Programming Languages Most Popular with Employers

Which programming languages are most popular among employers?

Every year, IEEE Spectrum tries to answer that thorny question by crunching data from a number of sources and producing a handy list. Those sources include Google Search, Twitter, GitHub, Stack Overflow, Reddit, Hacker News, and Dice:

Java places first on this list of languages big among employers. This is unsurprising, considering how many businesses (and independent developers) rely on the language as a stolid workhorse. While other languages surpass Java in terms of metrics like speed, few have managed to eclipse its ubiquity.

C, Python, C++, and JavaScript round out the top five languages. Again, all of these form the backbone of modern development. What’s more interesting are the languages further down the list—the ones that might have attracted some buzz among developers, but aren’t considered a part of the standard software-building toolkit within businesses.

For example, Swift places tenth on IEEE’s list, notably ahead of its predecessor, Objective-C (which sits in nineteenth place). Go, which drew a lot of attention as TIOBE’s programming language of 2016, is in eighteenth. Kotlin (now an official Android language) failed to make the list despite a recent swell of laudatory press in venues such as Wired. R places quite high, meanwhile, despite a reputation for very specialized use.

A big part of this is reach. Java, for example, is a language equally suited for the Web, mobile development, and enterprise use; C is found throughout the mobile and enterprise, as well as embedded systems. Contrast that with languages further down the list, which might prove useful only in a limited context—enterprise-level data analysis, for example, or mobile—and you can see why those at the very top have dominated for years.

As Swift demonstrates, it’s possible for a language to accelerate rapidly into the upper echelons, thanks to factors such as corporate backing, effective support, and the open-source community. As more and more businesses embrace the platform, a feedback loop of sorts is created; it’s very hard for a language that’s climbed far to fall fast.

In the here and now, though, developers need to stay locked on those languages clearly in demand. This IEEE list is a good data-point in that quest, but shouldn’t serve as the only one. (In addition, IEEE provides annual language rankings for open-source hubs and growth, if you’re interested in those things.)

17 Responses to “Programming Languages Most Popular with Employers”

      • Albanyduck

        Starting when I did in 1980, I have a heavy background in COBOL, IMS DB/DC, PL/1, IDMS Ads/o, CICS, DB2 and now PL./SQL., In my area PL/SQL is in now demand. I don’t see requests or demand for half the languages listed above it. So consider the source. The demand varies. Ten years ago I took some classes for Java and C++ because I saw jobs demanding those skills. Before the classes ended the demand switched back to PL/SQL and DB2. I.T. skill set demand can be a moving target

    • Francois Simon

      Fortran is viewed as the “mother tongue of scientific computing; adding that its replacement by any other possible language may remain a forlorn hope. It is the primary language for some of the most intensive supercomputing tasks, such as astronomy, weather and climate modeling, numerical linear algebra, structural engineering, hydrological modeling, optimization, satellite simulation and data analysis, computational fluid dynamics, computational chemistry, computational economics and computational physics.” Within the vertical markets mentioned above, it should be classified near to top. Fortran continues to adapt to the 21th century (last version 2015). However, its use is limited to the very high-end computing applications outside the mainstream of conventional computation.

  1. Doctor Jay

    Yeah, right. I see hundreds of job listings per day, and C (as opposed to C++ or C#) probably isn’t even in the top 20 required languages. Python is certainly up there, but often in conjunction with other requirements like Angular.js, React, Clojure, and other things I’d never even heard of before I started my current job search. And where’s ASP.NET and its entire ecosystem? Surely Windows-based systems are common enough that it ought to show up somewhere.

  2. B. Drews

    I’m not certain of your criteria for evaluation of most ‘popular’ Programming Languages but you’ve forgotten ONE that has existed for some fifty+ years and possibly the most used on Terra.. that is COBOL. Yes.. it has been de-emphasized the past couple decades but most Fortune 1000 companies have used it at some time.

  3. Paul Atreides

    I’ve authored software solutions in Fortran, Basic, AppleScript, C, Lisp, HTML, JavaScript (Node.js, Angular, JQuery), C#, SQL, VBA, Python, Ruby, Clojure, and Java. It all runs together after a while. C# is Java with the fingerprints filed off. I haven’t had a need for Fortran or Basic in many years. I taught myself. Some languages like Python and JavaScript have changed over the years. I taught myself Ruby and Clojure for specific jobs I was interviewing for. I’ve done amazing things with Lisp and VBA because those were the specified tools. Most of the jobs I look at now specify Java, JavaScript/HTML, or C++. But the biggest thing I’m missing is 30 years: With all this experience, I can’t get work at 50+. Apparently, it’s more than just skills and the ability to think.

  4. LogiRush

    I think these rank values are not related to quantity of job opportunities. For example, are there 99% as many Python jobs as Java? Are there 77% as many Ruby jobs as Java? No way in both cases.

    Demand from employers also varies by region. In Houston and Dallas, the .Net platform is popular and probably has equal or more opportunities than Java. In Houston in particular, you’ll have difficulty finding any jobs in the more specialized languages like Scalia, Swift, Go or Shell.

    My advice: don’t use this ranking as a basis for learning skills. Find out what is popular in your region. Most likely it will be Java, C# and PHP.

  5. Shell is a language? Does Windows Shell programming work on Linux?
    Assembly is a language? How well will my ATMega or Microchip programming experience take me working with ARM processors?
    “JAVA”? Does that make Java Enterprise Edition experience equal to Java Standard Edition or Java Micro Edition or Dalvik(Android runtime)? Java Beans?

  6. Albanyduck

    We keep seeing these lists published. But has there EVER been a national demand for any ONE language since maybe when COBOL qualified you for 90% of the developer jobs in the 1980’s?

  7. Peter Michael Ketcham

    I don’t consider HTML a programming language but rather a markup language and, possibly, a page description language. Is it possible to write a program in (exclusively) HTML? When I want to refer collectively to programming languages, markup languages, page description languages, etc., I generally use the term “computing languages” as an all-encompassing term. Does anyone else use the term computing languages in that manner?