Top 7 Programming Languages That Employers Really Want

Which programming languages are most in-demand by employers? That’s an excellent (and vital) question for developers out there, especially those who want to leverage their skills to land a particularly high-paying job. Fortunately, a new list gives us a pretty accurate rundown, and it’s filled with the usual suspects: SQL, Java, JavaScript, Python, and so on.

The data comes from Burning Glass, which compiles and analyzes millions of job postings, so we can treat it as pretty comprehensive (although, as with any massive dataset, there’s always the potential for errors). As you might expect, the country’s employers are looking for technologists who specialize in some of the most broadly-used programming languages on the market today, including all the aforementioned ones. Here’s the full chart, along with the total number of job postings (from July through September of this year) that call them out as required:

What can we conclude from this list? The top-ranked presence of SQL shouldn’t come as a shocker to anyone: although the language is older than many of the technologists who utilize it (it was created in 1974), it’s still very much a key standardized language for relational databases (it’s ranked eighth on the TIOBE Index, a popular but controversial ranking of the world’s most popular programming languages). Businesses always need databases; and they’re clearly hungry for technologists who can set up and manage them. 

A recent study by IEEE Spectrum also noted that employers want developers skilled in Python, Java, C, C++, and JavaScript, so these languages’ presence on the Burning Glass list should come as no surprise, either. All of these programming languages enjoy massive install bases across a variety of platforms, including mobile and the web; they’re also taught widely in schools and bootcamps, ensuring that there’s a steady pipeline of newly minted technologists who know them. In addition to building new stuff, businesses need to maintain legacy code written in these languages. 

(As some commenters have helpfully pointed out, the presence of .NET is a little odd, since it’s a framework, not a language. Maybe Burning Glass figured that since .NET in conjunction with programming languages is used to build apps, it belongs on the list.)

For technologists of all experience levels, the prominence of these tried-and-true programming languages is an unmitigated good thing: As long as they keep current with those languages, they can maintain their viability as employable developers. What’s more, the most popular languages enjoy a ton of documentation; if you run into a problem in the course of building out an app, website, or service, you can likely find the answer somewhere online. 

It’s particularly worth paying attention to Python: in addition to serving as an immensely popular general-purpose language, it’s really come into its own as a language for very specialized functions, including machine learning and finance IT. That’s a core reason why a JetBrains survey from earlier this year named it the most-studied language among developers. If you’re a Python beginner, check out these handy instructional videos.

27 Responses to “Top 7 Programming Languages That Employers Really Want”

  1. Son T Nguyen

    Boohoo, I can’t cut coding cuz too US-born “foreigners” rather hiring maga me for relying on my God giving “privileges” and not upskilling (learning new tools, languages). If only our Dear Leader finishes that wall and keeps “them” barbarians out, I’ll be in more demand, appreciated in this fast changing, diverse work force and global economy. Darn it, if I as a capitalist can’t get satisfaction, I’ll vote for a demagogue to sow chaos, disruption and economic uncertainty to stick it to people who have secure, well paid jobs like these”foreign” developers.

    • BillybJoe

      The fact is it is not fair to American born workers to be forced to compete with the whole world. No other country on earth has such a ridiculous policy. And there is actually a ton of bias in tech. Usually its privileged white liberals who deny it. They are so busy thinking they got the job by merit and leveling up that they ignore the effect the culture of tech has on those less fortunate. Nothing more prejudiced that whites who are colorblind and woke

  2. Hi Son T Nguye –Just because you born in US and you don’t want to learn and keep update of your skills as per market/ needs of your country business requirement? shows your prerogative mind and prevent/restrict other country fellow human’s NOT TO WORK and help your economy/Contribute to grow your country is not CORRECT attitude? You don’t learn and work and PREVENT other’s also not to work and NOT to HELP business needs is not good for any one in this universe. Change your mind and make a habit of HELP EACH OTHER ,NEVER HURT ..Then you will see and enjoy our life for ever like BIRD’s,think BROADER VIEW and think all humans are your brother’s/sister’s, then feel happy not enmity.
    Appreciate YOU / ALL American Brother’s/Sister’s will change their selfish thinking and work selfless mode and enjoy Life with other human’s.

    • Glenn C. Rhoads

      Does the author even know what a programming language is? SQL is not a programming language, it is a query language. Javascript is not a general purpose programming language, it is a scripting language for HTML which is used to display web pages. .NET is not a programming language, it is a software framework. This list of the top seven programming languages includes only four programming languages.

      • Perhaps not, but your own understanding is hovering at the time of Windows 2000. SQL is technically a programming language. When you say it’s “a query language” do you, Glenn, understand the topic being discussed? Both SQL and code / programming languages in general. If you do believe so, stop reading here.

        Javascript is most certainly a programming language, albeit one for which you many have a deficient understanding as is understandable since, yes, HTML (itself is alsoa programming language), files that use HTTP (from where HTML borrows it’s HyperText half of it’s MarkupLanguage monicker) and are, in there most simple existences, simply a text file with .txt replaced with .html – obviously there aren’t too many in production, though I suspect more are in the wild than you or I might think. I’m wholeheartedly, albeit because I very much dislike insecure code (which Microsoft is and likely will remain the top producer & distributor). I’m a Linux guy, and my two greatest concerns when coding is the inherent security pre-production, it’s open source nature, and what it will do of value for others – especially in the field of Privacy Activism. Outlook or ProtonMail via Thunderbird? Patch Tuesdays or continual improvement of security and functionality? Windows or Debian? They’re all extremely important choices that must be made by everyone from social network surfers to programmers in any given field. Hopefully the fields, or rather corporations for the proprietary among you, within which some of you do work allow you to do what you do best without any constraints on creative coding – many programming languages (most?) wouldn’t exist today if thought – and how to think – wasn’t a highly valued commodity. It still is, mostly, especially by, say, the nonprofit Mozilla – inventors of the Rust programming language, thanks in full to Mozilla embracing Open Source Tech. And having people within its community who can think and know how to think (not what to think, that is a very different “quality” than knowing how; it’s the”what” that controls and restricts free thought and thus creative thinking. Back to Javascript for a moment: it’s a very efficient and flexible code to use within your given example of webpages, though it’s also a lightweight code relative to most others listed. I’m not fluent in all, nor do I feel like scrolling to the top to see the list right now, but Javascript’s ease of use – for both good and malicious, probably its best known trait – that it’s an “insecure” code to use. Sure, if one is lazy and is unfamiliar with current security measures to use to prevent the flurry of attacks that plagued the net when (and still is) it was as simple as placing an eval(), crafting it with the malicious creative thinking of the day, moment, hour, etc. depending on who scripts the Javascript code (notice a similarity with HTTP and HTML’s relationship?) and either goes through the hassle of making their own websites in hopes of whatever happening – these days it’s still Resource Hijacking via cryptojacking. OR just throw it on a few bigger sites who employ admins and techs that have no understanding of web security and the myriad of measures available to prevent XSS (cross site scripting for anyone not familiar with the acronym), for use to protect not only their own, but that of the millions of website visitors / members affected by the latest break-in. There truly is an all too prevalent ignorance in matters of security beyond simple firewalls and “antivirus” software. I wonder why Microsoft makes all those antivirus software mills so much in terns of ROI? I’m not one of the “Linux is safe” people drooling in front of my safe OS confident I’ll never be a tech crime victim. But I am one of the ones who see those others and shakes their head/s in sadness. When site a’s members are suddenly victims of identity theft and lose access to bank accounts, etc., said site (unless its Facebook, which has been a thorn in the collective side of security and privacy focused techs – to use a general term as a time saving mechanism – a few days after it went public; and, no, I’m not at all joking). Now it’s got Amazon, Google, and other competitors in the race to the hole at the bottom; for the life of me I’ve no idea why Google, who gave us V8 – it’s Javascript variant – to some, or at least one among us as I do use it, albeit not as it was designed by Google. I love to play. Playing gives the world new avenues of thought which gives the world the tools, but not the desire to do good with said tools. That’s a matter of money, risk, reward, and the sorts of things I don’t think about when I code this or design that or deviate from V8 and find my way of Siri ting the language is slightly more efficient and simpler to understand visually when seen by the kids today who may or not be more attracted to a language for its aesthetics than its rigidness. Now back to HTML – another component heavily in use is CSS which is as insecure as Javascript if not those using it inline aren’t properly defending against known attack vectors. While you may say CSS is not a programming language, than I wonder how all those sparkly shiny sites came into being with CSS1.0? Markup Languages also include MathML, Markup (which is the next simplest language to use next to writing one’s native Spoken Language onto plain text file in an ironic sort of way paying one’s respect to UNIX’s KISS Philosophy.

  3. Clayton Hunsinger

    SQL is not a programming language.
    .NET is not a programming language, it is a framework that C#, VB.NET, and even C++ compiles down to****

    Yes, if you are out of college you’re going to start off as a junior developer with a lower salary. I pushed for 80k, which is not too bad in all fairness. Less than 2 years later I had a company ask me to work for them. I ultimately turned them down before my first in-person interview because they didn’t allow working remotely, and I value being able to work remotely very highly. I asked for a 100k salary if they hired me. There was a slight hesitation, but they were still ready to interview me, knowing I was too comfortable in my current job to settle for less.

    If you have a bachelors degree of any kind in a stem field, can answer detailed programming and technical questions, can demonstrate your proficiency through a programming test or by showing off some of your work, and you are willing to learn new stuff needed for the job, then you will have no trouble finding a well paying software developer job in most areas. Some parts of the US though simply don’t have much in terms of well-paying programming jobs.

    ****I am not an expert at C++ .NET support, but to my knowledge it is essentially interop between natively compiled machine code and .NET bytecode, so C++ applications using the .NET libraries will require the .NET runtime.

    tl;dr – you can get the salary and job you want with the following:
    1) A bachelors degree in a stem field, but a bachelors of Computer Science is ideal
    2) A desire to learn
    3) Proficiency in a number of skills
    4) Ability to prove you are proficient at a number of skills to the people who will be interviewing you.

    • Seems to me that a key point is not being mentioned here. Of course there is value in having the people of the world make more money (any career type) and improve their quality of life. In general the better the life the better the world citizen. American society offers the most stable place to do business and so companies thrive here more than anywhere else. And we Americans are paid accordingly. Today, technologies of many types allow businesses to take advantage of qualified, but lower paid workers in countries where the standard of living is lower, and so these companies make more profit by lowering labor costs. So we Americans are seeing our salary (and standard of living) decrease, while other, poorer countries see an increase. As an American, if you want me to take that on the chin (or wallet) for the sake of the people of the world improving their quality of life, you must promise me one thing: As my American salary and standard of living decline, we Americans will become the low cost laborer of choice for corporations. When that occurs, those other countries will do the right thing and allow international companies to send their jobs to come to me. They will. Right? And in the mean time my quality of life (and my sons) decline. Wish I had a crystal ball.

  4. anonymous

    employers are hiring”foreign” developers because they have contracts with foreign IT vendors who have presence in the US. and because these are big foreign vendor outfits they supply and pull in foreign resources they have long-term contracts with who they train, groom, develop, manage. This is how they build the knowledge of the employers businesses with their foreign teams who then move around to global offices training their other resources in new branches. it is big organized foreign IT vendor networks that many US employers do business with.

  5. Interesting that these ‘tried and true’ language users are still sought by employers many years after their arrival in the repetoire. As a retired software developer and University CS teacher of many many years, I found these trends among the students in my many classrooms:
    A) Preparation always pays high results;
    B) Studying the language is imperative;
    C) Actually writing the programs rather than lifting them from the Internet or another student is
    a key to learning;
    D) Being Interested and Present in the Programming Projects yields rewarding lessons;
    E) High interest in ‘Software’ is a must for real success;
    F) When the going gets tough, buckle up and study!

    Those who follow these simple, “Tried and True” paths will not have to ask for meaningful work, whether they are of Asian, African, African American, American, European, Eastern European, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, or any other origin. Their work shall speak for them.

    Those of you who want to fare well in Software Development, just do your ‘JOB’ and the rest shall follow.

    Thanks for listening!
    DJ

  6. Mor Sagmon

    While these are the most required languages by employers, I’d like tot point out two things:

    1. Regardless of the language, to be a top developer of business solutions, you need to understand the business, best-practices and corporate managers’ business language. The technical skills are not enough.

    2. By focusing and becoming a master in a niche language, you may actually gain an advantage.

    I’m training and mentoring business software developers in Excel VBA, Databases and SQL. I wrote this blog post about why isn’t VBA popular amongst software programmers:

    https://www.morsagmon.com/blog/Why-Isnt-VBA-Popular-Amongst-Software-Programmers

  7. John Powell

    With the inclusion of Recursive CTEs, SQL is actually Turing complete, so, I think, by most definitions that makes it a programming language. If you throw in plpgsql (yes, I’m a Postgres guy), or Transact SQL (or whatever it is called in the hugely overpriced, paid for stuff), it most categorically is a programming language, and combined with ACID compliance, MVCC, yada, yada. A rather trivial example, but here is the Mandelbrot set in a Postgres CTE, https://wiki.postgresql.org/wiki/Mandelbrot_set.