Which universities are producing today's programming talent?

As corporate demand soars for entry-level software developers, there are plenty to be found beyond the premier schools.

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It's not just the premier universities that offer high-ranking computer science programs. A new report finds that other universities across the U.S. are producing students with the highly sought-after programming skills companies need.

As the demand for software developers outweighs supply, it's a good time to look for tech talent in new places, according to HackerRank's report, "The Best New Tech Talent May Not Be Where You Think: A Guide to Hiring from Universities in 2021."

The top languages companies are looking for are Python, SQL, Java, JavaScript, Rest API and Go. 

SEE: Hiring kit: Python developer (TechRepublic)

"As more American companies embrace long-term remote or hybrid work, they have their pick of top tech talent across several U.S. regions–and beyond schools with computer science programs that often top academic rankings, like Carnegie Mellon University or MIT," wrote the report's author, HackerRank CEO Vivek Ravisankar.

For example, students at the New Jersey Institute of Technology topped the charts in four out of five languages, according to the report. Outside the New York metropolitan area, "there are pockets of great talent" at the State University of New York at Buffalo and Rochester.

"Moving west, top talent emerges at University of Texas at Arlington and Dallas–notable as some companies open new office spaces in Texas. Oregon State University is another standout," Ravisankar wrote.

The report evaluated student certification success rates in the languages they test themselves on most frequently. The more traditional computer science schools, including MIT, CalTech, Stanford, and Harvard, were included in the broader assessment HackerRank performed, but they did not rank among the top five schools for this performance-based ranking of technical skills, Ravisankar said.

He said he was not surprised by this year's findings. "Within the HackerRank community, we regularly see amazing tech talent from schools and regions others do not. This is exactly why we started HackerRank. We set out to uncover great talent from the places that are often overlooked, which has become increasingly important in today's talent war."  

Python, SQL and Java stay strong; Go goes mainstream

Python is developers' most preferred language in which to earn certifications, and the second most in-demand by companies, the report said. "Its versatility means it's loved by beginner developers and those working on heavy industrial applications alike."

Additionally, "SQL skills are crucial for budding data scientists–a role that's seeing steady growth in demand–and most companies still need these skills to access data stored in a relational database," Ravisankar wrote. "SQL continues to hold strong among students, and we see similar success with Java certifications."

He called Go "the popular new kid on the block," noting that it was developed by three Google employees to solve pain points of building with other languages. "Its speed, lack of huge documentation and concurrency mean it's gaining traction with big names across the industry including Uber, Dropbox and of course, Google."

JavaScript and Rest API skills aren't as strong

Despite widespread use by companies like Netflix, PayPal and Instagram, "there is a palpable dislike of JavaScript in the developer community, and its certification success rate hovers at just 27%," according to the report. 

That said, "it's the top skill companies are seeking. Meanwhile, companies like Twitter and Slack moving away from REST means developers are less interested in learning it," according to the report.

Other notable U.S. schools referenced that offer computer science programs include the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Maryland at College Park, the University of Central Florida, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Universities with strong CS programs around the world

In India, the University of Mumbai leads skilled tech talent pools for Python, JavaScript and REST API, while PICT has the country's best Java and SQL early talent pools, according to the report. VIT, Chennai "also makes a strong showing across languages."

Historically, companies have searched for top tech talent in India only in the IITs, NITs and BITS, the report said, "especially because hiring managers didn't have the bandwidth to conduct in-person interviews at more universities in such a large talent market.

"With the emergence of platforms like HackerRank, this challenge is fading," the report said. "Now, hiring managers can quickly assess candidates' skills remotely."

Companies seeking tech talent across other countries in APAC can find highly skilled students in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, at schools including Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology, Binus University and the University of Peradeniya, the report said.

"Strong tech talent will likely continue to emerge in this region over the coming years: Indonesia is now among the top 10 countries with the most billion-dollar startups, while the young labor forces in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are growing."

SEE: What programming language is the most popular for developers? No, it's not Python (TechRepublic)

In Europe, traditionally highly ranked computer science programs such as those at the University of Oxford and ETH Zurich are on the list, but early tech talent in Europe is distributed more widely than many traditional rankings suggest, the report said.

For example, universities in Switzerland, Ireland, Germany and England hold the top honors for students with Python and Rest API skills, the report said. "For companies looking to expand outside high-cost countries, several schools in Egypt, Turkey and Poland offer students with Java and SQL chops."

HackerRank said it reviewed more than 1 million certification attempts in 14 skills made by students from 1,149 universities in 102 countries, between January 2020 and April 2021. 

Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional comment.

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