, for example.

    Microsoft made a run at Java with C#, but that fell far short.

    Talk of Java being displaced is like talk of the US dollar being displaced as the world’s primary reserve currency. There are just no suitable successors on the horizon at this point.

  7. MaxMcByte

    The Java Platform is not going away.

    It is estimated that Java is running on *** 3 billion of devices *** and that number is increasing.

    Apart from the Java language itself, the most common or well-known JVM languages are:

    Clojure, a functional Lisp dialect
    Groovy, a scripting language
    Scala, an object-oriented and functional programming language[1]
    JavaFX Script, a scripting language targeting the Rich Internet Application domain (discontinued 2010)
    JRuby, an implementation of Ruby
    Jython, an implementation of Python
    Rhino, an implementation of JavaScript
    AspectJ, an aspect-oriented extension of Java

    All of the above run within the Java Virtual Machine (JVM).

    • Hi, illuminati. The writer’s job here is to present information she got from the folks like Paul Jansen, Stephen O’Grady and Mike Gualtieri, who know their way around the technology and the trends that impact it. We work as closely as we can with our sources to make sure where sharing their opinions and advice accurately. If this was meant to be a piece on hands-on use of Java, I’d agree with you. Whenever we do something like, it’s always written by people who work with the tools or language, etc., every day.



  8. Java 10 years ago and today(2014):

    I am JEE developer. I think many years ago when java was new in market it was hard to find person who can code in java. In today’s market there are big number of people who know java. Therefore there is little race for “I want this job”. So companies now looking for java developer/programmer with many other skills such as build scripts, client side scripting languages and also many third party frameworks and so on.
    Java Developer are still in demand(demand varies based on economic situations also).

  9. The writer clearly does not have the background for this article.
    Anyone who would cite a source comparing COBOL to a modern object-oriented language like Java is not qualified to discuss this topic. “Android” is not a computer language. It is a mobile device platform / framework written in … Java.