Software

​Five highly-paid and in-demand programming languages to learn in 2018

These are the languages that not only attract a decent pay packet, but that are also in demand, or whose use is expected to take off next year.

If you want to land a well-paid job as a developer there are multiple routes you can take.

These are the languages that not only attract a decent pay packet, but that are also in demand, or whose use is expected to take off in 2018.

Of the annual salaries shown, IT Jobs Watch sources its salary data from IT recruitment services in the UK, Indeed from UK job adverts on its site, while Stack Overflow's data is based on its annual survey of more than 60,000 developers worldwide.

1. Python (IT Jobs Watch: £55,000 / Indeed £52,000 / Stack Overflow: $53,763)

Fuelled by the boom in machine learning, 2017 seems to have been the year of Python, with heavy demand showing no sign of abating.

Specifically, it seems to be data scientists with Python skills who are earning the big bucks. Python has strong data analytics credentials with a wide range of "battle-hardened modules for machine learning", according to John Grant, data scientist and director of IT Jobs Watch.

"A lot of companies are looking at predictive analytics and machine learning. This is where the mindshare is," he said.

James Milligan, director of digital technology at IT recruiter Hays, sees little sign the appetite for Python and data-science related skills will diminish in 2018.

"I can't see any time in the medium term where we deal with the demand issue. There's more jobs being created than there are people available, and it's been that way for a long period of time," he said.

Successful candidates looking to work in machine learning will typically know programming languages and frameworks related to data science, have a strong mathematical ability, and likely a Masters degree or PhD in computer science, mathematics or related field, Milligan says.

That said Python is a versatile language, and is also regularly used by web and desktop developers, sysadmin/DevOps. Indeed found that Python was frequently requested in job adverts for DevOps engineers, full stack developers and software engineers.

SEE: Hiring kit: Python developer (Tech Pro Research)

2. R (IT Jobs Watch: £60,000 / Indeed £53,000 / StackOverflow: $57,125)

Again driven by demand in machine learning, R is a data processing and statistical analysis language whose time seems to have come.

Despite having been around since the 1960s, the language is today popular among data scientists, who use its vast number of data analytics libraries to build and test statistical models.

Hays' Milligan says demand for R reflects a change attitudes among companies in how they want to use data: "Three to five years ago it was about making sure they were capturing data and getting business intelligence from it. It was backwards looking," he said.

"Now it's around automation and machine learning. We're definitely getting to the point now where it's more about the forward use of that data and the predictive elements of it."

Indeed found R was frequently requested in job adverts for machine-learning, data-warehouse and software engineers.

3. Java (IT Jobs Watch: £55,000 / Indeed £53,000)

A mainstay of the enterprise software stack, demand for Java skills is actually increasing, rather than shrinking, according to Hay's Milligan.

"Big multi-nationals tends to have a preference for Java. There's a finite pool of skilled workers and there's more jobs than there are individuals available to do that work," he said.

Combined with Java's use in writing Android apps, Milligan says Java remains a good choice for someone starting out as a programmer.

"My advice to candidates is that it's a relatively simple readable programming language. You can grasp the basics through an online course, and with the recent launch of Java 9 it's likely to remain in demand," he said.

That uptick in demand for Java has been reported elsewhere, with programming Q&A hub StackOverflow recently reporting that Java was the language that saw the biggest rise in-demand from businesses in the UK and Ireland during the second half of this year.

According to Indeed, Java was frequently requested in job postings for software engineers, software architects and DevOps engineers.

SEE: Job description: Java developer (Tech Pro Research)

4. Go (IT Jobs Watch: £62,500 / Indeed £57,000 / StackOverflow: $64,516)

Google released Go as an experiment in 2009, but today it helps power some of Google's biggest web properties.

The language is designed for the modern computing age, optimized for running on the multicore processors, networked systems and massive computation clusters that underpin web services.

"With the shift to DevOps, Go is a language you can get something done with. It's good for productivity and it's performant," said Grant.

Today, the open-source tools that play a key role in managing compute jobs in modern datacenters are based on Go, including the container deployment tools Docker and Google's Kubernetes container management software.

Go was most commonly requested as a skill in job adverts for DevOps engineers, according to Indeed, but was also commonly sought for full-stack developer and software engineer positions.

"We see high salaries for developers who work as DevOps specialists and data scientists," said Julia Silge, Stack Overflow data scientist.

"These roles go hand in hand with the high-paying languages, and show how the tech industry is embracing these movements. Often, these two technology trends are related, as data scientists' models are built on the infrastructure constructed by DevOps specialists."

SEE: IT jobs in 2020: A leader's guide, free PDF (ZDNet/TechRepublic special report)

5. Kotlin (IT Jobs Watch: £65,000)

Kotlin has been delighting Java developers by providing them with an alternative language that is modern, as well as being easy to learn and use.

Kotlin has been described by a Netflix senior software engineer as offering "some of the best features of other languages" combined with "interoperability with Java".

The open source, statically-typed language gained major traction earlier this year, when Google threw its weight behind Kotlin and announced it was an officially supported language on Android.

IT Jobs Watch's Grant described Kotlin as a next-generation Java Virtual Machine-based language, pointing out it can run on a wide variety of platforms alongside Android handsets.

Given Kotlin is a relatively new, it's unlikely that employers will advertise for a pure Kotlin developer, but an Android developer with this up-and-coming language on their CV will stand out from the competition.

Also see

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Image: scyther5, Getty Images/iStockphoto

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.

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