Software

What are the highest paid jobs in programming? The top earning languages in 2017

The lowdown on which skills are the best and worst compensated from Stack Overflow's 2017 Developer Survey.

Want to earn decent money as a developer? Then your best bet might be to swot up on Clojure.

Globally, developers whose role requires them to be proficient at using Clojure have the highest average annual salary, with the typical take home being $72,000, according to the 2017 Developer Survey by programmer community Stack Overflow.

Clojure is a 10-year-old language that is growing in popularity and used by companies of all sizes. A functional programming language and dialect of the decades-old Lisp, it excels at handling tasks that can be split into smaller jobs, which can then be processed in parallel. Clojure also has the advantage of running on a Java Virtual Machine, or JVM, giving it a degree of compatibility with existing enterprise software stacks.

SEE: How to learn programming: 3 languages to get you started

Other highly rewarded programming languages, according to the survey of almost 65,000 coders, include relative newcomers such as Mozilla's Rust, the Erlang spin-off Elixir and the Google-created Go. Also well-compensated were developers specialising in the functional, JVM-targeted language Scala, the Microsoft-designed F# and the venerable scripting language Perl.

graph1-stack-overflow.png
Image: Stack Overflow

James Governor, analyst and co-founder at RedMonk, said it is important to put the figures in context and cautioned developers to not expect a wealth of high-paying roles writing Clojure.

"Clojure is number one globally, but doesn't appear to anywhere near the top of the list in any of the key IT markets," he said.

Describing it as a "niche technology", he said that while skills are scarce and there are likely to be some "highly paid gigs out there", the number of such roles is likely to be limited.

The same is largely true of demand for Rust, he added, with "a lot of developers playing with it, but very very few getting paid to code in it".

Meanwhile, Scala's high pay stems from its use in the financial sector and larger startups, as well as the rarity of skilled Scala programmers, he said, while Go commands a premium due to being "the current hotness for San Francisco startups building infrastructure".

There are significant regional differences in compensation. In the US, developers who use Go and Scala are highest paid, with an average salary of $110,000. In the UK, it's TypeScript that is the best rewarded at $53,763, while in Germany it's Java, garnering the same level of return. Finally, in France, it's Python at $42,151.

Relative to years of experience, the worst rewarded programmers were those using oft-derided, web backend language PHP, while those with skills in Clojure, Go and Rust were the best remunerated.

When it comes to broader educational background, developers with qualifications related to machine learning were highly sought after, taking home about $57,000 on average globally and more than $105,000 in the US, closely followed by those developers with a grounding in statistics or wider mathematics. However, DevOps specialists give stats majors a run for their money, earning more than $60,000 on average globally and $100,000 in the US. That said, machine learning specialists were also the type of developer most likely to be actively looking for a job, though even then just 14.3% said they were doing so.

graph3-stack-overflow.png
Image: Stack Overflow

As would be expected, the most heavily used programming languages differ from best paid, with the web-programming language JavaScript being the most widespread for the fifth year running in the Stack Overflow survey. Skills related to perennially popular SQL remained in common use, and old favorites such as Java, C and C++ were once again a fixture among the most widely used languages. However, there were some notable changes, with the versatile Python overtaking PHP in the rankings.

graph2-stack-overflow.png
Image: Stack Overflow

As for the languages that developers enjoy the most, Rust was crowned the "most loved", by more than 73% of those questioned, whereas Visual Basic 6 was the language that filled the most developers with "dread".

The most widely used languages chime with a separate analysis of Stack Overflow and GitHub rankings by RedMonk, which also placed JavaScript, Java, Python and PHP as the most widespread languages.

The full Stack Overflow survey is available here and delves into far more detail about the working lives of programmers, including the revelation that nearly half of programmers are relatively new to the industry, with four years' experience or less.

Also see

About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox