11 hottest software engineering jobs of 2020

Demand for AR/VR professionals soared 1,400% in 2019, but the opportunities don't stop there.

A Hired report, released on Tuesday, found that 2020 will be a big year for software engineering talent. The influx of digital transformation initiatives worldwide has bolstered the demand for these professionals, especially with specialties in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).  

SEE: Tips for building a successful career as a software engineer (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Hired's 2020 State of Software Engineers report determined the most popular jobs in software engineering, as well as the impressive salaries these professionals earn. 

In last year's State of Software Engineers report, Hired found significant demand for blockchain engineers and security engineers. While both positions are still relevant, a new frontrunner surfaced for 2020: AR/VR engineers, with a growth rate of 1,400% in 2019. 

Top software engineering roles of 2020 

Based on demand growth rates throughout 2019, the report identified the following 11 top software engineering roles. 

  1. AR/VR engineer (1,400%)
  2. Gaming engineer (146%)
  3. Computer vision engineer (146%)
  4. Search engineer (137%)  
  5. Machine learning engineer (89%)
  6. Security engineer (49%)
  7. Data engineer (45%)
  8. Frontend engineer (17%) 
  9. Backend engineer (17%)
  10. Blockchain engineer (9%)
  11. Full-stack engineer (5%)

AR/VR engineers overwhelmed the rest of the list. Much of the increase in demand for those roles is due to new use cases for the technology, said Mehul Patel, CEO of Hired.

"This growth can be attributed to the fact that businesses outside of the gaming industry are applying AR/VR technology in ways that add real value to their customers and everyday digital experiences," Patel said. 

He gave many examples in the retail industry, which is at the forefront of actionable AR/VR development applications, Patel said. Many brick and mortar stores are using this tech to endure the growing dominance of e-commerce

"Wayfair uses the technology so shoppers can virtually view certain products in their own homes, while Sephora uses it so shoppers can see how a given beauty product will look on them," Patel said.

"And, of course, there's the filters on social platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, which not only keep users engaged, but also offer brands a new advertising format for reaching those users," he added.  

Coming in at No. 2 were gaming engineers.

"The demand for gaming engineers is likely on the rise because gaming continues to be a very lucrative industry—some analysts project consumer spending on games will reach $196 billion by 2022," Patel said.

"Moreover, the US overtook China as the world's largest gaming market by revenue in 2019, so it makes sense that we're seeing high demand for gaming engineers in major US tech hubs," he added. 

Positions slowing in growth   

The year 2018 was huge for blockchain engineers with the growth rate being at 517%. In 2019, however, growth appeared slowed dramatically to 9%, according to the report. 

"When an emerging technology like blockchain takes off, we tend to see huge spikes in demand for engineers with relevant skill sets, but overtime that spike evens out," Patel noted. "I expect we'll see a similar normalization of demand for AR/VR demand in 2020." 

Security engineers saw a decrease in growth compared to the previous year—49% in 2019 versus 132% in 2018. While the percentage decreased, it's still an impressive retaining growth, the report found. 

"Even though the growth in demand is slowing, these engineers are still very much in-demand, which becomes clear when you look at the changes in salaries for this role," Patel noted. 

"In every market, we analyzed salaries for security engineers increased in 2019, with the average salary in London increasing by 17%, followed by a 9% jump in New York and a more modest, but still noteworthy 5% increase in the San Francisco Bay Area and Toronto," he said. 

Average engineer salaries 

The report also analyzed the highest-paying engineering roles in New York, San Francisco Bay Area, Toronto, and London.  

Average salaries for top engineering roles increased by nearly 13% in London, 7% in Toronto, 7% in New York, and 6% in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2019, according to the report.

In every market, machine learning engineers ranked the highest in pay, with San Francisco leading the list at $162,000 per year, a 6% increase over last year. 

Other high paying roles across markets were natural language processing engineers, security engineers, and gaming engineers, the report found.

"Every company is now a technology company—from financial institutions to retail brands and everything in between—which means all companies need tech talent to either innovate their current offerings or undergo a digital transformation." Patel said.  

"Because of that," he said, "demand for software engineers will continue to rise, which is driving the increases in salaries for these roles." 

For more, check out These US companies offered the highest pay for software engineers in 2019 on ZDNet.

Methodology

Hired's State of Software Engineers report, released on Feb. 11, 2020, used proprietary data gathered and studied by Hired's data science team. The data included more than 400,000 interview requests and job offers from Hired's marketplace of more than 10,000 participating companies and 98,000 job seekers. 

Along with the proprietary data, Hired also surveyed more than 1,600 software engineers on its platform to gather more informed insights from the past year.

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