25 Top-Paying Programming Skills Include Golang, Scala

Which programming skills will earn you the biggest paychecks? That’s a key issue for many technologists, especially when they’re determining the best use of their precious few learning hours. Fortunately, the latest Dice Salary Report offers some insight into the most lucrative of these skills—and they might not be the ones you think. 

In the technology industry, it pays (literally) to remember that the most ubiquitous skills won’t always translate into highest pay. For example, learning JavaScript or Python can open up an incredible number of opportunities at hundreds of companies—but because so many technologists know those languages, there’s none of the skills scarcity that can drive wages through the proverbial ceiling. (Although as you’ll see from the list below, common programming languages such as Python do pay well.)

Highly specialized skills, though, can demand generous salaries. Take TensorFlow, for instance, which topped Dice’s list of highest-paying programming skills. The open-source library for deep learning software developed by Google, TensorFlow is a vital part of many companies’ machine learning and artificial intelligence (A.I.) efforts. Although companies are putting ever-greater emphasis on machine learning and A.I., the number of technologists well-versed in these technologies (and TensorFlow) is still relatively low, creating a demand for talent—and rising pay. (If you’re interested in learning TensorFlow, consider a certification.)

Another skill born at Google, Golang, is second on the list. Also known as Go, this programming language offers all kinds of features that developers like, such as garbage collection and structural typing. It’s also been a high-paying language for the past few years, quite possibly due to its extensive use in highly specialized platforms and applications such as Docker, Kubernetes, and Cloud Foundry. When in doubt, learning anything that relates to the cloud and containers will get you paid these days.

Here’s a full look at today’s highest-paying programming skills:

It’s also worth calling out Scala, which placed third on the list. This general-purpose programming language, which boasts interoperability in Java, is meant to overcome some of Java’s issues. It’s in use at a number of companies, including Airbnb, The New York Times, and more. As its name implies, Scala is meant to scale, which speaks to the other aspect of some programming skills that drives up salaries and demand—if it’s used to build out complex infrastructure that serves a huge audience, chances are good that employers will pay quite a bit to anyone who’s mastered it.

Beyond individual skills, occupations that saw the biggest salary increases between 2019 and 2020 included those that helped organizations wrangle and analyze data, digitize their offerings, innovate their core products, and ensure profitability and security. The skills that enable all those jobs are often highly specialized, and knowing them will allow you to stand out in a crowded field of applicants; keep that in mind as you plot your career and educational course over the next few years.