Top Programming Languages That Will Get You Paid

Which programming languages are associated with the highest salaries? That’s a vital question for students who are thinking about their career paths, along with technologists who want to learn a new language that will (hopefully) pay the big bucks.

Of course, there’s just one little problem with trying to create a “definitive” list of which programming languages pay the “best”: A lot of factors go into your average developer’s pay, including their experience, location, seasonal demand for particular languages or skills, and so on. And if that wasn’t complicated enough, not all institutions calculating salary rely on the same datasets, or run their math in quite the same way; you’ll see different results depending on the algorithms being run.

With all that being said, let’s start off by looking at the 2019 edition of the Stack Overflow Developer Survey, which interviews tens of thousands of developers. According to them, Scala was the programming language associated with highest salaries in the United States, followed by Clojure, Go, Erlang, and Objective-C. “Major” languages such as C and Python, meanwhile, brought home comparatively less bacon. Check out the list:

Compare that to the following list generated from Dice data. One thing should jump out at you immediately: Salaries for many of these languages are quite a bit lower than in Stack Overflow’s reckoning:

What’s to explain this discrepancy? The Dice database analyzes jobs from all over the country, which means it’s crunching data from places where technologists don’t make as much as they do in the “big” tech hubs such as San Francisco and New York City. A Python developer with a few years’ worth of experience in, say, North Dakota probably won’t make as much as one in San Jose.

Between these two lists, it’s clear that focusing on those “old-school” languages such as Python, JavaScript, C++, Java, and Objective-C (which we’re going to combine, however artificially, with Swift in this instance, given Apple’s attempts to have Swift swallow up Objective-C) can earn you a very solid salary—plus, there’s no shortage of companies that need these languages to either build new applications or maintain legacy code. If you’re new to any of these, check out these resources, many of which feature handy code snippets:

Python

JavaScript

C++

Java

Objective-C/Swift

With the tech industry’s current unemployment rate at a notable low, companies are hungry for technologists who know their stuff when it comes to programming languages. Despite that desperation, though, they’re only going to pay out top-level salaries for people who’ve truly mastered a language and can help build massive projects with it. And your salary will creep still higher if you can combine your language knowledge with a rare, valuable skill such as machine learning or artificial intelligence (A.I.).