Most In-Demand Skills, February and March 2020: Python, SQL, and More

A new analysis of data from Burning Glass, which collects millions of job postings from across the country, reinforces what many technologists may already know: That older and much-used languages and platforms such as SQL, Java, JavaScript, Python, and Linux continue to dominate employers’ needs.

That should come as no surprise, of course, since companies not only rely on these languages to build new apps and services—they also need technologists who can maintain mountains of legacy code. (In this respect, the Burning Glass list also echoes the most-popular-languages lists that update periodically, such as TIOBE.) The following chart represents tech skills that popped up in open job postings between February 18 and March 18, 2020: 

Based on the list, employers are seeking technologists well-versed in software development, software engineering, and project management, as well as other skills that involve the use of many tools, programming languages, and disciplines. Again, none of that is unusual; employers obviously want people who not only know their way around, say, Python, but who can also shepherd larger projects that involve Python and other languages to completion.

For those who are seeking employment as a software engineer or developer, this list should make one thing pretty clear: Although new technologies always attract quite a bit of buzz, it’s often the decades-old, near-ubiquitous languages that will actually get you a job. That being said, specializing in up-and-coming languages such as Kotlin and Swift (as well as specialty skills such as machine learning and A.I.) can also demonstrate that you’re staying aware of emerging technologies—which is also vital if you want to make a good impression on employers. 

Key Skill: SQL, Because Companies are Obsessed with Data

It’s worth taking a moment here to call out SQL, given its ranking. If you’re unaware, SQL is a programming language designed for managing and querying relational databases (which were invented in the 1970s and popularized by Oracle). With SQL, you can modify a database’s index structures, retrieve information, and generate new tables; its utility makes it the foundation of a wide variety of data-related functions, such as building an effective password system. 

Burning Glass further breaks down the skills required for SQL developer jobs; here’s a breakdown of its categories:

Distinguishing skills (advanced skills called for occasionally) that truly differentiate candidates applying for various roles. As you might expect, there’s a lot of education and training necessary to master these.

Defining skills are the skills needed for day-to-day tasks in many roles.

Necessary skills are the lowest barrier to entry; they are also skills that are often found in other professions, providing a springboard for people to launch into a career in SQL development. 

In the meantime, it’s also worth noting that this list was generated before the current COVID-19 lockdown began in earnest. It will be interesting (and perhaps a little scary) to see if the current crisis radically adjusts what employers are looking for in subsequent months.