Jobs for Software Developers: What Programming Language Should I Learn?

careers jobs languages Jan 20, 2021
 

When it comes to jobs for software developers, you’ll hear a lot from developers about what languages or libraries you should learn and which aren’t that important. But, honestly, a lot of this discussion is based around feelings and shiny object syndrome.

Developers are naturally curious and love learning new things, so new technologies catch their attention, and, sometimes, older technologies-- the ones developers are actually using, aren’t discussed as much.  This can give new developers a misimpression about what’s important to learn and what can get them an actual job.

Since opinions are like buttholes-- everyone's got one and they all stink-- I wanted to use actual data for this discussion. So, I went to Indeed.com and looked at the data for some of the most common technologies that people are hiring for. 

I also looked at the number of jobs that are specifically earmarked for entry-level developers.  This data is by no means comprehensive or complete.  Looking at the number of jobs and job titles is really only a limited set of data. 

As I review the data, remember, we’re focused on beginners here, and due to that, I left a few technologies out that I don’t really recommend for new developers.

We’ll start with where I found the least demand, and finish with the languages that have the most demand.  Here we go.

Gaming Technologies:  Unity and Unreal Engine Jobs
I’m not surprised that there was limited demand for Unity and the Unreal Engine.  These are specialized game development engines that use the C# programming language to develop games and multimedia.

Between Unity and competitor Unreal engine there were about 2,220 jobs listed nationwide with only about 400 of these jobs being open to new developers. 

If you are interested in entry-level jobs in game development, look into Unity and Unreal engine.  C++ which we'll talk about in a bit is also used in quite a bit of game development, but, I still recommend the game engines if you’re entry-level.

Ruby On Rails Jobs
Next on the lower-demand side of things is Ruby on Rails. A few years ago, Ruby on Rails, a framework based on the Ruby language for building web applications was all the rage-- if you paid attention to the developer chatter online. 

Everyone was talking about it.  Apparently, no one was actually using it. 

There were a paltry 2,800 Ruby On Rails jobs advertised with 433 of those jobs being available to entry-level developers.  I think Ruby on Rails paints an important lesson for us to learn-- Just because a language or technology is getting a lot of online press, doesn’t mean it’s a safe bet for a long term job. 

Needless to say, I wouldn’t make Ruby on Rails a priority in 2021 if you're wondering, "What programming language I should learn?"

Server-Side Developer Jobs
Next on the list was the job title “Server-Side Developer” which had 4,185 open jobs with 525 open to new developers.  Server-Side Developer jobs were the least available to entry-level developers on our list. 

I think a lot of these jobs labeled as ‘server-side developer’ were enterprise-level jobs that involve complex server coding and a large team.  These jobs are generally suited to computer science graduates. 

PHP Jobs
PHP, however, is what I sometimes call server-side light.  It is a very frequently deployed server-side language that’s starting to show it’s age and lose out to newer technologies like NodeJS.  There are a semi-significant number of PHP jobs available-- just under 9,000 with a full 21% of those being jobs for new software developers.

Node.JS Jobs
Node.js is a PHP competitor and is next.  There are about the same number of Node.js jobs as there are PHP jobs, but fewer of them-- just about 13% are available to new developers.  There is good reason to learn Node, however, as the language uses the same syntax as JavaScript and is usually a quick study if you already know front-end development.

Jobs for Software Developers:  Front End Development
The title “Front End Developer” is next, with about the same number of total jobs as PHP.  For front-end development jobs 1,625 were available to new developers.  I wonder how much cross-over there is here with the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript category which is discussed later-- Since front-end development is made up of these three languages, I’m not sure how many jobs appear in both categories.  

Jobs with the Angular Framework
Angular is a popular framework for developing web applications.  Remember a framework is a comprehensive system for building apps while a library provides tools for working with a specific language. Angular has a reasonable number of jobs for a framework at 14,478.  Less than 15% of the Angular jobs are available at the entry-level, so this may be something that you pursue after you have some initial experience.

Full-stack Developer Jobs
Full-stack developers work on the client-side and server-side-- the front end and the back end.  “Full-stack” is a popular title and many startups are looking for full-stack developers because of their versatility. 

If you want to work full-stack, you have to know HTML, CSS, and JavaScript plus a backend language like PHP, or Node.js which I discussed earlier.  If you’re interested in startups especially, I’d add the full-stack of languages to your learning list for the year.

 

Microsoft .net Jobs
Next, in order of demand, is the .net series of languages.  .net is a development framework from Microsoft focused on the Windows family of products.  .net projects are frequently enterprise-level projects run on Microsoft Azure servers.  Microsoft is an ecosystem unto itself and if you learn .net, you can command a very high salary-- as this is one of the highest paying technologies.

C++ Development Jobs
C++ is next.  I mentioned C++ earlier when discussing game development.  There are 35,551 C++ jobs currently listed and a full 19% of those jobs are available to entry-level devs.

C++ is used for games, but also for IoT-- or internet of things apps.  If that interests you, C++ is the way to go.  There are a significant number of open jobs at the entry-level and the technology used in IoT is unlikely to change soon. The downside is you might be writing microcode for a thermostat or lightbulb.  Or, maybe, that's what you enjoy.

HTML, CSS, and JavaScript Software Development Jobs
With over 51,000 available jobs, the HTML/CSS/JavaScript stack is next.  I was surprised that only 15% of these jobs are marked entry-level, but that’s still almost 8,000 available jobs.

That’s pretty good, considering these three technologies can be learned in just a few months. 

If you're interested in this track, read the article on How to Become a Web Developer.

Entry Level React Developer Jobs
Here’s where it gets interesting. 

React was the fastest-growing library in 2020 and it’s next.  React is a JavaScript library, so you’ll need to know the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript stack first-- But, There are 57,127 open React jobs. 

Now, hold on to your seat-- Over half these jobs (52%) are available to entry-level.  While it doesn’t have the highest aggregate demand, that makes React our winner for entry-level jobs for software developers.

So, if you’re learning this year, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and then the React library is the way to go.  With 29,587 open entry-level jobs, your chances of landing something are quite good and it's not a long haul to learn the React library if you already know HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Java: An Enterprise Langauge
Java has 61,000 jobs posted, but just 14% for entry-level positions. I’m not a big fan of Java as an entry-level language. I think you’ll find that most of these Java jobs go to college graduates with computer science degrees.  While there are many jobs, I think Java is better to look at once you have some experience in one of the other job categories we’ve discussed.

Python Developer Jobs
The winner for most jobs posted total was Python-- 72,023 Python jobs are now available.  Of these, just under 12,600 are entry-level positions. 

Python is growing because of the huge interest in big data and data science.  Python is frequently used for data analysis and you’ll find a healthy number of positions in this area.  There are lots of great options for learning Python, and if data is your thing, I’d recommend learning the relatively easy Python programming language this year.

Want a look at the raw numbers?  View our Jobs for Software Developers language analysis spreadsheet.

What language are you betting on for 2021?  Are you planning on trying to get a job with that language or skillset?  What do you think might be different next year?  Please let me know by leaving a comment below.

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