It’s difficult to name a particular programming language as “top” or “best.” After all, different programming languages have different uses. But as we close out 2019, it’s hard to deny that Python, despite its relative age and ubiquity, has a lot of momentum behind it… with nothing to slow it down.
We base this bold statement on a number of datasets. For example, GitHub’s State of the Octoverse 2019, a comprehensive view of everything happening on GitHub, placed Python in eighth on its list of fastest-growing programming languages between 2018-2019. That doesn’t seem like a very high ranking, until you consider how Python is a much-used language with a huge legacy codebase—and yet it’s expanding at a comparable speed to TypeScript, Kotlin, and other, smaller languages that have a lot of fresh buzz behind them.
Then there’s the TIOBE Index, which ranks the world’s most popular programming languages on a monthly basis. Although many people find TIOBE’s methodology a little bit controversial, there’s a good argument to be made that it accurately captures which languages have a massive user base. And although Python already occupies third place on the list (which it has held for a year), it’s enjoying a rate of growth that beats out the other top performers on the list.
What’s behind Python’s continued growth? Companies really want employees who know it, both to build new applications and to wrangle legacy code. In October, a breakdown by IEEE Spectrum named Python as the top language that employers wanted their employees to master, followed by Java, C, and C++. Plus, a 2019 JetBrains survey found that Python was most-studied among developers.
Python is also becoming much more of a go-to language in specialized areas such as finance, data science, and artificial intelligence (A.I.), which is only driving its continued momentum. It’s also a somewhat lucrative skillset: Based on a Dice data analysis, the average Python developer salary is roughly $109,202, just behind Java (which earns $114,780 on average), full-stack developers ($116,951), and backend developers ($118,251). But specializing in an in-demand discipline such as machine learning or data science, of course, can only drive that salary higher.
If you want to learn Python, there are tons of resources online that can help out. For example, Microsoft’s new video series aimed at Python beginners features 44 videos, most of them under five minutes in length, and none longer than 13 minutes. Jessica Garson, who teaches an Intro to Python class at NYU, has a resource list for aspiring programmers on her website. And Python.org, of course, has a beginner’s guide with all kinds of good material. The future is looking very… slithery.